Once you are finally feeling comfortable (and confident) enough to buy a property in Ireland, the secret to success is research, research, research. Buying in Ireland can be complex and time-consuming, so don't set yourself ridiculous deadlines, and keep an open mind. It is important to note that, unlike the United States, there are no national property listings in Ireland. This can be exceedingly frustrating and means the entire process often takes a lot longer than is necessary. Rather than choosing one agent who goes out and searches for houses that suit you, you have to endlessly register with different estate agents, who will only show you what is listed with their company. But if you are willing to invest the time and patience, you will eventually see light at the end of the tunnel and own your own little piece of Ireland.
Once you've decided on your ideal location, use the same ideas mentioned under Renting in order to find a house to purchase. Keep your eyes peeled for For Sale signs, read the classified sections (particularly in the region you are looking to purchase), and browse websites to find recently listed properties. Most importantly, sign up with the local estate agent offices and find out what homes they have listed for sale.
Next, think about your budget. This may be entirely dependent on your personal situation, but a house is a giant financial commitment, so don't get yourself in over your head. Find something that is within your budget and suits your tastes. A four-bedroom house in Dublin is going to cost you an awful lot more than an ancient cottage in Doolin.
You should make sure to hire a good solicitor to guide you through the necessary legal paperwork. Unlike in the United States, where all of real-estate-related legal matters are wrapped up with the agent, in Ireland a solicitor (lawyer) is hired to do all of this. Solicitors charge 1–1.5 percent of the total house price.
Once you have settled on your ideal property and have your solicitor to do paperwork, you should arrange financing. Unless you have cash to pay out- right, this will be the trickiest part of the process-- banks can be difficult to extract money from-- but not impossible if you have a stable job, a good in- come, and a good credit record.
Once you have financing, you can put an offer on the property by paying a booking deposit. This deposit ranges from €3,000 to 3 percent of the sale price but is refundable up until contracts are signed. Your offer should be con- tingent on a property survey, which will detail any problems with the prop- erty, such as mold, a leaking roof, or a crumbling infrastructure. A property survey can cost upward of €400 depending on the size of the property, but this is one area you do not want to skimp on. If you are purchasing an older property, paying the extra money for a more detailed survey may save you bucket loads in future repairs.
I should mention that even after you have put a deposit down, another buyer can swoop in and make a higher offer, rendering your offer null and void. Unfortunately, this is quite common. I had a friend who had this happen to her four times when looking for a house in Galway. Each time she thought the house was her dream house and was absolutely crushed when another buyer offered more.
If everything goes according to plan, the estate agent will issue your solicitor contracts. This is where your solicitor earns the money you're paying. The solicitor checks to make sure there are no tricks in the legalese before approving it and letting you sign. You will also need to finalize your mortgage, submit a direct debit order (for funds to automatically be debited from your account), purchase building insurance, and buy life insurance. (Life insurance is dicussed more in Hidden Fees.) At this stage you pay about 10 percent of the purchase price as a deposit, although this amount is usually negotiable. Once your contracts are signed and exchanged, you will sign a few more papers, pay the final amount, and the property will be yours.
You already know about your legal fees, the surveyor fee, and your deposit, but there are a few more hidden costs associated with purchasing property that you should be aware of. You should make sure to include these costs in your budget.
You will have to pay stamp duty (tax) to the government. This is 1 percent of the total value of your home up to €1 million, and 2 percent on any value above €1 million. Your lender will charge an application fee for applying for a mortgage. You will be required to get building insurance, which is similar to homeowners insurance, and if you are purchasing with a mortgage (rather than paying with cash), you are required to buy life insurance. Finally, don't forget that VAT adds 21 percent to all professional services, such as the solicitor or the surveyor. These fees add up quickly, so be aware of them prior to making an offer on any property.
From the book Moon Living Abroad in Ireland by Christina McDonald. Excerpted by arrangement with Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2012. For more information, visit http://www.moon.com.