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A plea to my generation: as property prices rise again, proceed with caution

It is now that millennials’ supposed thirst for life experiences over amassing assets is going to be tested.

Gareth Gregan

I RETURNED HOME for a weekend recently. Driven partly out of a need to cram for looming exams and partly to avoid the chaos that envelops Dublin around St Patrick’s Day, my return West was one of my first since Christmas.

However, upon arrival I was greeted by something which hadn’t been seen in my area since around 2009. Glistening in the March sunshine on a green-field site across from my house hung a “For Sale” sign.

No secrets remain untold in rural Ireland and, sure enough, on my second evening home a neighbour had dropped round, fresh off the phone to the real-estate agent dealing with the sale, to tell us the price being requested: €150,000.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back the Celtic Tiger.

What have we learned?

Over the years subsequent to the proverbial backside falling out of the Irish economy, our generation of millennials has sought solace in the many lessons the economic catastrophe has supposedly taught us.

We won’t make the same mistakes, we won’t succumb to avaricious borrowing. We’ll find meaning in life other than property. We’re an age-bracket that value life experience over assets, something which was consolidated by a report recently issued by Eventbrite which showed how Irish millenialls were driving the “experience economy”, by spending €42 per month each on live events compared with an average of €23 in 2009/2010. We’re a group with incurable FOMO.

However, such truisms were easily believed when our economy was in the depths. It is now, however, that our supposed-cynicism and thirst for life experiences are going to be tested.

Rents in urban areas have spiralled out of control

With the Irish economy growing at 4.6% (five times faster than the eurozone average of 0.8%) and positive job announcements steadily starting to outweigh the negative in media reports, we’ve suddenly found ourselves in a position not dissimilar to what the previous generation did in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Add into this mix the fact that rents in urban areas have spiralled out of control in recent years (I currently pay more to live in Dublin than I did when I lived in London last summer), and that almost no property has been built in Ireland for close to eight years and you’ve quickly got all of the ingredients of another property bubble.

It is for all of these reasons that I’m writing this, perhaps as a plea, to my generation to proceed with caution. Although recent legislation with regard to minimum savings appears to have guarded against the type of 100% mortgages synonymous with Celtic Tiger lending, when property is involved temptation truly abounds.

What will define our generation? 

The Irish Times is currently running a section titled Generations where journalist Rosita Boland profiles six people of every decade in Ireland. On people in their 30s it was their tone of lament at having borrowed so recklessly that was ubiquitous throughout. With respect, that has become their defining feature. Let’s not let it become ours.

Remember, it was not that long ago a 48 acre flood-plain (only a couple of hundred metres away from the current site thats up for sale) sold for €18.8 million.

Gareth Gregan is a 21-year-old student of Economics and Politics at Trinity College, Dublin. He likes to see himself as the self-appointed spokesperson of Generation Y and his claim to fame is that he once made a cameo appearance on the Late Late where he spoke about his pet cats.

We asked this expert if people were paying over the odds for property again

This property company boss thinks we could be headed for another bubble

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