How I almost bought a house for cash!

It was early 2012 – just over a year since my return to Ireland after a number of years of living and working overseas.

I was settling in to my job, having transferred back to Ireland with the same company that had hired me some years previously to work in one of their overseas offices.

I had also started into my first year of working towards my Masters part time, and was beginning to get settled in back in Ireland, and starting to look for my own place, when suddenly, in early March, the company laid off my whole department….

I had already begun the mortgage application process with the bank, but, given that the company was fully aware that it would be laying me and the rest of the department off imminently, they told me that they could not in good faith have filled out and signed the bank’s form indicating that I would remain in their employment for the foreseeable future.

Suddenly the possibility of getting a mortgage from a bank had been pulled out from underneath me, along with my job security, and right at the time when the housing market had reached its’ bottom point! I was well aware that this was the opportune time to buy, having been monitoring the Irish housing market remotely though the power of internet since 2008!

Unfortunately though I had not been much of a saver! Since a bank mortgage was no longer an option, I took a look on the property websites again, this time filtering my search by price, cheapest first, rather than by location. I came across a 2 bed duplex which was priced at € 70 K. I did a quick calculation in my head of the redundancy payment I had coming to me, along with my meagre savings, and the possibility of a small credit union loan, and thought I could just about do it.

The 2 bed duplexes are up the steps, and cover the first and second floors:

Canice's Court

I remember thinking at the time that I just wanted to know that I did not need to worry about paying mortgage or rent, and wanted to just be able to complete my Masters and enjoy the year without needing to go back into the world of work immediately. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had stumbled on to my first piece of financial independence thinking. I went to view the apartment a North Dublin city suburb. I noticed some horses grazing freely on the green spaces nearby, and a pub that looked like it was possibly busy all day. Guys worked on their cars outside even though it was early afternoon. There seemed to be a lot of people about. The estate agent helpfully pointed out that a lot of people had lost their jobs, (this was not news to me), and that many of these were in North Dublin! It was tantalising at the time to think that there was this place that I could maybe buy, and just live in, and just do my Masters and enjoy it without having to go and look for a job right away again to be able to pay rent, or, worst case, work a couple of shifts somewhere just to earn enough to cover my basic costs.

As tantalising as this was, I did not go ahead with this purchase. I took some time to go to visit the neighbourhood alone as well as with family members. I walked around and tested out the bus route that would take me in to town to work or to college. The duplex was on the end of a row and looked from the back into the back of a factory warehouse and out on to an open green (on the side). The conclusion that I drew from my visits to the area was that I would quite possibly not be safe coming and going from my home, or indeed in my home at night. This fundamental concern for my security led me to pass up on this opportunity and move on with other plans.

I stayed in my rented apartment, and after 6 blissful months of being a student immersed in my masters, making new friends and enjoying some related social activities while sending out the occasional job application and going to the occasional job interview, and generally not having to worry about going into a job every day, I took the first job offer I got. This job would lead to a lot of stress and anxiety over the next couple of years. Combined with the fact that I still had the Masters going on the side. I recommenced mortgage applications and started searching for houses once I became permanent in the new job. We were now into 2013 and house prices had started to rise steadily from their bottom point. At a certain point I realised I was juggling too many things and put the house search on hold until I could complete my Masters, eventually buying my own home in 2015 after the housing market had been consistently rising for about 4 years!

In some way I had reached out and latched on to the concept of financial independence, although I did not now this yet. I had briefly considered the possibility of buying a home in cash and taking a voluntary break from the working world. For a fleeting time, it appeared to be a possibility which I explored briefly. Interestingly, when I closed the door on this opportunity due to fundamental security concerns which I could not overlook, I did not pursue the thought process further, but seemed to return to the well-trodden path of seeking out more of the same type of employment and signing up to a 29 year mortgage.

Fortunately, this was not the end of the story for me! In 2015 I discovered the blog “Go Curry Cracker”, which led me into a world full of people who showed me that there are alternatives to working 30 0r 40 years! I discovered Jim Collins and the power of “F you money”. (Had I been conscious of this sooner, of course, I would have been saving my entire working life, and would have been ready to buy a house in a safer neighbourhood in cash in 2012 while the market was near its bottom point, or at the very least would have had a year’s savings accumulated in cash so that I could enjoy some time out to complete my Masters, to settle back in Ireland, and indeed to allow me to be more discerning about which job offers to accept.

I am sure that some will wonder whether I regret not having bought the duplex! The answer to this is that I do not! Along with shelter, security/ safety is one of the most fundamental of human needs. I had seen enough to know that my safety was in question here. When I doing my research for this article, I looked for the apartment online, and discovered that a murder had occurred in the pub around the corner shortly after I looked at the duplex! I do not regret my decision not to buy!

Pub shooting in the local pub near the duplex, and opposite the bus stop:

Pub shooting

I like to think however that I have learnt some lessons from my experience in 2012. As the housing market in Ireland (and in particular in Dublin) continues to soar, each day becomes a less opportune time to buy than the day before it! Due to a cessation of all building activities for about 10 years from the banking sector & housing market collapse in 2007/8, I believe it will take some time before the building supply catches up with demand. In the meantime, the cityscape is again covered with cranes, as building appears to try to catch up with demand. Some have begun to speak about signs of a new housing bubble appearing again, similar to what we saw here in 2007.

I believe it will be a while before we see a downturn in the housing market. I hope it will be a while before I encounter another redundancy. When that time comes, I intend to be ready for both! The next time, I would like to be ready to walk away from the working world for good if I choose to, and in a position to take advantage of the housing market collapse! Getting to a position of financial security which will allow me to take advantage of these and other opportunities as and when they arise is my focus now!

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