I always thought The First Cut is the Deepest was a song about young love, but now I realise Cat Stevens was clearly in the process of buying a house when he wrote it.
It didn't take long, but we've just suffered our first heartbreak. We have been looking for houses in Wicklow and north Wexford. My wife will still need to commute to work in south Dublin, so proximity to the M11 is important. Other than that, we are open to any and all suggestions.
A slight problem: when the bank found out I was a stay-at-home parent who dabbles in a bit of writing, they threw a cold bucket of slop over me and told me to never come back. They then brought me down a back alley and beat me senseless with brass knuckles and baseball bats before throwing me in a dumpster filled with even more slop. Metaphorically speaking, you understand.
Based on the mortgage we have been preliminarily offered, our monthly repayments would be less than half of what we are currently paying in rent. This seems slightly strange to me. I had hoped our lucky chosen lender would take into account our decade-long history of paying extortionate monthly sums on time and in full. But, alas, no. You’ll get what you’re given and that’ll be the end of it.
I mean, honestly, who would you trust more on matters of risk assessment? The multibillion Irish banking sector or a guy who hasn’t worn pants in six months?
So we have a little less in our budget than we initially imagined. Stick it on the bill.
In our search for a house we have noticed a curious thing. The estate agents encountered so far seem universally and thoroughly disinterested. Whether the house in question is sold or not seems irrelevant. As someone who gets uncomfortable around over-eager salespeople, this hands-off approach wasn't exactly unwelcome, but surprising nonetheless. Maybe I watch too much TV. I was expecting Annette Benning in American Beauty. Cookies in the oven, that sort of thing. And people say I have my head in the clouds.
It was old, creaky and draughty, but who didn't grow up in a draughty house?
If there are any estate agents reading this, please, at least open the windows. Let a little air in. Give the house a quick once-over with a hoover. If you really want to push the boat out, crack open that can of Pledge you’ve been keeping for special occasions.
Anyway, back to the heartbreak. We are looking at houses. It’s real. It’s happening. After a few disappointing duds, we found a house we liked. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it. It was in a small Wexford village consisting of a pub, a church, a graveyard, a school, and one other house. And it was five minutes from the beach.
There was a lot wrong with the house, but we saw past all that. We had our magic blinkers of potential on. It was a hodgepodge of extensions based around a solid structure. It was old, creaky and draughty, but who didn’t grow up in a draughty house? We can sort out a bit of a draught. There were a few patches of suspicious mould, but the house had been vacant for a while. It probably needed a new boiler. It definitely needed a new bathroom. These are all obstacles we could overcome.
We had suspicions there might be more serious issues (the estate agent mentioned rising damp), so we hired a surveyor to inspect the property before we put in an offer.
In the meantime we did what we always do and let our imaginations run wild. I genuinely had no idea how emotionally exhausting looking for a house would be. I thought we would approach things in a sensible and objective manner. But it is so easy to become invested in a house you have seen only once.
The day we got the survey back was the day the music died
You can imagine your life there; your future there. You can imagine your children running wild in the back garden, traipsing through the kitchen in muddy wellies, not a care in the world. We could grow old in this house, you think, and our children will feel safe and loved and happy.
So that was a nice week. The day we got the survey back was the day the music died. It was long and detailed. After I read it I felt truly crestfallen. It was less a reality check and more a punch in the stomach. The house, it turns out, is a complete and utter money pit. It needs to be rewired, replumbed, insulated. Windows and doors need to be replaced, the shed is basically composed of asbestos. Gutters need to be replaced; it needs a new septic tank. The site was most likely prone to flooding. There was mention of woodworm, and yes: rising damp. The list went on.
Were we blind? The house honestly didn’t look that bad. The surveyor estimated it would cost, at the very least, €100,000 to sort out the most egregious problems.
We need a place to live. I’m now getting worried we won’t find one.