It’s common for foreigners, particularly the British and Germans, to use an agent in their own country who works in conjunction with an Irish agent. Many Irish agents also advertise abroad, and in expatriate magazines and newspapers in Ireland. If you want to find an agent in a particular town or area, you can look under ‘Auctioneers’ in the local Golden Pages (available at main libraries in many countries).
Irish estate agents are regulated by law and must be professionally qualified and licensed. You should choose an agent who’s a member of a professional association such as the IAVI, which is by far the largest professional body in Ireland, or the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV). You should also ensure that an agent has a current auctioneer’s licence, which IAVI members are obliged to display prominently in their offices.
To become an individual member of the IAVI, auctioneers must have undertaken relevant studies or passed the Institute’s own exams. IAVI ‘member firm status’ is granted only to practices in which the majority of equity is held by qualified IAVI individual members; member firms are also subject to a disciplinary code and must have professional indemnity insurance, and the IAVI compensation fund (a deposit protection fund) applies only to IAVI members and (in the case of residential and land sales) associate member firms.
When you pay a deposit to an agent, it must (by law) be deposited in a separate client or current account, so that the agent derives no interest from the money. Note that the rules for Irish estate agents also apply to foreigners, who cannot sell property in Ireland without an Irish auctioneer’s licence.
There are no government controls on agents’ fees in Ireland, but the commission charged by most Irish agents is between 2 and 2.5 per cent. This fee is included in the sale price and effectively paid by the buyer.
Foreign agents located abroad often work with Irish agents and share the standard commission, so vendors usually pay no more by using them. When buying, check whether you need to pay commission or any extras in addition to the sale price, apart from the normal fees and taxes associated with buying a property.
If possible, you should decide where you want to live, what sort of property you want and your budget before visiting Ireland. Obtain details of as many properties as possible in your chosen area and price range, and make a shortlist of those you wish to view. The details provided by Irish estate agents can be sparse. Often there’s no photograph and, even when there is, it usually doesn’t do a property justice.
Note that there are no national property listings in Ireland, where each agent has his own list of properties for sale and it’s unusual for the same property to be listed with more than two agents. Irish agents who advertise in foreign journals or work closely with overseas agents may provide coloured photographs and a full description, particularly for the more expensive properties. The best agents provide an abundance of information. Agents vary in their efficiency and enthusiasm as well as in the number and variety of properties they have to offer. If an agent shows little interest in finding out exactly what you want, you should look elsewhere. If you’re using a foreign agent, confirm (and reconfirm) that a particular property is still for sale and the price, before travelling to Ireland to view it.
Note that Irish estate agents don’t usually require you to sign an agreement before showing you properties, although they may do so if you’re buying at auction. In Ireland, you’re usually shown properties personally by agents and won’t be given the keys (particularly to furnished properties) or be expected to deal with tenants or vendors directly.
You should make an appointment to see properties, as agents don’t usually like people turning up ‘on spec’. If you cannot keep an appointment, you should always call and cancel it. If you’re on holiday, it’s acceptable to drop in unannounced to have a look at what’s on offer, but don’t expect an agent to show you properties without an appointment. If you view properties during a holiday, it’s best to do so at the beginning so that you can return later to inspect any you particularly like a second and third time. Irish estate agents are usually open during lunch hours and on Saturdays.
You should try to view as many properties as possible during the time available, but allow sufficient time to view each property thoroughly, to travel between properties, and for breaks for sustenance. Make sure you also allow plenty of talking time, which is always necessary in Ireland!
Although it’s important to see sufficient properties to form an accurate opinion of price and quality, don’t see too many properties in one day (around six to eight is usually a manageable number), as it’s easy to become confused over the merits of each property. If you’re shown properties that don’t meet your specifications, tell the agent immediately. You can also help an agent narrow the field by telling him exactly what’s wrong with the properties you reject.
It’s wise to make notes of both the good and bad features and take lots of photographs of the properties you like, so that you’re able to compare them later at your leisure (but keep a record of which photos are of which house!). It’s also wise to mark properties on a map so that, should you wish to return later on your own, you can find them without getting lost (too often). The more a property appeals to you, the more you should look for faults and negative points; if you still like it after stressing all the negative points, it must have special appeal.
Most agents offer after sales services and will help you to engage a solicitor and arrange insurance, utilities, interior decorators and builders; many offer a full management and rental service on behalf of non-resident owners. Note, however, that agents may receive commissions for referrals, so you may not always receive impartial advice.