Did you know that we started looking for a new house at the beginning of 2011?
We had previously house hunted at the beginning of the boom [in 2002]. This is dispiriting because the house you turned your nose up at last week is sold this week for more than your budget and next week all you can afford is a large broom cupboard.
But hunting in a bust is no fun either. As we looked at many, many houses, it became abundantly clear that when the property market collapses, three things happen:
a) Nobody who can possibly avoid it sells a house so there are very few new properties on the market;
b) Most of the sales are executor’s sales [see (a) above re avoiding selling, if you’re dead, then selling is pretty unavoidable] and the houses are in need of considerable care and upgrading [central heating, for example]; and
c) Landlords who regard new regulation of rented dwellings with dubiety will put their properties on the market [“Ideal for conversion to family home, currently in 10 units.”]
We saw lots of houses. 16 in six months. That’s more than one every second weekend. But still I went to every viewing filled with hopes destined to be dashed.
I remember going around a small house with a nice garden in one of Dublin’s southern suburbs. An older woman wandered around the rooms confiding to her companion: “This is a very dark house. Somebody has been ill here, I sense bad feelings and unhappiness” while the estate agent audibly ground his teeth.
I had the greatest difficulty getting to see another house as the estate agent assured me it would not suit. “But I want to see it,” I protested. Reluctantly, he conceded. He was right, it didn’t suit.
On my birthday, in March 2011, we saw a great house. In my heart of hearts I felt that this would be the house for us. Mr. Waffle said, “Let’s agree to have moved by this time next year.” We hummed and hawed over the birthday house. It needed a lot of work. Work is not our strong point. We are no good at dealing with workmen.
My mother asked me whether we were ever likely to have a drawing room where she could have tea. I felt not. [Aside, advising on furnishing, she told me that she bought the carpet which furnished the drawing room when she lived in a big house and, subsequently, two bedrooms and a study in a smaller house at an auction of the contents of the grand hotel in Cork. Possibly the best carpet investment ever. Do you think that hotels still auction carpets or is it all polished hard surfaces? Recent experience has shown that they certainly still go into liquidation.]
End of 2011.