Linda O’Brien lives with her husband Robert and their children, Ollie, 10, and Daisy, eight, in Grenagh, north Cork.
She is one of thousands of mortgage holders hoping today’s interest rate hike will be the last.
The couple bought their house 15 years ago at the height of the boom and have spent time making it a home ever since.
For most of that time, they have enjoyed the cushion of low interest rates on a tracker mortgage.
Those days before the fall were different times. Money was cheap, mortgages were available for two cents, and the supply of houses and apartments was relatively abundant.
“We bought when we were very young,” recalls Ms. O’Brien.
“They gave us the mortgage, like buying a handbag. So that was in 2007.”
Then came the financial crisis and people’s circumstances changed rapidly and drastically.
The O’Briens were no different.
“Only in the last year have we come out of negative equity,” he said.
“We absolutely love where we live. We love our neighbors. We’re very, very happy with that, but that negative equity is always in the back of our minds.”
Throughout this time, Linda and Robert worked full time. There was some juggling when Ollie and Daisy arrived, but even during the pandemic, their tracker mortgage, with its low or no interest rate, provided certainty and ensured their mortgage payments were manageable.
In 2021, Ms. O’Brien was laid off from her job in retail, where she had worked for 12 years.
She went back to education, first part-time and, just over a month ago, full-time.
She is now studying for a degree in Youth and Community Social Sciences at University College Cork.
Unfortunately, his return to full-time education coincided with the start of a series of interest rate hikes by the European Central Bank. And with that, Linda and Robert’s mortgage payments began to increase as well.
This afternoon, Linda reflected on her third interest rate rise in less than four months.
“It’s up 2% since July, which is a huge increase,” he said.
“In monetary terms, it’s about 200 euros (per month). That shocks us, especially with inflation rising right now. It’s already a squeeze.
“I never thought I’d be the kind of person who thinks ‘how much are we spending on weekly groceries? Where am I going to drive? What social activities do we have? What do we have to say no to?’ That, right now, is where disposable income is really receding.
“It’s really hard. Right now, with one person working full time, my husband is trying to work as much overtime as he can. That, for him, takes time away from the family and puts a different mental pressure on him. Then you have me on the other side, trying to go to college, (doing) volunteering, with two kids and activities.”
Linda’s situation is similar to that of thousands of others with variable-rate, tracked mortgages. They will hope that today’s interest rate increase will be the last, at least for a while.
Unfortunately, there is already speculation with a new rise in just over a month.