Completion

The final step

Completion (or closing) is the name given to the signing of the final deed of sale, the date of which is usually five to eight weeks after signing the purchase contract, as stated in that contract (although it may be ‘moveable’).

The exact date will be set by the buyer’s solicitor once his client’s mortgage has been approved. Before closing, the buyer’s solicitor will carry out the final searches on title, including:

  • a land registry or registry of deeds search to ascertain whether there are any restrictions on title such as outstanding mortgages or rights of residence. In the case of registered land, there are some burdens which aren’t subject to registration such as outstanding estate duty, succession duty, rent charges, land improvement charges, annuities, rights of the public and short-term tenancies. The vendor is usually required to swear an affidavit that none of these burdens affect the property;
  • a company search (with the Companies Registration office) in the case of company purchases;
  • a judgement search (at the Central Office of the High Court) to reveal any record of litigation ( lis pendens) affecting the property and any debts owed by the vendor which don’t affect the property directly, but indicate the possibility of the debt having been converted into a ‘ judgement mortgage’ registered against the property;
    a bankruptcy search (if the vendor is bankrupt, the property will be held by an Official Assignee who cannot transfer good title);
  • a sheriff and revenue sheriff search (in the case of leasehold property only) to disclose any debts owed by the vendor.

Completion involves the signing of the deed of purchase (the vendor must sign it prior to completion, the buyer within one month of completion), transferring ownership of the property, and the payment of the balance of the purchase price (less the deposit and, if applicable, the amount of a mortgage), plus other payments such as solicitor’s fees, taxes and duties.

Final Checks

Property is sold subject to the condition that it’s accepted in the state it’s in at the time of completion; you should therefore be aware of anything that occurs between signing the purchase contract and completion.

Before signing the deed of sale, it’s important to check that the property hasn’t fallen down or been damaged in any way, e.g. by a storm or vandals (or the previous owner!). If you’ve employed a solicitor or are buying through an agent, he should accompany you on this visit. You should also do a final inventory immediately prior to completion (the previous owner should have already vacated the property) to ensure that the vendor hasn’t absconded with anything that was included in the price. You should have an inventory of the fixtures and fittings and anything that was included in the contract or purchased separately, e.g. carpets, light fittings or curtains, and check that they’re present and in good order. This is particularly important if furniture and furnishings (and major appliances) were included in the price.

You should also ensure that expensive items (such as kitchen appliances) haven’t been substituted by inferior (possibly secondhand) items. Any fixtures and fittings (and garden plants and shrubs) present in a property when you viewed it should still be there when you take possession, unless otherwise stated in the contract.

If you find that anything is missing or damaged or isn’t in working order, you should make a note and insist on immediate restitution such as an appropriate reduction in the amount to be paid. In such cases it’s normal for your solicitor to delay the signing of the deed until the matter is settled, although an appropriate amount could be withheld from the vendor’s proceeds to pay for repairs or replacements. You should refuse to go through with the purchase if you aren’t completely satisfied, as it will be difficult or impossible to obtain redress later. If it isn’t possible to complete the sale, you should consult your solicitor concerning your rights and the return of your deposit and any other fees already paid.

Power of Attorney

Either the vendor or the buyer may give a third party (e.g. a solicitor) power of attorney to sign the contract or deed on his behalf. This is quite common among foreign buyers and sellers and can be arranged by your solicitor. If a couple buy a property in both their names, the wife can give the husband power of attorney (or vice versa). Note, however, that it can be dangerous to give someone power of attorney, and in most cases it’s unnecessary. If you need to give power of attorney, you should make sure you give it to someone not only whom you can trust, but who knows you well, or you could find yourself bound to an agreement of which you don’t approve.

Payment

The balance of the price after the deposit and any mortgages have been subtracted must be paid by banker’s draft or bank transfer. Usually, the most convenient way is by banker’s draft, which means that you’ll have the payment in your possession (a bank cannot lose it!) and the solicitor can confirm it immediately. It also allows you to withhold payment if there’s a last minute problem that cannot be resolved.

Non-resident buyers no longer need a certificate from an Irish bank stating that the amount to be paid has been exchanged or converted from a foreign currency, although it must be reported to the Bank of Ireland in accordance with legislation relating to money laundering. Non-residents may also be required to confirm their tax situation (i.e. whether or not they’re liable for income tax in Ireland).

Note that even if the vendor and buyer are of the same foreign nationality, the final payment must be made in Irish euro. After you’ve paid, your solicitor should give you a receipt and an unsigned copy of the purchase deed showing that you’re the new owner of the property. You’ll also receive the keys!

Registration

After stamping by the Revenue Commissioners (if stamp duty is payable), the title deed is lodged for registration with either the land registry or the registry of deeds and returned to the buyer or, if the property is mortgaged, to his lender who retains it for the duration of the mortgage. When the mortgage has been repaid, the lending institution issues a ‘vacate’ (a kind of receipt) confirming that the loan has been repaid and transferring title to the owner.

This article is an extract from Living and working in Ireland. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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