Steps involved in buying a home
At some point in your life you may want to buy a home. This document covers the different stages involved in doing this. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) also has a step-by-step guide to buying a home on its website.
Before you decide to buy
Find out what you can afford
You should review your budget to find out how much you can afford in monthly mortgage repayments. You should ensure that you have enough to cover all the costs involved in buying a home, for example, mortgage costs, legal fees, insurance and stamp duty. The amount of money you can get as a mortgage loan, and the amount you need as a deposit are governed by Central Bank lending limits - see Taking out a mortgage for details of these rules. The CCPC has a budget planner that you can use to see how much you can afford each month.
Get a solicitor
While you are looking for a property, you should hire a solicitor to do the conveyancing. Conveyancing is the legal work involved in buying or selling property. Conveyancing charges can vary between solicitors, so it is worth contacting several solicitors to compare prices. You can use the Law Society’s website to find a solicitor in your area.
Find a property you like and can afford
Property websites, auctioneers and estate agents are the main ways of finding property for sale. The Property Services Regulatory Authority maintains a public register of auctioneers and estate agents on its website.
Sometimes individual sellers advertise property themselves. Newspapers may also have property supplements or publish advertisements for properties for sale.
The Property Services Regulatory Authority publishes a Residential Property Price Register, which contains information on residential properties bought in Ireland since 1 January 2010. You can check the register to see how much was paid for a property.
All homes for sale must have a Building Energy Rating (BER). A BER will tell you how energy-efficient the home is. It will help you make an informed choice when comparing properties.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you check whether the home is in a High Radon Area on its Radon Risk Map and enquire about if it has been tested for radon. More information on radon in homes is available from the EPA and in our document on measurement of radon levels.
The CCPC has a checklist of what to consider when Looking for a property (pdf), and another checklist with questions you can ask to Find out more about a property (pdf), if you are particularly interested in a property.
Get a survey
A seller does not have to tell you about defects in a property. So before you finalise the purchase, you should get a survey of the property to find out if there are any defects. The survey will help highlight any issues you may not have been aware of when you made your offer. For example, if your surveyor finds that the roof needs to be replaced, you could change your offer to account for this, or decide not to buy. The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) is the professional body for chartered surveyors.
Get mortgage approval
Very few people can buy a home without getting a mortgage. A mortgage is a long-term loan secured against the property you buy. This means if you don’t repay your mortgage you may lose your home.
There are different types of mortgages and different mortgage providers. Contact a number of different mortgage providers to find out who can offer you the best deal. More information on mortgages and choosing the best one for you is available from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC). The CCPC has a mortgage calculator that shows what your monthly repayments will be depending on the amount you borrow, how long the mortgage will last and the interest rate.
You can get mortgage approval in principle before you start to look for a property. This lets you know how much you have to spend. However, when you find a property you like, you must get formal mortgage approval before you sign the contract for sale (see below). If you sign a contract for sale and then don’t get mortgage approval, you will lose your deposit and there may be other penalties.
For more detailed information, see our document on taking out a mortgage.
How to buy the property you want
In general properties are purchased and sold either by:
• Private treaty
• Public auction
Private treaty sale
A private treaty sale is where the property is not put into an auction. You can contact the seller or the seller’s agent, usually an estate agent, to agree a purchase price.
If there is an estate agent involved, once you have agreed to buy the property you may need to pay a booking deposit to the estate agent. The legal process to buy the property may only start when the estate agent receives your booking deposit. This deposit is refundable up to the signing of the contract for sale (see below).
Your mortgage provider will give you formal mortgage approval and issue you with a loan pack. You will need to think about mortgage protection insurance and home insurance. You can organise these with your mortgage provider but it is advisable to shop around. When your solicitor has checked the contract for sale, you will sign it and pay a deposit (less any booking fee).
Auctions are usually advertised in a local newspaper, estate agent or by a sign on the property. Generally, the seller or the auctioneer will set a reserve figure for the property. The reserve figure is the value the property must reach at auction. If the property does not reach the reserve figure it will be withdrawn from the market.
The seller can also withdraw the property from the market at any time during the auction, even if it has achieved the reserve figure. The seller can also sell the property before the auction.
Before the auction takes place, your solicitor should check the contract for sale for the property (issued by the seller's solicitor) and all title documents that are referred to in that contract. When your solicitor has satisfied their enquiries, you can organise a survey of the property to ensure it is sound. You should also get formal mortgage approval for the property you want to bid on.
The successful bidder immediately pays a deposit and signs the contract for sale (see below). It is important to get home insurance as soon as possible.
Estate agents and auctioneers
Estate agents and auctioneers act on behalf of the seller and in the seller’s interest. There are rules and a Code of Practice outlining how they should behave when delivering their services, and they are regulated by the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA). If you have a complaint about an estate agent or auctioneer, you should contact the PSRA - see 'Where to apply' below.
Sign the contract for sale
The contract for sale binds the parties to the completion of the sale. If you withdraw from the sale after this contract has been signed, you may lose your deposit. If you buy at auction you must immediately sign the contract for sale. If you buy through private treaty your solicitor will check that the contract is in order before you sign it. The completion date will be set out in the contract and the balance of the agreed purchase price will be due on that date.
Closing the sale
Requisitions on Title and Deed of Conveyance
After signing the contract and before the completion date of the sale, your solicitor raises some general queries about the property with the seller's solicitor. Requisitions on Title are a standard set of questions relating to the sale of a property that deal with such things as whether fixtures and fittings are included in the sale.
When your solicitor gets a satisfactory reply to Requisitions on Title, they will draft a Deed of Conveyance which is then approved by the seller's solicitor.
Your solicitor will check that there are no judgements against the seller (for example, bankruptcy or sheriffs' searches). Your solicitor should also find out where the title to the property is held (either in the Land Registry or the Registry of Deeds) to ensure that there is nothing unusual relating to the property, for example, an outstanding mortgage.
Once the Deed of Conveyance is approved by the seller's solicitor, your solicitor will contact your mortgage provider to request the approved loan cheque. This is the remaining balance of the purchase price. It is paid to the seller's solicitor and all documentation, and keys to the premises are handed over to your solicitor.
Your solicitor will calculate how much stamp duty is due on the property and request this amount from you before the sale is closed. The stamp duty is paid to the Revenue Commissioners, who place a stamp on the deeds. Without this stamp, the deeds cannot be registered. The deeds name the owner of the property.
After the sale is completed
Once a sale is completed, your deeds, showing the new ownership details must be registered with either the Registry of Deeds or the Land Registry. The Property Registration Authority (PRA) is responsible for both systems of registration.
Your solicitor will help you to finalise the deeds to your house with the PRA. This can take months or years to complete. Even if this does take a long time, you are still the owner of the property and, if you want, you can sell the property before registration is complete.
There are many things to do when moving house, for example, redirecting your post and changing your details on the electoral register. More information is available in our document on moving to a new home.
Where to apply
For complaints about estate agents or auctioneers, contact the: