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Tips on Buying your First Home

It is important to think about all costs you will have when buying your first home, such as:

  • mortgage costs,
  • legal fees,
  • valuation and survey fees,
  • registration of deeds,
  • stamp duty, etc.

It is important to know how much you can afford to spend on a property.

Our housing affordability calculator could help.

You can talk to a lender to get ‘mortgage approval in principle’ that will help set your budget for buying a home.

There are some sources for finding properties for sale on:

  • websites,
  • newspaper property supplements, and
  • through auctioneers and estate agents.

There is a list of auctioneers and estate agents on the National Property Services Regulatory Authority's website, www.npsra.ie,

The two most popular routes for buying and selling properties are through:

1. Private treaty sales: is where you contact the seller or the seller’s agent, usually an estate agent, to agree a purchase price.

2. Public auction: is a competitive sale or sale by bid. A reserve figure is set for the property, usually by the owner or auctioneer. The reserve figure is the lowest price the property will be sold for; anything below this and the property will be withdrawn from the market.

Buying a Home in a Manged Estate / Multi-Unit Development

Purchasing a home in a multi-unit development or managed estate is different to buying a traditional standalone house.  Before you decide to buy it is wise to consider the shared services and common areas that go with a managed estate.  Such collective arrangements can be an efficient way to own a home.  Costs of property maintenance, garden upkeep, structural insurance, waste collection and other services are all covered by one bill each year.

Multi-unit developments such as an apartment complex or a gated estate will have several common areas accessible to all the residents. These can include the lobbies, stairwells, lifts and main corridors. There may be other areas that the owners share, such as the roofing and some common parking places and green spaces around the development. New housing schemes and apartment blocks can have management companies who are responsible for maintenance of these shared spaces and services.

As part of your decision-making you should think about how the collective arrangements operate, and whether you fully understand the details.  It might be wise to consider some or all of the following matters-

  • Do you understand that if you buy you will become a member of an owners' management company (OMC)?  You, together with all the other owners, will be part of the collective structure that will be responsible for the common areas of the development.  Under the company structure you will have rights and obligations relating to the upkeep and maintenance of the estate.
  • From a walk around the estate, how well-kept are the common areas- corridors, car parks, landscaping? 
  • What annual management fee/service charge will you contribute to the OMC for the collective running of the development?  Consider if you will be able to afford this cost every year?
  • Does the management charge include any funding for future capital costs, such as lift or roof replacement?  Money set aside especially for these costs is a reserve fund known as a “sinking fund" or "building investment fund".  If the OMC is not building up these reserves, it could mean that owners will have to pay extra contributions or levies in future.  Will you have the money to pay if these levies arise?
  • Find out the full legal name of the OMC.  Is it in good financial health, and well run?  To understand this, you, or your solicitor, or estate agent, should obtain copies of the company's accounts for the three most recent years.  These are available to the public, for about €3 each, through the website of the Companies Registration Office.
  • Do the accounts show very high levels of debtors, i.e. owners who have not paid their service charges?  Can you see if this position is improving or getting worse every year?
  • How much spare cash has the OMC on its balance sheet?  Does the balance sheet show a separate sinking fund account?
  • Who serves as directors on the board of the OMC?  Their names are shown in the financial statements.  Is there a very high turnover of directors, which could mean problems on the board?
  • Find out the name of the property management agent.  Find out if they are licensed with the Property Services Regulatory Authority; by law they must hold a license.
  • Obtain a copy of the House Rules, and see what they say about noise control, pets, etc.
  • Have the common areas of the estate been transferred from the developer to the OMC?  Get your solicitor to find out.  If this hasn't happened, it could signify wider problems.
  • Ask about the block insurance for the estate.  Has the insurance premium been increasing by much every year?  Regular increases could possibly signify problems in the background.
  • Are there areas of the estate that have yet to be taken in charge by the local authority?  This is useful to know because it will help you understand what areas of the estate will be controlled by the OMC.  It will give you a better idea of the costs of upkeep all owners will have to meet.

This is not an exhaustive list of issues to consider before you decide to go further with a purchase.  It is a general guide to some of the more typical things to watch out for in a managed estate.  Remember that every estate is different.  There could be other concerns that emerge in relation to the property you’re considering. 

If you experience difficulty obtaining information or answers, it may not be a good sign.  Estate agents and your solicitor are best placed to advise you on an individual property.

Other useful resources

Citizens Information Website

 


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