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The DoneDeal guide to buying property
Buying a house
Advantages to buying a house privately
- You save the cost of estate agent commission (normally built into the price).
- Easier communication – you deal directly with the property owner.
- The seller may not be up to speed with current market prices so you could land a bargain.
- The seller may not be an expert at negotiation.
Disadvantages to buying privately
- Unrealistic expectations – private sellers tend to overestimate their home’s value.
- Harder to assess – the property’s best features may not be presented as professionally.
How to go about it
Research the area
- Examine the location thoroughly.
- Travel around it on foot as well as by car or bike.
- Assess traffic conditions at peak times.
- Are there schools, shops, parks, facilities for your children?
- Is there access to transport?
- What is the condition of nearby properties?
- Check planning permission notices for future developments in the area – these could impact on the value of the property, either positively or negatively.
- Speak to local gardai about crime in the area.
- Talk to potential neighbours about concerns they might have.
Research the market
- Browse estate agents to gauge asking prices.
- But remember, there is often a massive gap between asking prices and sale prices, especially in recent years in Ireland.
- It can be difficult to source actual sale prices. Get as much information as you can from friends, colleagues and local business people.
Organise a viewing
- Before the visit, make a list of the features you want as well as nice-to-haves. Tick it off.
- Be safe – bring somebody with you to a viewing. They will also provide a second opinion and may spot things you miss.
- View the outside of the property carefully as well as the inside.
- Take your time. Don’t allow a seller to rush you. This is as big a financial decision as you will probably make in your life.
- Bring a camera and ask the seller for permission to take photos to study later.
- Bring a pen and paper to take notes.
- A measuring tape may be useful to assess your furniture requirements.
- A torch may help you check out nooks and crannies.
- Assess what kind of renovations or improvements will be needed. You can cost these later.
- Are there smells? Or are there smells being artificially concealed?
- Check for damp and wet patches near heaters and outside near drains, which may leak.
- Check water pressure in sinks, baths and showers. Low water pressure is one of the main frustrations many homeowners have, and can be difficult to fix.
- Look for major cracks in the wall – a sign of subsidence.
- Carefully check doors and windows for drafts and evidence of wear and tear. Will they need replacing?
- Visit your favourite properties more than once. You will never get a true impression in one visit. Second time around, focus on the details.
Ask the right questions
- How old is the property?
- What extensions or amendments have been made to the original structure?
- Why is the seller moving?
- What type of heating does the house have? When was the heating last serviced? How is the water heated?
- Is there a septic tank? Is it certified? When was it last serviced?
- What is the home’s Building Energy Rating (BER)? Compare it to the rating of other homes you view.
- What are the rates associated like Local Property Tax (LPT) or Water Charges?
- What furniture and fittings are included with the sale?
- Is there an alarm? Is it monitored?
- If you need a mortgage, make an application before viewing property so you have approval in principle and are ready to bid.
- Contact a number of different mortgage providers to find out who can offer the best deal. Look for hidden costs such as valuation fees.
- Visit the National Consumer Agency website to compare mortgage products and get more information.
- You will need a formal loan offer before you can sign a sale contract. But remember, most loan offers now have a limited lifespan. Generally, 12 weeks is the longest you have to exercise a loan offer. If the application hasn’t been activated by then, you will have to start afresh with a new application.
Make an offer
- Negotiation is an important part of every sale. Typically, a seller is prepared to drop an asking price by 10-15%, depending on the market conditions.
- This can increase, the longer the property is on the market. Try to find out how long the house has been for sale.
- You could have the house professionally valued.
- When you have made an offer, the seller can choose to accept or reject it. If your offer is rejected, you may decide to proceed with a higher offer.
Close the deal
- Instruct a certified engineer to carry out an inspection of the property. Remember, the seller is under no obligation to declare defects.
- Get a BER certificate from the seller. A sale cannot proceed without it.
- Remember, it’s important to keep the sale process moving to ensure your loan offer hasn’t expired.
- You must hire a qualified solicitor to handle the purchase. Choose one who is experienced in conveyancing. Ask family members or friends for a referral.
- You can find a list of solicitors on lawsociety.ie.
- When a deal is agreed, the seller may request you pay a deposit – usually 5-10% of the agreed price. Pay the deposit directly to the solicitor, never to the seller. Get a receipt. The deposit is refundable until the contract of sale is signed.
- When you sign the contract, you are bound to complete the purchase. If you fail to do so, you may lose your deposit. Your solicitor should check the contract to ensure everything is in order.
- Your solicitor should organise a search to ensure there are no judgements against the seller or charges on the property, such as an outstanding mortgage.
- Once both solicitors approve a Deed of Conveyance, the seller’s solicitor will contact your mortgage provider for a cheque to cover the balance of the purchase price.
- Your solicitor will calculate how much stamp duty is due. You must pay this to the Revenue Commissioners who will place a stamp on the deeds, enabling them to be registered in your name.
- Your solicitor will hand you the keys but should help you with the process of registering the deeds with the Property Registration Authority. This can take months.