There was an enormous reaction by e-mail and text to one remarkable guest on the Today programme with Sean O’Rourke. The guest hasn’t sailed around the world single-handedly, climbed Mount Everest or discovered how to make cars run on water.
Caitríona Redmond’s accomplishments are daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Hers is a tale common to thousands of mortgage holders around the country today, a story of one family coping with the reality of a mortgage which may have been unnecessarily inflated, leaving the family finances in tatters.
“We originally took our tracker mortgage in 2003. It was 1.15% above the ECB rate. And the key thing in the contract was ‘for the life of the home loan’. In 2007, we decided to fix for three years. At the time, we understood that when we fixed, we would go back onto the tracker.”
As we all know, tracker mortgages are like gold dust for customers, but are like kryptonite to the banks, as every mortgage that tracks the historically low ECB rate loses money for financial institutions. When she tried to return to the tracker, she was told it was no longer available.
On this day last week, Caitríona Redmond was watching the Oireachtas Finance Committee proceedings with great interest because her mortgage lender – Ulster Bank – was before the committee.
Around the same time, Springboard became the first mortgage provider to be fined by the Central Bank for moving customers from Tracker mortgages to variable rates when they should not have done so. Up to 10,000 customers may be due refunds due to over-charging and some of those customers lost their homes.
Caitríona Redmond and her family hope that they will be amongst the customers to qualify for a refund.
“Since 2010, we have had quite significant financial difficulties. We have gone into arrears, we have had to go into the mortgage arrears resolution process. All of this time, being charged 4.6% on a fixed rate.”
In the meantime, the lengths the family have gone to in order to make ends meet have been extraordinary.
“We basically took a look at everything. I mean EVERYTHING…. The one thing we wanted to do was hold onto the house. The stress was unreal.”
The family learned to be more energy-efficient, cut back on utility bills, they got rid of everything they possibly could. They don’t have a car loan, and Caitríona’s husband even went as far as to learn how to service the car himself, to save money. But the last thing they came to address was the grocery bill.
“We brought down our groceries to €70 hour week, for a family of two children with us full-time, and another teenager who was with us part-time, and is now back with us full-time. The grocery bill is now €80 per week.”
“€80 per week for five of you? How do you do it?”, asked Sean. “We do it because we have to”, answered Caitríona. “It’s really, really difficult. I find this just so unfair. If we didn’t pay our mortgage tomorrow, the bank would be in touch with us in 10 days time, and we would be getting letters saying ‘Warning, your home is at risk.’”
Caitríona’s economising, her methodology and financial management were seriously impressive, to both host and listeners. She lives by lists, buying food in season, growing her own, eating low price sugar-free cereals like porridge, measuring the meat protein that will be needed by the family, and buying and cooking accordingly.
“Safe food (Ireland). They reckon that a family of four would need between €141 and €160 a week to eat well.”
Caitríona’s family of five is living on half of that figure.
I have a feeling Caitríona will be back on the airwaves before too long, but in the meantime, if you would like to hear today’s interview in full, click here.
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