Gráinne McGuinness


MAKING CENTS: More for homebuyers to think about than prices and rates

Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness

MAKING CENTS: More for homebuyers to think about than prices and rates

The day you buy is the day you sell.

I was intrigued by this line from solicitor Helene O’Donovan when giving advice to prospective homebuyers at an event organised by KBC Bank. There is so much focus on property prices and mortgage rates in the housing market that other important aspects can be neglected and this is something Ms O’Donovan is keen to point out.

So what does she mean?

“When you buy a house, you have to be sure that everything is in order,” she says. “If you buy it and there’s a problem, you are going to have a problem when you are selling it.”

In her presentation, Ms O’Donovan describes paying the deposit on your chosen property as the very first step in the process and counsels buyers to be fully prepared for the stages to be gone through before they become registered owners of the property.

Those interested in second-hand property in particular need to be guided by the principle of ‘buyer beware’. She recommends prospective owners undertake a full structural survey, boundary check, and planning searches. Make sure you have access to the public road. If the property has had work done that is in any way at odds with the planning, then that can lead to significant difficulties.

“With planning, the requirements are very strict and not everybody knows what is involved,” says Ms O’Donovan. “Your title that you are giving to any bank has to be planning compliant. If there are any issues you need to rectify them before you buy or you’re going to have the same issue when you sell.

“Planning seems to be the biggest problem across the board.”

Does she think people should consider getting a solicitor involved in the process earlier than they tend to?

“I think people are concerned with costs and rightly so,” she says. “It is such an expensive time you want to keep your costs down as much as possible.

“But the sooner you start looking the better. If you have a loan offer in principle, it’s probably a good idea to start looking at that time so you are not leaving it until the last minute and then panicking and trying to find a name for the auctioneer. Shop around, get somebody you have a feel for and think you can work with.”

Buyers hear of people paying their solicitor several thousand and think that is it for solicitors’ fees. But in reality that figure will include the stamp duty, which the solicitor will have arranged to be paid (1% on residential property price up to €1m) and also the cost of registering the new owner’s title to the property. Solicitors’ fees are only a part of that total price.

These and a myriad other costs are why house hunters should always try and build a cushion between how much they have saved for the deposit and been sanctioned for by their lender and the actual purchase price.

Ms O’Donovan explains: “You’re involved in a bidding war with somebody and you go up €1,000 — you think, ‘oh look, I’ll find a thousand’. You can find yourself under terrible pressure at that point. You really have to have a cut off, a stopping point where you can’t go any further.

“Because when you move into a property, you are going to have to paint, decorate, do whatever you need to do — once you move in the costs don’t stop. So it is important to have a limit.”

Another area to bear in mind is insurance, both buildings cover and also life assurance your mortgage holder will require you to get. This may require you attending a doctor and there can be delays finding cover if you have pre-existing conditions or health concerns.

As these are issues that can potentially delay drawdown of a loan, even after it has been sanctioned, buyers should make an early start on getting paperwork like this in order.

Valuations can also trip people up. Your bank will require one and they can have quite a short expiry date. With sales often taking several months to complete, you could find your valuation out of date and need a fresh valuation.


The recent sunshine ushered in the start of summer and will hopefully be the first of many opportunities to strip off the heavy winter layers.

Anyone keen to use the change of season as an excuse to indulge in some new skincare should check out Boots offer over the bank holiday weekend. They are giving away a free beauty box worth €70 to customers when they spend €60 or more in store or online in a single transaction.

The box is packed with a range of products from wellknown brands, including No7, Soap & Glory, Mark Hill, and Champneys. Products such as Soltan Once Face Moisturising Suncare Cream and Mark Hill Taming Anti-Humidity Spray will have you ready to face the hottest days Ireland can produce.

The offer is open until Monday, June 5, but is subject to availability.

The spend threshold excludes items on prescription, licensed medicines, infant milks, and mobile phone topups.

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