Still renting at 40..

I read an article recently that resonated with me. Since I had my milestone birthday last year and a relationship broke up, I guess the notion of ‘security’ has been on my mind a fair bit. This article resonated for several reasons:

First, I’m not dissimilar to Mary in the story though unlike her, I’ve fortunately never been evicted. However, since I started college in Galway in 1997, I’d say I’ve lived in approximately 20 different addresses, almost one every year. The longest period where I’ve stayed put has been my current flat where I’ve been for just under two years. The reason I’ve moved so much has been mainly down to life circumstances, living and working abroad for a spell and job hopping here in Ireland but I’m now at a point where I’d really like to put down some roots and feel part of a community.

When you’ve moved around as much as I have and lived in so many different places, you never really feel fully invested in an area and it never really feels like home. What’s the point in joining local sports teams or book clubs or groups when you know you might be moving on as soon as a new job opportunity comes along and you need to move closer to work? Renting by its nature is transient and neighbours you might know to see, soon move on, particularly in apartment blocks where people are often there temporarily until they save enough money to purchase their own home or are forced out due to the landlord selling up. You might join a local gym or class and get to know a few faces to see but unless you’re working or studying in the area where you live, it’s difficult to make new friends. ‘Home’, rather than being a place, becomes the people you surround yourself with outside of work and your family, wherever they are located (in my case, Ireland, Australia and the US).

Since 2007, I’ve worked mainly as a Primary school teacher with a few gaps here and there where I was unemployed, substitute teaching, living abroad and doing a brief stint working in a charity (didn’t work out!). Recently, I’ve been seriously thinking about trying to get on the property ladder here in Ireland and the relationship break-up has been a sort of catalyst in that. I’m aware that I’m not getting any younger and that most mortgage terms tend to be spread out over 23-25 years. With the pension age having increased from 65 to 67 here, there’s now way that I want to be paying back a home loan into my 70s so if I’m going to bite the bullet and purchase my first property, I need to do it in the next year or two.

As anyone who’s currently renting and thinking about buying their first home will tell you, the hardest thing is saving the 10% deposit necessary to obtain a mortgage. Particularly when you factor in the high cost of living here. I don’t spend much during the week. My outgoings on a weekly basis are mainly on food and transport (I live in a commuter town and drive or take the train, then bus to work) and occasionally I might take a trip to the cinema at the weekend or go for lunch with friends. That’s it. I don’t smoke, hardly drink and the things I enjoy these days tend not to cost a whole lot anyway. Every fortnight, I try to squirrel away some of my take-home pay and lodge it to the credit union, even if it’s as little as 100 euros. This year, I’ve resolved to clear some outstanding debt, the result of a bad decision I made a few years ago. If I were to write an account for of my weekly spending for the Money Diary section, it’d make for some pretty dull reading! The biggest investment I’ve made recently has been in my continuing education as I’ve gone back to college part-time and am studying Journalism for TV and Radio (this blog was actually part of an assignment for the course) so I’ve had to factor in college fees as part of my annual outgoings.

Last week I approached a bank for the first time to enquire generally about the mortgage process. The financial adviser, about 20 years younger than me, and 10 times more sensible than I was at his age, along with trying to sell me some Income Protection policy(!) advised me that based on my salary, as a single applicant, the most, they’d be able to loan me, would be 175,000. Now if you look at or, there’s very little you can buy for under 200,000 in Dublin (assuming you want to live in Dublin) and the few properties that are there for that price are located in the ‘less desirable’ parts of the city. Think Finglas, Darndale and Balbriggan! This seems grossly unfair to me. Why should I as a single applicant, be forced to live only in certain postcodes because of my status? If I were applying for a mortgage with a partner and we had a joint income of 100,000 euros, we’d have a lot more choice of properties and places to live. This seems to be the trade-off of purchasing a home in Ireland. Either you accept that as a single person, you will probably be forced to live somewhere not particularly nice if you want to live in Dublin or you relocate to a more affordable part of the country, but perhaps somewhere where there is no public transport or local amenities and where you might know no-one. This shouldn’t be the only options available but that’s what the situation is in Ireland 2020.

We keep getting told by politicians that we are a “wealthy” country and that our economy is “thriving”. Doesn’t really feel like it to me……

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