Househunters, meet your new best friend
A recent introduction to the Irish property market, the buyer's agent takes the stress out of buying and can save you thousands
Karen Mulvaney and her business partner Audrey Casey are having their busiest month yet in the eight years since they set up the Buyers Agent, an independent property search and acquisition company that acts on behalf of buyers.
"Nearly all our current clients are cash buyers and if they are borrowing, they are borrowing very little" Mulvaney told propertyplus.
"These are the people who have had the most tremendous foresight to sell at the peak of the boom and have been renting since.
"I also have people coming in from abroad. The majority are upgrading. We have had some first time buyers -- not a huge amount, but the value out there is unreal."
According to Karen, suburbs such as Clontarf and Sutton on the northside and Blackrock, Sandymount and Monkstown on the southside are currently very popular with her clients, whose budgets vary.
"At the moment I have budgets of everything from €1m, €2m. I have one couple with a budget of €600,000 and we can get them a gorgeous house in the area they want on the southside, a gorgeous three bed semi.
"We look after people with all sorts of budgets and we will look after everybody who is realistic."
The idea of a buyer's agent is relatively new in Ireland -- a Google search of the term turns up less than a handful of companies -- but it is a method of house buying that has been used for decades in the US and has recently become increasingly popular in Australia.
According to the Journal of Real Estate Research, 30pc of purchasers in the US use a buyers agent. Also, a typical buyer of a small-to-medium-sized property that is not represented by a buyer's agent is likely to pay about 2pc more for a property.
"The majority of properties have come down 50pc in the last two years, take that 50pc and then reduce it again.
"I went sale agreed the other day at €700,000 for a girl and the property was guiding €800,000.
'At €800,000 it was definitely reduced 50pc from two years ago, if not more. I told her that we were going for this property and she told me that she couldn't afford it. I told her 'You can, I know you can'. And she got it."
The fee for using the Buyers Agent is 1pc of the price of the house for finding and negotiating the sale of the property.
There is a retainer fee payable up front of €500 plus VAT, which is deducted from the final successful invoice. If the price of the house is below €500,000, the fee is 2pc plus VAT.
If you have found your dream home and want to employ Karen or Audrey to negotiate on your behalf, the fee is 0.5pc of the price of the house.
Karen Armstrong used the Buyers Agent to negotiate on her behalf when purchasing her home, a new build, at Church View, Hollystown in Dublin 15.
"We ended up saving a lot of money because Karen was able to negotiate for things we wouldn't have even thought of," says Armstrong.
"For example, there were certain finishes we didn't like inside the house, so Karen said to the builder, my clients want a choice of three fireplaces, a choice of three kitchen fittings, and she was able to negotiate that all the bathrooms were fully tiled and fitted with shower doors -- stuff that you would normally have to put in yourself.
"Karen got all those included in the price. She is very experienced in dealing with builders.
"We decided to go for a buyers agent because my husband is away a lot on business, and I wouldn't have had the time to do a lot of the things myself.
"All the gas, electricity etc was turned on -- thanks to Karen we moved in with everything done.
"The whole cost came to about €3,500 and we felt it was money well spent."
Mulvaney also reports a number of people wishing to sell their houses approaching the Buyers Agent, people who want privacy for some reason or another, and don't want to go on the open market and hope to match their property with one of her buyers. But does this constitute a conflict of interest?
"Absolutely not" says Mulvaney. "The buyer is our one and only client. It is very straightforward. I don't do gameplaying and we receive no money from the vendor. Our only fee comes from the buyer."
When asked why there are not more buyer's agents in Ireland, she replies: "You need to have an in-depth knowledge of the property market and a good relationship with estate agents.
"You also have to get to know your clients really well in order to find their dream home within their specifications.
"This job isn't for the faint-hearted and you won't make a quick buck. That said" smiles Mulvaney, "it is a fabulous job."