Making a home in Ireland: What’s an immersion? Why is it so expensive?
We talk to three couples from overseas who have rented or bought homes here
Maria Androulaki Anna Tsigaridas and Christos Tsigaridas at home in Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
With Dublin rated as one of the top 10 most expensive cities in Europe, the cost of living across the country is higher than the continental average.
But while buying or even renting a property in Ireland is more costly than many other countries around the globe, people are still drawn here for the way of life, the scenery, the opportunity of a good career or simply for having found the love of their life.
We spoke to three people who, despite the cost of setting up home, have chosen to put down roots and live their lives in Ireland.
Emily Manoras and her husband Paolo Montanari moved here from their native Italy just over three years ago, believing that finding somewhere to live would be ‘a piece of cake’. But it took two years of living with her parents and a lot of nail-biting bidding before they finally moved into their own home last year.
The couple moved here so their children could have a better way of life and while they can’t fault this decision, Emily says the property market in Ireland is very different to what she was used to.
“We wanted our children Nicole and Filippo to have a less materialistic lifestyle than they would have done in Italy and we have always loved Ireland, so making the decision to come here wasn’t difficult,” she says. “I have never had to worry about finding a suitable home as in Italy the biggest issue would always be having too much choice and trying to decide which, of several properties, was the best option.
“So when we arrived here in 2014, we moved in with my parents, who have a big old country house in Broadford, Co Clare, to start with and thought it would just be a short while before we found our own place. But we weren’t prepared for the lack of rental houses and the fact that even if we did find somewhere, we could easily be gazumped by someone who offered a few euro more to the landlord – as this is not allowed in Italy.
“It took us two years of searching and viewing and when we finally found somewhere we had a nerve wracking wait to see if our bid would be accepted over another family.”
The Italians won the bidding war at a cost of €300 more per month than the advertised rental fee, but the house suits their needs and while they are still hoping to buy their own home, didn’t mind paying over-the-odds for their current place.
“In Italy we are used to large rooms where everyone gathers together whereas in Ireland a lot of the houses we viewed seemed to have tiny rooms and decor from the 1970’s,” says Emily who runs Passatempo restaurant in Ennis with Paolo. “So when we saw the big kitchen and rooms in this house, we knew it was right for us.
“Ideally we would like to buy or build our own home, but because we are sole traders we couldn’t get a mortgage for 2 ½ years as we need to show proof of our earnings, despite the fact that we already have a deposit and savings. But we have only around six months to go and the restaurant is doing really well so hopefully we will be able to get started on finding a home of our own in the not too distant future.”
Christos Tsigaridas has just bought his own home after spending several years moving around rental properties in Dublin. The Greek native has been living in the capital since 2010 when his wife’s employers helped them to get settled.
“Maria and I were excited to make the move to Ireland and were helped by the company who provided us with a trailer big enough for both a car and a horse for our belongings, but all we had in the world were two suitcases of clothes,” recalls Christos, senior account manager for a multinational company.
“So the transition was very easy and we had a lovely apartment to begin with, but after four weeks we had to find our own place and that was a little more difficult. Eventually after a lot of searching we found an apartment.
"But as summer turned to winter, we realised it was actually very cold and not very homely so again the company stepped in and looked after us until we were able to find something suitable – which initially was a rental home but after realising how much we were spending on rent, we decided that we should buy somewhere of our own and last year we finally bought our own apartment across the street from Maria’s work.
'Rental fees are crazy'
“The rental fees are crazy so it is costing us less on our monthly mortgage repayments than the rent did. Now that we have a young daughter, Anna, and a second baby on the way, it was the perfect time to move and our two-bedroom apartment is ideal, particularly as we are down the street from Anna’s creche and there is both a playground nearby and a courtyard in the apartment block where she can ride her bike.”
Dave Marra from the US has also found the rental costs to be quite high in the capital where he works from Monday to Friday.
“I live in a small ‘granny’ flat in north Dublin and according to friends and colleagues, I was very lucky because I found it quite easily,” he says. “But it is very expensive as I’m paying 30% more for this tiny place than I am for the mortgage on my 4-bedroom semidetached house down the country.”
Detroit-born Dave says he has been away from America too long to compare the cost of buying or renting a property but has noticed some very different quirks about Irish homes.
“I haven’t rented a property in the US since I was in college in 1999 as I came to Europe not long after that,” says the 39 year old. “Then after meeting my wife, Lauren, decided to put down roots in Ireland. And while I doubt I will ever move back to America as I really love it here, there were some things which took some getting used to - the first being the ‘immersion’. I couldn’t understand how everyone didn’t have hot water on demand all the time and would have to wait for the tank to heat up. Plus in the beginning I couldn’t figure out the electrical switches – I mean why do you need to turn on a socket at the wall as well as turning on the oven? That didn’t make sense to me.
“But I love the fact that windows don’t have screens on them here so you can see out properly and I much prefer drying clothes outside rather than in a tumble dryer like everyone does in America - so there are lots of little positives as well as well as the obvious big ones.”
I found that there are many opportunities here for people to get on in life . . . I’m pretty sure that if I stayed in the US I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now
Dave, who works for a large multinational IT company says Ireland has been the ‘land of opportunity’ for him as he not only met his wife, but also made a great success of his life.
“Once I met Lauren I knew I wanted to stay and did all I could to make that happen,” he says. “And since then I adapted to Irish life really easily and have made so many friends, probably because I made a point of integrating into the community. And I found that there are many opportunities here for people to get on in life. I have done really well in my career, Lauren and I own our own house and I’m pretty sure that if I stayed in the US I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now – either on a personal or a professional level.”
35-year-old Christos Tsigaridas agrees and says the opportunities he has been afforded since moving to Ireland are way over and above his expectations.
“If someone had told me ten years ago that both Maria and I own our own apartment in Dublin and have great jobs, I would not have believed it possible,” he says. “Of course I do miss home and family in Greece and everything is a lot more expensive here – for example, my mother-in-law has a house overlooking the sea which probably costs about €50k in Greece and here it would be over €1 million.
“But it’s all relative as we earn a lot more than we could ever hope to earn back home. And we have made a lot of friends, both Irish and Greek, so we are very settled and really have put down Irish roots. In fact, Anna has an Irish passport, so we need to get that sorted for ourselves now so we can truly be Irish citizens. The only negative thing is the weather, which is very different to what we were used to at home, but I guess you can’t have it all.”