It's easy to 'Google' the area and estate, check out online forums such as askaboutmoney.com and boards.ie, and neighbours.ie. Or even chat to real life neighbours. But what other things do savvy home buyers in Ireland look out for?
Here are nine searches buyers should do before taking the plunge:
Watch out for pyrite
If the material used to build your home contains pyrite, it can expand and crack over time. So pyrite can literally make your home fall apart. But how can you identify risky properties? A good starting point is this Government report on the issue. Most pyrite claims involved properties built between1997 and 2008. By far the worst years were 2002-2006.
The report identified Pyrite on 74 estates in five local authority areas: Fingal, Dublin City, Meath, Kildare and Offaly. At the time of the report (June 2012) there were 10,000 homes with a possible pyrite issue that had not been fixed. The report didn't identify the affected estates. But an online search might. Otherwise, watch out for serious cracks and doors that won't close, and always make sure to get a survey done.
Check for flooding
You've definitely noticed that it rains a lot in Ireland. And every winter, problems with flooding seem to get worse. Is your "dream home" on a floodplain? Or beside a local river that bursts it banks every other year?
Floods are news so any issues should show up online. Also watch out for warping and staining of skirting boards and lower walls. You can check areas prone to flooding here. Also ask for an insurance quote for the address in question. Your insurer won't be long telling you if the area is prone to flooding and/or excluded from cover.
Property price register
Are you really getting the bargain you think? Check property prices in the area – and even on the same road - through the Property Price Register. Take into account the fact that prices are rising and you may have to pay a bit more than the buyer who snapped up the place next door six months ago.
Management company accounts
If your dream property is subject to service charges, it's important to know how much they are and whether they are being put to good use. The management company – collectively controlled by the owners – is responsible for the upkeep of the development. It files annual returns which can be viewed on the Companies Registration Office website.
Always check the planning
Do you want to live next door to a new dump or sewage treatment plant? Or have that lovely view of the countryside ruined by a new housing estate? Check out what's planned for your area on the local authority's website. You can also search forums and news sites for any controversial new proposals.
You can also use the local authority's website to check the planning history for the house you intend to buy. Maybe you were banking on getting extra living space with an extension. But if this has already been refused, will the same thing happen to your plans?
Don't be caught by drainage
Do you want a manhole in the middle of your kitchen? The brochure says the extension is pre-63, which means you don't have to worry about the fact that there's no planning permission for it. Or do you? Be very careful with such extensions. Not only were many badly built, some kitchens were even constructed over the aforementioned manholes. Get your surveyor to watch out for any such drainage issues by searching the local authority's drainage plans, either online or in its offices.
Check it out after dark
Does the area change after dark? If you're not familiar with the area always check it out at night. Watch out for graffiti, broken windows and damage to cars which can be the telltale signs of problems. You can also Google the street address to find how often it pops up in court reports. You can also search the exact address to see if it has anything in the past (including planning applications) you should know about.
How is the property tax
You'll soon be a proud property owner. But the downside is you'll have to pay property tax. Brace yourself by looking up how much you'll have to pay with a handy guide from the Revenue Commissions here.
Get a bird's eye view
And finally, every property hunter should sign up for Google Earth. It will give you a bird's eye satellite view of the area you are interested. You can also get a street-level virtual tour before deciding on which properties to view. The scrapyard down the road– or waste depot around the corner – won't get a mention on the estate agent's brochure!
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