It's a typical dream for the vast majority of Irish people to own their home. Maybe it is the cute hoor in us that we don't want to “throw money away” on rent, perhaps it is something left over in us since our bashful neighbours called over and wouldn't leave for a few hundred years. Either way, Irish people seem to have a deep desire to own our properties, much more than the majority of our European counterparts.
Before I share my personal story of buying my house last year and all the headaches that go with that, you must know (if you did not already) that Ireland is in a housing crisis. This is a cold, irrefutable fact. Ireland's housing crisis is simply, a mathematical problem. The crisis is not only a theory, it is here. If you can prove that houses are not affordable for the majority, then you can prove a crisis. Let's do that.
House ownership in Ireland has been on a steady decline since 1991 when an amazing 80% of people lived in a home that they owned. It has been falling since and pushing us closer to European norms of 60-65% and as this figure has fallen, it is abundantly clear that Ireland is in a housing crisis. You can blame Millennials for all the avocado toast & hipster coffee in the world, but the facts are clear when you break them down. The average price for a second-hand house in 1988 Ireland would have cost you around £38,000. Over 30 years later, the average house price across Ireland stands at around €252,000. This represents an increase that goes beyond inflation, higher salaries or any other statistic lazy “moguls” want to throw out.
Now I have alluded to Millennials being a lazy/entitled generation in the past as I move gently towards 30 and I still believe this to be true with a large percentage still relying on their parents rather than taking responsibility. For example, you have people choosing to buy a pair of Balenciaga shoes for €900 when they earn €300 a week. You even have some people taking out short term loans with exorbitant interest rates just to go on a holiday. Absolutely ridiculous stuff. If you can't afford to go on a holiday, don't fucking go on a holiday.
Focus on turning that €26,000 a year job into a €52,000 a year career, then that into six figures a year. Otherwise, you are subconsciously telling yourself you are happy with where you are, living the same week in the same month. Years can pass you by in this toxic short-term mentality.
This is not a mindset indicative of someone with any actual goals in mind but focused on short term stimuli (for the gram) that they think will make them happy. It is also these people who are turning around at 26-30 and realising that their twenties are over, and it is time to live somewhere for the rest of your life, regardless of how "fulfilling" all that travel is. That is difficult when you have 3 loans and less than €3000 in your bank accounts. That €25k house deposit may as well be 25 million.
Even with the irresponsible spending habits & short-term mentality, my generation seems to possess, the simple fact, given the above mathematics, is that Millennials are being let down by the powers that be and this needs to change. Both sides of this argument need to improve and thrash out a solution because the gap is widening, and it is hard to see a resolution withouy a serious economic downturn in the coming years.
Thankfully, when it came to my house ownership, I did not have the majority of obstacles that most of my generation has to face but I still had a large number of hoops to jump through. Banks, solicitors, auctioneers, engineers, advisors & electricians were all called upon before I even got to pick out teaspoons.
Firstly, I bought a house instead of building one which is just a lot easier. Who wants the headache of building a house? Maybe some people enjoy the journey but as I already knew which one I wanted for a while it made more sense. It had been idle since being built in my area by some developer more than a decade ago, so I knew I didn't want to buy a house, I was going to buy THE house.
My paramour is a teacher who was on her way back from a stint in the Middle East so we were waiting to see where she would end up before we proceeded with buying a house which in all honesty, I thought would take a week, two at the most (not the 6 months it took). Thankfully, she got a job as a vice-principal in David Clifford country so it was full steam ahead for buying our first home.
Full disclosure: At this stage, I am going to sound like a bit of a prick for the next paragraph, but it can't be helped for the context of the story and the long process of buying a home in Ireland. I am one of the few who happen to be in the lucky position to buy my home outright but was advised against it by financial advisors due to it being “fiscally irresponsible” and that it was a “rash outlay” even though those two terms could sum up my entire approach to life really. I was advised to stay more liquid and in hindsight, this was probably for the best and has allowed me to funnel funds into several other areas.
So off to the bank I went for a moderate enough mortgage that I thought they would be happy to give me considering all my personal and business accounts in Ireland are with them but I was told that seven years of business growth was not enough to secure a mortgage loan that paled in comparison to what I actually had deposited in that same bank. It could have literally been paid within an hour and the answer was still: “Business owners are too risky”. Backing brave my bollocks.
Now, this is where the bureaucracy of modern Ireland kicks in and I got confused by the process. It was not until my girlfriend was added to the policy (she wasn't at the beginning as she had not begun work in her new school yet) that the mortgage was granted due to her having a state pensionable job as a teacher that we were approved due to it being “guaranteed”. It boggles the mind. It is no wonder that we are hearing about a housing crisis when even the people who can buy their homes are being forced to go the traditional route and jump through every single bureaucratic hoop.
So, with some encouragement from my mother and better half, off we went to see our dream house, armed with all the research in the world and promising ourselves we wouldn't get swindled by smooth-talking salesmen and we would be cool. We opened the door, saw it and I put down a deposit immediately. The old adage of when you know, you know certainly rings true when you step foot in the house you know you want to live in for the next 50 years. A home that is your own. It is one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced & even more so, a feeling I got to share with the one. To this day, it is great to walk into a room and see the empty version in your mind and how you have transformed it.
As mentioned above, we did not have to save up for a deposit so I genuinely thought it would be like buying a car and I would have keys in a week having handed the deposit over instantly. Green on my part but the excitement had truly taken hold at this point and all rationality had long been tossed out one of the many sliding sash windows I was admiring whilst pretending to listen to anyone who told me to slow down.
This is where headaches began, with banks, solicitors etc. The first issue we had was that the man who was selling the house happened to have the same solicitor as I did so we had to find another legal representative as we were initiating proceedings. Not a big issue but what would prove to be the first of many delays.
From here, it was almost constant requests from banks for more information, often asking us repeatedly for information we had already provided, asking for everything short of a blood sample. As a business owner, I knew it would be a bit longer as you have to provide more information such as getting yearly projections from my accountants for the next 5 years and this may hold things up. As I had most of my Irish banking activity with the mortgage provider, I thought it would be a lot more straightforward, but it can be mind-numbing to provide the same information repeatedly for weeks on end. Given that I knew who owned the house I was close to approaching the owner and offering him the remainder in cash (having paid the deposit) and just cut out all the middlemen but that probably would have been a bit dodgy!
In the end, having secured what was needed, gone through extensive engineer checks and what felt like 10 years of applications we managed to get our hands on keys on March 8th, 2019 having started the process in September 2018 and this article marks 6 months of living in our new home and 12 months since we went and looked at it for the first time. It feels like just days ago and years past all at once. It was arduous, long & frustrating but one of the most fulfilling things I have done. As anyone who follows me on Instagram knows, I won't shut up about it and I have no intention of doing so any time soon. Clap for yo damn self and all that.
Also, I have to point out, I had no idea that house stuff would be so expensive, I had no concept whatsoever! Everybody worries about buying a house and then forgets that you will actually have to furnish it! Aside from a washing machine and dryer, every single thing in the new house had to be bought and this can run away from you very quickly. I would baulk at my mother picking out a mug for a fiver but would then tell her how a 4K Smart TV at €1200 was a bargain. I knew my priorities right out the gate.
I don't live in Dublin which means I am getting a lot more bang for my buck when it comes to buying a house, I am lucky enough to live in the Kingdom of Kerry. I hear it a lot, being rooted in the tech world, about “having to be in Dublin” and it's simply not true. Yes, there are many times a year I need to go to the capital, but I certainly don't feel the need to live there. In a month of Sundays, I would not swap Ballybunion for Ballymun, Dingle for Drumcondra or Killarney for Killest. Kerry is just a beautiful place to live and I can never envision myself living anywhere else. Financially, it also has a major advantage over the big smoke with it fast becoming one of the most expensive cities in the world.
This means that I have never had to pay €1500 a month on rent for a bedroom. This type of monthly outgoing would procure you a 5-bedroom home in many beautiful parts of the country. It is one of the most tangible problems with house buyers in my generation, Dublin is home to public transport, jobs, healthcare facilities, education facilities and amenities at a level that is not matched anywhere in Ireland but soaring rents and house prices mean that ownership is just a pipe dream for the majority. Jesus, even living in Dublin is barely affordable.
That is before you even approach the issues of competing with other people when you finally find the home of your dreams. Houses that should be sold for €180K are now going for €270,000 due to the demand with auctioneers and landlords laughing all the way to the bank. Stories emerge every day online about open houses drawing queues normally reserved for Saturday night hotspots.
It is one of the only things that went in our favour when we purchased, we did not have any competitors trying to usurp us in the pursuit of our home. Our auctioneer (the lovely Paul Stephenson of Sherry Fitzgerald) candidly told us that people spending this much in Kerry all want to live in Killarney but if I am to ever have a son (softening in recent months as I am repeatedly told to fill out all the bedrooms in my house), you can be sure he will wear the famous green and white of Bailedubh. More importantly, for better or worse, home is home and you can't argue against it.
Overall, is it harder for Millennials than others? Part of me wants to say yes and no, when Steph and I decided to buy a house, we immediately cut off any unnecessary purchases, for years we would go to 3-5 new countries a year depending on her teaching schedule but we stopped that the minute we decided to buy a house. We stopped basically living our usual lives for about 6 months and focused everything on the house and have probably been doing so now for a year.
You can argue that people are not making the sacrifices necessary and part of me is tempted to do so given that I now own my home. I meet people socially and see them on my social media complaining that they don't, yet they are out every weekend. Makes no sense. I am in the 1% of people so I just smile and nod because I can't really empathise with having to get in this rat race about saving deposits and having to move back in with parents at 29.
30 seems to be the magic number to own your house by given the research I have done writing this and while I am incredibly happy to own my home, I have worked incredibly hard in the last 7 years to do so, to provide for those in my life and to never have to worry about money, similar to Forrest Gump's reaction to learning he invested in that fruit company, it is simply “one less thing” to worry about.
So, while I have poured myself into Avalanche, so much so, it has come to define who I am, it didn't just happen overnight, and it certainly had more than its fair share of bumps in the road. The same long-term approach needs to be applied to the great crisis of our time. The cold light of day & the illuminating statistics reveal that we are indeed in a crisis.
It is harder than it was for previous generations to own their home. That is what I hope your takeaway from this is, I even walked through my own experience to showcase that it is never smooth even when you have the money to purchase a home outright.
We as a generation have not helped the matter in any way, but Ireland has failed us when it comes to housing.
It's not a massive declaration to think that action should be taken to cap spiralling rents and house prices - nor to suggest that the problem might be improved by assurances of more social housing. Ireland is the 143rd most densely populated country in the world. We are not that short of space where we could build affordable housing. Belgium is 36th, the Netherlands 30th. That we do not build more social housing is a choice as is our decision to dodge regulation on unoccupied properties. This is without even scratching the surface of the homeless problem in Ireland.
The housing crisis is one that could be taken in hand instead it gets kicked down the road by politicians more concerned with hanging on to their seats and golden pensions. This kind of misdirection is a ploy faced by millennials when they try to raise concerns of any nature. One of the most widespread excuses flaunted for the shocking housing market is that millennials cannot afford deposits on homes as they "eat too many avocados".
It is a lazy argument, depending on where you purchase your avocados, you'd have to buy over 80,000 avocados - that's an avocado a day for over 200 years. Of course, it goes deeper than this and alludes to the fact that millennials are simply blasé with their money and will not make the sacrifices needed.
You don't need a calculator to know that if the political class is making a connection between grocery shopping & the inability to buy a house, they are not listening.
They have not so much as begun to take the crisis seriously and that is a recipe for disaster for generations to come.
Avocados or not.