What legal advice do I need to buy a home?
Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions you are likely to make and the law around it is complex. Here is a guide to some of the things you should consider and links to helpful, independent sources of information.
Find out the costs involved
It is important to evaluate all costs involved in buying a home, not just the cost of the home itself. Your solicitor can advise you on estimating your budget for the various stages of the transaction including mortgage costs, legal fees, registration of deeds and stamp duty.
Get professional help with conveyancing
Conveyancing is the legal work involved in buying or selling property. Citizens information .ie advises that you hire a solicitor for this work. Exactly what is involved will depend on the type of property, who is buying it, the type of lease and the nature of the sale. The Law Society of Ireland recommends consulting a solicitor before you commit any money, sign any documents or order any work to be done. It lists many services best conducted by a solicitor including the following.
Things a solicitor can help with
- Are there any problems with the title?
- Will you have any trouble in reselling?
- Will your loan come through without difficulty or delay?
- What contents will be left in the property?
- The rights your spouse, civil partner or co-purchaser will have over the property when purchased?
- What will happen to the ownership in the event of your death?
- The exchange of contracts.
- Raising and negotiating any title queries with the seller’s solicitor.
- Drafting closing documentation.
- Title searches.
- Requisitions on Title and Deed of Conveyance.
- Giving an undertaking to your bank.
- Ordering your loan cheque for closing.
- Closing the sale.
After the sale your solicitor will help with:
- Stamping and registering title to the property.
- Sending title deeds to your bank.
Conduct thorough searches
Searches are enquiries that a purchaser/solicitor should make in the course of purchasing property.
A planning search will let you know how the property is zoned, be it residential, commercial or otherwise; whether there are any proposals for road widening in the area; and whether or not any applications for planning permission in respect of the property have been granted or rejected.
On the day of purchase a Land Registry search will inspect the register or folio to find what the up to date position is. This search will establish the ownership of the property, the title whether absolute or possessory, whether it is leasehold or freehold, whether or not there are mortgages, and any rights of residence or other restrictions on the folio.
Requisitions on Title and Deed of Conveyance
After signing the contract and before the completion date of the sale, Requisitions on Title are a standard set of questions relating to the sale of a property that deal with such things as whether fixtures and fittings are included in the sale.
Signing the contract of sale
The contract for sale binds the parties to the completion of the sale. If you withdraw from the sale after this contract has been signed, you may lose your deposit. If you buy at auction you must immediately sign the contract for sale. If you buy through private treaty your solicitor will check that the contract is in order before you sign it.
Your solicitor will calculate how much stamp duty is due and request this from you before the closing of the sale. The stamp duty is paid to the Revenue Commissioners, who place a stamp on the deeds. Without this stamp, the deeds cannot be registered. The deeds name the owner of the property.
BER and Radon Checks
All homes for sale must have a Building Energy Rating (BER). A BER will inform you how energy-efficient the home is. It will help you make an informed choice when comparing properties. It also offers guidance on steps that can be taken to improve the energy efficiency of a property.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you check whether the home is in a High Radon Area on its Radon Risk Map and enquire as to whether the home has been tested for radon. More information on radon in homes is available from the EPA and in our document on measurement of radon levels.
Checking the soundness of your newly built home
If you are buying a newly built home, you and your solicitor will receive a “completion notice” from the builder once all the work is finished. As soon as you receive this, it is important you arrange to have a ‘snag list’ drawn up. This is a list of incomplete jobs or things that you want put right.
The Consumer & Consumer Protection Commission offer the following example and advice on a snag list:
- Cracks in ceilings or walls
- Skirting boards not correctly placed
- Doors that don’t open and close correctly
- Uneven plaster work
- Broken light switches
- Loose wiring
- Leaking pipes
“You can make a snag list yourself, but it is recommended that you hire an architect, engineer or chartered surveyor who will have experience in this area and knows what to look for when snagging new homes”.
Helpful Guides and information
Citizens Information .ie publishes many useful guides to home buying
Lawyer.ie publishes a number of useful articles on buying a house
There is a public register of auctioneers and estate agents on the website of the Property Services Regulatory Authority.
The Property Services Regulatory Authority publishes a Residential Property Price Register.
All homes for sale must have a Building Energy Rating (BER).
The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) is the professional body for chartered surveyors.
More information on mortgages and choosing the best one for you is available from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
Regulation of estate agents and auctioneers
Law Society advice on buying a home