At the tail end of twenty-fours hours that included a transatlantic flight, learning to drive on the left, and a hasty (but not tasty) lunch, we knocked on two wrong doors, and finally found the first apartment on our list of possibilities. Its drab, scuffed, 1980s linoleum, scratch & dent cabinetry, and threadbare rugs, caused Kalpana, my wife, and me to share a look that screamed, “They’re all going to be this grim, aren’t they? We’re screwed.”
The following day, we scheduled a couple of places to look at in Harold’s Cross, an older part of town with lots of green space close to the center of town. I’d had my eye on the area for weeks. The apartments were almost identical, but the landlords were miles apart. A young couple (a doctor and his wife who’d lived there while in school) owned the first of the two row houses. They were full of firsthand knowledge about getting to UCD (University College Dublin – Kalpana’s work), as well as commuting and living in the area. They directed us to shops, bus stops etc., and actually had plans for the apartment. The second landlord was strictly a property owner. If you’re a good tenant, he’ll be a fine landlord. No muss, no fuss.
There was nothing wrong with either situation. They were simply two different styles of landlord, much as you’d find anywhere. We could have taken either property and lived a fine life. They were close to shops, but far from UCD (work).
Moving on, but keeping Harold’s Cross in mind, we looked at a couple of properties in Clonskeagh. Again, these were both fine, and within minutes of UCD. However, they were hell and gone from any kind of shops. So living without a car would be tough.
The following day, I called a real estate agent I’d spoken to days before we flew to Dublin. He had a property that looked nice, and was getting lots of showings. Naturally, I assumed it would be gone, baby, gone by the time we arrived (as did he). Alas, the folks who were interested in it couldn’t get their daughter into the school they wanted, so they passed. We went right over.
Driving into the neighborhood, we immediately noticed a pub a block away, a big, modern grocery, restaurants, and other amenities right across the street. You know that feeling you get when you meet someone and it just clicks? Everything feels right. That’s how this row house felt. It had the right number of bedrooms, an extra half bath, a fenced back garden, a nice-sized kitchen, and was on a direct bus line to UCD. After dutifully checking a few other places, we sealed the deal
Adding to the good feeling we had about our new place in Churchtown/Dundrum, our landlord was/is incredibly helpful. Over the next few days he fielded our questions about banks, utilities, and our repeated inquiries about the Irish hot water system. “Does it really work like that?” “That’s crazy. Did I hear you correctly? Show us one more time.”
For our landlord, our “credit” was mainly a matter of talking and getting to know us. We offered a few letters of recommendation. He explained, in that patient, common sense way of the Irish, that nobody ever hands you a bad letter of recommendation, so the things are all but useless. It’s his job to take the measure of us, and, based on that, he decides whether or not to offer us a lease
We’d cleanly vaulted the housing, lease, and landlord hurdles. But the worst, was yet to come. We had to deal with banks and utilities
In classic ISB (international standard bureaucrat-ese), to qualify for an account, the Irish banks require you to supply evidence of your credit and trustworthiness, in the form of bills and receipts in your name from local (Irish) utilities. To establish an account, the Irish utilities (also ISB members in good standing) likewise want proof of your “non-dirt bag” status. They want you to pay electronically from a local Irish bank account. Hmmm. What to do? Yossarian? Yossarian?
We finally got the banks to concede that bank statements and utility bills from the U.S. would work to get our account open. From there we can establish basic service with the local cable provider, and that will give us the toehold we need to establish credit in Ireland. It should be noted that our queries and pleas about credit scores and stellar credit reports were met with blank stares, and the polite, tactful suggestion that “We don’t do that here. Please don’t forget that it’s YOU who are moving HERE”.
All in all, renting in Ireland proved to be not awful. It was filled with properties that were by turns frightful, and quite nice. There were a few royal pains in the ass, and some byzantine regulations and requirements. That is to say it was/is not that dissimilar from renting in, say, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tallahassee, or Bloomington. Believe me, I know from experience.
Things to look forward to in upcoming posts:
- Specific advice on Dublin rental boards
- Wire Transfers: And why you shouldn’t be your bank’s test case.
Emigration Day: July 12, 2011 (32 Days)