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Parenting After years of hardship and sacrifice, we finally have a home of our own

Margaret Lynch shares her absolute relief at finally moving into that long-sought family home.

WE FINALLY DID it! After years of hard work and sacrifice, we bought our house. We are currently two months in, the constant twitch in my right eye has stopped, and we are able to take stock of a whirlwind few months.

There is so much conflicting information and advice out there, so I have put together a few points that I would have benefited from knowing beforehand.

The first step, and by far the most important one, is to not talk about it. At all. Fight the urge. Seriously, just keep it all to yourself until you have those keys in your hand. Don’t let anyone know that you are starting the process, because it will inevitably take much longer than you think it will, and in a year’s time, you will rather gouge your own eye out than tell another person that yet another month has passed with absolutely no progression.

And listen, it’s no coincidence that it’s the same first rule of Fight Club, the similarities between the two are actually endless. Both are built on fragile, empty systems of delusion and involve copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears.

If you do talk about it, you have only yourself to blame when someone who bought their house in the 80’s for a fiver tells you that ‘it’s about time’ or ‘we all had to do it’. You also open yourself up to well-wishers checking in on how the process is going. Terribly, it’s always going terribly, and you’d rather not talk about it, thanks.

Keep calm and carry on

Secondly, you have to find your zen. For the love of God, start your deep breathing techniques and learn how to float away to your happy place mid conversation. Being able to go on standby and letting information pass over your head is an art form and one that you are going to need. Don’t mind your mam saying that your neighbour’s friend’s ex-husband’s cat managed to swing a three bed on one salary. That’s none of your business, you are doing you. Zen.

The third step is getting your deposit together, but you are going to want to start this 10 years ago. Although this seems like the hardest part, if you started working full time around fourth class, you should have enough by your late 20’s. If you didn’t, I can’t help you. Honestly, you can’t just spend all of your Communion money on Freddo bars and then get annoyed at the government when you can’t buy a house.

If you didn’t save your Communion money, you have three options. You can go with ‘The Bank of Mam and Dad’, emigration, or moving back home while you save. We chose door number three, and moved back in with my parents; myself, my partner, our two kids and all seven of our pet rabbits (following an unfortunate gender misalignment from the pet shop).

twobunniesonthecouch Shutterstock / Rylen M Shutterstock / Rylen M / Rylen M

We saved for two years, and then the pandemic hit and slowed us another two. Three generations under one roof (five if you count the bunnies), and six people with one bathroom was never going to be easy but when you added in the deadly virus that swept across the world without any kind of end in sight, well, that was really where the wheels started to fall off.

We didn’t follow the first rule, so we had plenty of conversations with people who just could not comprehend why we took so long to buy a house? Why were we dragging our heels? Why didn’t we just go to the bank and tell them that we were going to move our savings to a different bank if they didn’t give us a mortgage right there and then? Why weren’t we out ‘knocking on doors’ and negotiating prices with vendors? Find your happy place and tune out.

Getting the right advice

Fourthly, find a good broker. We weren’t sure if we should use one or go directly to the bank, and we heard solid arguments for both options. Ultimately though, we weren’t a straightforward application as my partner is self-employed, and we didn’t know enough to wing it ourselves. We used Finance Solutions (this is not an ad), and they were available for all of our questions throughout the entire process. Their website is also very user friendly, and you can easily see what you have uploaded and what is outstanding.

The fifth step, and by far the scariest bit, is the bank. This is the part where your future is decided. If you can buy where you hope to, or nearby, or if you are going to have a five-hour commute to the life you have built. All in all, when it is broken down, it’s not as daunting as it seems. You just need to give the bank all of your payslips, bank statements, and entire financial history, along with all of your Revenue documents, verification letters from your employer, your first-born child and written transcripts from your first confession.

We found the broker enormously helpful here too because they were the go between with the bank. They simplified the questions for us and helped us provide answers.

You are accountable here for every financial decision you have ever made, and if you have any signs of recklessness, it will be used against you. This could be activity on an online gambling account, missing previous loan payments, or significantly over-lending money that you don’t have, to people unlikely to pay it back, resulting in the financial crash of 2009 (for which the people of Ireland are still bailing you out).

But I wouldn’t really advise bringing up the last one, as this is about your ability to pay back loans, not theirs.

The joys of buying

Once you get your approval, you can start actually looking at and viewing houses! A broker is great again here because some estate agents wanted to see the ‘Approval in Principle’ documents, which would show how much we had to bargain with, but a broker can guide you through that. 

This stage is really hard, because you plan out your entire future in these houses, but it’s gone sale agreed by the time you contact an agent. You have to play quick and fast with the bids, like whack a mole, except when you actually whack a mole you are going to spend all of your life and money there, forever. It’s great!

The final step is to make an offering to the Housing Gods, by setting fire to several hundred Euro in the front garden — and you’ll have plenty of time to do this because you can be months between sale agreed and receipt of keys, and the people on both sides who are responsible for processing forms and moving things along genuinely do not care if you live or die.

I’m only joking here, you don’t really have to set fire to the money, but you do have to organise a survey of the property and it has the same effect. Our survey was issue free, but after we signed the contracts we found a new water feature in the kitchen, courtesy of two leaking Velux windows that had ruined the floorboards and created damp in the walls. We also had to call an emergency plumber out for two different leaks in the first week and had to fix a broken downstairs window.

There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of work that takes a physical and mental toll. And because there are so many barriers, you aren’t any closer to the end goal until you have the keys in hand. It’s very tough to keep going. I don’t know why the process has to be so hard, but when you do finally come out the other side of it, and you will, the relief that it is over is unlike anything else.

You don’t have to negotiate, remind, check in, hurry along or curse the postman. It will end, you will get through it, things will settle down again, and when they do, you will be so grateful to yourself for going through all the hard work.

And you never, ever, ever have to do it again!

Margaret Lynch is a working mum of two in Kildare. 

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