For most people buying a house that already exists there are three steps involved. 1) Finding a house, 2) Signing contracts and 3) Closing the transaction. Conveyancing the name commonly used for the legal process that gets you from a handshake with an estate agent to being the legal owner.

1) Finding a house

While some houses are bought and sold on a private basis, most property transactions in Ireland are done with the assistance of an auctioneer. The auctioneer advises on the presentation of the house, solicits bids and advises the vendor on the sales process. Interested buyers place their bids with the auctioneer, and if they are successful the auctioneer notifies all interested parties that the property is gone “sale agreed”. In Irish law this essentially means nothing more than the interested parties are going to work towards agreeing and executing a binding contract.

The auctioneer will usually request the successful bidder to place a booking deposit of approximately €5,000-€20,000 depending on the value of the property. At this point the purchaser will need to retain the services of a solicitor to assist in the remainder of the transaction.
The booking deposit is always refundable (unless you are clearly told otherwise) and is more a show of good faith, and a convenient way of making sure the auctioneers has funds on account for its fees (which are paid by the seller, and not the purchase.

2) Signing Contracts

After paying the booking deposit, contracts are usually dispatched by the vendor’s solicitor to the purchaser’s solicitor within 1 to 2 weeks.

The purchaser’s solicitor will review the title on offer and raise “pre contract enquiries”. Common enquiries would relate to rights of way, planning issues, or matters of title and ownership. The purchaser would also be well advised at this point to retain the services of an engineer to survey the property to ensure there are no expensive defects.

Once the title and all other aspects of the property check out, you will be invited to attend the office of your solicitor to sign contracts and pay a deposit of no more than 15% of the entire purchase price. Once contracts are signed by all parties you have reached the point of no return; and a binding contract exists. The only big exception to this is where a contract may be signed subject to finance, which is generally viewed as good practice.

3) Closing the transaction

The final step for the buyer of a house is to close the transaction. This is the point where you get the keys to the property, and it is the point where you pay the balance of the entire purchase price. If you are a cash buyer you will be asked by your solicitor to lodge the balance into the firm’s client account in advance of the closing date. If you are getting a mortgage then your solicitor will request funds from the Bank in enough time. On the closing date, the solicitor for the buyer will either attend the office of the vendor’s solicitor or close by way of an agreed postal closing procedure. Either way the result will be the same, a substantial sum of money will be exchanged for original title deeds, keys, and possession of your new home.