Born in the United States, Andrew Miller has sampled more than his fair share of Irish properties, having lived in several locations around the country. Now he and his partner Joey and their two children – Fox (4) and Jay (2) have finally settled in Dungarvan, Co Waterford.
The internet consultant, who is originally from Michigan moved into a two-bed cottage in Rathfarnham in August 2014 with his then girlfriend and within a year they were married and expecting their first child. So, with a monthly rent of €1,300, the couple decided to move out, do a bit of travelling and then find somewhere bigger to live.
"We vacated the cottage in April 2016 to tour Europe for a couple months in our campervan with our five-month-old infant in tow," says the 38-year-old. "In August of 2016 we had found our next rental home in Dublin, a three-bed semi-detached house in Glenageary which cost €1,800 per month. But our tenancy was terminated after six months as we had been found to have been keeping a pet which was against the rules of our contract. Fortunately, we found a three-bed cottage to rent in a quiet part of Castleknock and quickly settled in March of 2017.
“Although the rent [in Dublin] was high, it was manageable, but we often struggled financially whenever there was a big, unexpected expense. For example, when the engine in our van broke down catastrophically, it was really hard to find the money for that.”
Once the couple discovered they were expecting their second baby they realised that life in the city would not be sustainable, so they decided to move down the country and buy a house of their own. But in order to do this, they would need to rent somewhere affordable in the interim.
“We lived in the cottage in Castleknock until September,” says Andrew. “Joey was pregnant with our second child and after so much moving, living pay-check-to-pay-check, we finally made the decision to leave. We wanted to buy our own house to stabilise our life, but we needed to save money in order to do that – and that meant reducing our highest expense, which was rent.
"So we found a townhouse to rent in the centre of Clonmel and had fully moved in by the end of September 2017 – then Joey found work at a school and we were finally saving money."
His wife had grown up in Clonmel, hence the move to Tipperary, and as a child had spent a lot of time in Dungarvan. So with the knowledge that her parents had recently bought a house there and the lure of the Waterford Greenway, the proximity to the sea and more importantly, the affordable cost of housing, the Miller family decided to put roots down in Waterford.
“We started looking at houses to buy in Dungarvan as soon as we had settled into our rental townhouse in Clonmel,” says the father of two. “Saving money was still our top priority, and we knew it would take at least a year before we could approach a lender. But by the summer of 2018, after living in Clonmel for about nine months, we were in a good financial position to look seriously at houses to buy in Waterford.
“So we viewed approximately eight or 10 houses before agreeing on a property in Dungarvan town and placing a deposit on it.”
It took six months for the couple to finalise their loan and tackle the variety of legal requirements. And in January 2019, they finally moved into a four-bed bungalow in quiet cul-de-sac in the centre of town.
Built in the mid-1980s, it is close to all the essential amenities – schools, shops, the Greenway and recreational facilities, so they really felt as though they had found the right spot to raise their family and progress their careers (Andrew had established his online consultancy business – brightwood.ie – while Joey began working as a teacher in a local school).
And while the house didn’t need much in the way of structural work, it did need to be modernised and renovated – a job which is currently ongoing.
“It was such a relief to finally have a permanent home, with enough comfortable room for our family, including the dog,” says Andrew. “There wasn’t a huge amount of work to do but the, mostly original, internal features were dated and fairly worn out, so we immediately began refurbishments.
“There is still a great deal of work to do, both inside and outside, especially the kitchen and back garden and at the moment, the sittingroom has seen the most change. We stripped wallpaper, removed trim, patched holes, plastered, rebuilt the fireplace, installed a wood stove, painted and installed new lighting fixtures. And I will be building new shelves and cupboard units for it next month – and with those that room will finally be done.”
With the renovation of the house under way, Andrew and Joey have begun to enjoy their new life and are making the most of the amenities on their doorstep.
“Living in Dungarvan is great and we are really enjoying the recreational opportunities in the area which include sailing, hill walking, the beaches, the facilities for camping and of course the Waterford Greenway,” says Andrew.
"Joey was made secretary of the Dungarvan Harbour Sailing Club and last summer we bought a small sailboat and acquired a mooring in Dungarvan Harbour. We have found good friends in the area and feel like we have a very stress-free life now. Even though we are both working about the same amount as we were before, living here has eliminated most of the small, stressful aspects of living in Dublin.
"Joey does have to commute to her work, an Educate Together School in Tramore, so it would be great she was closer to her workplace, but that may happen in time and it is definitely better than it was before."
Moving to the country or coast is a dream held by many city dwellers and Miller says that it can be turned into a reality, providing you do some research beforehand and are prepared to make some compromises.
"Ireland is a wonderful country, with so many opportunities and great places to live," he says. "It's possible that with some re-alignment of priorities and a commitment to making it work, anyone can integrate themselves into a seaside town like we have – it just takes some patience and dedication.
“For those who worry about being too far from the city, Dublin is usually just a few hours away. We drive up to see friends and attend events on a regular basis. So my advice would be if you’re interested in buying a house, try to meet your potential neighbours as having good neighbours can make all the difference.
“We definitely made the right decision – our home has plenty of room for our little family, our neighbours are great, and I am very happy with all the DIY projects. So we plan on living here for many years – and if we ever do sell, we’ll likely buy something else nearby with more room for our boats, tools, and campervan.”