offset \ˈȯf-ˌset\ noun

a force or influence that makes an opposing force ineffective or less effective

Buying an Apartment in Dublin

Like I hinted in the Trello to Coggle post, and like I mentioned in the 2019 recap, let's start at the beginning.

In January we got a notice that we needed to move out and our notice period started. Nothing out of the ordinary there. We had been in the apartment for four years so the notice period was quite long and our landlord was patient, but we didn't want to leave things to chance. We were already thinking of looking for something to buy so the notice just kicked us into a higher gear. Not to be lazy, the first week we immediately went looking and saw three places. This proved to be enough to establish the current market situation. We didn't bid on any of the places then. In total, we saw close to forty places.

We established a Trello board to keep track of the apartments we had seen and kept notes in the cards there. Eventually I visualized the data with the Coggle mindmap so Mellow was born out of necessity. It helped keep our thoughts in order.

We were looking for a small place for a couple without kids, pets or a car. Preferably close to the city center so we could walk. Preferably new or well-kept. Preferably cheap and well-insulated. Looking back, it's impossible to get such a thing in Dublin. You always have to compromise on something and the closest you can get to what you want is to build a place. However, even then, it likely won’t be in the city center.

We looked mostly at one-bedrooms. Most of the places we saw on the market in Dublin were old builds, overpriced due to their central location. The layouts were often odd, with long entry hallways and walls joining at odd angles. Almost all of them had the central fireplace that was usually decorative and took up valuable space in already small rooms. The bathrooms usually had two taps: cold and hot water separately. Dublin buildings have issues with water pressure so electric water pumps in bathrooms were not unusual. Then there were the damp related issues.

It was a far cry from what we were expecting of our own place, but that's just the state of affairs in Dublin. The messed up thing is the disproportion between the quality and price. I couldn’t help myself but compare the places we saw with the offer in Croatia, where the same amount of money would’ve given us more space and higher quality. Then again, if we had stayed, we would have had less money at our disposal and would’ve had to compromise as well. Still, some of the things we saw cannot be unseen.

There are things to check out when looking at the place and the ads won't be forthcoming. Some agencies and sellers will go so far as not to disclose significant damage in the ad photos before you are actually right there viewing it. From the floors to the ceilings, you need to check everything. Water pressure, mold damage, windows, walls, electricity, sunken floors. It would be better to take someone with you, but we didn't have anyone. A second pair of eyes works wonders, though. Sleep it over as well, and if possible go see the place more than once, which is possible when there are more public viewings organized. When you're satisfied, you need to place a bid and then the whole bidding thing starts, which is an exercise in frustration.

Bid lower than the asking price and go from there because the price can and will go up. There are other people bidding as well and if you suspect they are made up by the agency you are entitled to ask for proof. However, if the seller won’t sell at your bidding price, there’s nothing you can do about it. They will sometimes put up an ad just to test the market or lower the initial price to create hype for the place, and then just pull out if the bids don’t meet their expectations. It's a cutthroat disingenuous market where the buyer is always more exposed than the seller.

We got close to buying one duplex, got it to be sale agreed, but the vendor simply pulled out after ghosting us for weeks. Looking back, it was a good thing they did. We were exhausted from the search, this was the first place we both actually liked, and we weren’t thinking straight. Losing it saved us years of being in debt because the place was more expensive than what we planned to give. It's just that you can either pay less and buy a dump or pay way more for a decent, but not perfect, apartment. We never got an explanation either. It’s likely they advertised it to get the place appraised so they could get a loan from the bank. Who knows what. You just have to be ready for that.

Almost six months later we got lucky to find a place that looked very cozy to us. It was In the same complex as the one that we previously lost, but smaller. The complex was interesting to us since it was relatively new. Turned out the owners of the apartment were geeks as well. Could’ve just left everything in place, books, games and cats, since it would have saved us the trouble of buying and moving things.

The long wait was finally over, but landed us 5 km further than the place we were renting. That was our compromise in the end. We were still not settled in though, as we mostly had naked walls to work with.

In the beginning we had a roof over our heads and that was the most important bit. We slept on the floor while waiting for our couch to come and started buying all the things you usually take for granted when you move into a rented apartment. From the small things like the cutlery organizer for the kitchen drawer to the major necessities like the fridge. To this day, we're still buying stuff like book-ends and we still haven’t decided on the posters for the empty frames. Mostly because we're lazy or indecisive. It is shaping up, however.

Buying stuff now takes an additional toll on our finances since we have to pay off the mortgage. We have to calculate what and when to buy since our savings are limited now. We could’ve taken a bigger loan to get equipped, but that would’ve meant even more to repay. We’ll manage, but things are easier for us because we don’t have kids, a car or pets. It’s a sad fact, but those things we might take for granted are a significant financial burden.

The crux of the matter is that the system makes it difficult to buy an apartment and have kids in the first place. Instead of being able to independently afford it, we rely on extended family as a band-aid to help financially or with child rearing. The ‘it takes a village’ approach may seem romantic, but it hides a harsh truth that raising a family at a normal living standard comes prepackaged with a big mortgage and wage slavery for life, and that might not even be enough. Who knows, maybe the future has in store for us alternative marriage arrangements where people would pool resources just to bring up children. It’s OK when you give up on some things because they are just not for you or you are ambivalent about them, like we are about children. It’s sad when you have to give up on them because you don’t have the resources.

But back to our apartment. We opted for the variable mortgage rate so we could divert all the extra money into repayment. Every three months an interest gets charged to our account so we have to expect that to happen and have enough money to cover it. Hopefully we won't see another recession hit us so the plan to pay it off earlier succeeds.

We didn’t have much trouble getting the mortgage. We took it out at the bank that held our accounts already so that expedited things. The bank will check your financial history for the last six months and it has to be stable. No overdue payments, no gambling addictions, no health issues, a trend of steady savings or rent payments. They will check your transactions for that period and the credit history in the country and abroad (if you have defaulted on a debt somewhere else). That part was easy: we had already closed all our accounts in Croatia, we were both employed, we had been paying rent and saving on top of that for four years, had no kids and our major expenses were the occasional trips.

Even though the mortgage wasn't a problem, the closing date was. Our notice was nearing the end. The vendors were buying a place themselves, but it wasn’t ready so they weren’t moving out. Our landlord had new tenants waiting for us to leave. It was all a huge chain of people waiting. In the end we had to move out so we transferred all of our stuff into storage and some sensitive electronics to our friends’ place. We can't thank them enough for all the trouble with our moving out and in. They drove us back and forth as many times as needed and were really there for us.

So with our stuff in the storage, we moved to temporary student accommodation waiting for the closing date to happen, which was the date we would get our keys from the agency. We had to extend our stay there twice, and then got our keys at the last second, but at least it was summer and not cold and wet. It was OK. It took us two months after we got in to get a bed installed and another week to get the mattress, but now we are just a desk away from having it all.

I mentioned already that I started doing some work that is becoming a series of hobbies now. Home automation, balcony gardening. I'll write more about that in the following posts. We're both keeping busy now. Figuring out how to approach the life-work balance. The commute, the lunch breaks... It's forming up. We'll get there.