If only we lived there ... my online property hunt is pure fantasy land
I find it soothing to look at other peoples’ homes, even if we’ll never be able to afford to live in them
‘Why put myself through the torture of looking at lovely properties that I’ll never even be able to afford? And why do I find this so soothing?’ Photograph: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg via Getty
Some people like to unwind of an evening with some knitting in front of the TV, or a crossword, or even a spot of gaming. Me, I like nothing more than pulling out the laptop and logging on to property websites for a spot of what I call Fantasy House Buying.
I have barely two fivers to rub together, but I set myself a nicely comfortable upper budget and start snooping at the properties through my favourite neighbourhoods. Mentally arranging my own furniture in any number of different houses, I even go the full hog and take a virtual nosey around the neighbourhoods on Google Street View, checking out the number of trampolines (children!) versus glass box extensions (grown-ups!).
Oh look, there’s a SuperValu. That’ll be handy, I think. I could genuinely spend hours looking at front doors, appraising en suites and examining the “lovingly refurbished” properties.
“What do you think of that one?” I’ll ask my partner as I pore over a five-bedroom, turnkey seafront property with a seven-figure price tag. He checks the web page. Alarm melts away to confusion before he realises: we’re not buying it. I just do this to relax.
Granted, it’s a weird one as hobbies go. And I’ve even wondered the obvious: why put myself through the torture of looking at lovely properties that I’ll never even be able to afford? And why do I find this so soothing?
I don’t know anyone who lives in these sorts of homes
Part of it, I understand, is sheer escapism. It’s nice, albeit momentarily, to try on a life that’s not yours, if it’s got nicer curtains. It’s nice to believe, if 50 grand were to somehow fall into your lap, that you could live in one of these des-res. I don’t know anyone who lives in these sorts of homes, mainly because no one my age can afford them. An online snoop is the closest I’m likely to get to any of them.
As a new mum, I’m also invoking the nesting instinct defence. I’d love dearly to provide a large, comfortable house in a leafy, family-friendly area for my daughter which, in the current climate, seems almost as lofty a dream as winning an Oscar. And yet, I press on, mentally moving ourselves into nice house after lovely cottage. Add all this to our general obsession with property as a nation, which seems be airborne now, and it seems a reasonable enough way to pass the time.
While property prices nationwide are up 2.3 per cent, Dublin house prices are reportedly cooling (there has been a 0.2 per cent reduction in Dublin prices in July). Many of us are cautiously optimistic about finding an affordable place to buy, so I know I can’t be the only one doing an online tyre kicking (the term for people who pop around to show houses for a gawp without any real intention of purchasing). And yet it could just be the time to tentatively dip a toe back into the market.
Yet given the waxing and waning of the property market in recent years, anyone trying to (seriously) buy a house would do well to be judicious and smart about it. Play the game properly, after all, and you could end up quids in; just ask anyone who bought in Phibsborough, Stoneybatter or Dundrum 20 years ago.
Which mature cul-de-sacs are likely to entice young families in the future?
It’s a question, therefore, of playing the property prediction game. Which neighbourhoods are still considered gritty, but due a blessed tap of the gentrification wand? Which mature cul-de-sacs are likely to entice young families in the future? What neighbourhood is due to get a new shopping centre? Is Lidl or Aldi moving into the area (always the sign of a neighbourhood with something interesting happening to it)? How will future developments affect the area? How will changes in transport links change things up? Is a Luas stop or MetroLink station in the works? What remote village is due to get an upgrade to commuter town? What about the area’s immediate infrastructure – something that could make or break a town’s fortunes with the swipe of a civil servant’s pen?
According to Business Insider magazine, if an area starts putting money into roads, it could be a sign that gentrification could well be under way soon. A diverse and young population is also a harbinger of more amenities to come.
That great wave of gentrification you’ve been hoping for might just take longer than you think
It’s one thing liking an area already replete with brunch spots, second-hand shops and nice green spaces, but the more prudent house buyer knows that playing the property prediction game, and getting in there before the baristas, can pay off handsomely.
Ultimately, hours in front of the laptop will only get you so far in this regard. Nothing beats dropping into the neighbourhood IRL (in real life) to see if you really like its energy, residents and way of doing things. Because you’ll need to like what’s on offer there now, because that great wave of gentrification you’ve been hoping for might just take longer than you think.