The end of negative equity: ‘He laughs. I cry. It’s the only place we’ll ever own together’

After living in it, renting it and Airbnbing it, it’s time to let the apartment burden go

Ceire Sadlier: I drive past Trinity College, Busáras, The Five Lamps. The tears peter out in North Strand Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Ceire Sadlier: I drive past Trinity College, Busáras, The Five Lamps. The tears peter out in North Strand Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

It is the last time that we are going to be in the apartment together. We are standing in the spot where he asked me to marry him, in the middle of forty square metres of debt.

“It’s the first place we owned together,” he says.

“It’s the only place we’ll ever own together,” I say.

He laughs. I cry. For 12 years, we have carried the weight of this place together. We have paid over a hundred thousand euro to the bank and many thousands more to the tax man, the insurance, the assurance, the maintenance, the management, the tenancies board and the council.

Now we have sold it for three quarters of the price we paid for it, just skimming the top of our mortgage.

The electricity was off on the day that we moved in and my brother and sister helped us to carry everything up two flights of stairs. Now I meet a man with rubbery skin and a van who answered my ‘free furniture’ ad and he and I carry it back down the stairs.

He rubs the Indonesian coffee table, made from a single block of wood that we bought in Camden Street when we seemed to have money to spend on things like that. He will sell everything else – he has a family to support and is trying to find ways to make money – but he will keep this for himself. We can’t bring it back to our house that is full of the landlord’s furniture.

Letting go

I don’t remember feeling nervous when we bought the place. We had the city and our lives at our feet. Now I am nervous, untrusting of my decision-making abilities. Two years of living in it, eight years of renting it, with each recessionary year bringing a new tenant and lower rent.

Two years of Airbnb, changing sheets daily and meeting strangers in the middle of the night. Back to landlording and now, as rents reach an unbearable cusp, we let go.

We have finally broken through the skin of 10 years of negative equity, our chance has come to drop the weight, but I am still worried. I can see myself looking out from the train at that place and I will wonder if, had we kept hoofing money into it, would it have paid off some day, in some way, for our children if not for us.

I meet a man representing the buyer for the final inspection. He does this half a dozen times a day. He calls the solicitor to tell her it’s good to go. We are standing by the window and a Dart passes as he asks about the keys.

A glut of tears comes again and then the intense emotion, not quite relief or happiness, not sadness or fear

My four month old is strapped to my chest, cheeks flaming from her burgeoning teeth. I fumble with the bunch and I put them in his hand, blurting, “This place has been such a burden to us.”

“What’s that?”

I say it louder and my voice cracks, my face gets warm and a tear rolls down my cheek.

“It has been such a burden to us.”

He mumbles that a lot of people were caught out and we get into the lift. On the street he reaches out his hand before drawing into me and giving me a fatherly kiss on the cheek.

I drive past Trinity College, Busáras, The Five Lamps. The tears peter out in North Strand.

I open the door to our rented home in Donnycarney, grateful that, at just shy of €1,800 a month, we have somewhere to live.

We hope that the landlord does not make the same decision that we made. Please don’t sell. Please don’t sell.

A glut of tears comes again and then the intense emotion, not quite relief or happiness, not sadness or fear – whatever it is, it is gone.

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