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How do we go about buying our first home?

So far we’ve managed to save about half of the 10 per cent deposit we’ll need to buy a small house

'Aside from saving, I’m not really sure where to start with the home-buying process.' Photograph: iStock

We’re thinking about buying our first home and looking for some advice on how we should proceed. I’m working as a nurse in Galway and have been saving with my husband for the last few years. I think we’ve managed to save about half of the 10 per cent deposit we’ll need to buy a small house. But aside from saving, I’m not really sure where to start with the home-buying process. I know it can be really hard to buy a suitable house so what do we need to do to be prepared for when we have the full 10 per cent?

Congratulations on taking the first steps towards buying your first home. It’s a major milestone and being well-prepared can make the process smoother and less stressful. Here are some tips to guide you along the way.

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

First things first, sort out your finances. You’ve done a great job saving half of your deposit. To proceed, you need to secure a mortgage. You could consult a mortgage broker to help assess your financial situation and determine how much you can afford. If you go it alone, make sure to shop around; the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission website has a useful comparison tool that calculates what your monthly repayments would be among different lenders. Remember to factor in all costs such as stamp duty, legal fees and other related expenses in your budget.

One of the most important aspects is determining the amount a lender is willing to lend you. To do this, you will need to obtain a mortgage “approval in principle” document, which provides an estimate of your borrowing capacity. This enables you to focus your house-hunting efforts on properties within the price range of the amount specified in your approval in principle document. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a critical step that strengthens your position as a serious buyer.


Reduce outgoings and increase the amount you save in the six months leading up to your mortgage application. By doing this you will demonstrate good financial management. This can help maximise the amount you can borrow.

If you buy a new-build home you could also take advantage of Government schemes for first-time buyers. The Help to Buy scheme allows first-time buyers to claim 10 per cent of their property value to help pay a deposit on a new-build home. It’s a Government tax-refund scheme, and to claim, you must have paid the equivalent amount in tax over the previous four years. The maximum claim is €30,000. There is also the First-Home Scheme which provides up to 30 per cent of the property’s value in return for a share in your home. You can find more information on

Line up your solicitor and chartered building surveyor. Once your offer is accepted, you’ll need a solicitor to handle the legal aspects of the purchase. A thorough survey or inspection by the chartered surveyor should reveal any structural issues with the property. Having these lined up in advance saves time.

Now that you know your budget, it’s time to research the market and see what’s available at that price point. Thorough research will enable you make informed decisions.

Two key aspects you need to consider are location and property type. Consider what you need in a home now and in the future. Think about proximity to work, schools, amenities and transport links. Deciding on the location where you want to purchase your home is important as it can have an impact on various aspects of your life, for example, how long it will take you to commute to work. I strongly recommend that you take some time to visit the different locations where you would like to live to figure out which one is the right neighbourhood for you.

Once you’ve got your ideal location narrowed down, you can start focusing on the specifics of the property you want. Here are a couple of things that first-time buyers usually consider about their new house:

  • How many bedrooms are required?
  • How many bathrooms are needed?
  • Do you need a space to have an office or desk to work from home?
  • Would you prefer a property that is detached, semidetached, an apartment or a bungalow?
  • Do you need a garden?
  • Do you have or wish to have pets?
  • Will you require parking?

Once you have finalised your ideal property features, it’s time to whittle down a list of the properties on the market that suit your needs. An easy way to get started with your house search is online. That way you can browse what properties are available and narrow down if there are properties that fit your requirements.

You can also set custom alerts or search alerts so that you will receive an email any time a property that fits your requirements appears online.

After your initial online search, I’d suggest you start contacting estate agents based in the area that you wish to move to. You can make them aware that you’re looking to purchase a property in the area and give them a list of the property features you wish to have in your new house. Once they know what type of property you are looking for, they will send you the details of anything suitable that comes on the market.

Think long-term when choosing a property. Consider factors such as potential family growth, changes in job locations and lifestyle preferences. It’s better to choose a home that can accommodate your future needs rather than having to move again soon.

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In a competitive market, preparedness is key. Do your research, organise your finances and keep a close eye on the market. While it may not be a fast or easy process, finding a property that suits your needs will be worth it in the long run.

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

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