Monday 19 November 2018

Brendan O'Connor: No use cursing day we mounted property ladder

Now that we're in long-term relationships it's time to start loving our houses as homes, says Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

House Price Indices used to be much more fun. Every few months or so some website or building society or estate agents -- we didn't care who -- would put out a press release announcing that property had gone up by 10.8 per cent or some such. It was always a really specific figure with a decimal point, so it felt quite scientific. And then we would all scrabble to work out how much we had made in the property business in the previous year. Some years you would discover, courtesy of Permanent TSB or Daft that you had 'made' more money just by owning your house than you had by working the previous year. Indeed, some people took that kind of thinking to its logical conclusion, decided to stop doing anything productive in their working lives, and just fooled around with property, making millions. On paper. Indeed, the fact that so many of Ireland's risk-takers and visionaries focused on property was probably to the detriment of the development of other areas of the economy.

We don't celebrate the house price indices so much these days. For example, when told us a few days ago that asking prices for houses fell by about a fifth in the last year, we didn't get out the calculators with such glee. I don't know about you, but for me and most of the people I know, in a direct reversal of the boom years, we lost more just by owning our houses last year than we earned by working. All those paper millions that made us all feel so rich are gone, and now we curse the day we ever got on the ladder, we curse the ancestry that gave us this obsession with the land, and we curse the politicians, the banks and the media that encouraged the madness.

That's how it goes with most compulsions. It starts out great and you think, this is all good, I want more of it and I want it all the time. And then, gradually, you learn to rue the day you ever laid eyes on your compulsion. So the tendency now is to hate property, to view our homes as a liability, to regret the decade of prosperity we "enjoyed", to wish we lived in a rented bedsit, and to want to kill various people from developers to your local bank manager.

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