Top 10 tips for first-time buyer

Karen Walsh is a solicitor hailing from a farming background and these are her top tips for buying land or property for the first time.

Buying a new home or building your first home can be stressful and time consuming. Think of it differently.

It can be a very exciting time in your life and you will always remember buying or building your first home.

Just strive to ensure that you have fond memories of the transaction by being organised and instructing a reputable solicitor and engineer or architect.

Here are my top ten tips on buying or building your first home:

1. Set up a budget. Look at all the expenses, such as stamp duty, land registry fees, insurance, life assurance and the cost of an engineer or architect.

2. Research the area in which you intend to purchase. A good neighbour and a good neighbourhood is a treasure. If you are building ensure that the map is accurate and that the house is built within the confines of your map to avoid any disputes or difficulties with neighbours later. Ensure that you have secured adequate access to the site.

3. Save for your deposit. Most lending institutions will allow purchasers to borrow 80% of the purchase price. Gone are the days of 100% mortgages.

4. Consult a mortgage intermediary. The mortgage intermediary will best compare the various interest rates, the term of the loan being offered and the conditions attaching to the loan. Ensure you give all information and documentation required to your bank such as identification, direct debit mandates etc. to avoid delays at the drawdown stage.

5. Ensure you obtain life cover. All mortgage providers require a purchaser to put a mortgage protection policy in place. This may take time so allow for a delay in the issue of loan approval.

6. Ask lots of questions. A house is probably the largest purchase you will ever make in your life so make sure you read the terms of your contract. Your solicitor will explain the terms clearly to you. If you are building you need to research various builders and ensure that they are reputable and have a good track record. When you have decided on a builder you should ensure that the contract is in writing to avoid ambiguities later or disputes and send the building agreement to your solicitor to review in advance of signing.

7. Instruct a competent engineer or architect to carry out a structural survey of the property to identify any structural defects and ensure any alterations or additions to the property comply with planning permission and building regulations. It is money well spent if it saves you thousands in the long term. There may be many things wrong with the property that you cannot see. Again if you are building again ensure you instruct a competent architect or engineer to supervise construction. Ensure you have insurance in place in case anyone has an accident during construction.

8. When buying a house, you should always make a final appointment the day before the closing of the transaction with your auctioneer to inspect the property again. Nothing takes the smile off as quick as a lot of rubbish in the house. The closing can be delayed until such time as the vendor clears the property in full.

9. Be organised. Ensure that you know the identity of your solicitor when you start bidding. Your deposit and solicitor’s details should be ready to hand over to the auctioneer as soon as you have been told that the sale has been agreed. Again, when building, it is a good idea to have your solicitor confirmed when you are finalising the loan with your financial institution.

10. As soon as the sale closes, arrange to insure the property immediately. As you are the owner of a valuable property now, it is also important to put a Will in place and you should make an appointment with your solicitor to do so. Finally, enjoy your new home!

Karen Walsh, from a farming background at Grenagh, Co Cork, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors and Commissioners for Oaths, 17, South Mall, Cork.

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