Buying Property In Ireland

When we first came to Ireland we had a look around the lower price end of the property market here, which after the recession, saw prices on some properties drop by up to 75%. A buyers market indeed. And in many parts of the country there are amazing bargains to be snapped up still, so this is definitely something to keep in mind if you’re planning on settling here. With that said though, cash is king right now and the banks are VERY sticky about giving mortgages.

If you are in a position to buy, or looking to invest in property here, there are loads of properties advertised for sale online and many more not, so it’s worth your time visiting property agents, or auctioneers as they are called here, offices and even asking around locally when shopping.

Most auctioneers we found are very helpful and informative, until it came to viewing the properties we were enquiring about… Things got interesting there. First of all, getting said auctioneer to leave their cozy office and go show you the property in question did not happen for us. What we did get was some delightfully vague directions along the lines of “Drive about a mile down that road, turn left at the school, continue down that road, second left…” We never did find that school. An hour, grand tour of the region and a stop at a dairy farm to ask the alarmed looking farmer for directions back to where we started later, we gave up and went searching for our next adventure… ehh, property to view.

Another property that looked promising from the single pic and description lead us down a dirt track and into a bog. Stopping for directions I asked an old lady how to get to Knocknagashel. She rather rudely told me “That’s not how you pronounce it!” I decided against telling her the place we were actually looking for from there was Meenbannivane…

Bottom line: Unless you have a good up-to-date GPS (ours swore we were in Spain at the time), a 4×4 and a burning desire to explore the region, talk the auctioneer into taking you to the property.

If/when you finally locate your property of interest, be prepared that it may not not resemble the 1-year old photos you saw when window shopping. This is often the case for properties on the lower price end of the market. Also be prepared that the auctioneer may never have set foot on or near the property in question and will be as surprised as you are about the state of the place. We went back and asked the auctioneer about the tree growing in the lounge of one house and she responded by telling me that same property is currently on the market for about a ¼ of it’s “one year ago” value… O.K. There is still a tree growing in the lounge… Another house we looked at haven’t been entered by a human since the previous owner (diseased) left it 10 years ago. The current owner, after using a crow bar to get the door open, had a wonderful time exploring the inside of the house and it’s contents with us. The previous owner’s breakfast dishes and condiments were still on the kitchen table… I found that both a bit sad and rather creepy.

Bottom line #2: Be open-minded.

With that said, some auctioneers are wonderfully honest about their properties. I remember a property description for a very derelict house in Co Clare, the description:  “Classic renovation project comprising derelict cottage, outbuilding on circa 3 acres partly hilly land. House has been empty for decades, and is now a roofless house shaped pile of stones with a hawthorn tree growing inside, and full of brambles. Situated in a quiet, rural, somewhat out of the way location with river running near the house. Access from the public road by drivable track . Numerous mature trees on site. Small scale quarry on site. Major project for the adventurous. Could be wonderful.” Got to love that optimism!

Stopping for directions to properties can be half the fun of property shopping here. In North Cork I got invited in for a cup of tea by a lady who’s house we stopped by to ask for help, after failing to locate a cottage we were interested in. Turned out we drove past it 3 times, not recognising it. (See the bit above about 1-year old pics). On more than one occasion our stopping to ask for directions resulted in “Oh, such-and-such’s house is for sale! How much do they want for it?” And a lengthy discussion about the property and poor such-and-such while we patiently waited for directions. My personal favourite was an old man walking his dog who gave me the most delightful and delighted grin, telling me “Yer lost! Yer lost” I think we made his day… I still smile when I remember that.

Bottom line #3: Be patient.

Now, an important and another very interesting part of buying property here especially is: the price. Asking prices are one thing (and often wishful thinking on the vendor’s part). Offering prices that may be considered and accepted, are a completely different thing. We got advised (by auctioneers) to offer €90,000 on a house that was at the time listed at €265,000 and €25,000 for a house that was listed at nearly €80,000. Talk to the auctioneers about your budget and don’t be shy to under offer if it looks feasible. Obviously this kind of under offering is not going to work everywhere and on any type of property, but there often is wiggle room and sometimes quite a lot of it. Especially on properties in less desirable areas (outside Dublin for starters) and properties that have been vacant and on the market for a year or so.

We ended up renting a property for the time being, but are still watching the market and watching prices rise and fall in regions, so depending on where you’d like to buy, it will be well worth it to take some time and do your homework before committing.
Happy house hunting!

Driving In Ireland

When I moved to Ireland I considered myself a very good driver…. I’ve since become an expert in driving on the wrong side of the road, down the middle of the road and even on the pavement, if needed. I can execute split second emergency stops on muddy country roads, I’ve become a pro at hedge clipping, without damaging the paintwork on my car, going through roundabouts without slowing down much, squeezing past oncoming vehicles with literally millimetres to spare (without panicking) and I can park like a pro… Wherever I can fit my car, including on the street.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing?!?

See the Stop sign a little bit further down the road? Enough said…

Ireland’s roads are interesting and driving here even more so. With that said, driving around is definitely the best way to explore the country, if a bit stressful at times! Here are some things I learned and found from driving around here.

Parking outside of designated parking spaces are a “It fits, I sits”, affair. The perfect “fit” is often on the road…

I once found a car parked at a Stop sign in an intersection. Sideways. This one couldn’t be bothered with such fanciness, but at least tried to get as close to the side of the road as possible:

Forcing the car coming from behind to execute a risky overtake manoeuvre to get into the traffic on this 4-way intersection:

I also once patiently sat for a few minutes behind a lorry I was following, before realising that it wasn’t going anywhere… At least not yet. It’s driver calmly parked it right there, on the road, before going off to do his business.

Parking in the side of the road facing oncoming traffic is perfectly acceptable.

Road signs and rules in Ireland are standard fare, with signs being very carefully designed to get the message across clearly as can be seen here.

Whenever possible, in Ireland we drive on left hand side of the road. (And most vehicles in Ireland are right hand drive.) If necessary, and it often is, it’s acceptable to drive down the middle of the road, or the “wrong” side of the road. The reason for this being:

Narrow roads with no off-street parking. You will find cars lined up on urban streets with two wheels on the pavement and half the car on the street, carving the already limited tarmac to single lane traffic, driver from both directions politely waiting, or “yielding” before taking turns to travel down the middle the road, or zig zagging in and out of “parking spaces” along the road, pausing to let incoming traffic through. And…

Sheep. In many parts of the country roads are dotted with free range sheep (with zero road sense). You will also see signs in rural parts of the country warning you against “sheep on the road”.

Cyclists are regarded as and treated similar to all other traffic and many cyclists will not get off the road to let you pass, so you may find the occasional one, or group, peddling away happily down the road with a long line of cars behind them, patiently waiting for an opportunity to overtake.

Drivers in Ireland are generally very polite, patient and forgiving. (Until they get onto the motorways, when you may find the odd rude one) Pedestrians on the roads get given a wide berth when passed and if there is not enough space to do so, cars will slow right down and crawl past them. Which makes walking here very pleasant.

Navigating heavy town traffic can be interesting, but something I and many other drivers here do, is follow what I think of as “path carvers”. What this means is tucking in behind another vehicle and letting them navigate through the traffic, with you tail gaiting. This works especially well when you are following a truck or bus, they make lots of space! This practice can make driving through heavy traffic and these crazy tight streets much easier and provide some unexpected humorous situations too, like when the “follower” vehicle’s driver get so focused on following you, that they forget to watch WHERE they are following you to. I’ve had a Learner driver try to follow me into a parking space once. And another car obediently pulling over on the side of the road when I stopped so my son can take a quick bathroom break, much to my son’s dismay!

The speed limit on many of especially the smaller rural roads is a dare. I would recommend driving at a pace you are comfortable with and making sure you do not exceed the limits signposted. With that said, the council sometimes apparently leave it up to drivers to decide what speed limit they feel comfortable with…

Once you get to one of those narrow (approximately 8 feet wide) and very twisty little roads going down a mountain and see the sign optimistically saying 80km (50miles)/h, you’ll understand….

When approaching a pedestrian crossing, look for pedestrians and be prepared to stop, to let them cross. It’s expected here. I.e. they will cross the road and expect you to stop! Often cars will also stop at other places on the street (when feasible), to let pedestrians cross. (I did mention that drivers here are very polite)

When you’re driving and see an approaching vehicle flash it’s lights at you, it’s to warn you. A quick flash-flash is usually a head’s up that there is something needing caution ahead, possibly an animal on or close to the road, or pedestrians (where you wouldn’t normally expect to find some). When oncoming cars flash-flash-flash their lights at you rapidly and clearly with the aim to get your attention, it usually means there is something serious going on ahead, like a road traffic accident. Either way, if you see flashing lights, slow down.

When renting a car, do take the insurance offered. If only for peace of mind, though after chatting with an American tourist who managed to lose both a tyre and a rearview mirror within 5 days of arriving here… I’d say just get insured. It’s cheaper.

**A note on drivers licences: If you hold a valid driver’s licence from Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Jersey, Isle of Man or Switzerland, you can exchange your licence for an Irish drivers licence, but must do so within one year of your licence expiring. I’ve also been told that you have to do this exchange within one year of arriving in Ireland, but for insurance purposes, I’d suggest do it asap.

Drivers with a licence issued by an EU/EEA member state can continue driving on this licence in Ireland until it expires. If they wish to exchange their licence for an Irish one, they must do so within ten years of their original licence expiring.

Drivers from the United States and Canada can drive in Ireland on a drivers licence (or international driving permit) from their country of origin for one year. If you are staying longer than one year, you will have to apply for an Irish drivers licence.

You can also apply for an international drivers licence which is valid for one year after the date of issue. This licence is recognised by any nation, including Ireland, that has signed the 1926 or 1949 UN Convention on road traffic. If you are travelling to Ireland from another country, contact your embassy in Ireland in advance to confirm whether this licence type will be accepted.

You may also like: Buying a car and getting insurance in Ireland
Happy driving!