The house hunters: Sleeping in a car, moving overseas, living with mum

Three young couples tell of the difficulties they have had searching for homes in Ireland

Daryl O’Leary with his wife, Maiara, at their rented apartment on Amiens Street, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Daryl O’Leary with his wife, Maiara, at their rented apartment on Amiens Street, Dublin. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Rising house prices, tighter mortgage lending rules and spiralling rents have put buying a house in Dublin beyond the reach of many young people, research carried out earlier this year found.

A study by the Neri Institute think tank found it is much harder for the current generation aged 25-34 to purchase a home than it was for previous generations.

In 1991, 59 per cent of young families (aged 25-34) had a mortgage. This figure had dropped to 39 per cent of households in 2011, and 25 per cent in 2016, according to data taken from the Central Statistics Office. The research is one of the first statistical examinations into what most young Irish house-hunters describe as the feeling the property ladder has been pulled up out of their reach.

Now young working couples are looking at alternative measures to help achieve their goal of some day owning their home. Three share their stories.

Living in a car

For couples who have both emigrated to Ireland, the safety-valve option of moving back in with parents while saving for a deposit is not there.

One such couple who spoke to The Irish Times were living in Collinswood, north Dublin in 2016, when they were served an eviction notice because the owner had decided to sell the property.

The couple, who have two young daughters, searched unsuccessfully for another house or apartment in Dublin, which they could rent in line with their budget of €1,300 a month. Finding a suitable home for their two young girls within this price range proved a huge challenge. Rents had shot up since they secured the house in Collinswood a number of years earlier, and the only affordable houses to let were of poor quality or were unsuitable apartments.

The mother says some of the properties they visited in Dublin were “a disgrace”, with mould and other issues. Next they looked to the wider commuter belt outside Dublin before finally settling for a house in the countryside in Munster, a four-hour drive from Dublin.

She says the countryside house they live in now is “beautiful” and large, surrounded by fields with a picturesque view, but she still misses the city.

The father, who is in his 50s and is a freelance contract worker in Dublin, lives and sleeps in his car Monday to Friday and drives home to his family for the weekend. The couple have asked not to be named for fear the husband might lose work if he was identified. He showers in work, has one hot meal a day and sleeps on a mattress in their seven-seater car in car parks around Dublin.

“This is what we’ve become ... It’s crazy, it’s absolutely nuts,” says his partner, who is from Italy. She is now concerned for her partner’s safety, because the car was recently broken into (though he was not in it at the time).

“I miss him, I worry, the kids miss him. The family is put through a lot of stress,” she says. Friends in Dublin sometimes put him up in their homes if they are away on holidays, and sometimes he might stay in tourist hostels.

The mother and the two girls live in a large three-bed house, where the rent is relatively cheap at €700 a month, and it allows them to try and put some by for a home, hopefully closer to Dublin. “We think we can save a little bit more money here to buy a house,” she says.

Due to the transient nature of her husband’s work, however, there are patches when the family have to dip into their savings to pay the rent, which knocks them back. The mother had a job in Dublin, but has only been able to find part-time seasonal employment in the countryside so far, and this summer worked as a waitress in a local pub.

She cites “loads of friends” who have left Ireland due to rising rents and the poor quality of rental properties. They try to stay positive, but it is difficult, she says.

Buying abroad

For others of the younger generation, trying to buy a home in Dublin not only looks impossible, but poor value for money compared to the opportunity to move abroad.

Daryl O’Leary (30) is a digital graphic designer living in Dublin. He is now looking to the Continent to purchase a home rather than taking out a mortgage on a property in Ireland.

He and his wife both work full time in Dublin, but he says that buying here does not seem to be a realistic option.

“It’s not really a viable solution, especially when you take into account that you’re buying old houses, or smaller houses, compared to somewhere in Europe where you can buy a newer apartment,” he says.

He says the quality of apartment living in mainland Europe and the overall facilities seem much better compared with Dublin. “When you balance up everything, why not just put it [your money] elsewhere? Why not get your value for money?” he says.

“My wife is Brazilian. She lived in Greece for six years. Every time we look at myhome.ie or daft.ie, she’s aghast,” he says. The pair are currently renting a small three-room apartment in Dublin city centre for about €1,100 a month, which puts a dent in building up savings.

Ten years ago, young professionals who could not afford to buy in Dublin may have settled for a home in the wider Leinster belt of counties, such as Louth, Meath or Kildare. But this option does not appeal to O’Leary and his wife. “If you’re going to be living in Kildare, and then have to drive two hours into work in Dublin”, that is going to affect your quality of life, he says.

“We were looking at apartments in Vienna, across Austria, in Germany, Berlin, anywhere within central Europe really. You get a higher quality of house, and you potentially get a higher quality of living. Why not do it?”

Home with mum and dad

Giovanni Fusciardi and Cynthia Crane Fusciardi, with baby Leonardo. The new family are living out of one room in Gio’s parents’ house. Photograph: Jack Power
Giovanni Fusciardi and Cynthia Crane Fusciardi, with baby Leonardo. The new family are living out of one room in Gio’s parents’ house. Photograph: Jack Power

Giovanni Fusciardi and Cynthia Crane Fusciardi decided to move back in with Giovanni’s parent’s in Raheny more than two years ago, in order to save for a home.

They met while travelling in Asia. The couple, who are now in their mid- and late-30s, married in 2015. Giovanni grew up in Raheny, but his family is from Italy, and Cynthia is originally from the US.

They were renting an apartment off the Howth Road in north Dublin until the landlord notified them that he would need the property back as he planned to let the apartment to one of his relatives.

“We were to get married at the end of the year, and were looking around at the rental market for another place to live, but rents had begun to climb up everywhere,” Cynthia says.

Between the high price of rent, the cost of the wedding and plans to start saving for a deposit, the pair decided to move in with Gio’s parents for a year or two.

But Gio, who works as a web developer, says the problem now is that house prices are “going up faster than you can save”, and if they move back into a rental apartment, the cost of rent would consume anything the pair are currently putting aside for a deposit.

They are living out of a one room extension in Gio’s parent’s house, with their five month old baby Leonardo. Gio says moving back home in your mid-30s means “you don’t feel like you’re progressing as much as you want to”.

Cynthia says: “I’m in my upper 30s, I’m living with my in-laws, we have a child. It’s quite hard. It helps that we have great in-laws.”

The couple are looking at different areas on the northside of Dublin, such as Artane and Kilbarrack, but they feel that property prices are running away from them. “You get worried you will be panicked into buying something that you don’t want,” Gio says.

The pair hope that by the summer of 2018 they will have saved up enough to put down a deposit and move into their own home.

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