Graham Cummins: What’s the point in playing sport if you can’t buy your own home out of it?

It took my wife and I a year-and-a-half to get a mortgage and it did create a lot of stress, says Graham Cummins

Graham Cummins: What’s the point in playing sport if you can’t buy your own home out of it?

Being a professional footballer is a dream job but when it comes to getting a mortgage, it’s not the ideal profession to have.

People believe that footballers earn vast amounts of money and that when they walk into a bank, banks will be falling over to give them a mortgage. That might be true for footballers at the top level but isn’t the case for League of Ireland players.

League of Ireland players aren’t millionaires. Unlike footballers who play at the top level in the UK, players in Ireland need to be sensible with their money. It’s rare to see players in Ireland driving around in Range Rovers — most players would struggle to afford to fill up the tank in a car like that.

It does happen that players in Ireland overspend and live beyond their means because they believe that because they are a footballer, that they should be flash and have all the top designer clothes. Some players are trying to live the life of what people perceive a footballer’s lives to be by spending hundreds of euros on a pair of shoes.

Footballers love judging each other’s clothes. Players spend €200 on a jumper when they are only earning €250-a-week just so they can walk into a dressing room and feel good about themselves.

However, when it comes to getting a mortgage, having nice clothes instead of a healthy savings account isn’t going to impress a bank.

I would never consider myself flash. To me, a jumper is a jumper. It doesn’t matter whether a jumper I have bought has a logo on it or not. I don’t care whether my teammates think I have a good fashion sense or not and have been told on numerous occasions about how bad my dress sense is. There’s no chance of me spending a €100 for a top when I can get one just as nice for €30.

Some people think that makes me cheap but I’d see myself as sensible and my cautious approach when it comes to spending is probably the main reason, I managed to get a mortgage earlier this year.

When I knew I was re-joining Cork City just under two years ago, what my wife and I were looking forward to was coming home and finally buying our own house. We had lived in the UK for five years and rented both during our time in England and Scotland. We never tried to buy a property because we always knew that we would be returning to Cork someday and that’s when we would buy our first house. We naively believed that we would come home, walk into and a bank, and they would be happy to give us a mortgage.

We were discussing what it would be like to have our first Christmas in our new home — which we will have this year, a year later than planned. We spoke about the small things of having friends and family around for drinks or even hanging a picture on the wall without having to ask someone for permission.

My wife and I moved in with her family at the beginning just while we were adjusted to life back in Ireland but we were eager to get a mortgage. I spoke to a few players at Cork City who recommended I go see a certain mortgage broker they were dealing with.

I was confident we were going to get a mortgage easily because of our healthy savings account and employment. Our first setback was that because we did not have an active Irish bank account for the previous six months, we wouldn’t be able to apply for a mortgage until we had shown our spending and savings in Ireland for half a year.

The broker still was confident that in six months — once we had shown our capabilities of saving — we shouldn’t have a problem being accepted for a mortgage. It was disappointing to hear that we wouldn’t be able to find our own place but six months isn’t a long time to wait and the assurance that we would more than likely be accepted for a mortgage when we returned to the broker, softened the blow.

My wife and I questioned would it be worth renting but after renting in the UK for five years, we didn’t want to waste more money investing in a property that wasn’t ours, especially for the crazy money landlords were looking for.

Graham Cummins: What’s the point in playing sport if you can’t buy your own home out of it?

We returned to the broker six months later having met all of his demands convinced we would be soon living in our own home. The broker told us he would take our forms and apply for us and we would hear back from him soon. A month passed and I didn’t hear a thing. I don’t believe in the saying, no news is good news, so decided to look elsewhere to get a mortgage.

We tried numerous banks, who were all optimistic of getting us a mortgage but invariably came back with the same answer: ‘No’. Each bank explained to us that because my profession has a limited life span there was no guarantee I would be able to repay my mortgage when my contract ends. At the time I was 30, and had 18 months left on my contract but banks didn’t see that as any security. Footballers are only one bad tackle away from a career end. Football as a profession is a contracted job with no hope of every becoming permanent. I can understand why banks don’t want to give players mortgages.

I explained to the banks that I had a business degree and a Sports Journalism degree and that I have been preparing for life after football. They were unwilling to take a risk that I would get a job when I retired from football that would provide a wage that would be able to pay a mortgage every month.

After so many rejections, we had run out of options and decided that it was worth a try to contact the broker we had originally spoke to about a mortgage. I texted him explaining that my wife and I were looking for a smaller amount than we had first hoped for because we knew that we had no chance of getting that figure.

I was shocked when he texted back saying he had a mortgage in place for us from our applications two months previous. I just assumed that because I had heard nothing back from him, that we had been rejected.

Alarm bells should have gone off in my head then rather than trust the broker. He told me the amount I was approved for and that I could start bidding on house. I did start looking at houses but found it strange that I had received no documents from the broker stating that my wife and I had been mortgage-approved.

The broker had also promised another teammate of mine that he was mortgage-approved and that player agreed a price for a property, paid for engineer report on the it but when the time came to produce the funds, the broker explained there were complications and my former teammate had to withdraw from the sale, costing him hundreds of euro. I had to assume I would run into the same scenario if I agreed a price on a house, so I looked elsewhere.

All of the rejections and setbacks were really starting to their take toll. I was contemplating quitting football. I was thinking, I’m better off in a different job where I can actually get a mortgage. I know a lot of players I’ve played with this season had the same frame of mind. I do believe that the league could suffer because players will quit football and get a different job because of the difficulties of obtaining a mortgage as a player.

I did finally manage to get a mortgage from another broker who went above and beyond to get my wife and I a mortgage. I don’t know what he did differently to the others banks and brokers but he explained to me that because of my degrees and our healthy savings account, he was prepared to give us a mortgage but not the figure we had hoped for. He knew we would have to contribute more than the 10% most first-time buyers invest in a property if we wanted to get anywhere liveable — which meant less risk for the bank. If we ever do go into arrears with our mortgage payments, the bank know they are getting a property worth more than they loaned us.

It took my wife and I a year-and-a-half to get a mortgage and it did create a lot of stress. Players need to be clever with their money because if they think banks will give them special treatment because they are footballers, then guess again.

It will make players think whether it is worth pursuing a career in the League of Ireland if they can’t get a mortgage with the profession. The most important item someone will buy in their life is their home.

What’s the point in playing sport if you can’t buy your own home out of it?

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