1 November 2023

How a solicitor supports your home buying process

Buying a house is an important decision with many legal aspects to consider. From conveyancing to completing the purchase, a solicitor will be able to provide you with invaluable advice and assistance.

Once you've entered the homebuying process in Ireland, it's important for you to be aware of the various legal aspects involved. If you're stressed and overwhelmed by this, it's completely natural. However, the professional support of a solicitor can make the process easier.

It's not required by law for you to hire a solicitor, but your lender will almost certainly insist. Property law is complex, with lots of terminology and a long-term financial risk to undertake. This is where the expertise and experience of a solicitor will prove to be invaluable.

Your solicitor’s role is ultimately to protect your consumer rights and investment. That doesn’t come cheap — expect fees ranging from €2,500 to €5,000 — but once you realise what a solicitor does during the process, the value becomes clear.

Finding a solicitor

To avoid delays, you should choose a solicitor before you start your property search. You don't have to pay any fees until a sale is complete. To help you find a perfect match, the Law Society of Ireland has an online tool for finding a solicitor in your area.

Look for a solicitor with strong testimonials and experience in conveyancing, the term for the legal work in buying and selling a property. You are under no obligation to choose a local solicitor. Ultimately, you want to find the most experienced conveyancer within your budget.

What a solicitor does

There are binding contracts that need your signature, big deposits to put down, and a 20- or 30-year loan to secure against your home. These call for the professional touch and the handiwork of your solicitor throughout the homebuying process.

Property searches

You might have found what looks like your dream home, but your solicitor will check to ensure that everything is in order in your paperwork. They will confirm that there are no:

  • Environmental issues that could affect the resale value of the property;
  • Compulsory purchase orders in place;
  • Issues in the seller’s history that may invalidate a purchase (such as bankruptcy).

Bear in mind that a seller does not have to be fully transparent about any defects in the property. It’s your responsibility (with the support of your solicitor) to conduct a survey and check that there are no structural, environmental or planning issues attached to the home.

Once your solicitor is satisfied that the sale is “above board” and that there are no red flags that might obstruct a sale, they will proceed to the transfer of ownership.

Drafting contract of sale

If the survey is satisfactory and your offer on the property is accepted by the seller’s solicitor, you will receive a Contract of Sale. Since 1976, solicitors in Ireland use a standard contract issued by the Law Society of Ireland. This legally binding document outlines the Memorandum of Agreement covering the:

  • Names of the vendor and buyer;
  • Purchase price and deposit payable;
  • Whether the property is freehold or leasehold;
  • General conditions of sale including any special conditions;
  • Sale schedule, covering documents, searches and target completion date.

Based on your solicitor’s legal advice, your next step would be to sign the contract and pay the deposit. Should you subsequently withdraw your offer, however, you will lose the deposit.

Requisitions on title

To ensure absolute clarity about what's involved in the sale, your solicitor will send a list of questions to the seller’s solicitor referred to as the requisitions on title. Again, these use a standard form and will confirm the details of:

  • The fixtures and fittings that are entailed in the sale;
  • Boundaries and any disputes relating to them, as well as rights of access;
  • Utilities and services to and from the property;
  • Issues of tenancy — for example, if the property is currently occupied.

Once these are confirmed, the solicitor will draw up a Deed of Conveyance for approval by the seller’s solicitor.

Deed of Conveyance

This is the legally binding agreement for transferring ownership from seller to buyer. The solicitor will also provide your mortgage lender with a certificate of title. Once the seller’s solicitor has signed the deed, your solicitor will instruct your mortgage lender to approve payment of the full remaining loan balance to the seller’s solicitor.

At this point, the property is now yours, but the solicitor’s work is not quite complete. They will still have to calculate how much Stamp Duty is due to the Revenue Commissioners (1% of the property price on the first €1 million and 2% over €1 million).

This is the responsibility of the buyer. Once Stamp Duty has been paid, the deeds can be registered with the Property Registration Authority (PRA). Bear in mind that this final step can take months to complete.

Other services a solicitor provides

In addition to the above, which are the key pieces of paperwork that need the professional touch, you can expect your solicitor to provide numerous other services both before and after the sale:

  • Legal advice: from whether you are likely to have any issues in the future reselling your home, to what rights your partner, spouse or co-signatory will have after purchase;
  • Negotiation skills: when it comes to title queries with the seller's solicitor;
  • Filing paperwork: your solicitor will order your loan cheque from the lender, send title deeds to your bank, take care of stamping and registering the property, and finally draft any closing documentation required.

8 key questions you should ask your solicitor

Your chosen solicitor will have plenty of questions to ask on your behalf, but there are quite a few you should be asking yourself before hiring a professional. You are well within your rights to ask the following questions (indeed any experienced solicitor would expect you to):

  • What conveyancing fees do you charge?
  • Are you registered with the Law Society of Ireland?
  • What are the ancillary costs, also known as “outlays”? (These include Stamp Duty and search fees)
  • Relevant references and testimonials of work done from previous clients.
  • How many solicitors will handle my case?
  • How long will the process take?
  • How often will I receive updates on the process?
  • How high are my chances of success given my present circumstances?

If you’re not satisfied with the responses to any of the above, keep searching. The role your solicitor plays in facilitating the purchase of a home is simply too big to assign to a firm that doesn’t have your complete confidence.

If you're seeking information on the homebuying process, make sure to check out our resources here.