Moving to Dublin, I was convinced I had a very decent budget. In July 2019, a month before packing my bags, I had sold a chic apartment of 100 square metres smack in the centre of Amsterdam, one of the liveliest cities in western Europe, where everyone is complaining that house prices are "completely over the top". I managed to get, I'm happy to say, a very decent price for my flat.
With this nice sum in my pocket, I presumed I could buy a similar apartment in Dublin. I was thinking about places like Sandymount, Dalkey, Ballsbridge … nice neighbourhoods close to the sea.
How naive I was. Dublin house prices are, to put it mildly, completely crazy. They are horrendous and absurd. The budget which bought me 100 square metres in one of the best neighbourhoods in Amsterdam allowed me to buy about 50 square metres in a very average neighbourhood in Dublin.
I had two alternatives. Option 1: Go and live outside Dublin and commute to the Independent News & Media offices in Talbot Street. After all, Wicklow is beautiful. But if you compare the railway system in Ireland with that in the Netherlands, you're being catapulted about 30 years back in time. Not an attractive option. Commute by car then? Not attractive either; before Covid-19, the traffic jams in Dublin were among the worst in Europe.
Option 2: Rent and hope that this market becomes more realistic. For more than a month I ran around like a crazy person for a decent place to rent. I visited houses with leaking roofs where the owner was asking €4,000 or €5,000 a month. I saw apartments without any light - for €3,000 a month.
I went to Dalkey, Blackrock, Monkstown, Malahide and Clontarf. In Sandymount, I lined up with five other candidates in front of a house. When the owner saw the five of us, he announced on the spot that the rent would not be €5,000 but €5,500 - for a terraced house without a garden. I visited a lot of places, but above all I saw the euro signs in the eyes of the owners, delighted that all these desperate expats were looking for houses with European standards.
Finally, I ended up in a very nice neighbourhood - paying more than I ever thought I'd give for rent in my life.
I live in a modern and stylish house, while I rent out the beautiful, slightly bigger and more luxurious house I still own in Tervuren, a sought-after suburb of Brussels.
The rent I receive from that property is roughly half of what I pay now in Dublin. If I am to buy, I can only hope that Brexit and Covid hit the real estate market and that this brings some realism to Dublin house prices - and to those landlords with euro signs in their eyes.