Average Age of Irish First-Time Buyer Rises to 34

Average Age of Irish First-Time Buyer Rises to 34

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The average age of the first-time buyer in Ireland has risen by five years to 34 over the past decade. It is time for our government to act.

By Nicole Buckler

In 2006 the average first-time buyer in Ireland was approximately 29 years old, but, according to the Real Estate Alliance (REA), this figure has increased by 17% and is still rising. The organisation says that first-time buyers in their twenties and early thirties are now mainly absent from the market for properties priced over €160,000. “A definite two-tier system has emerged over the past year nationwide, with €160,000 emerging as the breaking point for interest from buyers in that age group – ruling out most properties in Dublin,” said REA Chairman Michael O’Connor.

The main factor influencing the market recently has been the Central Bank deposit rules. These rules were designed to cool off an out-of-control market. Overall, many people believe it is a good thing, as we can never repeat the mess of post-crash Ireland that we still haven’t cleaned up yet.

building

This building lies unfinished in Sandyford, Dublin. It is a scar and a reminder for a “recovering” economy.

It is a bitter pill for Dubliners to swallow however. The introduction of the Central Bank’s requirements, combined with higher rents, has made it increasingly difficult for young people to save deposits, especially in Dublin. An average three-bed semi-detached house in Dublin county costs €334,000. A couple on a combined average industrial wage income of €74,000 can borrow 3.5 times their income, making a total of €259,000. Many will struggle to raise a deposit of €35,000, but if they do, it gives them a maximum buying power of €294,000.

But another reality is that we cannot compare our house-buying activities to our parents’ generation. Obviously, there were a lot less people in the world back then, and people weren’t treating houses like appreciating assets, they bought them to live in. Now we have “housing ladders” and renovation fairs and “home staging” and things that our parents would have thought were entirely ridiculous when they were buying their houses. And that’s how we got sucked into paying €900,000 for a house we can now sell for about a tenner. Houses bought during the boom were tools which we could pose with, even if we couldn’t pay for them. Anyone who has lived the misery of negative equity knows that the new central bank rules are for our own damn good.

The reality is that people who already own houses in Dublin, will have to lower their prices to be able to sell and move to their next-stage house. With negative equity already a problem, this isn’t tempting. So this creates a stalemate. While there is a stalemate, younger couples look for alternatives, and they may have found it outside of Dublin. The solutions are there: they can work from home, and avoid a massive commute, or seek employment in more rural locations. Or they could just buy outside of Dublin and commute, hoping to get another job locally in time. The age of buyers drops the further out the commuter belt you go. In Maynooth, according to the REA, the average first-time buyer is in their early thirties.

If we had a good government (which we probably don’t) a situation could arise where big cities are “decentralised” … that is, smaller towns close to county capitals become bigger towns in their own right, with companies locating where we need to put human capital, rather the other way around. A condition of a multi-national company settling in here in Ireland and avoiding taxes in their own country should hinge on them locating outside of county capitals. This would be a great way to revive some smaller towns and take the pressure off young buyers. Our government needs to get on it, because the current model sucks.

Anyone who bought during the Celtic Tiger years and who is sitting on a painful pile of negative equity would not wish that on a younger generation. There are wider solutions than to just let young people get into unserviceable debt to have a house they think they desire at the time. We need to think of something and fast, but we cannot go back to ruining people’s lives with mortgages that no one has any capacity to pay back.

The Dublin house situation sucks, but it is no different to anywhere else in the world. Social change is imminent, devolved populations will happen. In the meantime, young people, have a look around Maynooth, it seems like a nice place.

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