Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Step 6: Make an offer

I am not sure what to advise here. What we did was go to see a place again and double check we liked it. Then we went to a hotel and sat over a coffee and decided to put in an offer and decided what we would offer, and what our max price we'd pay was. (As it turned out both were the same).

We rang the agent and said that we would like to make an offer. He said he doubted the owner would accept it. We said to ask them anyhow, it was the only offer we would be making.

He told us it would be 2 or 3 days before we heard.

He rang after 4 and told us they would sell for an extra X thousand. We stood our ground and said thanks and goodbye. They said hold on, we want to think about it for 24 hours. They took 36 to come back and accepted our offer.

Now, I have heard a million stories about the whole offer process and here are my thoughts:

  1. Decide your max before looking at houses and don't increase it because the house is especially nice.

  2. Offer under the asking price. Especially now in the current market, but do so anyhow. What have you got to loose?

  3. Don't be scared by there being another offer in. There are lots of houses to go around and the chances 50/50 on most offers actually existing.

  4. Stay in control. It is you who has the money, so you call the shots.

Also remember - I have never bought a house before (or this one yet) so this is only my thoughts after my vast experience - decide for yourself.

Once your offer is accepted you have a few days to sort out getting your booking deposit to the estate agent. If you have already sorted out a solicitor you may want to do this through them.

At his point you should let your Bank or mortgage adviser know.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Step 5: Start (or continue) looking for a house

After about eight working days our mortgage adviser rang to let us know we had approval for two different amounts - the amount we wanted to borrow, and one quite a bit higher. The higher one was (as far as I can guess) the most we could borrow. We had not asked for this amount at all.
I figure the mortgage adviser was just adding it to encourage us to borrow more - remember, although they are paid by the banks they still get more if you borrow more. I just mention this as it means that as it is in their interest for you to borrow more, they are less likely to give you advice against over borrowing.
Well, we know what we can afford so decided to stick with the lower figure (which is still a hell of a lot of debt to be getting into!). As we got our approval the housing market was showing very few sales, and quite a lot of price drops. We found this out by a mixture of watching houses we liked over a number of months, from general newspaper articles, and also fro the lists of price drops online at
I've put a number of links at the side which may come in handy when searching for a home in Galway (and other parts of Ireland). We tended to be searching through daft most evenings, and also every week we would look at Douglas Newman Good and Sherry Fitz. There were a lot of other sites we looked at but those are the ones we spent the most time on.

If like us you are living a few hundred miles away from where you are buying you will want to pick out a handful of places for each visit. We generally looked at 2 or 3 a day. Any more than that and it just gets confusing.
Once you view a house write some notes, or even better - write as you walk through it. You may think you will remember it all but once you have been around a couple it all gets muddled in your mind.
Also, make a list of things you want to ask -
Water mains or group scheme.
PVC/wood/double glazing windows.
Septic tank and/or sink tank.
Oil or gas cooker, and heating.
Back boiler.
Date built.
Rented or owner occupied.
Attic insulation.
Schools, buses, trains.
Quality of wiring.
Water pressure.
Number of sockets.

You can ask all this afterwards, but it is a good idea to get a lot out of the way as early as possible. It means you can look at the property with that in mind, and not be left wondering about a place only to find it does not suit for some fundamental reason. Decide what are walk away issues and what you will be willing to accept if the price is right.

Then try to book the viewings and fit them all in. Ring a few days, to a week, ahead of going down. Then ring to confirm the day before you go to view. That way you are not going to be left hanging around. We came across a mix of different estate agents. Some were totally not interested and were no help at all. Others were 'not in charge of this account. Just showing it for another girl'. (Disgraceful carry on!). Then you have the really nice ones who will give you lots of info and follow up with answers to your questions. Even these ones you should watch out for - double check everything - it's your life savings on the line and you can't bring a spoken word to court!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Step 4: The waiting game

This is a pain in the bum.

I've never found waiting so hard. All our hopes and dreams were really dependent on the answer to the mortgage application. Are we staying in Dublin? Are we moving to Galway? Will they blame a refusal on my missed credit card payment back in 1992? Will she dump me because of that? Where will I live if we split up over my missed credit card payment causing us to be refused a mortgage? Will I loose my job because I descend into madness with all this infuriating waiting?

Yes, it really got me over thinking! I would suggest you try to get away for a couple of days while waiting for a mortgage to be approved. I don't mean blow all those savings, I just mean something to occupy your mind. We just went down to Galway for a weekend and looked at some areas to give ourselves a bit of a mind map of the area we could refer to later when looking through property listings.

The other small bit of advice is to ask the mortgage advisor or lending facility how long it will be before you hear anything back. If they say 5 working days, make it 7 in your mind because that way you will not be crawling up the walls by lunchtime on day five.

For us it took 5 days to hear back, but about 8 working days to get full details. After 5 the mortgage broker rang to tell us that we had been approved by 2 so it took the sting out of the rest of the wait. You may want to ask yours to do the same (I'd advise it).

Friday, December 14, 2007

Step 3: Decide how you will apply

There are two ways to go about this - you can go to each individual lender and apply yourself in person, or you can get a mortgage broker to do it for you. I am not aware of any other way, but if you are put it as a comment and I will edit this.

We decided to go for a mortgage broker, as it is going to be our first time buying a house so we need all the help and advice we can get. There are a lot out there and we selected Homeloans who seem quite good so far (keep reading and I will keep reporting). They allow you to apply online at -
I have not figured out why they have the online application forms as they called me back and sent out forms where we filled out the same details. I mention this as if you use them you may want to just ring and get the forms rather than fill out the forms twice.

We actually found it quite good as it pointed out the information we needed. Of course you can just look at my previous post and find out!

Things I hadn't known:
  • Mortgage brokers are paid by the lenders, not by you
  • You get approval, but the lender may still turn you down later if they discover something new about you
  • How scared you become about that overdue credit card bill from 10 years ago

Once we had all the right forms filled out and documents gathered we sent them on to the mortgage broker. We sent them by swiftpost which cost a few euros but it would have cost a lot more to replace the documents if they were lost.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Step 2: Documents, Documents, Documents

Having started on the saving street we found ourselves broke with nothing to do and had to pass the time while spending no cash. We decided to get ahead of schedule with the documents for our mortgage application. It is surprising what you need so I thought I'd list some of what we had to provide:

12 months bank statements.
That's worth keeping in mind when you start saving, or even beforehand. If you do not have the statements from 12 months previous, you will be a little peeved when you find out how much the banks charge you for replacements. I was hit with a €6.80 charge from Bank of Ireland for a single statement copy. I was furious and wrote a letter of complaint but have not heard anything back other than a standard issue letter telling me someone was looking into it.

6 months salary slips.
Another one people will tend not to hold onto. And for me it was a pain as ours are sent electronically. Point to note: there was no issue that they were printouts by me and not the company - as in, they were black and white. Remember that your salary will need to match what your salary cert says so don't make any plans to spoof your earnings!

Something you should have kept safe anyhow. Be sure to hold onto this and not leave it with the local video store as proof of address.

A salary certificate.
We are using a mortgage broker (more about that in another post) and they gave us a template one which we both had to get our employers to fill out. Worth taking this into consideration when estimating times. If your HR are very slow to get things done this can be an unforeseen delay to getting your mortgage application in.

Proof of savings.
As you will remember from my last post we used rabo direct for our savings, so were able to generate and print offaccount statements from there for free. However, you may nto save this way so remember to hold onto any statements from your savings accounts as you will need at least the latest one to show you have savings. Generally speaking, the more info you can provide the quicker a bank/building society will approve you.

Proof of Identity
This can be a photocopy of a driving license or passport. Not usually a hard thing to come by, but if you have neither you may want to check early on with a mortgage adviser for what alternatives are acceptable.

Other stuff -
You will also need to fill out a pretty long form, and provide details of any loans being paid off by the mortgage, as well as documents relating to any previous mortgage you have.

I know it was early on for us to be getting all our documents together, but it was well worth it. We had them all in a 'house' file and so when we came to apply we didn't have the headache of running around searching for the standard hard to find document. In my case that was the very expensive re-print of a bank statement (I mean - what the hell??? Was it printed by hand in gold leaf?).

Step 1: Save money

This is the start of it all.

Even if you are going to go for a 100% mortgage there are a lot of expenses so you should start saving as soon as possible. It is surprising how quickly the time goes by while you are saving, and how much you have to get done in that time.

We found that the step from saving to looking for a house flew by, although we were looking online almost from day 1. As they say - no harm in looking.

1. Keep savings separate

When saving it is a good idea to keep your savings separate from your day to day cash. In month one I had everything in one account and found it way too easy to spend an extra couple of euros on lunches or a pint with friends. After that I had a separate account where I put my savings each pay-day and so found it easier to manage my day to day spending separately from my savings.

2. Save first thing when you get paid

Don't be tempted to put the savings away at the end of the month. I was tempted to do this, thinking I could add the extra I saved to the main bit and so save more. It is better to save it first thing when you are paid. If it is not there you don't spend it. You can always add a little more when you have it.

3. Be interested in the interest

Over about 5 months I managed to add about €150 to my savings by choosing an account with a high interest rate. There are lots of options out there so look around before choosing one - and be wary of charges. What's the point in picking an account with high interest only to find they will charge you more than the interest in charges?
We decided to use rabo-direct, which is a Dutch Bank that trades under that name in Ireland. They are a 100% online bank which is a bit strange at times, but once you have your account set up and get used to their digipass (shown) it is plain sailing. They are currently giving 5% on balances up to 10K, although you are best checking the rate when you go to open your account. Their url is -

4. Where do you shop?

When trying to get a lot of money together in a short time it is well worth shopping around. We have all ready and heard Eddie Hobbs go on about finding the bargains in rip-off Ireland, but half of it is just to stop buying. I laughed as I read Eddie Hobb's mag 'yo and your money' and saw advert after advert for products I am not going to buy. Why? Because I want to keep my money. Obviously the mag needs to make money through advertisements, but the true way to take care of you and your money is not to spend your money on you.

While most Irish have become accustomed to their expensive pamper goods and stopping buying that starbucks coffee on the way to work may save a few euros, the biggest saving I noticed was with were we do our shopping. We have been doing a weekly shop in ALDI or LIDL once a week, and avoiding any other shopping other than milk and bread. This means for two people we are able to live on food costs of under €50 a week, so under €25 each a week, which if I am not wrong would be about two large lattes a day!

It can take a while getting used to the products you are not used to, but when you are sitting in a lovely home of your own it will be well worth it (I write while still renting!).

5. Just the one? No.

Your friends are your friends if you are there or not, so when if you have to skip a few events to save some money it will not matter. I am terrible for being tempted out for a pint, but with a bit of discipline have managed to save that few quid extra too. Give it a try, and if it proves too hard stay home and have your friends round. It'll still be far cheaper than the pub.

6. Stick with it

No more details on that one. Just stay saving.

So, give that about two months so you are aware of your expenses, earnings and savings. Now you get to do the fun part - work out how much you will have saved at what point. Make a chart of the next few months and then you can mark your progress against it. Try to be realistic - remember Birthdays, Christmas etc. It is worse being disappointed missing a goal, than it is to have a lower achievable goal in the first place.

At this stage you can look into any other methods of making some extra cash. Maybe sell those old X-Box games on E-Bay, or design a web site for your bosses wife. Who knows, but you do know there are a few euros out there waiting for you to earn them!

About this blog

Buying a home is one of those life-changing moves that almost everyone does. If you have done it already you are aware of how mind blowing nerve wrecking and nail biting it is.

You are most likely also aware of how many things you have to juggle and arrange in order to secure it all. If you have moved to a different city while securing your first house you will be aware of how near impossible that juggling act can seem.

At the moment myself and my partner are in the process of trying to move to Galway city on the West coast of Ireland, from Dublin city on the East coast of Ireland. This involves securing our first mortgage, buying our first home and sorting out finding new jobs or relocating our current ones.

My intention here is to provide both a time-line story of our experience, and more importantly provide as much useful information for anyone who may choose to do the same as we have.