Ryan O'Rourke: Why I can never afford to buy my own house

When new homes are bought up in bulk by investment funds, simply to be rented, it shows that the property market is not there for people like me, writes Ryan O’Rourke
Ryan O'Rourke: Why I can never afford to buy my own house

Bay Meadows, Dublin 15: The development has mostly been acquired by Round Hill Capital, together with SFO Capital Partners, and the houses will be on the rental market when completed. Pictures: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

I’m 27-years-old, I find myself out of reach of the lowest rungs of the property ladder. Not by inches, but by miles.

So this week's news, of wealthy investment funds, purchasing vast amounts of our nation's newly built homes, while the Government caps the cost of an ‘affordable home’ at very unaffordable €450,000, has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’m not alone in this, of that I am sure. My generation has learned to take the idea of homeownership and put it away in a box alongside other well-meaning, but improbable dreams such as achieving world peace or becoming an astronaut.

It’s an issue that seems to transcend class and demographics. I am from a working-class background. My parents have always rented, so it is something I am used to.

But some of my friends, from more well-off backgrounds, are finding themselves in the same boat as me. Despite working good jobs, saving, and making all the right moves, they are repeatedly priced out of the housing market and will be for the foreseeable future.

Those younger than me find themselves in an even worse position, with nearly 62% of those aged under 25 in the labour force currently unemployed.

It’s not that we don’t want to set our roots, it's that we realistically can’t.

According to the CSO, property prices nationally have increased by 88.5% from early 2013.
According to the CSO, property prices nationally have increased by 88.5% from early 2013.

The average sale price for a house in Ireland, for the first quarter of 2021 was €275,751. Meanwhile, based on what I am earning right now, with rules laid out by the Central Bank of Ireland, I would be entitled to a mortgage of roughly €105,000.

According to the CSO, property prices nationally have increased by 88.5% from early 2013. Dublin residential property prices have risen 95.3% from their February 2012 low, whilst residential property prices in the rest of Ireland are 89.8% higher than in May 2013.

These increases, in such a short time frame, continuously keep the keys of homes out of our hands, and into those who have millions, if not billions to spend.

The recent price of €350,000, given for my home area of Limerick, is a lot of things, but it is certainly not affordable.

Meanwhile, as I continue to save for a mortgage that I will likely never be able to afford, I continue to give a large amount of my income to a landlord.

Currently, I can’t even afford to rent an apartment by myself. Instead, I house share, and likely will continue to do so into the coming years, sacrificing my independence for some semblance of financial stability.

The average sale price for a house in Ireland, for the first quarter of 2021 was €275,751.
The average sale price for a house in Ireland, for the first quarter of 2021 was €275,751.

This is a common theme for many individuals in Ireland who rent. According to statistics from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), the number of private tenancies lodged with the National Tenancy Register is 309,664. Out of these, 93,920 are registered as single occupancy dwellings while 215,744 are listed as multiple occupancy dwellings.

This is due, in part, to the rising rent prices. In 2013, according to statistics from RTB, the average rent was €620. In comparison, the average monthly rent in Ireland at the end of 2020 was €1,414.

These increasing rents put further distance between young people and homeownership by making saving for a deposit an impossible task.

I feel trapped. I need a home, the same as anyone else. But when new homes are bought in bulk, simply to be rented, it shows the property market is not there for people like me.

When you compare my financial capabilities with those of global property investment firms, such as those mentioned this week, and their €1bn war chests, I don’t stand a chance.

In 2019, 95% of new-build apartments in Ireland were sold to institutional investors.

According to statistics from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), the number of private tenancies lodged with the National Tenancy Register is 309,664
According to statistics from the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB), the number of private tenancies lodged with the National Tenancy Register is 309,664

Even if I were able to compete with the extravagant prices asked, the ability of these companies to sweep in and buy up 135 out of 170 newly built homes is another massive obstacle.

This is all despite the fact that I have, on paper, done everything ‘the right way’.

I went to college, worked hard, and got a good job. I’ve no debt to my name, no outlandish expenses.

I take public transportation rather than drive, and new clothes are a rare treat. And for those that were gifted with the sharp wit that was seemingly passed around during the Celtic Tiger, I hate avocado toast, so my problems are not quite as simple as a small change to my budgeting.

The irony of all this is not lost on me, with many of my generation paying more on rent than we would on mortgage repayments, yet stuck in this position due to the fact we are told we can not afford a mortgage.

But there is an option for us, one many of us would like to avoid but may not have the luxury - emigration.

It’s an old, repeated theme. Many generations have made the trip to shores afar before me.

Those younger than me find themselves in an even worse position, with nearly 62% of those aged under 25 in the labour force currently unemployed.
Those younger than me find themselves in an even worse position, with nearly 62% of those aged under 25 in the labour force currently unemployed.

But we now enter a new era of possibilities. The rise in remote working over Covid, combined with the technological advances of the past 10 years means that now, I could realistically set up in any country in the world, remotely.

It’s a common topic of conversation among my friends. It seems to be a matter of when we leave, rather than if we will.

But we have seen that this policy of allowing our youth to leave in droves is massively detrimental to our nation’s wellbeing.

As a journalist, the country might not miss my presence all that much. But for the countless doctors, nurses, teachers, and more who go, a hole is left behind.

And while the Government feigns outrage at their “recent discovery” of a housing policy which has been in place for decades, my age cohort line up, like greyhounds in a trap. Waiting for the gates, the current covid restrictions, to open.

We are staring down the barrel of another mass exodus and can’t help but think that for every home bought up by one of these firms represents a future Irish family lost to foreign shores.

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