Buying a house is the single biggest purchase you will ever make. Couple this decision as an expat looking to return home and your head will start to spin. How do you line the ducks up; schooling, work, house, location? For us, the decision to leave Ireland was easier than the decision to move back. We came to the States with a plan to stay for two years, but like so many other expats it becomes a rolling two years. The reality is that re-entry is hard. Circumstances change, jobs change and opportunities come and go.
As the world is enveloped in lockdowns and quarantines your decision to move home might be moving more into focus. Perhaps your drivers are around wanting your kids to have the same upbringing and education you had, Grandparents that you want to be closer to, or simply wanting your kids to understand what “having the craic” means! Having just closed on our new home and with the rolling two-year return date now becoming an actual date here are my top tips for buying a property from abroad.
1. Ensure You Can Secure Financing
There are increased barriers for non-residents who wish to borrow. Getting a mortgage is difficult but not impossible. Develop a relationship with a knowledgeable mortgage broker who has a track record in securing financing for non-residents. They will tell you if you can borrow, lending amounts and rates. The vetting process takes time but having mortgage pre-approval at the beginning of your search sets you up for success. You don’t want to find your dream home only to discover that nobody will lend to you!
2. Understand Your Property Market
The Irish market, while more transparent now, still has opaque qualities that can make it difficult to know if a property is listed at market value. Properties can sit there for 12 months with no price adjustment, dig around and do your research. If you like an area, go onto the property register and find out what houses sold for in recent years. Google search the properties to see what the asking prices were. You will begin to develop a sense of value, which will help you when it comes to bidding.
3. Develop Relationships With Estate Agents
The supply of properties in Ireland is limited. Particularly in prime areas where good schools and services create high demand. Estate agents are overrun with enquiries. They will pay attention to buyers they know are serious. There isn’t an established Buyer’s Agent market in Ireland so you will have to do the leg work. Make calls, get to know key individuals, demonstrate that you are a serious buyer, keep in touch.
4. Have Boots On The Ground
Flying back to view every house is not realistic. Have a trusted relative or friend who can FaceTime you from a showing. They will help you understand if a property is worth shortlisting. It helps to know what you are not willing to compromise on in your search. For us it was orientation and off-street parking. Be patient. We searched for two years, we flew back 2-4 times a year to look at properties (sometimes as part of a family trip and other times solo).
5. Get In The Ring
If you like it, go for it. For us, we knew it was ‘the’ house the minute we walked in. Put in an offer. Know the upper price you are willing to go to and stick to it. Emotions come into play all the time (definitely guilty of that!) but decide on your upper limit and don’t go over it. If it helps, have somebody else do the bidding for you. If you don’t secure it, don’t fret, patience is key and your dream home will come up!
By Barbara O’Connell – Irish expat living in Chicago, wife, mother to two girls, Small Business advisor.
If you are considering a move home and want to start your search, feel free to reach out to our residential teamwho would be happy to help.