Feb 272012
 

Husband and I recently went house hunting, after 2 months of search we found the perfect house and are now in the stage between sale is agreed and the house is ours. The post will talk about how to buy as a first-time-buyer, if you are looking for an investment property you might it less helpful. For husband and me is to find something that will be our home for the next 20 years.

Before you start looking for a place make sure that you know what you want, what your budget is and what you don’t want. Jim and I were looking initially at an area we both didn’t know. Later it turned out it was one of the more dodgy areas where we wouldn’t want to live at all. However, it helped us to get started and do all the necessary steps such as mortgage pre-approval, finding a solicitor etc.

Also, as we were looking for our future home, we weren’t willing to take any compromise. If the house it is too small, it’s too small, it won’t grow over time. If the backyard is overseen, it won’t change. If there is a busy road, it won’t go away. If you don’t like it don’t go for the house. If you step into a house and you instantly like it, consider it to be the one. But be careful, nice decoration and a freshly upgraded house might blind you regarding what you want and need. All houses we liked we saw 3 or 4 times at different times during the day.

There were a couple of useful web pages that I used for hunting:

  • myhome.ie is the property website with the most for sale properties. Pretty good search and subscription facilities.
  • daft.ie is the most famous site for rentals, but also good for sales searches. It’s a pity that the API is not available for private users otherwise searching and filtering would have been much easier to me.
  • adverts.ie I subscribed the RSS feeds. Search options aren’t as good, agents usually don’t answer.
  • property.ie Seems to be a clone of daft.ie, I have never seen any house that was only advertised there. 
  • Also, it makes sense to work directly with property agents. Just check any of the house search engines for agents that come up frequently in the search results and contact them directly. Not all houses are put into the portals.

To verify location and maybe gather initial information about the house I had a look at

  • irishpropertywatch.ie gives a good indication how long the house is on the market and what history it had. If you see a house that is available for half a year already and went through 3 price drops you will be in a different position when negotiating than you were if the house is fresh on the market.
  • As I didn’t grow up in Dublin, I didn’t know all the stereotypes for Dublin areas, what good and what bad areas are. I find it very helpful to just walk around during the day, evening and weekend through the desired area. If you like what you see, go for it. If you doubt the social status of the people around, or if you get another bad impression, don’t go for it. If you do your hunt like me – most of the time remotely, then go for thepropertyin.ie, there you’ll find comments on most of the houses and areas. Of course – at the end it doesn’t matter as much, each area has good and bad spots, good and bad people, and the most important people – the direct neighbors – are never reviewed. So be careful not to be too shallow. Husband and I usually had a mutual understand of like/don’t like as soon as we were in a particular area.

Budget for house purchase

  • Know your limits. Don’t go over them. Never. We happened to be in 2 bidding wars where we dropped out once we reached our budget, it wasn’t easy but sensible to do. At the end we got one of the houses anyway because the other bidder pulled back. 
  • If you consider a mortgage, go to your bank and ask what the maximum amount is that you would get. Smile gently, then divide this number by 2 and take this as absolute maximum. Our bank would give us based on our current salaries maximum term mortgage maxing out our incomes as payback. That doesn’t make sense, it’s not realistic. Go for half of it, at most. You don’t want to pay off your mortgage only – all your life.
  • Be aware that the house price isn’t all you are going to pay, you will pay stamp duty (2%), solicitor fees (ca. 0.6%), valuation and survey (ca 500 Euro), modernization cost, maybe extensions and furniture/interior. If you are not sure what to expect, consult an architect/builder/forum/furniture shops/friend who recently upgraded his house. This will give you a feeling for the numbers to think of.
  • We set our total budget based on max house price + max upgrade price. That means at the end we bid on 3 houses in different states, one that had no modernization required, our bid was higher than for the other ones that required lots of work. Furniture is a separate budget.
  • Don’t believe any property agent. Their task is to sell. Don’t let them push you to commitments you are not willing to take. Be honest and accept when your and the owner’s expectations are different. If the agent lied, he’ll be back.

Budget for monthly expenses.

  • List 1: Current expenses: How much can you afford to spend in addition (mortgage payback) and to save?
  • List 2: Overlapping expenses: Our house will require 2-4 months of upgrade work, during that time we will pay rent, mortgage and need to save up for builders. Be aware that your mortgage comes with additional requirements such as
    home insurance and life insurance to cover your mortgage. Plan this into
    your budgets too.
  • List 3: Once our rent contract stopped we won’t have double expenses anymore, also builders won’t be required to be paid off. However, we need to save some money for house maintenance, some for postponed upgrades and some to do lump sum payments against the mortgage.

Costs of a mortgage:

  • Use a mortgage calculator to compare options. I found a helpful one on Google spreadsheet templates. I find it’s better to play with than digging through 15 print outs of the bank that are solely designed for the purpose to confuse you.
  • We decided finally what kind of interest rate we wanted to go for, how much of the mortgage we wanted to finance and what term we’d use. We decided to go for maximum term to give us flexibility and reduce the amount of monthly payment. This will in the first place cause a higher interest; however, we plan on paying in lump sums to reduce the mortgage and the paid interest significantly within the first 5 years. And if anything bad happens… we will still be able to pay off the rates.
  • If you need to do modernization/upgrade work on your house: Compare. Ask multiple architects, builders, solicitors, surveyors etc for fees. Go for the good ones, but check their rates.

Insurances

  • I am very pragmatic when it comes to insurances. I don’t like them, I think insurance sales persons are send from hell to threaten and scare people with risks that are rather unlikely. I got ask to get an insurance for payment protection and income protection to ensure that even if we are sick or without income that we can afford the mortgage. That sounds great in the first place, however, it will add up to additional 100 Euro or more per month that are paid for – at the end – most likely nothing.
  • I think careful budgeting and a reasonable monthly rate is far more recommendable than going for additional insurances. Setting a low mortgage rate to pay back over a long term is more sensible. To reduce it, pay lump sums whenever you can afford it.
  • Don’t compare price only. If you get a home insurance make sure it
    covers the entire property back to front, and not only the house itself.
    You don’t want to find yourself in the situation that your shed and
    garage got broken in and your insurance doesn’t cover for them.
  • Invest separately into other necessary precaution for yourself. Think about pension and how future you would like to spend the rest of your life.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Apr 072011
 

Who would have guessed that getting married is so much bureaucratic hassle? Our situation might not be the easiest one, as we both have a different nationalities; one from EU and some sort of non-EU-ish. BNO nationality is pretty much a mess, as I learned. Probably it would be a bit easier if we both lived in Germany or in Hong Kong. But we don’t.

When we started looking up for getting married we knew that we have some sort of complicated situation. Organizing a wedding in 3 countries with family on 3 continents is rather challenging, especially if you can’t fly in everyone from everywhere and when the major attendees such as parents and grand parents are not able to do long distance flights anymore. So there was only one logic decision we could do: running away and declare the wedding as secret and announcing big parties instead.

I read a bit about getting married in Germany, asked per mail somebody about our special situation and got as answer that I would need a lawyer to sort this out. So Germany is not an option.

Then we looked and got tempted by Tuvalu. It looks awesome is very remote and certainly unique. Unfortunately flying there and back is a hassle we do not want to have in our one week and a bit time we have. So this option got cancelled too.

Next idea was Iceland. Sounded pretty neat, getting there having honeymoon and wedding in one go and discovering a beautiful isle. We kinda liked the idea, but then I talked to a travel agency who told me that we would need to stay most of the time in Reykjavik as we would be required to wait for documents. For that we needed a international birth certificate and a certificate of impediment which states that we both are able to get married. As Jim failed finding an authority who could issue this document we had a closer look to wedding conditions in Ireland. Apparently you need to get an appointment with the marriage office, announce your wedding in a newspaper, wait for a couple of months and then it’s ok to get married. Sounds great, but since 3 weeks we are calling the registration office to get an appointment and we had no luck so far. We both get set on the call back list but never heard anything back. Today I spoke with the operator who told me that the earliest date now is September.

Frustrated about that we revisited the Iceland idea and called up the German and British embassy to learn more about the damned certificate we need. Now, apparently the German embassy doesn’t issue them so I needed to call up my last place where I had been registered in Germany. I got told that I need to pick up this certificate in person and I need a registration document from the place where I am living, unfortunately there is no obligation for registration in Ireland. So I do need to make another call on Monday with another person to learn if and how I could get this certificate w/o being in Germany. I also called the British embassy which hung up in the first place, and later forwarded me to a mailbox. Another task for Monday morning.

Frustrated about all that I checked out places where you can get married with just the birth certificate and no other requirements, apparently there are a few:

  • Denmark which requires birth certificates and a 2 weeks stay there.
  • The Caribbean which requires per island different things
  • Las Vegas which does not seem to require anything

I am quite sure there more places like that out there. Next thing will be to learn which other places are there, and which of them issue marriage certificate which are legally accepted in Germany, Hong Kong and Ireland.

The entire year was meant to be the year of our wedding, getting married in summer and then doing parties in Ireland in August, in Germany in November and in Hong Kong in December. As we fail on even knowing if our marriage happens this year at all I cannot organize any party at all which does not allow to book time, travels, places, notify guests etc.

That all is very frustrating. I do not want to be future Mrs Tang. I want to get married. Without bureaucracy.

Popularity: 2% [?]

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Mar 272010
 

Last week I eventually got a bread baker – just to prove my desperation how crap the bread here in Ireland is. I got a Morphy Richard’s Fastbake bread maker – because it was the only one available in a local. A bread baker is another item I used to have in Germany, which I sold when I moved over and now I just bought it again – for 3 times the price. Ireland is so expensive.

I was looking forward to do a couple of breads immediately, especially as Morphy Richard’s ads told me a recipe book will be shipped with the machine. Which is true, but it contains only recipes for Irish and English breads. So each recipe contains skimmed milk powder, sugar and other ingredients which aren’t meant for bread. WTF?

The other WTF is the availability of different types of flour – we couldn’t find non-self raising rye flower in super value, tesco, spar or other markets. Eventually a polish supermarket had some different types of flour and fresh yeast. Unfortunately the cashier was Latvian so he couldn’t tell us the differences between the polish labeled flours also we lost trust when he recommended some overdue products.

Here my first recipe. The Hong Kong-ize Irish fellow didn’t like it… but he grew up outside central continental Europe ;)

I tried a round loaf without having half the ingredients or measures for the original recipe. So here what I got for a 1oz loaf:

  • 1 cup water
  • 40 g fresh yeast
  • 3 cups wheat flour type 500 (not self raising!)
  • a table spoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tea spoons of salt

I baked it as a normal bread with normal crust. I liked the out come and definitively go for version 2 tonight.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Tags: , , ,
Mar 072010
 

… and already pissed off. just passed dublin airport security and got taken away my new roll of duct tape. I got told it was never allowed to be taken on board on the other hand I carried always a role with me since Lufthansa broke my checked in luggage last year May. Since then I have been on at least 20 trips, some of them to US and never got told that this is an forbidden item. Did they hit insanity? I travel from Ireland to Germany, there is no security risk what so ever. Ireland is close to its economic break down and can’t do anything bad to any country at all. Also, Irish are well known for keeping terrorism on their own island. So… WTF?

Popularity: 1% [?]

Tags: , , ,
Apr 042008
 

Urlaub! Endlich… und dazu noch einer ohne Umzug oder Feiereistress. Geplant war nicht viel: Auto mieten, nach Westen fahren, Calway und Mayo County erkunden. Die Gegend wurde als landschaftlich sehr schoen beschrieben. Da ich derzeit an meinen Draussi-Skills arbeite und diese verbessere, stand wandern auf dem Plan. Bei der herrlichen Landschaft und dem erwarteten (leider nicht eigetretenen) guten Wetter das Beste, was man meiner Meinung nach tun kann.

Wir orientierten uns am Guide Walking in Ireland (Lonely Planet Walking in Ireland), so ging es den ersten Tag zur Kylemore Abbey, der Wanderweg war gesperrt, die Abtei und der zugehoerige Garten waren einen Ausflug wert. Den Nachmittag wollten wir entlang des einzigen Fjords  wandern. Das Wetter war zunaechst “soft”, dann wurde es “drizzelig”, und spaeter regnete es aus vollen Kannen. Als sich der Weg schliesslich in einen See verwandelte, drehten wir um. Die zweite Wanderung sollte uns Karfreitag zum Croaigh Patrick fuehren, einem Berg in der Naehe Westports. In meiner Unwissenheit schlug ich den Pilgerweg vor, nichtsahnend, was da auf mich zukommt. Das Wetter war an diesem Tag typisch irisch, d. h. wir hatten alle Jahreszeiten (Wetterlagen) auf dem Weg nach oben. Oben zu stehen war ein tolles Gefuehl, auch wenn die Aussicht nicht so berauschend war. Die Resttage zwischendurch verbrachten wir in den umliegenden Staedten oder fuhren durch die Gegend, die Skyroad war sehr zu empfehlen, ueberhaupt die ganzen Kuestenstrassen.

Popularity: 1% [?]

Tags: , , , ,