This article was first published on TheJournal.ie as part of the Home Truths series in partnership with Bank of Ireland. Publication of this article is not seen as an endorsement of the content by Bank of Ireland.
Go in below the asking price, view multiple properties – and hire a good solicitor
We’ve spoken to experts at the heart of the house-buying process, to give you the vital information you’ll need to take a confident step on the property ladder. Here we’re tackling the world of house viewings and making an offer, with insight from an Irish estate agent.
"The buying process isn’t as difficult as people think," says David Madden, owner of estate agency Moove.ie. "At least, it shouldn’t be, as long as you come into it prepared and stay in touch with the relevant parties each step of the way. That includes the seller, the solicitor, the lender and everyone in between."
With 15 years of experience in the property sales and real estate business, David set up Moove, a hybrid online/walk-in agency, at the start of this year, dealing with buyers and sellers countrywide. His biggest piece of advice to buyers? "Plan ahead. Purchasing your home is a huge commitment, and you’ll save yourself so much time, energy and expenditure by getting to know the process."
Here are nine more of David’s tips for house-hunting success...
1. View as many properties as you can
Yes, you no doubt have a dream property in mind, but expand your house-viewing list to more than just one or two places. "See as many properties as you can in your chosen location," recommends David. "You will lose out a few along the way, whether it’s because your priorities change or because other buyers get in ahead of you."
2. ...But don’t put in more than one offer
"I wouldn’t advise putting in a lot of offers. From an estate agent’s perspective, it makes you look like you’re not really serious," advises David. "The last thing a seller wants is to go through the whole two or three week process of accepting an offer only for the buyer to pull out. We had a woman last week who turned down a higher offer from a buyer purely because she preferred someone else."
3. Remember, you can always go back for a second look
"At a viewing, I can usually tell straight away if a buyer is interested. They’ll take their time in each part of the house. If they’re not keen, they’ll zoom in and out in five minutes," says David. He’s seen many interested parties return to a property again (and again) to get another look: "It’s not unusual for a prospective buyer to come back to view the house two, or even three times, before putting in an offer."
4. Don’t go in at the asking price
"Maybe it’s an experience thing, but so many first-time buyers go in with high offers, whereas second and third time buyers put in offers so low they’re almost offensive," notes David. "My advice would be never to go in at the asking price. It’s the estate agent’s job to keep you in the loop with what’s happening, so they’ll let you know if someone has bid above you. Then you start to negotiate."
5. Set yourself a budget and don’t go over it
Decide where your realistic price range ends before you start house-hunting, and certainly before you start putting in offers. As David warns, once you are mortgage approved in principle for a certain amount, you may not be able to go back to your lender and ask for more.
"Mortgage approval is set out pretty strictly these days based on wages and outgoings, and so your mortgage approval amount may be the maximum you can afford," he says.
6. In fact, make an offer at least 10% under your budget
"Usually the people who buy the properties are the ones mortgage approved for more money because the asking price can go up by around 10 per cent," explains David. He advises maintaining a buffer at the top end of your budget, and making offers below that buffer to start off with.
7. Get everything organised ahead of time
The more you can familiarise yourself with the buying process, the more smoothly it’s likely to go. "As far as possible, make sure you have everything in place ahead of time at each step of the way," says David. That includes things like mortgage approval in principle and mortgage protection insurance, but also the hiring of a solicitor, a valuer and a surveyor, all of whom you’ll require the services of after putting in an offer.
8. Hire a specialist solicitor (and make sure they’re good)
"If your solicitor is inexperienced, you could be in limbo for weeks after your offer is accepted," says David. "My advice would be to hire a very good conveyancing solicitor, who specialises in drawing up contracts and title deeds. Choosing a specialist solicitor can significantly speed up the process." Ask for recommendations from friends, or pore through testimonials online to help you decide.
9. School yourself on government grants and lender incentives
Grants, tax rebates and lender cashback incentives could all save you money during the lifetime of your mortgage, so it’s worth doing your research. “If you’re buying for the first time, there are plenty of incentives open to you,” says David. The Help To Buy Incentive, for example, allows you to claim back up to €20,000, while the Home Renovation Incentive effectively reduces your VAT to zero on qualifying work up to €30,000.