This guide includes how to squeeze sellers for information, hidden costs, a deal-breaker's checklist, tips on auctioneers/surveyors and some last-ditch questions to ask.
We've made every effort to ensure this guide's accuracy, yet it doesn't constitute legal advice tailored to your circumstances. If you act on it, you do so at your own risk.
Should you buy?
If house price mania had a World Cup, Ireland would lift the trophy. House prices are on the up again after several years of relative calm, adding more pressure to anyone trying to buy. Yet buy need to pause and ask what, when and whether to buy.
Buyers should concentrate on whether buying is affordable and the right decision in the long-term, rather than panic over house prices or cave in to the Irish 'must-own, must-own' mentality.
Few people accurately predicted the end of the house-price boom in 2007 and no-one really knows what is going to happen to house prices over the next few years. It is better to concentrate on bigger-picture financial security than risk financial ruin in a desperate attempt to get on the housing ladder.
A mortgage is most people's biggest single outlay, and small differences in how much you borrow can have a massive effect.
You need to ask yourself the hard questions to determine when you'll have sufficient funds to cover all of the costs and outlays involved in the property purchase. It is important that you lodge your savings into an account that gets you the highest rate of return. We recommend that you go to the Consumer help government sponsored website where there is a wealth of information available to help you decide on the best savings option for you to maximize the interest you get on your savings.
As for deposit size, with recent proposed central bank intervention and the likely counterbalance by the government of offering some kind of deposit guarantee scheme it seems the requirement of having a minimum deposit of between 10% & 20% will remain a reality for the forthcoming years.
Work out the true cost of buying your dream home
It's not as easy as get a mortgage, grab the keys and, bing bang bong you're in. Buying a home's almost guaranteed to cost more than you think. Here's what to factor in.
Check to see if you have to pay your lender an arrangement fee. They vary but your ability to negotiate is likely to depend on your financial strength in regards to the amount you are seeking to borrow. In some cases this is non-refundable, even if the purchase falls through.
This is the fee lenders charge for a valuation to check the property exists and that it also offers sufficient security for the loan. The cost varies according to lender and purchase price, but budget for €250.00. It's worth noting that this valuation is not a structural or planning survey and even though you pay for the survey indirectly you cannot rely upon the contents for structural purposes. It's only a valuation to allow your lending institution release the amount being borrowed.
Legal fees vary considerably although they have become much more competitive in recent years. fees can range from a percentage of the purchase price down to the those as offered by propertylawsolicitor.ie We offer the most transparent cheap fixed fee low cost conveyancing service. The fixed fee offered by propertylawsolicitor.ie is €950.00 plus vat and outlays. You will pay for a highly professional service at a highly competitive low cost solicitors fee.
Buy a property for up to €1,000,000 and you pay stamp duty at a rate of 1% of the purchase price. The money for payment of the stamp duty is paid to your solicitor before the property purchase dis completed.
These are another costly aspect to any purchase, with a typical survey costing €400 to €700. Many people pay for surveys on purchases that fall through, so budget for two or three.
Unless you can pile your belongings into the back of a car, factor in a removal van. These start at €100 for small local moves, but can easily run to €1,000 for shifting a family's worldly goods long distances.
From flaky paintwork to leaky sinks, put aside some cash for unexpected property maintenance. If it's an old house you are purchasing expect that there are going to be potentially a never ending list of remedial and upgrading works to be completed. It's time to be nice to all those friends who have skills you never had a need to seek help from such as plumbers, electricians, carpenter
Currently renting a furnished place? Remember you'll need to buy everything from beds and sofas to lawnmowers and carpets.
Then there are the boring but essential extras: light bulbs, lamp shades, toilet brush, washing up bowl, door mats, hooks and extension leads. See how to furnish your pad for free or at a low cost by checking out one of the many online specialist sites
Don't just take the max they'll lend you
Find out how much you can borrow before you start hunting. But don't just trust what lenders say you can afford to borrow. After all, struggle to repay and some may gleefully give you credit cards to make up the shortfall.
Try out the various Mortgage Calculators to see how much you can borrow and see the reality of monthly repayments, including interest. Then use a Budget Planner tool to work out what you can afford to repay while leading the lifestyle you want. If these show you can't afford a property, don't ignore it.
Only look at properties within your budget and avoid those even a fraction over. If not, you'll either break your resolve or be disappointed.
The web's become a goldmine of info to interrogate any property. Once only the preserve of agents and brokers, now done right, you can get price information free.
To see what any home anywhere went for going back a good few years, try sold-price property sites such as www.propertypriceindex.ie and other sites where there is a significant amount of information readily available.
Typical Irish property purchase timeline
Research the area, scour estate agents and search websites.
Tell the seller what you're willing to pay and any conditions.
Now get a survey to check the property's condition. Your solicitor checks any legal issues
You pay your balance deposit and can't back out without major cost.
You hand over the rest of the cash in exchange for the keys. The property's now legally yours.
Boost your credit score
Are you a reject? Don't apply for mortgages before checking your credit history and the information available to the lending institutions underwriters.
Small mistakes can cause rejection. For example, active accounts registered to old/wrong addresses can hurt badly, so whip through your banking history and ensure any active accounts are registered at the correct address.
Arrange a mortgage in principle
Few lenders offer actual mortgages if you've no property in place - they offer a ‘mortgage in principle' (MIP). This provisionally lets you know how much you can borrow, subject to finding a suitable property in a specified time.
Proof of your deposit and MIP can give you a big advantage when putting in an offer. It may mean a credit check, though one mark on your file isn't too big a deal.. It's best to talk to a decent mortgage broker who'll often be able to help give an idea of what you can borrow.
Do bear in mind MIPs give absolutely no guarantees - they are subject to valuation. Mortgage rates shift daily, so always check whether a better deal's become available.
House prices are markets, just like shares
Remember, no one can tell you what's going to happen to house prices, though many will try. Anyone who tells you they know what will happen is talking nonsense.
Remortgaging is the single biggest Money Saving activity possible: the financial equivalent of liposuction. For every 1% in interest you cut on a €100,000 outstanding mortgage, you save €80 a month.
Check out the neighbourhood
No matter how plush the house, we are unanimous that location counts. You can't move a home to another spot, but you can do it up.
So prowl the neighbourhood on foot, hunting for clues. Visit the parks and pubs at different times of day. Are cars clean and well-maintained? Do you like the local shops? Are walls scrawled with graffiti?
Get the lowdown from locals and ask a local bobby or Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator. If you're a total newcomer, stay in a local bed and breakfast to get a real feel for the area.
Police crime-mapping websites show local hotspots and break down recorded crimes such as burglary and anti-social behaviour. Elsewhere, there's free information on school league tables and even noise level checks.
Use the right property finders
Gone are the days when peering into estate agents' windows was the only way to see how much folks were advertising a house for.
There's a plethora of property search sites out there. Remember asking prices are often wildly optimistic, showing what the seller for the property, not what they'll get.
Some homes are sold before they appear on the sites, so get pally with a local estate agents to hear as soon as a place hits their books.
The best of home search websites, Propertpriceregister.ie is the best place to compare homes prices on the market. As well as boasting a dizzying number of properties up for grabs, or try myhome.ie where it plots listings on a Google map for ease.
Before putting in an offer, pose as many questions as possible - and get important answers in writing. Nothing is too silly. Even if they don't tell the truth, you may notice them squirming when you broach certain subjects.
Here are our top 20 searching questions to ask:
1. How many viewings has it had?
2. How many offers has it had?
3. How long has it been on the market?
4. Can I see electrical and gas installation checks/reports?
5. How long is the lease (if it has one)?
6. Have there been any neighbour disputes?
7. Why are the vendors moving and are they sure they want to sell now?
8. What renovations have been done?
9. How old is the boiler and when was it last inspected?
10. When was it last rewired?
11. Where are the vendors moving to - is there a chain?
12. If a flat, how much are service charges and ground rent? (Read more Apartments and Service Charges.)
13. Who lives upstairs/downstairs/next door?
14. How long has the seller lived there?
15. What's included in the sale? White goods? Curtains? Wood burner?
16. Are there any parking issues?
17. If there's a real fire, is it safe to use?
18. Have there been any subsidence problems?
19. What's the council Local Property Tax band? (Also check this yourself online in the LPT section of each local authority).
20. Has anyone ever been murdered here? (Google the address too.)
Take snaps when viewing
Take photos on your mobile, as they'll be a useful reference point when all the homes blur into one.
Do check with the estate agent first, but don't feel like you're being cheeky.
View at different times of day
View the place three times at different times of the day to get an idea of what the flat and neighbourhood are like.
Daylight makes spotting flaws easier, but the pounding music which will make your life hell may not begin until the neighbours get back from work. Also it may be worth noticing what amount of sun light the garden and rear of the property gets in the evening. If the sun disappears in the middle of the summer at 3pm perhaps you may decide against the purchase of that particular property! Also it may be that in the evenings you may become more aware of issues in the neighbourhood, perhaps the neighbours play loud music all the time or there is lots of noise from the neighbours. All houses are quite during the day time as people are at work and children are in school, don’t say you weren’t warned.
Get alerts on different websites
If you want something in a specific area or street, set an alert on some of the websites and on the local auctioneers listings and you will be emailed each time a vendor lists a property in your desired area.
Use our checklist to spot deal-breakers
Don't waste megabucks on a survey only to discover obvious problems. For second or third viewings, take an expert or realistic mate to give their honest opinion of the property and price.
Small issues such as a broken kitchen drawer needn't be a deal-breaker. But make a list, so you can ask the seller to fix before you get the keys.
Case the joint for wet spots, mould, peeling wallpaper and condensation on windows. Check inside cupboards too. Use your nose - does it smell musty? Has the property been recently painted, possibly to hide damp spots. Has the property had its walls insulated internally and is there any issues with damp now? It is important to have a proper survey carried out where the dampness is measured by your surveyor.
Look for cracks, brown stains, slow drips and problem leaks.
Also shut every door behind you as you're being shown around to make sure they all work. Open cupboards and drawers with a smile and say: "I do hope you don't mind." Remember, you're giving them €100,000’s.
Turn lights on and off, especially those with older switches. Fire up the cooker. Also check the wiring's age, as updating electrics can cost alot.
Make a floorplan and mark out power point locations in each room, testing sockets too.
Flush toilets and turn taps on. Check cupboards underneath sinks are dry. Check water pressure and that it gets hot. Go outside, lift the drain covers, then get someone to flush the loo and check the drain's flow.
· Ask the seller to switch on the boiler and turn on the central heating. Check the radiators for leaks and rust, and make sure they all get hot right across the surface. If you have to replace the radiators or central heating system your looking at an immediate investment of several thousands of €’s.
Ensure door locks are up to insurance standards. Most policies insist that front and back doors be fitted with a five lever mortice deadlock. Check windows for locks and the front door for break-in signs.
Buying somewhere with woodchip or other textured wallpaper slapped all over it usually means excavating through layers of paper. And probably pulling half the plaster off.
Check for stains and other nasties lurking underneath.
Check for a signal to confirm it's not a mobile dead zone.
Inspecting the loft in daylight is a great way to gauge the state of the property's woodwork. Check timbers for rot, as well as cracks or holes.
Check for wall cracks, mould and rotten woodwork.
Take binoculars and check for missing/slipped tiles. Eye up the gutters and woodwork for potential problems. If possible, go on a rainy day, to see if the gutters leak.
In the kitchen, mime preparing a dinner. Is there enough room?
Check if estate agents' promises of a sunny south facing garden are true.
If buying a flat or terrace, alarm bells should ring if neighbours' properties are rundown. Their problems can quickly become your problems.
If they strike you as unreliable, think twice. A property's not good value if the vendor doesn't want to sell it. You could waste thousands in fees.
Knock, knock, knocking on neighbours' doors
Neighbours may offer tip-offs on the area or home, but it's also a chance for you to get the measure of them.
Check how well maintained their home is - look for junk abandoned at the front and gardens engulfed by weeds.
Also chat to neighbours nearby, but not next to, the property. They'll be honest about what the area is like and are less likely to be either pally with the sellers or anxious to get rid of them.
Consider resale potential
If you don't want to live in the property until you die, consider ease of resale.
This may be your dream home, so you can live with walking through the kitchen to get to the bathroom. But will others?
If it's been hanging around on the market for a while, mull over why it hasn't shifted. Are people put off by the street, a takeaway shop below, lack of parking, small garden, lack of sun light, bad neighbours, high break in rate or some other reason that other people are aware of?