How Do I Buy A House & How Long Does It Take?
First time home buyers typically want answers to two questions before they start the actual process: “How do you buy a home?” and “How long does it take to buy a house in Ireland?”
Lucky for you, we’ve answered those questions and more in our comprehensive guide below.
So, if you’re finally ready to turn your years-long dream of home ownership into a reality, then keep on reading.
Most of us dream of owning our own home and, lucky for us, buying a home in Ireland in not a complicated process.
But it can become both protracted and costly if we don’t know all the steps involved.
Understanding what needs to be sorted before you start your house hunt, being aware of the real costs of property purchases, and knowing all the variables involved in just how long it takes to buy a house in Ireland, is hugely important in ensuring a smooth and speedy sale.
So, let’s get cracking on our step-by-step guide to help you buy your first home-sweet-home.
Step #1: Get Your Finances in Order
Most people starting on the property ladder need a first time buyers mortgage. But before you start seeking this long-term loan, do your due diligence and get your financial affairs in order.
Debt arrears, missed payments, and signs that you typically live paycheck-to-paycheck will not stand you in good stead with a potential lender.
Make sure you have no outstanding liabilities, and that your bank account shows evidence of sensible money management practices. This includes things like regular rent payments and ongoing savings.
All lenders will check your credit rating, and you should know what yours is before you sit down with any of them. If you’re unsure, go ahead and request a free evaluation from the Irish Credit Bureau.
Have Your Deposit Already
You won’t get a mortgage without a deposit, so to speed up the whole process make sure you have that ready.
A first-time buyer deposit is at least 10% of the house price (if you’re a second-time buyer make that 20% of the asking price).
Though you don’t know what your future pad is going to cost, aim to borrow what you can readily afford to pay back, and save accordingly.
Make it fun, and use one of the many free apps out there to track your spending and highlight where you might be haemorrhaging cashola unknowingly.
7 best free money saving & budgeting apps:
1. YNAB (You Need A Budget)
2. Money Lover
4. Pocket Guard
5. Spending Tracker
7. Split Wise
First-time buyers should also look into the Help to Buy (HTB) incentive. The HTB helps new buyers purchase a home or apartment with a maximum €20,000 claim.
TIMELINE: Anything from 12 to 36 months if you’re serious about saving.
Step #2: Shop Around for a Mortgage Lender
Take your time finding a mortgage lender that you feel comfortable and confident with. You can chat to a few mortgage professionals, but let them know you’re scouting for the best interest rate as this often prompts them into offering you a good deal.
Get All Your Documents in Order
Once you’ve settled on a particular lender, and have been pre-approved for a mortgage, ask them what documents they’ll need to get the mortgage ball rolling. Typically, this will include:
- Bank statements
- Credit card statements,
Organising all of this sooner rather than later can reduce the likelihood of problems with your application once you’re ready to buy.
TIMELINE: Finding the right mortgage lender is up to you and depends on how many lenders you meet. Mortgage pre-approval can take anything from 1 day to a month.
Step #3: Consider Other Costs of Buying a House
Successfully saving a fistful of euros as your first time buyers deposit may make you feel like a financial whizz kid. But you’ll need to squirrel away a few euros more to ensure a smooth buying process.
The reason for this is because there are other costs to consider when buying a house in Ireland.
For example, you’ll need to have the financial readies to pay for your legal fees, land registry and search fees, surveyor costs, valuer’s report, mortgage insurance, and stamp duty. The latter is currently calculated at at 1% of the selling price of any property up to €1m.
While the prices will vary depending on the price of your new abode alongside the cost of the solicitor you choose, it’s a good idea to have at least €5,000 – €8,000 contingency in your coffers.
Choosing Your Solicitor
It’s a good idea to have a good, specialist conveyancing solicitor on-board before you start house hunting.
The benefit of this is that once you’ve set your sights on a house, the whole process of buying will take a lot less time if you have a legal eagle on hand to not only receive and exchange all relevant documents with the seller’s solicitor but to also get the conveyancing process moving.
Again, shop around for the right solicitor. Conveyancing charges can vary, so it’s worth getting the lowdown on several solicitors and comparing prices.
If you don’t know where to start, ask friends and family for recommendations. Otherwise, use the Law Society’s website to find a solicitor in your area.
TIMELINE: Anything from 1 week to 1 month.
Step #4: Start House Hunting
Once you have your savings and solicitor sorted, it’s time to start house hunting. List what you want from your home and location. For example:
- Are you looking for a house or apartment?
- How many bedrooms?
- Do you want easy access to the city centre?
- Do you need parking or nearby transport links?
- Are you looking for something with an attic or garage space so you have the possibility of extending in the future?
- What local amenities are important to you?
Of course, you can also take some of the stress out of your search by stopping by Perfect Property’s Perfect Match first to find the features you desire in a home located in the area you’re dreaming of.
Knowing what you’re happy to compromise on and what’s a non-negotiable will help you whittle down your search and also stay within your budget.
To start you on your house-hunt, check out property websites, auctioneers, and local estate agents.
When setting up viewings with estate agents or sellers, make sure to have a list of questions to ask them about the property.
We have a comprehensive checklist of questions to ask and factors to consider when checking out potential future pads, but in general the areas you need to cover include:
- Why the seller is selling
- What’s included in the price
- Signs of damp and mould
- How old are the appliances
- What condition the roof, walls and plumbing are in
- What’s the Building Energy Rating (BER). (This will tell you how energy-efficient the home is)
- What amenities are in the area
- Transport links to the city and other areas
- What’s directly outside the property (i.e. busy roads, empty land, overlooking buildings, etc.)
- Check all “moving” fixtures (i.e. turn on every tap, flush every toilet, open and close every door and window, and put on every light switch).
Never be afraid to ask too much. If you keep mum about your worries and then move into a house with loose wiring and aging appliances, the legal responsibility of fixing those will be left to you and your dwindling bank account.
Get the Property Surveyed
Of course, a seller doesn’t have to spill the beans about any defects in a property. So, before you finalise any purchase, seriously consider getting a structural survey completed.
Though this means dipping into your contingency pot, it could save you thousands in the long run, because it’ll help you understanding the health of the house before you buy it.
Surveyors can be architects, engineers, or quantity surveyors, and the Chartered Surveyors in Ireland (SCSI), can help you source a professional surveyor in your area.
TIMELINE: 1-3 months. Finding the home of your dreams is again dependent on whether you’ve figured out exactly what you’re looking for beforehand. Do this, and you’ll be in a better position to find the perfect pad within weeks instead of months. Or years.
Step #5: Make an Offer & Set the Sale Process in Motion
Once you’ve found a home to set your heart racing, it’s time to make an offer. There are a range of strategies that home buyers use but you will need to decide which one is most suitable based on how long the home has been for sale and how many bids have already been placed.
In highly competitive markets some buyers choose to go in strong with close to their highest offer in order to secure the property. Others choose to start low and negotiate up from there.
When your offer is accepted, you will need to pay a booking deposit to the estate agent. A deposit will either be a set amount, or a percentage of the sale price.
A document of sale is then sent to both solicitors. This document includes:
- Conditions of sale
- Estimated closing date
- Names and addresses of both parties.
The Conveyancing Process
As the seller’s solicitor prepares contracts and “title pack,” your solicitor starts the conveyancing process.
The conveyancing process is the transfer of the legal title of the property from the seller to you. It involves a series of checks and searches that your solicitor undertakes to ensure the seller is meeting all legal obligations during this transaction. Along with carrying out the searches, it includes:
- Reviewing all information supplied by the seller
- Raising careful queries about the property
- Writing a report on title about the property
- Dealing with the mortgage lender
- Handling all financial aspects of the transaction
- Registering you, the new owner of the property, at the land registry.
How Long Does the Conveyancing Process Take?
The conveyancing process can be as slow or as speedy as you or your solicitor make it. So once you’ve got sale agreed on the property instruct your solicitor to knuckle down and get moving on it. Don’t be reluctant to ring or email them regularly either to find out how the process is going.
On average, conveyancing on a residential property takes eight to twelve weeks. That said, it is possible to be shorter. Unfortunately, a lot depends on variables outside of your control, such as delays in local authority searches or the need to obtain documents from other organisations. But don’t let a tardy solicitor be the reason it takes you a long time to buy your new property.
TIMELINE: As noted above, the conveyancing process takes on average 2-3 months. So get the ball rolling asap.
Step #6: Apply for Your Mortgage & Do Final Checks
If you want to keep the process of buying your property moving along efficiently, you should go back to the lender who pre-approved you in the first instance and officially apply for your loan with them.
Criteria varies across lenders so if you do decide to switch, make sure that you get pre-approved with the new mortgage company before submitting your official mortgage application.
That way, any red flags can be raised before the mortgage application is potentially not approved.
It can hurt your ability to obtain a mortgage if you have mortgage applications denied with other lending companies so make sure that the lender doesn’t have any cause for concern before officially applying.
Remember to negotiate; find out if your mortgage lender can offer you a better interest rate or package. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!
Mortgage lenders also have a range of offers which you should assess, such as:
- A percentage of your mortgage’s value in cash.
- A set amount of cash back.
- Offer to pay all, or part of your legal/or valuation fees.
Tips to Speed up your Mortgage Application
Make the application process faster by:
- Having all necessary documents ready to go
- Providing everything requested swiftly and in the format requested
- Making sure any submitted copies of documents are clear
- Keep on top of any third party who is providing a reference for you (e.g. Employer, landlord, etc.).
Valuing Your Purchase
At this point, you’ll also need a professional home valuation. The valuation looks at the general state of the property and the location. Your mortgage lender will then base their final loan offer on the property’s valuation.
It’s very important to note that even if you have been pre-approved for a certain loan amount, if the valuation comes back lower than the amount you have offered, the mortgage may not be approved.
A mortgage lender needs assurance that if you were no longer able to make the repayments and the property needed to be sold, that they would recover the debt owed to them. This is why a valuation is the final piece of the puzzle from a mortgage lenders point of view.
If you’re buying a new build, make sure to draw up a snag list. This is a list of any finish work or repairs that you require on the property you’re buying.
You can do this yourself, though it’s a better idea to stump up the shillings and get a surveyor in to do it properly.
Snag items typically include:
- Cracks in ceilings or walls
- Skirting boards not correctly placed
- Doors that don’t open and close correctly
- Uneven plaster work
- Broken light switches
- Loose wiring
- Leaking pipes.
TIMELINE: Both a valuation and a snag list can take anywhere between 48 hours to 5 days to be carried out. Final mortgage approval can take as little as 2-3 days but usually takes 1-2 weeks on average.
Step #7: Final Costs and Closure
Once you’ve received mortgage approval and your solicitor has checked and is happy with all the legalities involved in your purchase, you’ll sign contracts and pay the 10% deposit amount. You’ll do this through your solicitor who’ll pay it to the seller.
Next, the seller also signs the contract and both solicitors will arrange for a final closing date.
Further final costs will need to be paid. This can include:
- Land Registry or the Registry of Deeds
- Stamp duty
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Your solicitor’s fees.
After the transference of funds, you, the seller, and both solicitors meet to close the deal. At this point, keys are exchanged, hands are shaken, and happy dances can take place – though, obviously, this latter action is optional!
Its also a good idea to make a final inspection of the property before moving in. After that, it’s time to step over the threshold and pat yourself on the back for becoming a proud, bona fide property owner!
TIMELINE: All going well, you should be able to finish up everything else and have the keys to your new property within 2 weeks.
Once you have your deposit sorted, the length of time it takes to buy a house will depend on how ready and determined you are alongside a few outside variables that are generally beyond your control.
Based on our timeline and all going perfectly to plan, you could have the keys to your new pad within 3 and half months.
If you’re not well-organised and the property gods throw in some of the more well-known delays including tardy solicitors, a drawn out conveyancing process, and a surveyor’s report or snag list that comes back with a list of housekeeping to-dos, you could be looking at up to 8 months and 3 weeks before you finally get to pop open that bottle of bubbly as a new homeowner.