Residential Property: Selling a House

Buying a house can be a complicated business. Selling a house can be equally challenging. The earlier you contact your solicitor at HOMS Assist, the easier the process will be. Here, we go through the stages of selling a house and what you need to know:

Before Your House Goes Up for Sale

Below are the questions you need to answer before you put your house on the market. This will avoid any unnecessary delays once a sale is agreed:

  • Private Treaty or Public Auction? Decide with your auctioneer what manner of sale you will be using and then tell your solicitor. They will prepare the contract accordingly.
  • Is Your Planning Permission in Order? Have you made any changes to the property that require planning permission? If you have added an attic conversion, extension, or other development, you need to get a suitably qualified architect or engineer to certify that the change was either an exempt development or complied with planning permission and building regulations. Otherwise, you may have to apply for retention permission, which can take months.
  • Have You Got Your BER Certificate? A BER assessor must determine your home’s energy rating and give you an Advisory Report with a BER Certificate before an auctioneer can advertise the property for sale.
  • Is Your Septic Tank Registered? If you have a septic tank, you will need to register it with Protect Our Water and get a certificate of registration.
  • What is Your PPS Number? You cannot sell a property in Ireland without an Irish tax number activated for stamp duty purposes. Your solicitor will need to get a copy of your birth certificate, passport or national identity card, as well as a recent utility bill as proof of address.

Anything else? Yes; you will also need:

  • The Property Title Deeds: Your solicitor will examine the deeds to ensure that the property has a good marketable title. For leasehold titles, they need to confirm that the years remaining on the lease are sufficient to constitute a good leasehold title. If your property is mortgaged, you will need to allow enough time for the solicitor to take up the title deeds from your lender.
  • Capital Gains Tax and Principal Private Residence Relief: If this is not your main private residence, you may need to consult an accountant to determine your capital gains tax liability. If you own the property and it is your principal private residence, however, you may avail of principal private residence relief.
  • Family Home: Irish law prevents one spouse from selling the family home without the consent of the other. If the couple has separated, you may need a valid separation agreement before a sale can go ahead.
  • Household Charge, Non-Principal Private Residence charge and Local Property Tax: These liabilities must be up to date before the house can be sold. Depending on the sale price achieved, you may need to change to a different band rate for Local Property Tax.

Note: The Local Property Tax replaced the Household Charge in 2013.

It is best to deal with these matters as soon as you can, so that the sales process goes as smoothly as possible.

Once You Have “Sale Agreed”

Once the terms of sale have been settled, the Purchaser will pay a booking deposit and your Auctioneer will send details of the sale to you and your solicitor as well as to the buyer and his/her solicitors. The booking deposit does not commit the Vendor or Purchaser to the sale at this stage. It is fully refundable until the contracts are finally exchanged.

What about Title Deeds?

If you own your home outright, you should have the title deeds to the house. We will hold them in our secure vault on your behalf and give you a receipt. If you have a mortgage on the property, your lender will hold the deeds. You must give them written confirmation that we can take up the deeds on your behalf, so that we can prepare the contract for sale.

Drafting the Contract

Once we have the deeds, we will prepare a draft contract for sale containing the following:

  • The purchase price
  • The contract deposit (the buyer usually pays 10% of the sale price when they sign the contract)
  • The closing date for sale completion
  • Contents included in the sale
  • Details of any charges affecting the property (such as a service charge, refuse collection, etc.).

Pre-Contract Enquiries

Before the contract is signed, the buyer’s solicitor will ask certain pre-contract questions to ensure that the title is in order or to identify outstanding documents required for sale completion.

Mortgage Redemption Figures

For mortgaged properties, this is the point at which we apply for a redemption figure, so that you will know what remains to be paid on the existing mortgage once the sale is completed. If that amount is more than the agreed sale amount, your property will be in negative equity, so you will have to negotiate with your lender to get its consent for the sale.  To enter contracts, the buyer will also need to be assured that the existing mortgage will be cleared from the property once the sale is closed

Signing Contracts

When the pre-contract questions have been answered and the buyer has submitted contracts and their deposit, we will arrange for you to come into the office and sign the sale contract.

Next steps:

  • At this stage, we will tie down the following details: 
  • the settled terms of contract and closing date
  • the final contents list
  • the sale completion process on the agreed closing date
  • redeeming your mortgage.

When everything is in place, you sign the contracts and the completion documentation. Once the contracts are returned countersigned and exchanged, the contract is binding both on you and the purchaser at the price in the contract, for completion on the agreed closing date.

After You Sign Contracts

It is now time for us to ensure that all outstanding completion documents are available for the closing date. We will take care of the post-contract legal formalities with the buyer’s solicitors for you.  While we are finalising the legal details, you should start arranging for your contents to be moved from the property you are selling. Most contracts will specify that you deliver “vacant possession” on sale completion. This means that all movable items not included in the sale need to be removed before the closing date. This includes white goods, personal effects, and furniture.

Completing the Sale of Your Property

The day appointed for closing the sale has arrived. After the buyer’s solicitor has made final checks on title, the balance of the sale price will be transferred to your solicitor and the buyer will receive the deeds and the keys. The property is now sold, so ensure it is vacant and ready for the new owner.

After Completion

Following the sale completion, your solicitor will pay off the existing mortgage with the proceeds and transfer the balance to your account, after deducting the agreed fees and outlay. You will receive a formal cash account detailing the costs paid from the sale transaction. Capital Gains Tax (CGT) should not be an issue if you are tax resident in Ireland and the property is your principal private residence. If you sell a second home or investment property, however, you need to contact your accountant for advice on the amount of CGT you will have to pay to the Irish Revenue Commissioners.  For anybody who is not tax resident in Ireland, we are obliged to take care of your CGT obligations on your behalf and arrange any payment from the sale proceeds. Your accountant can confirm to us the amount of CGT you need to pay.

As you can see, selling a property is not a straightforward business. Contact us as soon as you are considering your house sale—we can make the process much smoother for you.

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We are continuing to provide legal services to you all. We are operating by telephone and email during the Coronavirus situation. Our main office telephone numbers remain the same, as does all our contact information on this site