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Top: The village of Newport, Co. Tipperary, and (inset) a similar house to the one April and her family are purchasing. Photo by: Google Images

The Irish Homecoming: The winding road to home ownership

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Top: The village of Newport, Co. Tipperary, and (inset) a similar house to the one April and her family are purchasing. Photo by: Google Images

It has been a long road to get here but it’s finally taking shape. John, my husband, and I will finally be home owners.

When we moved home from New York in May of last year we began searching for the perfect home to house ourselves and our two young children, Colum, 2 and Sadie, 1. The task began with endless hours of trolling through Daft.ie, selecting homes we wished to view, areas we thought would be safe to bring up our kids and discussing what we would realistically offer for some of the overpriced dwellings.

We viewed big homes and small homes, houses in the countryside and houses in the suburbs, semi-detached and detached, bungalows and two stories. We saw them all. We really were spoilt for choice.

After spending a year renting a fairly large house in the countryside of Limerick we knew we wanted a smaller, more manageable, house in a location that offered us the serenity of the country but also accessible to shops and basic amenities.

The house we are currently in is situated on a busy and narrow country road which prevents us from being able to take the kids out for walks. It’s also about a five minute drive from the nearest shop -- not a big deal except when we run out of milk and a fight ensues about who is going to drive the five minutes to the shop.

We love the rolling hills and peace and tranquility country life has to offer. We love driving up our winding road and all the neighbors saluting with a friendly wave. We love in the summertime the sound of the farmers ploughing the fields and the smell of freshly cut grass.

But we miss having kids nearby for playdates, we miss the friendly banter with the next door neighbor and we miss being able to take the kids out on their bikes at the weekends.

After viewing more than a dozen houses John and I knew where we wanted to be. We wanted a country village with neighbors, a road we could walk on, a shop nearby and within close proximity to Limerick city.

And we found exactly what we were looking for in a nice sized village in Newport, Co. Tipperary.  It takes a lot for my husband to admit he is going to bring up his kids in Tipperary (albeit Newport sits right on the Limerick border) but he swallowed his pride after we found the perfect home.

Nestled just outside the village of Newport, but within walking distance, the estate housing about 80 detached homes of similar size is perfect. It’s located on the Limerick side, it has three schools, a butchers, a coffee house, several shops, a number of pubs, a Chinese, a chipper and a church. It’s the perfect big village, and it’s the perfect place for us to bring up our kids.

The homes were built in the boom. They initially sold for €375,000 when times were good. We had our eye on the estate for some time but due to the cost of the homes we wouldn’t look at them.

About three months ago an ad on Daft.ie caught my eye. The two houses that were for sale in the estate had reduced their selling prices to a little under €250,000. Still high we thought, but worth a look.

We fell in love with one of the two houses, the estate and the village itself. This was it. After months of searching we knew we had found exactly what we were looking for. 

The next step was putting in an offer and if accepted going to the bank for mortgage approval. After a lot of back and forth with the current family living in the house they accepted an offer of just under €210,000. We were thrilled.

The next big job was applying for a mortgage. Not wanting to put all our eggs in one basket we applied through the Bank of Ireland, the AIB and Permanent TSB.

The Bank of Ireland was the most relaxed and didn’t require as much paperwork up front. The AIB was extremely tight on requirements and paperwork and so was the PTSB. We had to prove we were both working, John in a permanent job, me as a freelance interpreter and journalist.  We had to show a history of savings, earnings for a year, and proof that we could afford to pay a 20-year mortgage and live comfortably also.

In one way we were happy that they were being sticklers on everything. And naturally it was a pain in the rear to come up with all that was needed.

Then we waited for the answer. It was about two weeks before our first offer came. It was from AIB, a mortgage approved for 20-years with no conditions.

The Bank of Ireland came in second but they had a list of conditions, and then in about another two weeks the PTSB agreed to give us a mortgage, without conditions.

We decided to accept AIB’s offer simply because we were happy with their initial thoroughness and we didn’t want to go back to the Bank of Ireland with a lot more paperwork.

The approval came early July and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

On a beautiful July evening in Limerick there was a knock on the front door of the house we are renting. John was in his mother’s house with Colum. I was home with Sadie.

Two men in suits were standing outside with a folder. My immediate thought was Jehovah Witnesses. It was about 6.30 p.m. I opened the door.

They asked for my landlady. I said we were her tenants. The two men (Irish) looked at each other in confusion. I asked was everything okay. The taller of the two said, “It’s not really.”

 He explained that the house we had been renting since our return from New York last year had been – as of earlier that day — taken over by receivers acting on behalf of the Bank of Scotland. To say I was astounded is an understatement.

Did this thing really happen to people’s private homes?  Of course it did.  I had just recently heard a slew of people on the Joe Duffy radio show telling their own stories, but what did that mean for us as tenants?

When I asked the men that question they said they weren’t exactly sure but said protocol was that the house would have to be vacated sooner rather than later because it was going to be put on the market for sale and the estate agent dealing with it would need it vacant in order to show it to potential buyers.

My mind was racing. There was no way we could possibly move all our stuff into a short term rental – we had just been approved for the mortgage — for a few months and then move it out again. No landlord was going to rent an unfurnished house to us for three or four months, and besides, I was in the middle of launching my first issue of a wedding magazine and we have two babies.

After airing my concerns to the two lads standing at the door they said they would see if an exception could be made to accommodate our circumstances. They said they would get back to us.

A week passed, then two but true to their word they returned with a contract allowing us to remain in the house until December 8 (my birthday). We just have to pay them the €950 rental each month. 
The landlord was extremely apologetic to us about the situation and seemed as shocked as us to have her house taken away. She didn’t get into her financial troubles with us, but I felt sorry for her situation.

So now it’s the start of October. Our solicitor tells us we should be getting the keys to our first home in the next two weeks, all going well.  It’s all very exciting.

We have some minor cosmetic jobs to do to it before we move in – some painting, changing out carpets and floors and putting in a fireplace, but if all goes according to plan we should be into our Tipperary home by the end of October.

It’s been an interesting and at the same time stressful time shopping for a house but I’m sure when we turn the key to our home in Ireland it will have all been worth it. 

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