House-hunting is a curious blend of agony and ecstasy. Some of us find the myriad of box-ticking extremely stressful — but then again who doesn’t love a good excuse to pore over the property pages, lust after those must-haves in glossy interiors spreads and oh-so-casually stop by auctioneer’s windows during our evening stroll?
There’s just so much to consider when choosing a house, whether it’s the “forever home” or starter buy — from the location and the structural aspects, to the negotiations.
And it can be very easy to miss some important details as you’re about to make possibly your biggest purchase ever.
A key piece of advice on your quest is to “leave shyness at the door” and dive into every last nook and cranny of the house when checking it out, according to Laura Pollard, managing director of online property platform Perfect Property.
“Go for it and ask the questions you want the answers to,” says Laura.
If a bedtime routine that entails pulling on a duffle coat over your pyjamas (and perhaps accessorising this fetching ensemble with a balaclava) sounds unappealing then make sure the property you have your eye on has certified heating.
“Most houses with gas heating systems are subject to annual boiler inspections so ask the estate agent if you can have a peep at the boiler,” says Laura.
“Check the sticker to see when the last inspection was. No sticker is a bit of a red flag so ask for a certificate.”
Don’t forget to take a break from chatting to the estate agent to check out the noise levels, advises Laura.
“High daily noise levels can have a significant impact on your quality of life so make sure that you get some quiet time when viewing a property — particularly in the bedrooms,” she adds.
“Crack open a window too and listen for noise pollution that could annoy the hell out of you further down the line. Some folks can handle a lot of noise, while others might come to realise that living by a busy road just isn’t for them.”
Is there a whiff of damp? Or did a procession of small black spots on the ceiling catch your eye? Unfortunately, this can be a sign of mould.
“If you employ a surveyor, they’ll be able to point out most of the structural issues contributing to the damp. But a home that isn’t well ventilated may have spots that the surveyor doesn’t report,” says Laura.
“Fixing mould-related issues can be expensive, so check behind the curtains and stick your nose in the under-stairs cupboard to determine if it might be an issue.”
Water pressure is essential for a good shower. Getting dribbled on as you prepare to belt out your favourite morning party pieces is no way to start the day.
Turn on the shower and see if it’s to your liking. “If not, you may have to spend a good chunk of change getting it fixed,” says Laura.
Many buyers make the mistake of bidding on houses that appear to be within budget but forget to factor in renovations. The total cost may turn out to be far higher than they had planned to spend.
Factor in the price needed to get it up to modern standards and your total bill is €50k more than the other houses on the street.
“Make sure you have a very clear picture of what you’re willing to spend, including all of the work required to get your property into the condition you want it in,” says Laura.
Get an expert opinion on how much renovation will cost but also remember looking for potential in a house is always advisable.
“Almost every house has a hidden gem lying in it somewhere,” says Laura.
Consider bringing along an impartial builder or architect, especially if you are very keen on a property.
Family and friends are probably not the best wing-men and women because too often they’re emotionally blinded to faults.
A professional can give you honest advice about the financial investment required.
Bigger is not always better. Instead of size, it’s more important to consider how well the house suits your needs. Consider the proportions and the layout.
Remember that you could potentially build an extension in the future if space becomes an issue, especially if the property boasts a garden or additional space to one side.
You can add extensions and improvements to the house that will pay for themselves or add value to your home.
Be on the lookout for sufficient headroom in the attic space which will allow you to convert it into living space further down the line.
All of the councils have a planning search tool that works by simply typing in an address.
It’s very straightforward and you’ll see what developments are planned for the area.
If you’re thinking of building, you’ll easily find out the precedents for similar work.
Also, take a peek at your would-be neighbours’ homes to see if they’ve had any building work done — ask them if you can have a look at how it turned out.
After your viewing, make sure to spend a little time strolling up and down the streets or driving around the area surrounding the property.
It’ll give you a better feel for what it’s like to live in that neck of the woods.
“Keep your eyes and ears peeled for unsightly rubbish, bedraggled gardens and untrained dogs barking.
"Have an idea of your limits and don’t settle for less,” says Laura.
“For the full story, why not approach someone on the street or in a café and ask them about the area?”
Just like noise, light too can have a big effect on your mood.
“Take in the space when it’s bathed in natural light only,” advises Laura.
“Remember to enquire about the sun’s path throughout the day too.”