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Buying Diaries: Caveat emptor, keep the fridge and more advice to heed

Evoke.ie logo Evoke.ie 26/10/2020 Fionnuala Moran
a person standing in front of a forest © Provided by Evoke.ie

For maximum handiness, these advice sections about the home buying process have been split into before, during and after. If you missed the first section about letting professionals steer you right as you prepare to buy, click here.

In this chapter, we’re in the thick of it out viewing potential homes, sussing what we should look out for and what needs to be avoided at all costs.

This part of the journey is much more fun that the paperwork heavy prep phase so make sure you enjoy it.

a person holding a sign posing for the camera: Pic: Buying Diaries © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Buying Diaries

To see what you should venture out to view, figure out what you want and what you can afford. I hope for your sake that Venn diagram isn’t two separate circles that don’t overlap but if it is, it’s time to do some research and see what’s realistic.

I can almost recite the MyHome.ie listings for the last year, such was my obsession with seeing all of the homes that came to market ticking the boxes of what we wanted. To save yourself hours of searching, once you know what you want, where, and for what price, you can set up alerts on MyHome.ie so you get an email each day of all of the properties that fit your criteria. The dream!

When something you love pops up, move on it rapidly and request a viewing as we found most of the homes in our area were going sale agreed in less than a fortnight. It’s a jungle out there!

a person standing in front of a house: Pic: Buying Diaries © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Buying Diaries

Enough from me, what advice have I picked up from other people who know the market and have been through the process?

‘The areas come first,’ advises Licensed Estate Agent Breffnie O’Kelly on The Home Stretch podcast, which I found to be an extremely helpful series. Shouts out Caroline Foran and Jo Linehan for that!

‘Buy location over condition because you can change the condition but you can’t change the location,’ Breffnie wisely advised on the second episode of their podcast series.

a person standing in front of a door: Pic: Fionnuala Moran © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Fionnuala Moran

Ciara Long is a friend of mine who has abided the above advice, purchasing a secondhand home that needed work. She advised, ‘Distance yourself from possible deterrents such as wacky decor or unpleasant odours and focus on the potential.’

‘My previous homeowner was a smoker which was a concern, however giving the house a good clean, a fresh lick of paint and pulling up old carpets etc. made such a difference. My house now feels brand new!’ I can attest to the stellar job she’s done revitalising this property and turning it into her own palace.

Another friend, Kerri Sullivan recently secured a new build after making a very clever appointment.

She shared, ‘If you have your heart set on a new build, arrange a tour of the property ahead of the open viewing, even just a half an hour before and you can secure the home you want before you’re competing with the masses.’ If you’re going down the new build route, see if the Help To Buy scheme can financially benefit you.

a person standing in front of a building: Pictured at the launch of An Post’s Green Hub is renowned Quantity Surveyor Patricia Power. Pic: Marc O’Sullivan © Provided by Evoke.ie Pictured at the launch of An Post’s Green Hub is renowned Quantity Surveyor Patricia Power. Pic: Marc O’Sullivan

Upon requesting advice in the office, a chorus of responses stated how important the BER rating of any potential property purchase was so as not to be ‘freezing’ or ‘spending a fortune’ heating your new home.

While colleagues advised spending a bit more for a better BER rating where possible, the secondhand homes the average first time buyer will be able to afford have ratings you wouldn’t be happy to see on your leaving cert results so you’re best to vow to improve this soon after you move in.

Retrofitting the secondhand sector is hugely important and if you’re taking on the challenge of modernising a preloved home to make it as energy efficient as possible, you can see what grants the SEAI have available to you here.

Patricia Power of Room to Improve fame gave us great advice about the biggest improvements we can make by adding insulation, new windows etc. You can read her helpful recommendations here.

a person holding a bag of luggage sitting on top of a car: Patricia Power and Dermot Bannon Pic: RTÉ © Provided by Evoke.ie Patricia Power and Dermot Bannon Pic: RTÉ

Advice for future parents-to-be came from other colleagues who stated that a downstairs bathroom was a must for anyone considering having children.

Meanwhile, others said a bath was a must-have household facility for all women post-labour, so take this into consideration when buying and renovating.

a young man standing in front of a building: Pic: Buying Diaries © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Buying Diaries

Fellow journalist Dave Kenny recounted a nifty tip that saved him a fortune when he moved into his first home saying, ‘My wife and I managed to buy in the area where we grew up (Dalkey) and the vendors were fantastic.’

‘They left us all their white goods – double oven, hob, tumble drier, washing machine, fridge – and their dining table and chairs, plus curtains. And a bottle of champagne! All we had to do was get a sofa and a bed, and we were able to move in immediately.’

‘If I have any advice for first time buyers, it would be to try and strike a deal on any white goods the vendor might be leaving behind. Quietly check them out when you’re viewing the house (you don’t want any old rubbish).’

‘This can save you quite a bit of money – and hassle – in the short term, before you start remodelling the house.’ So if like me, you’ll be landing straight into your first home from your parents fully furnished abode, it’s a good idea to ask the vendor if they can leave you some working kitchen whites so you’re not living off takeaways until you can afford a fridge or cooker!

a man holding a wine glass: Pic: Buying Diaries © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Buying Diaries

An uncle of mine who wished to remain anonymous shared a series of practical tips: ‘Your back garden should face somewhere between south and west. You’ll only buy a north-facing garden once!’ My mum shared his belief in the importance of the aspect of a home and its sense of place encouraging viewings of homes in cul de sacs and turning us off properties on busy roads. Fair.

My uncle continued by adding, ‘Check the pubs nearby and the busy (i.e. noisy) walking routes home and suss out the area night; it can be very different from the sunny afternoon when you viewed it.’

With working from home a reality for many now, he also advised, ‘You don’t want to be within earshot of a primary school playground unless you’re deaf or never work from home at break times!’ This was a condition my best friend reiterated.

Other important factors he suggested included scoping the area at rush hour so as not to be trapped in your house if it’s bad at peak times, making sure there’s ample safe and ideally free parking for visitors nearby.

Sussing out the neighbours and making sure the properties on either side of your own are well-maintained rounded out his advice. After all, you don’t want to spend all of your hard-earned savings on doing up your first home only for an infestation of rats from the abandoned property next door to chew through your walls and say hello!

Pic: Buying Diaries © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Buying Diaries

The more specific you are with the area you want the less exhaustive your scouring of the property websites will be. We managed to get our ideal area down to a triangle of three roads and that saved us being blue in the face scrolling through potential properties.

While crime can and does happen anywhere, it’s worth searching the news results on Google for the roads you like and seeing what results come up for those addresses so as to clock any recurring issues in the locality you want to buy in.

a person standing in front of a building: Pic: Supplied © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Supplied

Find out if the property you want to buy is a probate sale (the owner has passed away) and if the probate is finished as this can be a lengthy process that will delay you moving in, a repossession by the bank or if there are tenants renting the house at present and how long they’ve been there etc.

In the case of the latter, a friend of mine almost purchased a house which she wouldn’t have been able to move into for almost another year as the landlord who was selling had long term tenants in the property. They would have been entitled to (and rightly so) 280 days in the home after the sale to find new accommodation. Make sure you know the full story of what you’re buying as buying chains and a whole host of other issues can delay you getting to move in and make it your own.

a woman sitting on a bed: Pic: Buying Diaries © Provided by Evoke.ie Pic: Buying Diaries

When you’ve found your house and successfully bid on it keep your mortgage broker and solicitor in the loop, but don’t annoy them!

Yes, this is likely the biggest purchase you’ve ever made but the paper passing process is a slow one and they’re juggling a lot of other people’s sales too so try to resist incessantly contacting them for updates, as tempting as that may be.

So… enjoy viewing and bidding and my advice for when your offer has been accepted is soon to follow!

Fionnuala Moran is EVOKE’s Entertainment Reporter and a first-time buyer purchasing a home in Dublin with her other half. You can read her Buying Diaries journey here.

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