Vacant properties to watch over
Meet the ‘guardian angels’ who live in exceptional properties for a fraction of the rent they would normally expect to pay
Marta Marin (left) and Monica Ennis, at the Georgian house in Dublin where they act as house-sitters. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Damian Woods of Camelot property management. Photograph: Aidan Crawley
Pink castle in a theme park in Holland, one of the most unusual properties on Camelot’s books
The 65-bed hotel in Kildare, which was looked after by five guardians
Charles Haughey’s former residence, Abbeville
Tom McFeely’s former home on Ailesbury Road
While the average price of renting a single room in Dublin city centre is €433 per month, and a one-bedroom apartment averages nationally at €825, there are a lucky few who manage to pay on average €200 per month including all utilities. Not only do they pay well under the going rate, they live in exceptional properties.
These are the guardians – live-in caretakers in vacant properties acting as deterrents for vandals and squatters, they help prevent dampness and dilapidation setting in. In exchange, the guardians get very low rent in unusual buildings and they become the eyes and ears of the owner, alerting a management company if there are problems. The owner of the property is reassured the building is in safe hands, and an occupied building can bring insurance rates down by as much as 60 per cent.
There are 165 people in Ireland living as guardians under Camelot Property Management, and the properties they live in range from hotels, libraries and offices to grand residences.
The guardians in Charles Haughey’s famed Kinsealy home Abbeville will be packing up soon now that a sale is imminent. The previous guardians of Tom McFeely’s house on Ailesbury Road must be a little more than surprised now, knowing that €200,000 was tucked away in the bathroom they used each morning.
Some guardians are married couples saving for a deposit for their future home, paying an average of €200 a month can help them save between €5,000 and €10,000 annually.
A lavish four-storey over basement 440sq m (4,736sq ft) Georgian house in Dublin city centre (which can’t be identified for security reasons), has had four guardians living there for the past year. Each guardian has their own bedroom and the large kitchen in the basement is their communal area.
Frank Hester, in his 60s and retired, has been a guardian for a little over two years, having spent his first year in a hotel in Kildare. He is delighted with his current accommodation – “just look at it, it’s a great property in a great location and it’s for half nothing”.
Hester’s bedroom is the diningroom of the original house and he pays €150 a month including utilities. He says it really suits his lifestyle as he loves to travel and doesn’t want to be tied down with anything permanent.
Monica Ennis in her 50s, also lives here and says that becoming a guardian has “been one of the best experiences of my life. I have met amazing people and live in this stunning house”.
Ennis is a costume maker for Riverdance, and has also worked for the Abbey Theatre. “I have a house in Loughrea and needed to be in Dublin also. I really couldn’t afford rent in Dublin plus my mortgage in Galway, so this just seemed an ideal scenario”. Her room is the original drawing room of the house which in itself is the size of a small apartment.
Ennis also lived in the hotel in Kildare, where she first met Hester, and along with four other guardians looked after the 65-bedroom premises. For many this might conjure up images of The Shining – the 1980’s horror film starring Jack Nicholson as the deranged guardian of a remote hotel – but both Hester and Ennis laugh, and say they were never afraid, despite tales of a resident ghost told to them by locals.
The third resident is Martha Marin, a 25- year-old Spanish intern. Having a third-floor bedroom, she is delighted with her accommodation. “I’m extremely happy here. I couldn’t believe the house, just look at the architecture, I feel I’m living in a movie.”