Some Areas of the City Are Still Affordable-ish to Buy in

Sue Murphy was out walking her dog on Friday evening in Drimnagh.

She lives in the area, she said, renting a home on Mourne Road. “We love it here, we have a huge garden, it’s very friendly and it’s quieter than you think.” And she knows her neighbours on both sides.

Murphy says there was issues in the past, as she grew up there, with gangs in the neighbourhood. “It used to be a bit rough back then,” she said, but that’s out of date.

Now, she says, the only issue with the area is a lack of a big shopping centre nearby.

Despite the housing shortage in the city, there are some parts of the city – including Drimnagh – where wannabe homeowners can find properties that they might have a shot at saving up for.

The Maths

According to CSO figures, the average working couple has a joint salary of €73,112. That means they should be able to get a mortgage of up to €255,000, which is 3.5 times that figure. If they can find a house for under €220,000, new homeowners only need a deposit of 10 percent.

That might not be as out-of-reach for some as it sounds. About a fifth of the properties in Dublin city advertised on Daft.ie on 11 October had asking prices of less than €225,000.

There were 665 properties for sale in the city for less than €225,000, and 502 of those had two or more bedrooms.

In Budget 2017, the  government announced a 5 percent grant for first-time buyers who purchase new-build properties. Given most new-builds in Dublin cost at least €300,000  it’s unlikely the average working couple will benefit from this grant. They would need a deposit of €45,000 to do so.

In Inchicore, Ballyfermot, Finglas and Ballymun, average asking prices for older properties are under €200,000. In Drimnagh, the average asking price is €230,000, and the average sale price is around €242,000. In Crumlin and Cabra, averages are higher, but many houses are still less than €250,000.

The lower prices are basically because some areas are more popular than others, says Lorcan Sirr, a lecturer in housing at Dublin Institute of Technology. It’s the market.

There could be several reasons behind that, he said. “Buyers want to be near where they came from, and they want to be near supports like their own mothers to help look after kids – as both parents are usually out working.”

“Some areas may have limited or inappropriate services near them, for example bad bus routes – and then you have good old-fashioned snobbery,” he said.

Why Not?

On Friday evening in Drimnagh, Rebecca Nolan was headed home from the shops.

Drimnagh is well-serviced by public transport, with the Luas, a short drive or cycle to the city centre. It’s about 4km to Dame Street. There’s a local park with sports pitches.

Nolan says she is  renting in the neighbourhood at the moment. But she and her husband are seriously considering buying a house there, she said.

She has been told that mortgage payments would be closer to €850 than the €1,350 they currently pay in rent.

“I think there is a bit of snobbery involved in why people don’t want to buy here. But also people may have heard bad things about gangs and then think it’s a rough area,” she said. “It’s not at all. You have to live here to realise how quiet it is.”

Nolan says “The one thing that I miss living here, compared to where I lived in London, is having cafés nearby – someone should open one.”

Nolan feels the area is very safe – although she does recount a worrying incident where her husband was attacked by teenagers as he cycled home.

The average house price in Drimnagh is €242,000, if you calculate based on the eight properties sold in the last month.

Stephen O’Grady, an estate agent with City Homes, says he expects prices to rise in the coming year.

“Areas like Crumlin and Drimnagh have been attracting your professional purchasers for a long time now, and prices will continue to increase due to the logistical advantages, general choice of schools and amenities and the garden space,” he said.

Yet some first-time buyers say they still prefer to look elsewhere.

Aine Gordon said she has been looking for a home to buy with her partner in Drumcondra.

She’s not a snob, she said, but wouldn’t want to buy in an area that some might see as “rough”, in case it affects the resale value of the home.

“You are investing all the money you have in the world in this so you can’t risk buying somewhere that could be seen as undesirable,” she said.

Gordon and her partner want to buy in Drumcondra because they like the area and it’s an easy commute to work, she said.

They are also looking further afield, though, as they’ve yet to find one that there that meets their needs – and they’ve got access to a larger-than-average mortgage.

Moving Around

While it is normal in most countries for people to move to different neighbourhoods depending on what they can afford, there seems to be a slightly different attitude here, says housing lecturer Lorcan Sirr.

“There is a certain sense of entitlement [in Ireland] about being able to live where you want and also being able to afford where you want,” he says.

But those looking to buy homes here are having to adjust to what is normal in other countries in Europe, he said. “The Central Bank’s lending limits will put a cap on what people can afford and where. So they’ll keep moving around the city until they find a location that is within their price brackets.”

Sirr says: “It is normal in many countries not to buy your first home until you’re 40-plus and to have to put down a 20 percent or more deposit. Lending limits like we have now are also very much the norm.”

Those changes in expectations might also mean a shift towards apartment living. (Some of the properties we found in central locations and priced at less than €225,000 were apartments.)

“People don’t like apartments because what we have called apartments over the years have been poorly built, poorly managed, expensive and small,” says Sirr.

Sirr says that while couples might struggle to buy in the exact area they want, it is single people – even those with very good incomes – who will struggle to buy property at all.

“Actually, for couples it’s quite easy. It’s single house buyers that find it more challenging, and they comprise a huge segment of the market. In the next few years, one-third of all households will be one person,” he said.

Reader responses

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JohnBox
at 16 October 2016 at 21:12

That average joint salary seems quite high. That means both people are earning 35,000+. I’m a student but my sister and her husband have been looking to buy a house for the past year, the max they can afford on their joint income is 180,000. Most of the houses that they could initially afford they were outbid on, usually by wealthier people looking to find bargains to rent out to others. So this ‘affordable’ housing is not really all that affordable.

Laoise Neylon
at 17 October 2016 at 08:54

@JohnBox: Hi John, thanks for your comment – the average salary for Ireland is provided by the Central Statistics Office. That includes those on very high salaries which means a lot of people also earn less than that. Of course for very many people these properties are out of reach – also the problem for many people is that with rent being so high its impossible to save for deposits. The article does highlight that if people can manage to get on the ladder somehow their monthly out-goings will be less. I plan to look into ratios of first time buyer versus investor mortgages and examine how they deal with this problem in other cities – I totally agree this is keeping couples stuck renting when they should be able to buy.

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