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Home buyer diaries: How a sound brother (and his lovely wife) helped Susan buy her home

bare house needs work

What did you buy?

We bought a mid-terrace in Drogheda (Meath Part) in a really quiet and lovely neighbourhood. It has 3 bedrooms, a living room and kitchen and a small garden. Because of our budget, we had to go for something structurally solid but still had a lot of stuff to be done by ourselves.

We lost bidding on the houses with less work ?

Have you had to do much work with it?

We are still doing things!

The structural things are solid, but previous owners neglected everything possible in the house, so we are painting, putting panels on the floors upstairs, carpeting on the staircase once we are done with the dirty job. We need to redo the toilets, shower and sinks as they are in very bad shape.

However, YouTube is your best friend!

I painted ceilings and walls myself, and it’s looking very good. The same for putting panels. It is not even the money; you can’t get anyone immediately to do the job, and it wasn’t possible to get an appointment before getting the keys. So depending on if you need to move in ASAP or have time, you can decide how to do it.

The garden is a mess, but we are so happy that we have one ?

How did you buy your home (parents/savings/lotto)?

We were able to save because we lived 3 years rent-free thanks to my brother and his wife; we contributed with all utility bills etc. However, we wouldn’t be able to save that much money without them.

Pandemic and WFH worked financially in our favour, as we had less spending and time. Still, we were very lucky as both our jobs were not affected by the Covid, actually, the opposite as we work in e-commerce and social media.

Any advice for homebuyers?

  • Set up a savings account where you (or both) put a certain amount every month. We saved €1250, with whatever extra like bonuses etc. I was also putting away for deposit. What I did is I determined the date (24 months from the day I started) and the amount €30,000, divided into months and set it up so €30,000/24=€1250 saved per month automatically by direct debit. Once you do it in a very systematic way with direct debit, it actually works!
  • Keep reading the experiences of other people, but remember yours will be different. However, reading what others experienced helped us get a context. Join first-time buyer groups on groups on FB etc like this one First Time Buyers Ireland
  • Don’t procrastinate; start with the first bank, then go to two more (we went without a broker, but that may not be your preference); not every bank is doing the same stress tests; some are easier to communicate etc. Also, if you are with a broker, make sure they go to more than one bank. At first, we went to BOI, but KBC offered us more (I think they included my bonuses, it was €14,000 more), and the process was easier. Also, different banks may have slightly different approaches to probation etc., so try your chances with a few!

A Good Solicitor is Key!

  • For service providers, the most important quality for me is if they were responsive or not. So make to get recommendations and check if there is enough staff to cover your point of contact for annual leave or if there’s out sick (COVID!) for example. I was ok with our solicitor, but the solicitor of the vendor was slowing things down as it was a one-person operation. Also, get ready to write a lot of emails and make a lot of phone calls to get things moving. A good solicitor is a key to an easy process.
  • What you had in your mind when you started the journey will probably look different at the end. Be ready to be flexible with the house location, or condition etc. I would suggest making a few MUST HAVE bullet points after the first couple of viewings. For example, ours were a garden where we could have shed (we both need a place for our hobby), a small room that we can make an office of since we both plan to work from home, fast fibre internet as the place we lived before made it difficult for us to work), close to school etc.
  • It is hard to enjoy the journey; to be honest, it is months of stress, delays, emails, phones etc. I live by the to-do list system for each day or week, so I would have each important phone, email, or research to do on a list and no procrastination in those tasks.
  • After the sale is agreed, start budgeting for the modernisation/renovation etc., dividing tasks that you can complete and tasks that need a professional. We also created a spreadsheet with the stuff to buy like a toaster, iron, bed etc., months ahead, putting in links and estimated budget. I find it less overwhelming this way, and it feels I have some control over the costs.
  • Set up your mortgage protection insurance early, also no harm in getting a quote for home insurance and have the email ready to send to activate the policies after the contracts are signed

Step by step is the best way here. In my opinion, trying to figure out everything at the beginning of the journey is overpowering. Once you do one step, you will find the guidance to the next one. No point in trying to control it all. It is partially luck anyway!

What providers did you use (bank/mortgage broker/estate agent/valuer)? Would you highly recommend or avoid any of them?

  • Lender: KBC – recommended
  • Insurer: arranged our mortgage protection (obviously recommended ?)
  • Solicitor: Direct Law solicitor, Skerries – it was ok, but if you have a more complicated situation or need more guidance with the Loan offer etc. I suggest paying more and get someone more into it. I was getting more answers from EA and the MP team in than my solicitor. All they were saying was – your things with the bank we don’t explain anything even when I wanted to consult one point of the loan offer. So I felt frustrated. On the other hand, they were replying quite quickly. I think they are more reactive than proactive, so depending on your needs and situation, choose wisely.
  • Home Insurance: through our bank KBC. I am happy we did because it was easy to get the indemnity letter this way. We needed the date change at the last moment before the drawdown, so it was easier to deal with as it was in everyone’s benefit to have it resolved.

Over to you

I hope your own journey to buying your home is going well.

If you need any help with the insurance side of things, please complete this questionnaire and I’ll be right back with some ideas.

Best of luck!


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