’wan, tell us – how much did you pay for it?” The question makes my insides squirm. Most people wouldn’t dream of asking even the closest friends or relatives how much they earn, so why do so many think it is perfectly okay to inquire how much they paid for their house?
I’ve tried to shrug it off. “Oh, too much,” (which is probably true), but some people insist on pressing. “No seriously, how much?”
In this mar k e t , mos t first-time buyers like us have to put every penny they have (plus whatever they can beg or borrow) into the pot when bidding in the hope of landing a sale and finally getting the keys to their first home.
With few exceptions, Central Bank mortgage lending rules now strictly limit the amount an individual or couple can borrow to 3½ times their combined annual salary. How much you pay for your first home is probably the greatest outward indicator of your income. Many of us are lucky to receive a gift or loan from family – and in this market, it is almost essential. The vast majority of friends in a position to buy recently have only been able to do so because their deposits have been supplemented by such presents, or in cases like ours, inheritance following the death of a parent or close family member.
That is a travesty. Couples in their mid-30s with decent jobs should be able to comfortably afford a small starter home in Dublin without a dig-out from family, alive or dead.
With such rapid price fluctuations in the property market in Ireland in the past two decades, the worth of our homes – the biggest financial investment most of us will ever make, and our most valuable asset – has more than doubled, then halved, then almost doubled again. How much we paid for it in the first place can mean our mortgage repayments could be double or half those of the people next door, who may have bought only a few years before or after us. The volatile Irish housing market has not only gouged a chasm of inequality between generations, but also between peers.
Property prices, whether we own a home or not, are so intrinsically linked to our personal finances it is no wonder we’re collectively obsessed as a nation.