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  • Northside Versus Southside

    February 23, 2012 @ 10:33 am | by Edel Morgan

    Is the northside a better place to live?

    There’s a debate going on with one of my colleagues over which side of Dublin is the best to live on. She is a southsider and refers to the northside of Dublin somewhat sniffily as DNS. I retaliate by saying DNS stands for De Nicer Side, and I’m not biased by the fact that I live there….much.

    While I  can appreciate that parts of  the southside are lovely, with  a higher leaf count, a larger quantity of  trophy  homes ,  a borough with its own very distinctive accent (Roysh) and more celebrities per metre (although I’d like to point out that arguably the biggest celeb of them all, aka Bono,  is a defector who was reared on the northside.This is balanced, however, by the fact that Larry Mullen, the coolest member of U2,stayed northside), I would argue that the northside trumps it in many respects.

    For one thing you can buy more house for your money on the northside. Take for example Drumcondra and Glasnevin where you can get better value than in  their southside equivalents – Rathmines and Ranelagh. Lisney currently has a five-bed 2,350 sq ft house in Drumcondra asking €595,0000. The equivalent house in  Dublin 6 would cost  at least €200,000-€400,000 more, depending on condition. Yet all these areas are close to town and  Glasnevin has the bonus of the National Botanic Gardens.

    Clontarf is still relatively expensive by northside standards but when you compare it to say Sandymount, you get more for your money. A three-bed house on Mount Prospect , close to St Anne’s Park, is currently on the market for under €400,000. The equivalent in Sandymount will cost €50,000-€100,000 more. Yet both areas are beside the sea, have a good choice of restaurants, delis and shops, are on the Dart and are close to town.

    While the southside has arguably better public transport with the Luas and the Dart, the northside has more parks and a surfeit of impressive playgrounds  (St Anne’s, Malahide Demesne, Newbridge, Ardgillan Demesne, Griffith Park to name but a few) , we are better served by cinemas (I can currently choose between Santry, Coolock, Swords, Cineworld and the Savoy in the city centre  and Blanchardstown ,which I know is on the west side but very accessible via the M50). While I’m not saying that proximity to shopping centres  necessarily adds to one’s quality of life, there is a good choice northside, the Omni in Santry, Pavilions in Swords,  Blanchardstown  and Charlestown in Finglas. Only two of those shopping centres charge customers for car parking and that’s only if  they are there more than two hours. In Dundrum, you pay by the hour, regardless of the fact you are spending money in the shopping centre.

    While seaside areas like Dalkey and Sandycove and Monkstown are  quaint and lovely, on the northside we’ve got Skerries, Malahide and Howth and Sutton and we’ve got the most decorated GAA club, St Vincents.  When I asked my colleague why southside is better she said enigmatically “perception is reality”.  She says the southside is a  more visually attractive place to live, or at least parts of  the southside, and there’s a certain cachet to living in areas like Ballsbridge, Rathgar, Dartry or Sandycove that isn’t attached to many places on the northside, the Hill of Howth and one or two roads on Clontarf excepted. What do you think?

  • Negative equity mortgages – does the shoe fit?

    February 17, 2012 @ 10:59 am | by Edel Morgan

    THE ANNOUNCEMENT this week that a few of the banks will be offering negative equity mortgages to people trading up must have come as a momentary chink of light to growing families trapped in confined spaces, until, that is, they realised it doesn’t apply to them.

    This product is unlikely to spark a buying frenzy of family-sized homes because although half of mortgage holders are in negative equity, the number of people who will a) get approval from the limited number of banks offering it  and b) have the stomach to take on that extra debt, will be relatively small.

    At this stage anyone who bought their house after 2002 with a mortgage is probably in some degree of negative equity. This mortgage product is only suited to people in a relatively small degree of negative equity who can now avail of much lower house prices. But how many of these families will actually qualify for the mortgage? The banks will be looking for a blemish-free credit record and with many families now part of the so-called squeezed middle, impacted by wage cuts, job losses, increased taxes and levies,  how many will be able to show the banks prompt bill payments, a pristine credit-card statement  and decent savings?

    If they have all this, the banks will be then looking at how stable their employment is and it’s well known that they favour government employees and certain IT workers (Google,Ebay etc ) which narrows the field even further. Even if you’re lucky enough to be a couple working for Google with a pristine financial track record, are you going to want to land yourself in more debt for the sake of a bigger place? Say for example a couple buy a new house for €240,000 and owe  €60,000 after selling your previous home.  This  amount would be added to the new mortgage, which would then amount to €300,000 or 25pc more than their new house is worth –  in line with the new, 125pc loan-to-value limit which Bank of Ireland has outlined. They would also have to factor in stamp duty and legal fees.

    A couple would qualify for tax relief at €900 per year  to 2017 when the tax relief ends while a  single person trading up with a €300,000 mortgage could claim €2,700  relief over the next six years if they buy before the end of this year.

    For those stuck in a small  apartment with small children, getting out might seem a  pressing  issue but as we haven’t yet reached the bottom of the market, many will want to wait to see what happens. Some might take the option of letting out their property and renting another place – although this depends on whether you can afford to cover any shortfall, if the rent doesn’t cover the mortgage.

    Then there will be people with tracker mortgages who won’t want to lose them by taking the negative equity mortgage route and others might be put off by tax relief implications, depending on when they bough their property. All in all, it seems to me that this mortgage is for such a select group that the impact won’t so much be big bang as a damp squib.

  • Will despot decor catch on in Ireland?

    February 3, 2012 @ 11:00 am | by Edel Morgan

    Where would you be going without your gold mermaid chaise?

    Feeling a little powerless in your life? Well according to the FT, despot decor  is coming your way if you live in a western city.  You may  feel like  a minion in your everyday life and think your innate superiority and general fabulousness  has gone largely unrecognised  but inside your own four walls you can be master or mistress of all you survey (if you are despotic enough to get your family to go along with it that is).

    Inspired by the opulent palaces of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein et al the dictator chic look is  designed to make you look all-powerful and intimidating and keep your guests  in a constant state of awe . I’m not sure how I’d implement the look  in my three-bed semi but apparently a good starting point is to hang a portrait of yourself looking important and imperious  in all major rooms especially the bathroom  so visitors can contemplate your regal bearing while they sit on the throne (gold plated of course).

    Another essential is  an enormous gold eagle or a marble lionhead  and all furniture should be as uncomfortable and unwelcoming  as possible, preferably in the old style of the absolute monarchy. Then it’s a case of out with  the Laura Ashley and anything fluffy or squishy and  in with  the  gold paint which should be lashed on every available surface. And remember no amount of ormulu and marble is too much.  Scale is  also important  – everything has to be miles too big for comfort. Why settle for a lampshade when you can have a chandelier the size of a two-car garage  a la Saddam Hussein?

    The FT predicts that  dictator chic is coming  our way but  are we ready for it as a nation?  Or have we seen enough  scenes of unbridled extravagance for one lifetime already?


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