In Virginia, you won’t get a good house for less than €300K

Tanya Woods describes the challenge of finding a downsizer home for her mother

 

We came to the conclusion some time ago that Mammy needed a smaller home. My father died almost 16 years ago, and she’s been living on her own in the family home since then.

We’ve often talked about the waste of money heating a large house and the huge lawns that need to be maintained but she’s attached to this house because it’s the house that she and Daddy moved to for retirement 18 years ago.

I come to see Mammy every day, and my children have been reared in her house as I’m out and about all day, working as a Church of Ireland rector in Belturbet.

Goodbye House is the story of one woman looking to sell the family home while her grown-up children compete to find the best house for her

One day when I was doing computer work in her house, I opened an email from the TV production company Stellify Media, who were looking for people to  take part in a documentary about downsizing. I asked her would she be interested, and she agreed, thinking nothing would come of it. But, they came back to us and did a video clip to send to RTÉ, and later told us we were chosen.

The resulting programme, Goodbye House, is the story of one woman looking to sell the family home while her grown-up children compete to find the best house for her.

Making a documentary was a lot of fun. Initially, we noticed the cameras in our face but then it was almost as if there weren’t people in the house at all, as we talked about what kind of house Mammy needed. At one stage during the filming of us having Sunday dinner together, there were nine people in the room with us and three more outside making sure nobody called to the house by chance.

There was good humoured rivalry between my brothers and me, as we competed to find the most suitable house for Mammy.

We also enjoyed being together talking about Daddy. At one point, the producers were pushing us for family memories, and I said I’d lost all mine since Daddy died. I couldn’t look at my brothers and mother’s faces when I said that.

For the documentary, I looked at about seven houses in total and then my brothers and I chose one each as a potential house for her to move to.

We’ve experienced the boom and bust in Cavan, but you won’t get a good sized detached house for much less than €300,000

There aren’t a lot of suitable houses for someone who still wants to have her four grown-up children and their families to visit at the same time.

There are a lot of semi-detached houses but when you’re used to living in a detached house with space around you, it’s hard to live so close to neighbours that you can hear each other’s conversations.

I think the developers don’t think about older people downsizing when they are building these estates.

We’ve experienced the boom and bust in Cavan, but house prices in Virginia are starting to go back up again. You won’t get a good sized detached house for much less than €300,000.

Also, Mammy wants a house she can walk into without having to do any work. She also wants to be within walking distance of Virginia so she’s close to the church and the shops. She doesn’t want to be starting off somewhere new.

I think it’s hard for older people on their own to get out there and look at houses to downsize to.

One of Mammy’s neighbours said to her that she’ll be watching the documentary as it’s something that she has to consider too. I hope when Mammy does move that it will be a new chapter for her and that she’ll be able to move forwards with excitement.

Goodbye House is on RTÉ One, Monday June 12th, 9.35pm.

  • In conversation with Sylvia Thompson