Colette Sheridan: House-hunting south of the river brings out the awful snob in me

In her weekly column Colette Sheridan gives us the low-down on how her house-hunting is going...
Colette Sheridan: House-hunting south of the river brings out the awful snob in me

As well as falling in love with a house, your head needs also to be engaged so you don’t do anything foolish, says Colette Sheridan

HOUSE hunting really brings out the snob in me.

Since I started my quest to buy a modest house in Cork city or in the suburbs (on the south side), I’ve given up any pretence of being acceptable to a working class hero. I am Reggie multiplied by ten.

Well, not quite. Reggie (a regular contributor to Ask Audrey of the Irish Examiner) is a guilty pleasure but sometimes I feel this quintessential Cork snob takes things too far. Like when he said it is in the constitution of the RCYC (Royal Cork Yacht Club) that a sniper can take position on the roof of the venerable institution to shoot down any norries trying to make their way into the club.

Ah yes, the demonisation of norries.

It’s great gas once you live on the ‘right’ side of the river, to be having a go at your neighbours up in the hills.

But really, shouldn’t we be bigger than that? And anyway, what about Montenotte and Sunday’s Well?

But there I go again, hidebound to the cache associated with certain areas of Cork that are actually north of the river. We are such suckers for the right address.

I had to laugh when I got two notifications for the same house. One of them said the house was in Ballyphehane while the other one said it was in Turners Cross.

Now, there are technical and sometimes mapping reasons for a house having two different addresses. But I like to think that in this case, it throws up the Turners Cross versus Ballyphehane dilemma.

They’re very close to each other. But Turners Cross, where our Taoiseach grew up, somehow conjures up something a little more salubrious than its neighbour, despite the fact that I associate Ballyphehane with beautiful cherry blossom trees in late spring/early summer.

That said, the only reason I’m ever in Ballyphehane is because, from where I live, it’s en route to UCC where I sometimes go to readings by well known authors. Which, I realise, sounds like a pathetic middle-class pursuit. (One of my brothers, who is of a more proletarian mindset, thinks listening to writers reading from their work is a sad combination of fandom coupled with elitist carry on.) ‘Why don’t you just read the bleeding book yourself?’ he asks.

But even he has snobby radar when it comes to checking out properties. That’s because there is no greater rule when choosing a home than the repetition of that one vital word: location, location, location. Unfortunately, the right locale can mean haemorrhaging money.

I was kind of swayed by a bungalow in Turner’s Cross, despite the absence of a nearby bus route and decent shop. The price was quite reasonable — until a family member pointed out to me the amount of work needed to make the house realise its potential. When we did the sums, it didn’t really make sense. Not wanting to take on a project, I bid farewell to this strong contender. And I’m kind of glad.

The property search really plays with your emotions. You can be dead set on a house, imagining a life there, planning to decorate it ever so tastefully. It holds a place in your heart — for about a week until the price goes stratospheric or your enthusiasm is tempered by practical considerations.

Like a complicated relationship, it can be hard to pull away. But you’ll be glad down the line when your heart (and head) embraces something more suitable.

That’s the thing. As well as falling in love with a house, your head needs also to be engaged so that you don’t do anything foolish.

It’s a bit of a minefield. Not to mention the psychological games that auctioneers sometimes play with you.

You can be made to feel that if you don’t make a decent offer, you’ll be left with no house. But there are plenty of houses out there.

And, according to property website, Daft.ie, prices across Cork city fell by an average of 7.1% in the second quarter of this year. Across the county, average sale prices are 6.9% lower than last year.

You can pick up real bargains in the county. When John Spillane first sang Johnny, don’t go to Ballincollig/stay in town, he wasn’t taking into account just how attractive the satellite town would turn out to be.

A cousin has created a beautiful home there with Farrow & Ball paint colours, mahogany furniture, some unusual art and pleasing textiles. What was an ordinary suburban house has been transformed into the kind of place that’s more suggestive of an English country house than a three-bed in a housing estate. But I think I’ll stay in town.

The search continues, aided by deep-rooted snobbishness that requires occasional clipping.

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