Sunday 17 November 2019

Local politics can devalue your home

The arrival of the Luas which caused a relative value surge of 20pc plus for properties in Dundrum and Ballinteer.
The arrival of the Luas which caused a relative value surge of 20pc plus for properties in Dundrum and Ballinteer.
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

WHY do people feel wealthier when property prices increase across the board?

Because if you own just one property then there are no relative benefits for you in universal property price inflation.

The next home you buy will be relatively more expensive and if you opt to rent, then your rent will also be relatively higher – because landlords need to recoup the higher cost of their investments.

But if your home's relative value increases – that is, versus that of other similar homes – then you do stand to benefit in a very real way.

An example was the arrival of the Luas which caused a relative value surge of 20pc plus for properties in Dundrum and Ballinteer. This was a genuine inflation benefit that only some home owners experienced.

And at the same time, factors can also occur which can decrease your relative values.

One of these is a failure to get abreast of local politics.

Years ago I was priced out of purchasing in a Dublin estate and bought instead in the cheaper estate across the road. I became interested why the first estate was priced on average 30pc higher than ours.

Both had been built by the local authority in the 1940's and both were by now privately owned. Both had the same house types and street layouts. Both estates shared the same postcode and townland address.

The differences were as follows: There were no trees in our estate whereby they were plentiful across the road.

Their side had neat grass verges while our verges had been badly filled in with tarmac. This had eroded leaving craters and an unsightly coating of scree on the roads.

The concrete kerbs in the estate across the road were repaired regularly by the local authority whereas ours remained broken. Graffiti was removed when it appeared on the walls over there while our walls were permanently covered.

These differences were nothing to do with civic pride and everything to do with how people voted.

On our side lived the local Fianna Fail representative who was admired and liked by residents of our estate. In every election our estate produced an overwhelming Fianna Fail vote. He was "their man."

But across the road the vote was always unpredictable. It swung back and forth between elections.

Mobilised by a strong residents association,the run into a local election would see their homeowners well prepped to grill whomever came to the door. They decided their issues beforehand and asked for the same stuff. Why should we vote for you? Look at that graffiti. We've asked for more trees. What about that broken kerb?

Because of the swinging vote, councillors and TD's of all hues fell over one other to butter them up. From a politician's point of view, there were votes to be gained.

In contrast, there was diddley squat to be gained from our side.

The Fianna Fail representative knew his vote was guaranteed – so his efforts were concentrated elsewhere.

Parish pump politics – considered by many to be Irish democracy's greatest malaise – is still a very real dynamic. Not everyone realises the gains to be made by grasping that pump handle and jerking your local representatives around on a regular basis.

Sad though it is, neighbourhoods and estates who organise and pump most efficiently – who swing their votes about – always stand to be the real local election winners.

And that's how the expert parish pumpers can add up to 30pc to their relative home values while poleaxing yours.

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