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 http://www.irishpropertywatch.com/
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.
Rented or owner occupied.
Schools, buses, trains.
Quality of wiring.
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!