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Ten things to think about and plan before buying your new home

Make sure you have all the boxes ticked when it comes to the biggest purchase of your life

Show homes have something of a fantasy to them. Fresh paint, new appliances, clear surfaces, sumptuous furnishings and a landscaped garden – what’s not to like? A show house is a developer’s shop window and they will have spent a lot here to impress you. Before committing, however, it pays to do your homework.

1. Budget

There’s no point falling in love with a new home if you can’t afford it. Getting mortgage approval will give you a realistic budget.

Arranging your finances correctly is critical to getting approval, says Joey Sheahan of For example, paying rent through a bank account clearly marked “rent” gives the bank evidence of your repayment capacity that rent paid in cash will not.

When saving for a mortgage, don’t dip into funds either, advises Sheahan. “I would prefer to see someone save €500 monthly rather than saving €1,000 and dipping into it each month,” he says. The bank likes to see regularity and consistency.


Try not to use an overdraft and clear your credit card each month too, he advises. Online betting transactions are an immediate red flag.

2. Additional costs

There will be some one-off costs related to the sale too, so put some money aside for these. Solicitors’ conveyancing fees range from between €2,000 and €3,000 plus VAT. The cost of a valuation by your bank will be €150 to €250 plus VAT.

Your bank can give you an indication of your monthly mortgage repayment, but owning a home brings new fixed costs too.

Find out your rate of local property tax at

Mortgage-protection insurance will be a new expense too. Get this in place as early as possible, says Sheahan. “We have come across some house-hunters unable to get life cover and consequently unable to get a mortgage.”

Homeowners in managed developments pay an annual management fee for things such as bin collection, grass cutting and public liability insurance. Find out the amount and be sure to budget for it.

On the upside, first-time buyers purchasing a new-build for €500,000 or fewer may qualify for the Help to Buy scheme.

This gives a refund of income tax and deposit interest retention tax paid in the last four years. To qualify, your mortgage must be at least 70 per cent of the purchase price. This can help with costs.

3. Consult planning files

If you are considering a home in a brand-new estate on a greenfield site, you need to do your homework, says Niamh Moran, partner at Carmody Moran Solicitors.

“If this area is going to be home for years to come, it’s important you are satisfied with the proposed development for the locality,” she says. “You might not realise an extension to the M50 is about to be built in the next five years, for example.”

Inquire personally at the local authority planning department where you can ascertain the development plan, the zoning of the area, road development and any planning applications that may affect your estate, says Moran.

“You want to know what the area is going to look like in five years’ time, what other housing is going in and what amenities you are going to have,” she says.

“Do this before the execution of contracts. Once you execute contracts, you will be bound to purchase the property,” says Moran. Talk to a solicitor before you sign anything, she advises.

If an area is granted planning permission for housing, it will have been reviewed by the local authority for flood risk. If you are concerned about flooding, however, the Office of Public Works’ website provides information on all past flood events within 2.5km of a location.

If you are interested in a particular house, apply online to see if you can get home insurance that includes subsidence and flood cover, says Sheahan. “This can cause big difficulty drawing down a mortgage if you cannot get subsidence and flood cover.”

4. Location, location, location

The location of your house will have a big impact on your day-to-day life. Are there schools nearby? Are there good walking and cycling routes? This may mean you won’t have to navigate traffic and parking spots multiple times a day. How easy is it to get out of the estate on to the main road? If the estate is located off a busy road that has not been adapted to cope with the extra traffic, expect a queue to get out at busy times. If you are unfamiliar with the locality, visiting at different times can highlight problems.

Ask locals about the availability of childcare and school places, GP and dentist appointments and if there are long waiting lists for sports clubs. Housing in some commuter towns has mushroomed faster than basic infrastructure and services.

If you are buying off plans, consider the location of your property in the development. Buying in the early stages means you are likely to be closer to the entrance. As more houses are added, passing traffic will increase. A house at the back of the estate might be quieter.

5. Scratch the surface

Viewing a show house is like speed dating. The house is staged to maximise its value and attract prospective suitors. Scratch the surface, however, and you’ll see the reality.

Interior designers use clever tactics to entice buyers. Every light and lamp will be switched on to give the impression of ample natural light. Switch them off, especially those in the kitchen, to gauge what the light levels actually are.

There may be some optical illusions at play too, such as shorter or smaller-than-average furniture to give a sense of spaciousness. Sure, the sittingroom looks great with that sofa, but what about the bigger one you will need to seat your gang?

Big open-plan kitchen living, dining spaces are on trend right now. Many current show houses try to tick this box by squeezing a small sofa into a kitchen-diner. Think about how crowded that space will be when real life kicks in with bins, schoolbags, a dog bed and kids in play. Will this layout or a lack of circulation space frustrate you?

Look at what’s missing from the show house too – where will the TV, fridge, kitchen bins or study desk go?

A four-bed house will command more money than a three-bed, but if two of the bedrooms are box rooms, or are oddly-shaped, you may be paying for bedrooms that your kids will quickly outgrow. Buying a house with three decent-sized bedrooms with a convertible attic may prove cheaper and more liveable.

Outside, the dividing fencing between show houses is often omitted to give a feeling of space. What will this look like with fencing, bins and a clothesline?

Ask yourself if there is adequate parking for you and your guests too. “You don’t want to be racing home from work every evening trying to get a parking space,” says Noel Larkin, a chartered building surveyor and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.

6. Buying off plans

If you are buying off plans, ask the agent about completion dates by property number so you know when you and others will move in. Ask how many homes there will be in the final stages of the development too. It may surprise you to know a third phase is planned, with a block of apartments or a creche obscuring your views.

Find out the orientation of your off-plans property purchase. A south- or west-facing garden will have longer periods of sunshine in the afternoon and evenings. Confirm what appliances and fittings are included in the sale and if you can expect kerbs, paving, fences or a garden shed with the completed house.

7. Reference check

Research the builder – have they built other homes you can look at and compare? Do they have a good track record of quality and on-time completion? What do other residents say about the development and builder? Don’t be afraid to knock on the doors of those who have already moved in.

8. Growing pains

When buying a new build, think about future-proofing, says Larkin. If your household grows, can the house grow with you?

If you are buying off plans, ask your builder about putting in a roof truss that will make the attic easy and affordable to convert, advises Larkin.

Working from home and an increase in adult children living at home have meant an explosion in garden pods. Extensions to the rear are another common alteration. Consulting a surveyor before you buy will tell you whether there will be sufficient space and side access for these things, he says.

If you are interested in installing solar panels, a surveyor can advise if the roof type and orientation make it possible.

9. Snagging

Just because a home is brand new doesn’t mean you don’t need a surveyor. The developer is likely to give you a week or two to identify any snags in your new home that they will then fix, says Larkin. A seasoned surveyor will know exactly what to look for and will prepare a list for the developer to fix. From spotting doors that don’t close to wonky tiles, eagle eyes can spot the glitches so they don’t annoy you for the next 20 years.

10. Join up

Congratulations, you have just bought a new-build. If there is a residents’ association, get involved. A well-run estate can make a huge difference to you and your neighbours’ quality of life, and to the present and future value of your home.

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt

Joanne Hunt, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about homes and property, lifestyle, and personal finance