Buying a new home is probably the biggest investment you will ever make. Aside from location and cost, there are many aspects to be considered such as orientation and light, building style, space and layout, storage, fitted furniture, energy performance and the use of renewable energy sources.
Two houses on the same street can differ in many of these aspects and a RIAI-registered architect will be able to offer you professional advice when consider buying. They will be able to identify quality homes, offer ideas on optimising space, and in the case of new properties, negotiate simple but effective improvements.
When buying off-plan, you and your architect may be able to negotiate in the current ‘buyers market’ the best property for your budget.
When buying a new property off-plan, you and your architect may be able to request changes to the interior layout, select fitted furniture such as kitchens and bathrooms and finishes, and determine the positioning of radiators, which can have a big effect on the placement of furniture.
Questions to ask yourself when considering buying:
- What does my preferred neighbourhood look like? A well-designed neighbourhood should feel safe, pleasant to walk in and have connections with other areas and local infrastructure.
- How important is access to public transport and the availability of local infrastructure such as shops and schools? Do you want to walk to work, to schools and shops? What facilities are within a 10-minute walk?
- Do I like living in the countryside? What are the nearest connections to shops, schools and medical services?
- How import is outdoor space for me? Do I like a garden or a maintenance free outdoor space? Are there accessible local parks and green spaces for walks?
- Do I need a garage for car and bicycles or a garden workshop?
- What is my preferred house type in my budget range and location? Terraced house, town house, semi-detached or one-off? In urban areas, you may have to compromise on indoor and outdoor space to be closer to work and local amenities.
- What is the Building Energy Rating? All homes for sale or rate (new and existing) must provide a Building Energy Rating certificate.
- Does the property come with any special energy saving features, such as solar collectors for hot water, a heat pump or heating from a renewable source (wood pellets)? Does it form part of a district heating system?
- Which rooms should receive direct light and at what times during the day? For example, if you are working outside your home during the day, a west facing living room with late afternoon sunlight and access to the rear garden might be a priority for you.
- Is the property sufficiently open to receive natural light? Ask your architect to give options and costings for access to more sunlight such as larger windows, roof lights and sun-rooms (subject to planning permission).
- Is the property sufficiently flexible to allow future layout changes? What internal walls are structural? Can rooms be interchangeable? Ask your architect to identify the potential for future extensions, attic conversions or a remodelling of existing space.
- When you buy a new house or apartment, check to see that it has been designed by a registered architect.
- How has the house been constructed and what materials have been used? Are they expensive to maintain? Have materials been used that have a low environmental impact?
- Is the house a Protected Structure? You will need the advise of a Conservation Architect on any changes you are planning. (see Protected Structures)
- In case of apartments, check the management fees, what do they cover and how will communal areas be maintained?
The Snag List
Prior to the final completion of a building and before you take ownership, you will be asked to produce a snag list to identify any building defects. It is advisable to engage a registered architect to compile a detailed snag list as defects can be easily missed.
The Snag List is produced by the purchaser prior to the final completion of a building to identify any building defects. It is advisable to engage a registered architect to compile a detailed snag list. Defects can be easily missed and architects are professionally trained to look at building details.
Typical building defects may include:
- Poor workmanship and finishes
- Faulty plumbing: leaking cisterns and WCs;
- Poorly connected pipes
- Plaster settlement cracks in walls or ceilings
- Faulty electrics
- Faulty heating