The nightmare is over. We finally bought a house

I wouldn’t wish the pain of buying a house right now on the worst of my enemies

Darragh Geraghty at Wicklow Harbour. Photograph: Tom Honan

Darragh Geraghty at Wicklow Harbour. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

Well, we did it. We bought a house. It only took a year.

As far as I know I don’t have any enemies, but even if I did, I wouldn’t wish the pain of buying a house right now on the worst of them.

Once you are mortgage-approved it seems you need two things to buy a house: patience and luck. You will be outbid. You will suffer bitter and repeated disappointment. You will curse the gods. Then you will curse the government. Finally you will curse yourself for not getting your sh*t together sooner.

It is hard for me to exaggerate how relieved we are that we didn’t end up in some of the houses we previously looked at

How long have we been talking about this housing crisis? How long have we known that it’s a real problem, ruining real lives? And yet politicians and commentators continue to discuss the matter with the same robotic detachment, as if reading from a spreadsheet. Every radio interview is the same. Every newspaper article is the same.

At least, that’s how it feels when your child is due to start school in September, your landlady is selling the house you are currently renting, and you have absolutely no idea how you are going to find an affordable place to live.

If you are a first-time buyer about to embark on this thoroughly unenjoyable journey, I have a few words of advice. First and foremost: do not trust yourself. Don’t listen to your instincts, and whatever you do, for the love of God, be wary of that little voice inside your head that sounds so sure of itself. Because I can guarantee you one thing: early on in the process you will have your heart set on a house, and it will go to someone else. At first you will be crestfallen, but as sure as house prices rise, you will look back and thank your lucky stars your bid wasn’t accepted.

It’s a strange quirk of house-hunting, but as far as my meticulously unscientific research goes, it seems to be a universal truth. People will invariably and consistently say the same thing to you, and it will be some variation of “the right house will find you in the end.” These are people who, of course, already own a house. Although they mean well, it is a supremely irritating thing to hear just after another offer has been out-bid. It seems like an almost offensively flippant thing to say. It completely downplays, or flat out ignores, the real-world stress and jeopardy of the situation. You think to yourself, “I’m glad you found your dream home, pal, but I’m still looking down the barrel of life-changing and paralysing uncertainty”.

But here’s the kicker: it’s true. It’s all true! I’m not suggesting there’s some kind of cosmic serendipity at play here (although I can’t in good conscience rule that out). Perhaps it’s just a clever trick our minds play on us.

Did the right house find us in the end? Somehow, against all the odds, it did. It is hard for me to exaggerate how relieved we are that we didn’t end up in some of the houses we previously looked at. Honestly, what were we thinking? We came scarily close to buying a derelict house in the middle of nowhere. Nothing around for miles, and not an ounce of DIY knowledge between us. It feels like a fever dream, looking back. A lockdown-inspired mania. At the time it made perfect sense. We wanted to get out of Dublin; away from the traffic and noise and pollution. We wanted our children to grow up surrounded by nature.

But 2020 was a long year, towards the end of which we realised our family needed less isolation, not more. So we made a compromise, and now we own a lovely home in Wicklow town. Glorious views of the sea upstairs and down. A short stroll to the beach; walking distance to our son’s new school. It feels like we can breathe again.

In case you didn’t know, it is chaos out there. Absolute bedlam. It’s like the Wild West; a frontier land-grab

Looking for a house in another county during lockdown was not easy or fun. Approaching each Garda checkpoint we felt like Bonnie and Clyde. A decidedly unglamorous, exhausted and stressed-out Bonnie and Clyde, but still. I had visions of flooring it and never looking back.

Sometimes the estate agent wouldn’t even meet us; they’d just leave the key under a rock and let us have a gander at our leisure.

One house went on the market on a Thursday. We saw it on Friday, thought about it over the weekend, and put in a bid on Monday. Too late. Already sale-agreed. It was a similar story with the house we eventually bought. On the market less than a week. We saw it at 10am. Two hours later, following a heart-stopping bidding battle over the phone, we went sale agreed. This was on the market at the lower end of the price scale, and our final bid was the last one we could afford. We got lucky. There were tears of joy, and a thought for the person who lost out. We had been there, many times.

In case you didn’t know, it is chaos out there. Absolute bedlam. It’s like the Wild West; a frontier land-grab. Every day houses are getting snapped up by hungry, cash-rich crocodiles.

But be patient. Take a breath. I’m not going to say the right house will find you in the end, but you’ll get lucky sooner or later.

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