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6 reasons a house sale can fall through - and how to make sure it doesn't happen to you

It’s all about preparation, says Rowena Quinn of Hunters Estate Agent.

YOU’VE ACED THE house viewing, put your offer in, had it accepted, popped the champagne and now… you wait. And wait some more.

“You might hear the words ‘sale agreed’ once your offer is accepted, but that’s a grey area,” says Rowena Quinn, Managing Partner at Hunters Estate Agent.

“In reality it’ll usually be several weeks before you officially own the house, and sometimes more. Waiting for a sale to go through can be an exhausting experience for both the buyer and the seller.”

Luckily, says Rowena, there are ways to drive the process along as a buyer, even before you’ve put an offer in. Here are some of the most common reasons a sale can fall through at the last minute, and how to reduce the risk of it happening to you…

1. Delays drawing the contracts up

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“There is a commitment made between buyer and seller when an offer is accepted, but that’s only binding when you both sign a contract,” says Rowena.

If the seller has not prepared their solicitor ahead of time, the process of drawing up contracts will not have begun, and that can cause huge delays. “The solicitor needs things like title deeds ready to go so they can do their job,” says Rowena.

If you’re concerned about delays, the solution is simple:

Only put an offer in on a house if you’re satisfied that the contracts have already been drawn up. And if you’re not sure, ask.

2. The seller’s cold feet

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Rowena says that sellers pulling a house off the market after an offer has been accepted is uncommon, but it can happen.

“They may have had another house lined up to buy or move into which fell through, or they may simply change their mind.”

To reduce your risk, it’s worth asking the estate agent ahead of time what the seller’s motivation for putting their house on the market is. “You want to ensure the seller is as motivated as you are,” says Rowena.

3. Missing paperwork

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One common delay, especially with older homes, is missing paperwork for extensions or renovations. “The seller needs to prove that previous building work is safe and compliant by showing the relevant paperwork,” explains Rowena.

Unfortunately it’s usually not as simple as rifling through a filing cabinet. “Maybe no paperwork was issued, or it’s gone missing and the original builder or architect has retired.”

Again, if you’re wary of delays as a buyer, it’s worth checking with the estate agent to find out if all the paperwork is ready to go.

4. Your garden or mine? Boundary disputes

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For the house to be officially put into your name, new title deeds must be drawn up – a process which can be delayed by disputed boundaries.

On a bigger site, for example, the seller might assume a certain patch of garden is theirs, but the boundaries say different. That means the square footage of the site is less than it was advertised as.

Before putting an offer in, aim to identify any potential boundary issues. Take a walk around the site and query things with the estate agent if you’re not sure.

5. Lack of budget

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Even if you think you can afford a certain price tag, nothing is set in stone for you until you get mortgage approval. “Absolutely do not put an offer in on a house unless you have approval,” says Rowena.

Most banks these days can come to you or meet you after hours, so you can get approval quickly. Then you can move along with the process.

6. Unexpected repair work

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If you’ve put an offer in at the top end of your mortgage budget, there’s not a lot of wiggle room for unexpected costs. “I’ve seen buyers pull out of a sale because the survey has revealed they’ll need to do €10k or €15k worth of repairs, and they just can’t afford that,” says Rowena.

If you’re uncertain, bring a builder or surveyor along with you for a second viewing of the house, to give you a qualified opinion before you make any commitments.

And above all, don’t panic:

If you’re prepared, if the contracts are ready, and if both parties are motivated, there’s no reason for a property sale not to run smoothly.

When you’re making the decision to sell up or renovate, everyone will have their opinion – and won’t think twice about letting you know what it is. But how do you block out the noise and get to the point?

At permanent tsb, we value finding a better way. If you’re house-hunting, or even just saving for your deposit, you’ll want to do things the right way. Head over to our Bring It Home Hub  for the inside scoop.

Lending criteria, terms and conditions apply. Security and Insurance required. permanent tsb p.l.c is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.

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