Home for the holidays: is it possible to house-hunt at Christmas?

Estate agents may be closed, but that needn’t deter expats hoping to return from gleaning property intelligence while they are home

“Sellers that are in the marketplace at Christmas are motivated to sell. Equally, a buyer that wants to view a property at Christmas is not a tyre-kicker.” Photograph: iStock

As the arrivals halls at Dublin Airport fills with expats returned for the holidays, some may be hoping to check out the property market while they’re home. Many estate agents will close from December 21st and not reopen again until 2019, so is there any option for hopeful overseas buyers over the festive period?

It is actually quite easy, says Breffnie O’Kelly, who operates a property-buying agency in Dublin.

“While you may not be able to establish viewings, you can do a lot of home-buying homework, starting with establishing a budget that you can afford, one that includes fees to surveyors, solicitors and currency exchange implications,” she says.

An exchange such as CurrencyFair may work out cheaper than using a traditional bank, O’Kelly says.


Karl Deeter of Irish Mortgage Brokers says prospective buyers from overseas may also need to supply bank and savings statements and credit searches from the countries in which they currently reside. Bear in mind, though, that most banks here will only consider mortgages for those with Irish-held accounts.

PPS number

If you plan on applying for a mortgage, your application needs to include a tax number, more commonly known here as a PPS number. A person who held a PPS number previously and then moved to another country does not need to apply for a new PPS number. The original PPS number can be sourced through the Client Identity Services section at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (+353-71-9672616). They will need to verify an individual’s identity before any personal information can be given.

If buying with a view to short-term renting before moving back, then do the figures on costs including purchase price, refurbishment costs and what rent you can achieve, says O’Kelly, who charges flat fees to her clients based on the value of the property. “You need to find out if the property has been rented previously and if the rent is capped, then work out what you can hope to achieve per annum, minus costs.”

Walk around the area or do the activity that you like to do in that area

You also need to figure out the areas in which you can afford to buy. Handy tools on property portals such as MyHome.ie will show which areas in the capital fall within your budget. A casual telephone chat with local agents will also provide good local knowledge of the prices on specific roads. The Property Price Register (propertypriceregister.ie) is a useful – though imperfect – guide to the prices attained for individual properties since 2010.

Local agents

A friendly call to local agents from abroad will tell you what the best roads in each area are, O’Kelly says, but adds that you need to familiarise yourself with each agency’s pricing policies, as some price higher than others.

“If priced out of your desired area, then extend the search out by one kilometre, then two,” O’Kelly advises.

While you’re home it’s also crucial to explore the neighbourhood yourself. “Walk around the area or do the activity that you like to do in that area. If running is your thing, is there a park nearby that you will feel safe in? If you want to bring your dog home, is there somewhere to walk it? If you’re planning to start a family, are there schools nearby?”

If buying a property in need of modernisation, you are going to need a good surveyor to provide some estimate of renovation costs, says Patrick Kelleher of chartered building surveyors Kelleher & Associates. His firm is on holidays from December 21st but can address early January requests and, in urgent cases, a summary report can be delivered the day after he or one of his colleagues gets into the home. But getting in during the festivities can be problematic, especially if the vendors are in situ.

An Eircode search will show you the physical outline of all the properties on the street so you can see which ones have been extended and what shapes and sizes those extensions are. Google Maps can tell you how long the commute will be, while its street view facility is extremely useful both from above and on street.

Strong rents

David Johnston of Inhous, a high-end buyers’ agency with offices in London and Dublin and opening a third in Hong Kong in early 2019, says clients are seeing value in the Dublin market now because rents are strong.

“Here, properties over the €1.5 million mark range from £500 to £700 per sq ft compared with London prices of £2,500 to £3,000 per sq ft.”

His firm charges a flat fee of 2 per cent to buyers who are time poor.

“Negotiation is a big part of what we do, so if a property costs €1 million we may suggest to our buyer to make an offer of €800,000.”

Inhous’s clients tend to expect underfloor heating, integrated lighting systems and ensuite bathrooms as standard. If the property isn’t up to scratch, then the costs needed to bring it up to that level need to be factored in, he says.

The festive period can be a smart time to buy, says Carol Tallon, author of the Irish Property Buyers' Handbook. "Sellers that are in the marketplace at Christmas are motivated to sell. Equally, a buyer that wants to view a property at Christmas is not a tyre-kicker."

She says people home from abroad, especially those looking beyond Dublin, are being accommodated by local agents, and buyers will dedicate time to view properties, often adding extra days to their time home for this purpose.

“The estate agent’s window, especially in towns and smaller cities, remains very important over the Christmas period.”



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