Our experts answer readers' queries
Are double and triple glazing very different?
Q I want to replace the windows in my house. Is there a big difference between double and triple glazing? Would they improve the energy efficiency and Building Energy Rating of my house significantly?
A U-value is the measure of the rate of heat loss through a material. The lower the U-value the better the element retains heat. In the software used to calculate the BER there is a great proportional improvement from single glazed windows to double/triple glazed. However there is very little difference between the top-of-the-range double/triple glazed windows. Because windows generally take up a small proportion of the overall external wall area, they tend to make a relatively minor difference to the overall BER rating. In my experience they can only make a difference from one rating to the other when the calculation is finely balanced.
Take the example of a 1960s’ hollow-block constructed house, with aluminium single glazing, a condensing boiler and good loft insulation. It currently has a D2 rating which is good for this type of property, mainly thanks to the condensing boiler.
The upgrade from single glazed to either double or triple glazed reduces the amount of CO2 emissions from the property but does not improve the overall BER rating. The difference between double and single glazing in terms of the BER is negligible.
It must be remembered that the BER is a largely notional reading and does not take into account a lot of real-life factors. Your current windows may be draughty and the replacement with either double or triple glazing could make a real difference to your thermal comfort.
One of the main advantages of triple glazing over double glazing is the sound insulation. If you live on a busy road then I would highly recommend triple glazing. If it is very expensive then you could consider just installing them on the front (to reduce noise) and double glazing on the rear. One factor to remember is to ensure any certificate provided by the window installer is in English and in accordance with ISO 12567-1. If it is not, then the rating advertised cannot be used in your BER.
Kevin Hollingsworth is chairman of the building surveying division of the Society of Chartered Surveyors
Should I opt for a rent-to-buy scheme?
Q My girlfriend and I are interested in participating in a rent-to-buy scheme in Dublin as we feel they are a good way to see if you like a place and you can wait and see what happens to property prices. Are they any good and what are the benefits/pitfalls?
A Many first-time buyers find it very difficult to save for a deposit towards a property purchase while paying rent. This is particularly so in Dublin where rents are highest. About three years ago, as a response to falling house sales, many developers and their agents came up with the “Rent-to-Buy” initiative to give people an alternative route to buying a home. Effectively the potential buyer agrees to rent a new built property over a specific period; normally two to three years. At the end of that period, or at any time during the leasing period, the tenant can exercise an option to buy the property and any rent they have paid since the start of the lease is put down as part payment of the deposit. So the rent equates to saving towards the deposit and gives the tenant a roof over their heads while they are saving.
Normally a price and monthly rent is agreed at the beginning but in reality, with falling property prices, the initial agreed price is rarely paid. Buyers try to renegotiate the price if and when they actually decide to buy.
Importantly there is no legal obligation for the tenant to buy the property but there is a legal obligation on the vendor to sell it to you if you wish to buy it.
On the face of it, it appears to be a win-win situation. The scheme has been running now on various new-home developments both in Dublin and across the country.
There is no hard evidence in terms of how successful it has been and so it is impossible to be fully objective on its success.
Anecdotally I feel that it has only enjoyed moderate success. Ultimately the poor market and difficulty in securing mortgage finance has meant that many first-time buyers simply cannot purchase. Others are perhaps deferring the purchase until they feel values may have bottomed out.
In summary, there are many positives to the scheme for buyers. Your rent is collected as a deposit, you can live in the development and experience what it is like to live in the area and own a property and you are under no obligation to buy.
The downside is that you may have to pay some form of booking deposit from the outset and if you did not proceed with the purchase you would lose this.
Second, the agreed monthly rent could be higher than the market rent for a similar property.
So my advice is that you should think long and hard about the property you are buying in terms of the area, proximity to work, transport links, essential amenities and whether the property is likely to meet your medium- to long-term needs before agreeing to such a purchase.
Gerard O’Toole is a chartered surveyor
How exactly do you buy a home?
Q My husband and I moved to Ireland from Poland 10 years ago and have saved enough to buy an apartment. We have been renting/sharing for many years but have now found an apartment we like and think we can afford. We want to make an offer but are not familiar with the process of buying in Ireland. Can you please explain how it should work, what we must be careful about and what else we should know?
A Congratulations on finding a property you like. You mentioned that you have saved enough money to buy the apartment but do not say whether you are borrowing part of the money from a bank to fund (or part-fund) the purchase. If you are borrowing part of the price, the first step is to engage with a bank or mortgage broker to seek mortgage approval. On receipt of approval you are in a position to put an offer on the property. The introduction of the property price register ( propertypriceregister.ie) allows you to do price comparisons for similar properties and to determine what you feel the property is worth, based on recent sales. It might also be time to determine what solicitor you might use if you are successful with your bid.
When putting an offer to the estate agent you should tell them if you are a cash buyer (if you are not borrowing any money) or mortgage-approved (if borrowing from the bank). If it is your first home purchase, let them know that.
Once you have agreed a price with the agent you will pay a booking deposit, which is fully refundable until you have signed contracts, of about 2 per cent to 3 per cent of the purchase price. The acceptance of your offer will be subject to your solicitor perusing the contract and title and inspection of the property by a structural surveyor.
The next step will be to tell your bank or mortgage broker that you have agreed a sale and they will have a valuation done on the property to ensure it is suitable for a mortgage. If you have your savings in a deposit account you might need to check the notice period required to withdraw the money.
On completion of due diligence by your solicitor, they will invite you to sign the contract and you will have to pay the balance of 10 per cent, taking into account that you have already paid a deposit to the estate agent. The contract will then be counter signed by the vendor and there is then a binding sale in place. A date for closing the sale of the property will be agreed between your solicitor and the vendor’s solicitor. Before closing the sale it is advisable to do a pre-closing inspection and to ensure all utilities have been put into your name.
Rowena Quinn is a chartered surveyor