A 34-year-old teacher who has become the online voice for a disgruntled generation of house buyers, mostly in Dublin, has finally bought a place.
We just made a sale,” says Ciaran Mulqueen as he settles in for a coffee on Dublin’s Grand Canal. “It’s exactly where we wanted to live too.”
Well, that’s unexpected.
After launching his Crazy House Prices social media page on Instagram and Twitter, the Dubliner garnered 46,000 followers last year, thanks to his posts about the Dublin bidding wars. They caught the attention of Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, who discussed the issue with him in a phone call. Ciaran is contacted daily by dozens of house hunters who say they feel “depressed, scared, angry and completely hopeless”. He responds to each once his normal workday is over.
Now that he has taken the plunge and will soon be the owner, does he think the market is finally turning around? Far from there.
Finding a home within his budget required an unusual approach.
Married to fellow teacher Melissa, he says that for the past two years they “have been bidding on houses all the time and constantly outbidding. You asked me how the 2008 recession shaped me? It made me do my research. Knowing that a house is only worth X, setting a budget and deciding that I will never go beyond that”.
The bidding wars that characterize the capital’s current market are “horrible, the worst part of the industry”, he says. The practice of online auctions has aggravated the situation.
This system, which allows bidders who have satisfied selling agents to access needed funding, is “too frantic and too accessible,” he says.
“People bid after a bottle of wine on a Friday night. It’s a frenzy, it’s like monopoly money. They just press the button and it’s a 24 hour auction. When bidding through an agent, you have to call them at certain times, so you may have to sleep on your decision overnight – it’s not just a push of a button on a phone.
Determined not to let emotion get the better of his pocket, “I was constantly outbid within the hour. I received an e-mail from an estate agent with a one-liner telling me that there was a new offer for €20,000 more. They would ask me if I wanted to increase my offer, and I would simply say ‘No’”.
Ciaran decided he’d had enough when he was invited to a podcast by economist David McWilliams. “I told him there was no value there. He said, ‘Stop. Go outside [of the market]’.”
At this point, he’s keen to point out that he’s in a better position than most: “We’re very, very lucky,” he says. “There are a lot of people who can’t move to save money and pay huge rent, but we were able to move and live in my in-laws’ house because they live abroad.
“We have not received any money [by parents], but in a sense being able to live in your own home is pretty much the same thing. We were able to save. »
The couple wed in 2019, which “took some of our savings.” To save a deposit, they haven’t honeymooned and vacationed since 2018. First time in four years.
They gave up their second car and were lucky enough to get a mortgage waiver at 4.5 times their combined salaries. “I did my research and calculated how much we needed to save per month to show the bank that we would qualify for a waiver. I got my monthly repayment on the mortgage calculator and multiplied it by 1.3. Then we saved a month to show that we can pass their stress test if interest rates rise.
With two teaching salaries, they were still struggling to buy an affordable home in their favorite area of Dublin 8, so Ciaran decided to take matters into his own hands. “I sort of had this idea. I suggested that we could write a letter about our story to people in the area who might want to sell their homes. I want to emphasize that this is not a gory story, because we are very lucky and we are very aware of it.
“We explained to them: ‘This is where we want to live, near our parents. We are local’. I work at a school across the road. So we just said, ‘Look, if you want to sell in the near future, we’ll give you full market value without the hassle of a real estate agent, so you can save on fees, you won’t have to hold views or run the risk of seeing a sale fail”, which often happens.
“We stuck letters in a few doors and within a day we got an email and went to see the house. There was a lovely family who were happy to give it to us without the stress of going through an agent – and I think they were happy it was going to a local family.
The house, which was built by the council in 1922, needs a lot of work. Ciaran’s father, Brendan, offered to help with the renovations, but died last month aged 68 after a short battle with cancer.
“We were very close,” Ciaran says, “and he was supposed to help me but we didn’t get the chance.” Brendan, however, was proud of his son’s crusade to expose the dysfunctional housing market. “A few weeks ago he was talking to nurses at the hospital about my site.”
So now that he’s about to own, will he give up the fight? “Oh yeah, let’s raise the prices,” he jokes. “No. What I love about David McWilliams is that he has a home in Dún Laoghaire, but he is always on the side of fighting for our generation to get affordable housing.
“We saw in the last recession the number of people who had to emigrate. And here we are again. I get so many messages from people saying, “I’m out.” As soon as I finish university, I leave. There is no future in Ireland for the younger generation”. And who could blame them? There is a real feeling that the government does not care.
The biggest myth in the housing market, he says, is that there are no quick fixes. “There are almost 200,000 vacant properties in Ireland. Look at all the units above that could easily be turned into homes. I can see three of them from my bedroom window. In the next budget, put a tax of 5% per year on them. It can happen overnight. »
The second solution he proposes is for the state to stop taking social housing from the private market. “The government can borrow at 0% interest or issue 100-year bonds and build itself rather than paying a private developer. The state built homes for people in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. That’s what kept Fianna Fáil loyal before she moved away.
“I have no political affiliation, but I urge people, before the next election, to watch what they are voting for. Do your research. It may take a few hours before an election, but it’s worth it.
Waiting. Ciaran will continue to fly the flag for the generation in lockdown. He was thanked on the street, in his local supermarket, at his gym and even by a garda at a checkpoint.
Before his departure, the million-euro question: does he see a crash coming?
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s too difficult to speculate. People always ask me, “Should I buy now?” And I tell them, “I’m not a professional, so ask a professional for advice.”
“Personally, I don’t see a house as an investment. I see it as a house. So if it’s in your budget, you like it and you see yourself staying there for a long time, go for it.