I’ll admit, as we drive home from work through the country roads on what has been our new route since only last year, I feel a swell of panic and excitement any time I see a For Sale sign nailed to a fence and sticking out through the dew laden grass. I know I’ve spoken to you before about moving house, how we moved house with a toddler, but it still feels raw. It took me quite a while to stop browsing and mentally decorating bungalows on housing websites. And I’m still entrenched in the newspapers about property prices and mortgage conditions. As I look at our house, decorated with not one, but two Christmas trees, as the lights flicker and glimmer and A plays with the music Christmas tree that plays We Wish You a Merry Christmas, I can not forget how hard we fought to get here. How lucky we are to have a home to fill with all of this Christmas tinsel. Because moving home is not easy. This was our third (and final, please God) house move. It was not easy the first time either.
My heart pangs for anyone who is struggling to get their foot on the property ladder. The news is abysmal, the outlook poor and the support is limited.
The Journey Home
B and I were young when we flung a foot on that ladder. It was a difficult decision but a wise one at the time. It was 2005. Oh so very, very close to a pinnacle we knew nothing about. At 21 and 25, we had little savings but plenty of prospects and much needed emotional and financial support from my parents. We chose an unorthodox route to start building our life together, but it quite simply was the only route we had. Affordable housing. Basically, we bought our pokey two bedroomed ground floor apartment from the County Council, who were entitled to a rather large clawback fee should we decide to sell within a certain time frame.
It was step one for us
Our time frame was very limited as after just shy of two years, we decided to couldn’t live in such a small box. A month short of the property collapse we managed to sell our apartment for a price that would be considered daylight robbery in today’s market. Subsequently, we bought a 3 bed semi which, if you compared it to prices of today, would buy you our current country bungalow on half an acre… and another house! Swings and roundabouts. But that left us in another predicament, as the property crash crumbled around us. Negative Equity. Initially, this of course wasn’t a worry because we had no intention or need to move. Eight years later, one baby and the realisation that this was not where we wanted to raise a family, the burning need to move rose its ugly head when the market struggled to recover and banks seemingly were not lending.
We’ve had our fair share of trials and tribulations with buying and selling in the Irish housing market. It’s been depressing, daunting and most of all a struggle. They say moving house is the most stressful thing you can do in your life. Well, we’ve done it three times in ten years. We live on the edge of stress! Ironically, we would not have our country bungalow without that first step onto the ladder with our afforadable housing apartment.
At the time of our last move, in October last year, the mortgage scenario in Ireland was throwing up all sorts of stone walls to not necessarily stop first time buyers and young couples from buying their own home, but it most certainly hindered them. In fact, because of the new rules, if we were not in the throes of the wonderful negative equity mortgage garnered from the property collapse, we would not be sitting in our festive bungalow right now.
So to recap
First apartment: cheap as chips < sold for loads
Second house: mega bucks > sold for pittance
Third house: reasonable price in comparison but add on our negative equity
Buying and selling houses is a mindfield!!
We had incredible support from our bank manager who literally guided us through every step (I’ve popped a wee Christmas card in the post to her… we’ll never forget how hard she worked to get us our negative equity mortgage on reasonable terms) and a solictor who we ironically could trust.
Buying Your First Home
Now that we are nestled in our forever home, and as the Christmas lights twinkle back at me, I can look back at the long and tedious year it took us to sell, find and buy our bungalow. I know how difficult it is. I know how time consuming and sometimes despairing it all feels.
Increasing property prices all over Ireland have left many first-time buyers wondering when and if they will get on the property ladder. We thought the same many a time. And we worried incesantly that we would struggle to get a negative equity mortage.
Recently, however the Irish Government announced its Help to Buy incentive in Budget 2017 which is designed to assist first time buyers obtain the required deposit to secure a mortgage to buy or build a new home. Deposits are one of the hardest things to come up. Between saving for years on end, living as frugally as you possibly can and sometimes borrowing from family, you think you will never have enough.
And then they change the rules.
Well thankfully, in this case, the rules are in favour of first time buyers again, who in my opinion, need as much support they can get.
Buying a house is not a straightforward process. You need help. All the help you can muster. Support is essentially, whether from trusted professionals like our bank manger and solicitor or family and friends like our parents who took us in as house guests for two weeks which lasted four months in between houses.
Inform yourself, guide yourself and be prepared. Make it easier on yourself. Prepare for a hard slog and it won’t feel as tough on the day.
Although buying your first home might seem like a complicated process, which can take months or even years to get in shape to apply for a mortgage, AIG Ireland has designed this 16 step guide to buying a house in Ireland that takes you through the steps you will have to take to get through the process. It’s a very helpful resource which I could have done with during any of our house purchases. The process is long and tedious but knowing what you have to come up, what procedures are along the way and what hinderances you can avoid, will help. For example, did you know at the time of buying your first home lenders require you and your partner to not only have life insurance but home insurance too?
Check out this useful graphic from AIG – Step by Step Guide to Buying a House in Ireland – which puts it in simple terms to make sense of the long and exasperating journey.
Share my story and let your friends and family know, if they are hoping to step onto that ladder for the first time, the second time or the third time, that it can be done. Tell them to keep their head up and that by next Christmas, they will be sitting in front of their own Christmas tree with the lights flickering away in their new home.
*** Collaborative Post with my own honest story and opinions ***