By Peter Vandermeersch
Moving to Dublin, I was convinced I had a very decent budget. In July 2019, a month before packing my bags for the Irish capital, I had sold a chic apartment of 100 square metres smack in the centre of Amsterdam, one of the liveliest cities in Western Europe, where… everyone is complaining that house prices are ‘completely over the top’. I managed to get, I’m happy to say, a very decent price for my flat.
With this nice sum of money in my pocket, I presumed that I could buy a similar apartment in Dublin. I was thinking about places like Sandymount, Dalkey, Ballsbridge… Nice neighbourhoods close to the sea. Since Dublin is not Amsterdam, I was really convinced I would be able to buy more metres (and luxury, yes!) for my euros. And why shouldn’t I dream of a house with a sea view?
How naive I was. Dublin, I very soon realised, is not as lively, clean, nice, safe or easy to live in as Amsterdam… And definitely not as cheap. House prices are, to put it mildly, completely crazy. They are horrendous and absurd…. The budget which bought me 100 square metres in one of the best neighbourhoods in Amsterdam, would allowed me to buy about 50 square metres in a very average neighbourhood in Dublin.
I had two alternatives. Option 1: go and live outside Dublin and commute to the newspaper offices in Talbot Street. After all, Wicklow is beautiful. But… if you compare the railway system in Ireland with that in The Netherlands, you’re been catapulted about thirty years back in time. Not an attractive option. Commute by car then? Not attractive either: traffic jams in Dublin are amongst the worst in Western Europe.
Option 2: rent… and hope that this market becomes more realistic. For more than a month I had been running around like a crazy person for a decent place to rent. It was quite an experience: I visited houses with leaking roofs where the owner was asking 4.000 or 5.000 euro a month. I saw apartments without any light (3.000/month). I visited a house with a great sea view but no decent kitchen or bathroom (6.000/month). I went to Dalkey, Blackrock, Monkstown, Malahide and Clontarf. In Sandymount, I lined up with five other candidates in front of a house. When the owner saw the five of us, he announced on the spot that the rent would not be 5.000 but 5.500 euro a month; for a terraced house without a garden. I visited a lot of real estate, but above all: I saw the euro signs in the eyes of the owners, delighted that all these desperate expats were looking for houses with European standards.
Finally, I ended up in a very nice neighbourhood of Dublin. Paying more than I ever thought I would pay for rent in my life. I live in a very modern and stylish house, while I rent out the beautiful, slightly bigger and more luxurious house I still own in Tervuren, a sought-after suburb of Brussels. The rent I receive from that property is roughly half of what I pay now in rent in Dublin. I can only hope that Brexit and Covid hit the real estate market and this that brings some realism to Dublin house prices, and to those landlords with euro signs in their eyes.
(A version of this blog was published in The Sunday Independent, August, 2th, 2020)