All I want is a room somewhere
Far away from the cold night air
With one enormous chair
Oh, wouldn’t it be loverly?
Eliza Dolittle, My Fair Lady
We’ve been house hunting for weeks now – to rent, not to buy, though the thought of a mortgage being cheaper (and likely to land us a much nicer place) than renting at the moment has certainly popped up a few times. Our current abode doesn’t fit us anymore – half of the Smyths catalogue resides in every room and we’re in dire need of a room to put a desk into and call an office, instead of coping with the kitchen table and trying to silence the singing toddler. The nail in it’s coffin was an increase in rent of about 25% – something we couldn’t justify on a place that didn’t match our needs. So, back onto the war-zone that is the current rental property market we went, clutching our coffee cup and praying to all the deities out there that it wouldn’t be too traumatic.
As it has been each year that we move to somewhere new, thanks to our lease dates, September has been the month we wind up moving – this pits us against the students and anyone starting a role on September 1st in the battle for property within a reasonable distance of the city centre. Prepared for this battle, we started the house hunt early, willing to pad out the extra time if landlords needed it in order to secure a home we would be happy with. Yet, we sit here, a week to the end of the month, unsure of where our future lies, and feeling quite defeated.
We’ve viewed houses and apartments of all sizes, hearing the cry of “It just needs a lick of paint” and realising the landlord means “It’s falling apart with damp”. This year we’ve upped our standards when it came to looking at these places and so they’ve not been quite as bad as last year – I wish I could say this was deliberate on our part, but the truth is that those we got to see were down to sheer luck on the day of contacting the agent or landlord in question; the vast majority of calls were answered with “That house is just gone”, or “We’re all booked up for viewings, call back the day after and we’ll see if it is still there”. Standards were lowered. Budgets were increased.
I found a house which I thought was THE house. It was perfect for our needs, within our budget and our area. I had mentally moved myself into the house, half tonne of singing plastic toys and all, but after five days of hearing nothing back, my email to the agent was answered with “We gave the house to someone else”. While there wasn’t quite crying, there was quite a lot of moping and grumping that they’d given “my house” away. After eating half my weight in chocolate and quite a bit of giving out, I brushed myself off, clicked back onto Daft and started the whole process again.
What has been new (to me) this year is the increase in group viewings. Demand has risen so much that landlords aren’t bothering for the most part to bring people individually to the house – instead it’s “turn up between x and y” and battling it out with 20 other prospective tenants. Not only does this make it much more difficult to see what the place is properly like (working your way around an already tiny kitchen taken up by eight others makes it seem all the tinier) but there is also a horrible feeling of both being rushed and also that you have to give your pitch to the agent or landlord, as to appear better than the rest. Hunger Games for accommodation.
This has been the case in Dublin for years, I’ve seen friends who are in college and working in the city lamenting about the list of requirements landlords have for you to even get a viewing, but in my experience Cork has never been this bad. I’ve lived here for six years, lived in three places and have been very lucky with the standard of accommodation I lived in – my college accommodation was an absolutely gorgeous house with great housemates, a sound landlord and really nice neighbours who definitely added to the experience – a far cry from some friends of mine through college who lived in places I questioned as to whether or not they were attaining tenement status anytime soon. When I’m looking at the same houses now to rent as a house rather than a room, they’re completely out of price range, some of them hitting €1,800 a month – it just doesn’t make sense.
The advice to students coming to Cork for college looking for accommodation is to “find what you can and take it”. The housing supply in Cork has not been as low in years – as of this morning there are a grand total of 89 properties within the city and it’s suburbs available, with 28 of these costing more than €1500 per month. A recent article in Cork’s Evening Echo by journalist David Linanne cited that on August 1st 2010, 1087 properties were available in the Cork area on Daft.ie, with this figure falling to 382 in 2014, and 135 in 2015 – a drop of 87.6%. Landlords are pulling out of the market, saying tax hikes from our government and negative equity are making the process of renting out their property unsustainable. This is causing a shortage which is turning into a crisis. Some are taking advantage of the basic principles of economics, that if demand is high and supply is low prices will rise – last week I came across what could only be described as a bedroom with an oven in it – marketed as a studio apartment, with the worlds smallest galley kitchen, with shared amenities with three other studio apartments – for the princely sum of €1,000 a month. The only difference between it and a bedsit, which is not allowed to be rented out as of last year, is that it has it’s own toilet facilities. Yet, it too will be rented out, because the market is just that desperate. Upon showing one friend this, she alerted me to a photo of a bedroom with a double bed and a mattress on the floor, being advertised as a room-share for three people in Dublin- charging 60 euros a week, which means that one room is going for over 700 euros a month – I guess you do get some new best friends thrown in, since you’ll be living in such close quarters!
We are currently in limbo; waiting to hear if our references have passed the test with a landlord who has a house which we love. We’ve upped our budget, presented a deposit and our references which state that we’re both permanent employees of upstanding companies, and haven’t been horrible tenants thus far. If this process has taught me anything though, it is that nothing is for certain until the half tonne of plastic toys are moved into a new home. It’s a stressful process, and one I wouldn’t be undergoing if we didn’t have to – and I say this knowing we are on the luckier side of things as far as what we can afford and the relative flexibility timewise we have to do this in, many more are a whole lot worse off both in terms of their budget and in the timescale they’ve got to work with.
All we want is a home to raise our son in, a house with a roof, working electrics and a place to lay our heads. The rest at this point is gravy.