Home economics... answering your property questions
Our property expert stresses the importance of getting an architect to do a snag list at the end of a building project and mortgage arrangements following a separation.
Question: I’m about to buy my first home and am just waiting on the builder to finish. I understand I will be asked to do a ‘snag list’ but apart from the obvious stuff like something looking very wrong, I’m not sure I would understand enough to know, if say, a pipe was incorrectly laid and I’m afraid I’ll miss it and won’t be able to get it fixed later. What kinds of things should I watch for — I don’t know anything about building.
Sinead replies: A snag list is a check of any outstanding items in terms of finish. Usually it is conducted on your behalf by an architect or a surveyor. It's not designed to pit you against the builder, but with so many different contractors involved on a build, things can go awry, or get left out and it's vital to get them remedied before writing the biggest cheque of your life!
Michelle Fagan of FKL Architects says a good snag includes checking insulation, pipes and plumbing, finishes and general workmanship. "You will want to be certain all the windows are sealed properly and finishes are tidy and that proper controls etc have been fitted to plugs, sockets and radiators. Joints and connections on pipes should be checked looking for cracks or loose fittings."
You also want to check the decorative finish and ensure it's as specified in the contract and brochure.
Your architect or surveyor will thoroughly check everything and write up a report for your builder and ensure compliance. You can expect to pay €250 - €500 which may seem a lot, but in the grand scheme of things, may be money really well spent.
Question: I am separated from my husband but not with any kind of formal agreement. I'm living in our old house with my new partner and have reverted to my maiden name. I am also paying the mortgage on my own. I changed my passport without any trouble, but now the bank won't accept the repayments in my new name or change my account name from joint to single. They know me, so it's crazy. I've been in with my new passport but they say it can't be done. Why do they care who they get the money from?
Sinead replies: I can see your logic. However, from the bank's point of view they had a mortgage contract with two parties of one surname, and now one party with a different name wants to make the payments.
That doesn't match the terms of the contract that was signed for the mortgage, and any change to a contract needs to be properly reflected in case there's any kind of dispute down the road.
Regarding changing your name back again, some other organisations (including the State) may be happy with production of your birth cert and, say, a utility bill. However, the bank clearly wants to know that you are formally separated or divorced. It needs to record this on the deeds - it's not just a case of banking the money.
However, it is important the bank is paid. How about setting up a Standing Order and transferring the money through in the meantime?
This is not a direct debit, as you retain control over it. That may work for the moment.
A better idea is to leave things as they were until you are formally separated or divorced. You will have cause to change your name then, and can do so easily.
I have to add, that if you are now paying the mortgage solely and want it transferred to your own name, this in effect, constitutes a new mortgage.
That may come with new terms. I know some banks will seek to charge a higher interest rate to reflect the higher risk of one party instead of two.
Talk to your solicitor first.
The Ryan review
The Budget was a chance to look at reviewing the Inheritance Tax rules and it was fudged.
Although the Class A Threshold for leaving assets from parents to children was increased, it was by a paltry €55,000 to €280,000.
To be honest, this is meaningless in the Dublin property market.
Spare a thought for an only child being left the family home in a will.
Even for two siblings, they'd be hard pressed to avoid the tax and may end up selling the house to so do.
This instance is precisely why the tax-free thresholds exist and had been over half a million euro at its height.
Inheritance Tax is an important tax and millionaires shouldn't be allowed to pass along their largesse without some benefit to the State, however the principal private residence has long been considered a special case. It is exempt from any tax when it is sold by its owner, for instance.
With average South Dublin house prices fetching €525,000 it means that a standard four-bed semi being left to an only child attracts a tax of €80,850, an onerous liability even without other assets.
Mr Noonan has signalled that he intends increasing the threshold over successive years, but we can hardly tell people to stop dying in the meantime.