We’re ready to buy our first home but don’t know where or what to look for

Property Clinic: Location trumps all when it comes to buying somewhere to settle down

My family and I live in a rented home in west Wicklow. We’ve loved living here and have built our life here. Our kids love their schools and we have many close friends here. However, we feel we need to stop throwing money away on rent and try to buy a family home for our children to grow up in and have more stability. Our eldest will be starting secondary school in August next year, so we feel now is the perfect time to try to relocate. The problem is that there are so few homes for sale in our area and they are all out of our price range. It seems like our only option is to move to another commuter town, but we don’t know where to start. Do you have any recommendations for where to look and what to look for in a new area? How do we go about searching for a place to buy in a different commuter town further away?

You are not alone in finding it hard to find a home in the current market. Many people like you are opting to widen their area of search to commuter towns. There is much to consider when searching for a home in a new area, writes Majella Galvin.

First you should ask yourself a few questions. How far are you willing to commute, how close to work do you want to be or need to be? You mention you have friends where you currently live — is it important to be close to them? The answers to these questions will help direct you to the right area so you can start exploring. For many their job will be their anchoring point, so when you know how far you are willing to commute, you can start looking within a certain radius and assess the commute time by car or on public transport.

There is a huge amount of information available to those researching properties now, both online and offline. Most importantly, think area first, house second. The easiest and most straightforward thing to do is to visit the area at different times of the day so you get a full picture of what it’s like.


Make a list of the things you value in an area. What local amenities are important to you? You mention your son is starting secondary school soon, so check out the local schools. Perhaps you need access to a bus route. What parks, gyms and other amenities are in the area? Consider any potential developments or changes in the area by accessing the local authority plan to see what plans or proposals are in place for the locality.

When you have researched your area, it’s time to focus on making a list of your property needs so that you have a clear picture of what type of property best suits your requirements. How many bedrooms? What size? What type — detached or semi-detached? Is a garden important to you? What is your budget?

Online is a good place to start your search with property portals such as myhome.ie — which is owned by The Irish Times — and daft.ie. Based on the list of your needs and preferred locations, check out the prices in the area. Are they within your budget?

Don’t forget to register your interest with chartered estate agents in your search areas. Not all properties appear on the portals, so get on the various agents’ mailing lists to ensure you don’t miss out.

Virtual tours are a great way to narrow down the number of properties you will view in person. This helps save you time. When you find a property that ticks your proverbial boxes, take a drive around the neighbourhood before booking a viewing. Does it feel safe? How do the neighbouring houses look?

Here are just some of the things to think about and to ask the estate agent when viewing a property;

What is the timescale for the sale? Does the property have good broadband? This will be vital if you or your partner work from home. What is the property’s BER rating? Why are the current owners selling? Are there any noise issues? Is there any evidence of dampness?

It is highly recommended that you instruct a chartered building surveyor to carry out a structural survey if you choose to put an offer on the property. For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial commitment they will make in their lives. Having a structural survey done will ensure you know what you are buying.

Almost all of the elements of location research will come down to personal preference. The most important thing to remember is that this is more of a permanent investment as opposed to a simple decision to live in a particular place for a period of time. The property you buy should also increase in value while providing you with a roof over your head.

Finally, One also has to be realistic. It’s very rare that people find the perfect property in the ideal location, especially so in Ireland at the moment with property supply at such low levels. And while you can install a new kitchen or redecorate your livingroom, what happens in the area around you is pretty much outside of your control. That’s why location is arguably the most important thing of all.

Majella Galvin is an estate agent and member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland