Rate of rising prices makes my brain flip and hope melt away

Diary of a Househunter: Cost of three-bed in Dublin has jumped €32,000 in six months

Sale prices for Dublin properties are up 11.2 per cent in the year to May, and 72.5 per cent since the trough in 2013. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Sale prices for Dublin properties are up 11.2 per cent in the year to May, and 72.5 per cent since the trough in 2013. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

“Any luck with the house hunt yet?” is invariably the first question asked these days by family, friends and colleagues, and since starting this column, even by people I’ve never met before. If it wasn’t the most dominating thing in my life right now, and the most colossal decision I’ve ever had to make, I’d be terribly bored repeating the same conversation over and over. But it helps to vent to others, many of whom are going through the same frustrating and disheartening process of trying to buy their first home in the middle of a housing crisis.

Before my partner and I embarked on this elusive search, I could never have imagined how all-consuming it could be. Once you commit to the idea of buying a home, you can wave goodbye to your Saturdays, for a start; early-morning to mid-afternoon is likely to be filled with a tight schedule of viewings, supplemented by the odd mid-week appointment at lunchtime or after work. Go away for a weekend or lie-in accidentally at your peril.

Days go by without a new property coming up in your price bracket, but you will still be compelled to check the MyHome.ie app 17 times a day, followed by Daft.ie just to be sure, even though the listings are usually an exact replica.

‘Dream home’

If you’re buying with a partner, you’ll talk about little other than the new houses online that day, which ones you need to schedule an appointment to see, what you could do by knocking down this wall and building that, or which other compromises you can make on your shrinking “dream home” wish-list.

In recent weeks, media reports of just how much pressure is building in the property market have been incessant. Bad news is coming at us from all sides.

Daft.ie’s house price index published at the end of June showed asking prices in Dublin rose by €3,221 per month in the last year. That amounts to more than €100 per day, €4.50 per hour, or 7 cent a minute, as my newsroom colleague Paddy Logue helpfully worked out and tweeted to me. Thanks Paddy.

Days later, a similar report from MyHome.ie claimed the average monthly price hike in Dublin in the first half of the year was €5,000, based on properties listed on its site. The average asking price for a three-bed, semi-detached house in Dublin is now €360,000, up €32,000 on six months ago, which is roughly when we started our house hunt.

Central Statistics Office figures last week revealed that sale prices for Dublin properties are up 11.2 per cent in the year to May, and 72.5 per cent since the trough in 2013.

The figures make my brain flip, and my hope melt away.

I wrote my last column about broadening our search to new locations, and since then we fell in love with a house in an area we had previously considered a no-go. For weeks we made almost-daily visits, walking the surrounding streets, shopping in the local supermarket, and parking up opposite the house to daydream about what it would be like to walk in that front door every day, to close those curtains every night, to sit in that garden, to cook in that kitchen. We probably had the neighbours petrified.

By the time we had convinced ourselves that the location concession was worth it, bidding had gone over our budget.

Heartbreaking

It was almost a relief to have the decision made for us; we had still been so unsure. But it was also heartbreaking to know that even by compromising on the area, that house, beautiful as it was but on a street we didn’t really want to live on, was still out of our reach.

The pressure was starting to get to me. My partner – by far the more level-headed half of our relationship – reminded me of our promise to each other when we set out on our house-hunting journey: that we wouldn’t get caught up in the race, and wouldn’t be pressured into buying something we didn’t want.

He’s right, I know. But. It’s so hard not to feel pressured when prices are increasing so frighteningly fast. I don’t want to look back in another six months, when we’re potentially priced out of the market altogether, and think, if only…

We’ve talked about abandoning our search for now, in the hope of the market settling. But with academics and economists warning that there’s no end to the crisis in sight, it is hard to see how prices will stabilise – not to mind come down – in the near future.

Others who’ve been through the process recently and emerged battered but triumphant with four walls to call their own tell us tales that give us hope. We’ll hang in there. But for now, the summer fallow period in the housing market is a welcome reprieve.

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