Dublin apartments dating from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s can offer greater space and light than newer builds, but their most compelling feature is often their location, says Conor Gallagher of Gallagher Quigley. It can be an affordable way to buy into upmarket residential areas such as Clontarf, Sandymount, Dartry, Milltown, Ranelagh and Donnybrook. But before you buy, there are several key considerations, says Nicola Bergin of Bergins Estate Agents. So what do you need to look out for?
Some can be in very poor condition and have low energy ratings. Windows may need replacing, so before you make a bid, ask who the management company is and ask for the name of a contact person within it. Then contact the firm and ask for a set of its company accounts for the last two to three years, she advises.
“The agm minutes tell a lot,” she says. “A read of these should bring up any legacy issues there may be, such as fire safety. The management agm notes may also discuss tenders and costs for proposed works, such as replacing a flat roof or windows, or water ingress, that will help to give you an overview of the condition of the building fabric.”
The property's head lease will tell you what you can and can't do in the building, and whether short-term lets are allowed – critical if you have concerns about living among Airbnbs
Fire safety is another issue. “Prior to exchanging contracts, the property management company should be requested by your solicitor to confirm, or otherwise, whether the need for a programme of fire safety upgrade measures has been identified, undertaken or is planned for any part of this development,” says surveyor Patrick Kelleher of Patrick Kelleher & Associates.
The Multi-Unit Development, or Mud, Act of 2011 clearly defines what the management company does. A copy of the company’s annual report will document how its maintenance fees are spent, including what money is being paid into the sink fund that makes provision for upgrade and repairs.
The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has published a guide for consumers, Apartment Ownership under the Mud Act 2011. It covers rights and responsibilities, new requirements for fire safety and new measures to resolve disputes and can be found in the consumer guides section under the website’s advice button.
Balconies are another consideration. Whose responsibility are they? It may or may not be within the confines of the management company, says solicitor Mark Killilea, property and conveyancing specialist.
“If it’s within, then the onus is on the company to make repairs, but if not you may still need to get permission from the management company to do the works.” Get a surveyor to include it in his or her examination of the property and possibly have an engineer survey it separately.
The owner management company should be asked as part of the conveying process where the balconies in any development are affected by structural issues, says Kelleher.
Roof construction should also be noted, whether it is pitched or flat. Flat roofs require planned and routine maintenance. Purchasers should be aware if any part of the apartment being purchased is below a flat roof, Kelleher says.
In many apartments of this vintage, windows will need replacing. In some developments, responsibility for window replacement rests with the owner. Existing window configurations must be matched in appearance. If the property has a fireplace, it’s a good idea to get a chimney survey along with a general surveyor’s report, Kelleher says.
Note how many doors open on to a landing. This will indicate how much traffic there will be past your front door
The property’s head lease will tell you what you can and can’t do in the building, whether you can make internal structural changes, go into attic space in top-floor units and whether short-term lets are allowed, which is critical if you have concerns about living among Airbnb lets, says Bergin. “Before you buy, ask the management company if there are any rules preventing you from reconfiguring the apartment,” she says. “If you do make changes, you will need a certificate of compliance if you go to sell.”
Note how many doors open on to a landing also. This will indicate how much traffic there will be past your front door, Bergin says. Look also at the size of the lift. If trading down, you may want to consider whether it can accommodate a wheelchair.
Also ask about individuals or individual firms buying up multiple units within the block or complex. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Bergin says. St Cathryn’s Court on Newgrove Avenue in Sandymount is an example where a deal was done with two developers to build another storey on the roof, and in return the existing 1970s building would be upgraded with a new exterior, windows, a lift and CCTV.
Lastly, pay attention to the condition of the common areas. It tells you the profile of those living in the building and how attentive the management company is to its responsibilities.
20 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE BUYING
- How many units are in the block and on your floor?
- Of those, how many are owner occupied?
- Does the building have a lift and what size and vintage is it?
- How much is the annual management fee?
- Who is the management company? Seek a copy of the past three years of the company's accounts and agm notes. Also ask for contact details of the person with specific responsibility for your building.
- How many of the residents pay their management fees on time and how many are outstanding? A well-managed block should have next to none.
- What works have been undertaken in the building within the last 10 years?
- What works are scheduled to be undertaken?
- If works need to be done, has the cost been factored in to the management fee?
- What kind of roof does the property have?
- If buying on the top floor, do you own the attic space above it and can it be used for additional storage?
- To replace/upgrade windows must they conform to a certain style? Does the management committee need to be informed? Who pays for such refurbishments?
- Does the management committee need to be informed about changes to the interior layout?
- Do any such internal reconfigurations require new fire and/or building regulations certs?
- Request to see the fire safety certificate for the building and a separate fire safety certificate for the apartment in question.
- When was the fire alarm system installed and when was the last time it was upgraded?
- If the property has a balcony, who owns it? If it is in need of repairs, is the onus on the owner or on the management committee? If the owner makes repairs, does that render them liable for any problems arising from these works?
- Is parking designated? If not, what is the allocation per unit? Also what is the visitor parking capacity?
- Is the agent aware of any move by an individual or firm to buy up multiple units in the development?
- If the property has an open fireplace can it burn solid fuel under the management's terms and conditions?
CLASSIC HITS: 16 OLD-SCHOOL TWO-BEDS FOR SALE
8 Fortwilliam, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock
Knight Frank, €425,000
One of 48 apartments split over two blocks built in the 1970s. The 82sq m property is on the first floor. The dual aspect unit has one shower room, a C3 Ber and a lift. Annual management fees €2,600.
5 Dawson Court, Cross Avenue, Blackrock
Built in 1969 and one of 17 apartments in the block. This property measures 82sq m, has one bathroom, a C3 Ber and a lift. Annual management fees €2,470.
2 Richmond House, Richmond Hill, Monkstown
Built in 1975 in an award-winning scheme. This 88sq m property comes with a south-facing enclosed balcony, an F Ber-rating, two bathrooms, and a lift. Annual management fees €3,614.
1 Cool Na Mara, Marine Terrace, Dún Laoghaire
This 85sq m two-bed, two-bath unit dates from 1981. It has sea views, 2.8 m ceiling heights and lift access. On the raised ground floor the F Ber-rated property is one of just 12 and is wheelchair accessible from the car park.
1 Parliament Buildings, 5 Cork Hill, Dame Street, Dublin 2
Eoin O'Neill, €320,000
A 1980s converted two-bed, with one internal bathroom, no heating, an E Ber rating. There is a lift and views of Dublin Castle. Annual management fees €1,800.
33 Seabury, Sydney Parade Avenue, Sandymount, Dublin 4
This 1970s build of three blocks overlooks a grassy central area. No 33 is a two-bath, 83sq m first-floor unit close to the sea. D2-rated with an open fireplace and a separate kitchen. No lift.
45 Merrion Court, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Two-bath top-floor 1970s apartment of 91sq m in the embassy belt. Bright and spacious with lift access and an F Ber rating. Service charge €1,500.
17 Ilex House, Mespil Estate, Dublin 4
Two-bed, ground-floor apartment in 1960s block in a well-known scheme completed between 1951 and 1972. D Ber rating.
16 Burleigh Court, Burlington Road, Dublin 4
First floor, two-bath unit built circa 1978. The 91sq m property comes with a lift and a B3 Ber rating. Annual management fee €2,121
5 St Ann's, Donnybrook, Dublin 4
Colliers, €650, 000
Two-bath first-floor unit built in 1975 measuring 84sq m. The D1 Ber-rated property was recently upgraded and has lift access. Annual service fee of €3,500 includes heating.
24 Temple Hill, Terenure, Dublin 6W
Top-floor unit measuring 77sq m with D2 Ber rating and south-facing enclosed balcony. Built in 1980. No lift.
75 Seapark, Mount Prospect Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Hamill Estate Agents, €285,000
Top-floor 1962 built unit with 60sq m and a D1 Ber rating. One of 160 apartments across nine blocks. No lift. Management fee €1,750.
57 Crescent House, Clontarf, Dublin 3
First-floor 1980s unit of 68sq m with C2 Ber-rating. Balcony overlooks the Crescent. There is a lift and bike storage. Management fee €1,520.
130 Brooklawn, Strandville Avenue, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Gallagher Quigley, €330,000
Ground-floor, dual-aspect unit of 55sq m, built in 1980. Situated behind the Garda station. F Ber rating and east-facing balcony. No lift. Management fee €1,700.
18 Venetian Hall, Howth Road, Killester, Dublin 5
This 1984 first-floor unit of 64 sq m has an open fireplace, southeast-facing balcony, lift access and includes a storage shed. Management fee €1,950.