Questions to ask when buying a house Part 2

#8. Has the property been tested for radon?

 “Has this home had a radon test recently?”

Having a potential home inspected for radon can be a literal life saver; exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer.

#9. Is there a risk of Pyrite in the foundations?

Pyrite or Iron Pyrite (FeS2) is a very common mineral that occurs in many sedimentary rocks as framboidal crystals. Subject to the certain conditions, pyrite is problematic in confined construction, such as under floor filling and bridge embankments. This is due to a chemical reaction that can cause pyritic backfill to swell.
Construction material containing relatively large amounts of pyrite minerals is likely to expand, crack and/or crumble over time. This occurs when framboidal crystalline pyrite, air and moisture, mix causing a chemical reaction to occur that creates expanding crystals within the material.

#10. Are smoke detectors properly installed and located?

Check the smoke detectors of any home you’re interested in purchasing. One of the questions to ask when buying a house is, “Are smoke detectors in the right locations in this home?” Don’t think if smoke detectors are put anywhere that they will be effective. “Smoke detectors save lives. It is important to put smoke detectors in the right places in your home – and you may not know if the home seller did that.”

#11. When was the last time this home had an inspection or structural survey.

Mold can be a health hazard causing itchy eyes to permanent lung damage. “When was the last time this home had a structural survey inspection?” Finding out when there was an inspection enables you to see the home’s history and determine if you want to proceed to making an offer and securing a mortgage loan for the home. If there is mold present, it will also help you determine how and by whom it will be taken care of. Some clients will want to make an offer but we would always advise a structural survey is done before contracts are signed.

#12. Is the house covered under home bond

Most new houses being built in Ireland are registered by the builder with an insurance scheme such as Homebond or Premier Guarantee. These schemes cover structural defects in new houses for 10 years after completion of the house.

So if your home is less than 10 years old and you then find it has structural problems, get a structural survey and check whether your property is covered by Homebond or Premier Guarantee or a similar guarantee scheme.

#13. Are there any services charges associated with the house.

Service charges are fees that property owners pay for services provided by their development’s Owners’ Management Company (OMC). These include repairs, running costs such as block (building) insurance, electricity and lifts, and maintenance and other services such as waste collection or upkeep and landscaping of common areas.
Service charges are not an optional payment. They generate the cash flow that an OMC needs to provide services and maintain your development. The lease or contract you sign when you buy a property in a multi-unit development sets out your legal obligation to pay these charges. Your solicitor should also have explained this to you at the time you bought your property.

Depending on your development, your service charges may pay for:

  • Repair and maintenance of common areas, car park, footpaths, roads
  • Cleaning common areas, windows, carpets/mats, gutters and drains
  • Lift repairs and inspections
  • Electricity and lighting for common areas
  • Landscape and gardening, pest control
  • Security – internal locks and doors, intercoms, external doors and gates
  • Safety – smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, health and safety inspections
  • Refuse collection and recycling

Professional charges (For example block/building insurance, public liability insurance, the OMC’s legal/auditor fees)

The Multi-Unit Development Act 2011 sets out a list of cost categories to be used by OMCs when setting out service charges:
• Insurance
• General maintenance
• Repairs
• Waste management
• Cleaning
• Gardening and landscaping
• Concierge and security services
• Legal services and accounts preparation
• Other expected expenditure relating to maintenance, repair and management of the common areas

Services charges are usually sent out to owners once a year, following the OMC’s Annual General Meeting. It can be agreed between the owners and the OMC that service charges can be paid in instalments rather than in one lump sum.

Service charges should be set at a level to pay the running costs for your development. Factors that may affect these running costs include:
• If common areas are designed to a very high standard
• If they have elaborate features (e.g. ponds, fountains)
• The number of lifts
• Whether there are electronic gates
• The size of the grounds and landscaped areas
• Whether 24-hour concierge/security services are provided

The service charge should not include costs relating to the original design, construction and snagging of the development and the Multi-Unit Development Act 2011 specifically prohibits service charge income being used to complete the development.

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