Buying a half completed house

It may be tempting to buy what looks like a bargain – an incomplete house, but there are some essential checks you should carry out before you take the plunge.

Following on from our Q&A with the Property Buyers’ Handbook, we thought we’d delve a bit deeper into the intricacies of buying an unfinished house. Here’s what the panel of experts had to say about them – buyer beware!

Carol Tallon: Partially completed houses are in plentiful supply outside of the larger towns and cities at the moment. Unfortunately, most of these are available due to the financial distress of the original builders. This explains why so many have come up through the multi-lot property auctions that have dominated the ROI market since April 2011.

The first thing to do is assess fully the extent and quality of the work carried out so far and ensure same is compliant with all necessary building, safety and planning regulations. Next, with the assistance of a qualified surveyor, list the remaining building works to be carried out and prepare a full costing. Also, estimate a time schedule for completion. All of this should be done prior to purchasing any partially built house as the total cost will be required when working out the true value of the property in its existing state. It is important that the house should be purchased and completed for a sum less than or equal to market value.

One word of caution, many of these properties were started during the boom years and have been left vulnerable to the elements for six or seven years so even work that has been done may need further attention.

Karl Deeter: These are very difficult to finance, banks don’t like them or houses built before 1963. Vandalism or theft of materials (in particular copper pipes and wiring) can be an issue and certification is almost impossible as the new architect can’t be expected to stand over the work of someone else, especially if they’ve gone out of business. It’s a great place for value but not a place for beginners.

Derek Trenaman: Prospective buyers should always take an opportunity to inspect a home before purchasing. If the property is not complete there is unlikely to be any Opinions on Planning and Building Regulation Compliance. It would be advisable to undertake as much due diligence as possible by consulting with Architects and Engineers prior to purchase.

Watch out for properties that are liable for VAT, you might think you’re getting great deal until you add the tax to the price.

Still interested? Then know that there are a few basic things to consider, which we’ve outlined below. The following list is not exhaustive nor professionally given. There are no warranties or undertakings, implied or otherwise. Professional advice should be sought at all times. Your solicitor will carry out most if not all of these checks before the purchase.

The deeds

  • Check the title to the property – in both NI and ROI it must be registered with the Land Registry.
  • Check you have complete possession and that no one has any claims on any part of the build or site or materials.
  • Check if there are rights of way or other covenants attached to the property or original site vendor.

What do you think?

Written by Astrid Madsen

Astrid Madsen is the editor of SelfBuild & Improve Your Home magazine. She previously held the same role in an Irish trade publication, before that she worked at the National Standards Authority of Ireland. She graduated with a BA in Urban Studies from Columbia University in New York and holds an MBA from the Instituto de Estudios Bursatiles in Madrid. France of origin, she now lives in Portarlington, County Laois, where she's taken on the task of renovating a listed building! Email astrid.madsen@selfbuild.ie

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