After years of embracing the rental market – either by design or lack of choice – the pandemic seems to have exerted a significant shift on how we live.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show a strong uptick in the numbers living in a home they own (either with or without a little help from their lender).
While the true scale of the uplift in home ownership figures may not be fully revealed until some time after the pandemic, given the difficulties faced by the CSO in its work at present, most metrics are now pointing firmly in the direction towards higher levels.
Soaring mortgage approvals, rising property prices and plentiful savings – for some – mean that for many, home ownership is the goal.
The move is all the more surprising given that home ownership figures have been in decline in Ireland for some time, as a combination of affordability and changing living habits saw more people depend on the rental market.
Indeed, after having one of the strongest home ownership rates in Europe – at 80 per cent in 1991, for example – Ireland has since fallen in line with the European Union average. In 2018 this stood at 70.1 per cent, according to figures from the European Commission, while Ireland's rate was 70.3 per cent – higher than Germany (51.4 per cent) and the UK (65.1 per cent), but lower than Spain (76.3 per cent) and Finland (71.7 per cent). The rate in Dublin, meanwhile, fell to as low as 60 per cent at one stage.
The latest figures, however, show that the country may no longer be looking towards either Boston or Berlin, where home ownership figures are only about 34 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively.
To quote Goodbody Stockbrokers economist Dermot O’Leary, it is a “drive for space, for a garden, for that extra room” that may be seeing more people look to own their home.
After a year of working from home, with few opportunities to get away from it (or the people in it), people may be placing more value on their own four walls.
It has also been a year that has shown people they may have the ability to live much further away from their place of work than previously envisaged.
This may be a good thing as with supply of homes for sale at low levels, too much competition may otherwise dampen the move towards home ownership.