Prospective tenant peered morbidly through my underwear drawer

Coping: Tenants are viewed as homeowners-in-waiting, somehow having failed to achieve a basic life essential

If Ireland and the UK were to become countries where long-term renting was to be more widespread, we would need a stiff cultural redirect to get there. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

If Ireland and the UK were to become countries where long-term renting was to be more widespread, we would need a stiff cultural redirect to get there. Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

Home ownership in Ireland is at its lowest rate since 1971 and Daft.ie’s most recent price index states that house prices nationally have been rising by €2,000 every month for the last 12 months.

First-time buyers – among them my brother and sister-in-law – check and recheck sites like Daft, waiting for something within their budget and requirements to become available, wracked with anxiety that the moment it does bidding will stretch beyond their budget. There are not enough properties to meet demand. As the months go by, prices climb ever higher, and those looking to buy become increasingly disheartened.

My brother and his wife are architects, a breed of people widely known for intermarrying and inappropriately discussing concepts like “space” at perfectly respectable events like weddings while they nod at one another. It always made sense to me that they would buy a house or a plot of land and make themselves a home eventually. Architects will always want to architect, after all.

Things have since picked up and the prospect of work is there when he moves home from the UK

This natural desire that so many people have to possess their own sanctum sanctorum grates against the increasing difficulty of actually realising that goal. Despite the economic crash in Ireland having rendered my brother’s qualification about as desirable as a cat wrangler’s, things have since picked up and the prospect of work is there when he moves home from the UK.

Not a possibility

I, on the other hand, am not (at least for now) a prospective homeowner. It is not a financial possibility. Even if it were, the idea of crippling myself with debt to buy something painfully overpriced while counterintuitively hoping that current market trends don’t lead to the same logical conclusion as last time seems ridiculous. No wonder people under 35 are so enamoured by avocado toast.

After all, there is little dimmer than repeating behaviours in the belief that eventually you will get a different result, and if you can’t have true security at least you can have avocado.

I had come to think of the house we currently live in as home. It is objectively special. A converted barn in the English countryside, we rented it from a lady who lovingly converted and lived in it until she couldn’t any more for health reasons. When she moved to a more practical home for her needs, she couldn’t bear to sell the barn. Anyone who comes into the house can understand why. It is large, glass fronted with brick walls and very high, beamed ceilings. It has a vast garden for our cat Mabel. We rent it for the cost of a dingy apartment in Dublin.

A photographer from the letting agency told our neighbours that we were moving out weeks before we were ready

 However, I was wrong to think of our rented house as our home. As soon as we gave notice that we were leaving to move home to Ireland, we became invisible as the machine of letting agents and prospective new tenants ground into motion. A photographer from the letting agency told our neighbours that we were moving out weeks before we were ready. We called his boss to complain and were told that we are only tenants, and the neighbours were going to find out eventually anyway.

Turned up unannounced

Prospective new tenants came to view the house, which is to be let unfurnished, and I found one of them peering morbidly through my decidedly unexciting underwear drawer. People turned up unannounced and stared through the windows, or drove into the yard area round the front with various family members to have a gawk. When you rent your home, many people simply do not respect your dominion over it. This experience is not unique to the UK. Many Irish renters can relate.

We do not respect tenants, but rather view them as homeowners in waiting

 If Ireland and the UK were to become countries where long-term renting was to be more widespread, we would need a stiff cultural redirect to get there. We do not respect tenants, but rather view them as homeowners in waiting, or as having failed to achieve something basic and essential in life while they live in what we really think of as someone else’s property or home.

The concept of home necessitates a sense of control over your environment, a sense of real security that can only really exist by common consensus. A place won’t feel like home if no one else respects your right to it. To get this, it seems one has to buy a house.

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