I know that I may not look old enough (the photographer used some very crafty lighting), but I’ve been buying houses for people for ten years. So, I’ve put together a list of frequently asked questions, mixed in with some advice to help the process run as quickly and smoothly as possible for you. This is for buying a second-hand property, because buying a new build is a different story and I’ll cover that separately.

Should I get a survey done and if so when?

Yes. You wouldn’t buy a car without getting a mechanic to have a look at it. You probably have a builder buddy who will offer to look at the property but when you are making the biggest purchase of your life, you should hire an insured architect or structural engineer to inspect the property. If you are getting a mortgage the bank will conduct their own valuation report. This is not a structural report.

The surveyor will also check the condition of the property, any alternations to it, the boundaries (check out my separate blog on boundaries ) and services.

Get is done as soon as possible. It must be done before you sign contracts. It’s pointless to get it done afterwards as you will be bound to buy the property if contracts are signed and exchanged.

If I give a deposit to an estate agent, is it refundable?

Yes. All deposits given to the estate agent are refundable, unless specifically stated otherwise, which is highly unusual. The deposit should be paid to the official agent only. If you have any doubts about who you are asked to give a deposit to, give the deposit to your solicitor to pass on to the agent on your behalf.

How long does the process normally take?

After you give the deposit to the estate agent, contracts normally issue about 1-2 weeks later from the seller’s solicitor to the purchaser’s solicitor. If you have all your homework done, like your survey done and your full mortgage approval in place, you can expect to get the keys in approximately 4-6 weeks.

Does the seller give any warranties about the state of the premises?

No. It’s good old-fashioned caveat emptor territory here. Another good reason for getting a survey, as surveyors frequently detect extensions to the property that need to be addressed before contracts are signed. This is the reason why it’s so important that you get a survey done, before you sign a contract, so you know exactly what you are buying. This should not be confused with the planning warranty given by the seller in the contract.

What other inquiries could I do before contracts are signed?

You should do a planning search in the local authority planning office. Your surveyor can do this for you. A person of many talents! The planning search can tell you about any enforcement or warning notices served on the property by the local authority. It can also tell you about planned developments for the area in the future.

How is the Local Property Tax dealt with in the purchase?

You will pay the LPT due from the date you complete the purchase to the end of that calendar year. This will be paid on the day you get your keys through your solicitor. It will be added on to the purchase price. When your solicitor is paying your stamp duty, Revenue will be notified that the house was sold. See my separate blog on LPT

What happens on the day I get my keys?

Your solicitor will transfer the remainder of the purchase price to the seller’s solicitor. Your solicitor will review the legal documents and searches done on that day. Your solicitor will notify you that all the legal work is done and that your keys are available for collection from the office of the estate agent. Keys are usually available late in the afternoon on the day. It is advisable to check with the agent in advance how many sets of keys are available If you need keys to internal doors, garages or patios doors check the availability of these in advance with the agent.