Irish mortgages and home loans: A foreigner's guide

26.09.17
9 minute read
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Many expats move to Ireland for work, to study or to retire, with still more choosing Ireland as a great place to have a summer home. Whether you fancy life in Dublin, or in a coastal village, there will be a great property for you in Ireland. However, if you’re considering buying a place to live in yourself, as an investment purchase or to use as a vacation home, you need to understand the type of mortgages available in Ireland, and the steps needed to get one set up.

In recent years, it’s been tough to get approval for an Irish mortgage, even as a local buyer. The volume of mortgage lending in Ireland is growing, which means it's gradually getting easier to secure a home loan. However, banks are still very careful about giving out funding, and you can expect to be asked for a broad range of documents to prove that any loan will be affordable for you.

This handy guide covers which banks offer mortgages and home loans in Ireland to non-residents, the paperwork you'll need to get your loan, the legal ins and outs and what it might cost.

Mortgages in Ireland : What types of mortgages are available?

The mortgage market in Ireland is very well developed. You’ll find a choice of different mortgage products, so you need to know a bit about how each of them works, to make a considered decision. It’s also worth knowing, that decisions about who is eligible for a mortgage in Ireland are made on a fairly conservative basis. That means that banks will want to have strong evidence that you can pay your loan, and that you could continue to make repayments, even if the interest rates were to rise suddenly.

When choosing a mortgage product, you’ll have to decide whether you want a fixed rate, or variable rate product. This is an important decision because the two product types are very different and have their own pros and cons. Fixed rate mortgages will guarantee the same interest rate will be applied for an agreed length of time - usually up to five years. However, the price of this stability is that the rate is often slightly higher than those available as a variable product.

Variable rate mortgages, on the other hand, cost more or less depending on how the interest rates change. They’ll use either the Standard Variable Rate (SVR) your bank decides on or the Central Bank of Ireland rates, to set how much interest you must pay month by month. Some products match the SVR central rates exactly, some are slightly higher than these rates, and some offer a discount on these rates. These discounted mortgage products are typically only available for a short period before your repayments revert to the SVR.

There are also different mortgages for buyers in specific situations. First time buyers, or those purchasing a second home for buy-to-let, for example might have tailored products to meet their individual needs.

All of the main Irish banks will offer different products. If you’re not familiar with the Irish mortgage market, it’s a good idea to get some specialist advice from a qualified financial advisor or mortgage broker, who can explain your options.

Should I go to a bank or use a broker?

In Ireland you can choose to arrange a mortgage directly with your chosen bank or to have a broker help you. If you’re not sure what type of product is best for you, taking expert advice from a qualified mortgage broker is a good idea. Some banks limit the mortgages they'll offer non-resident expats in particular, so using a broker is a good idea if you don’t hold legal residency in Ireland.

Getting the services of a broker will cost you anything up to EUR 500, but could work out good value in the end. A broker can help you choose the right bank and the right product for your needs and will also make sure that your application is fully prepared, and your documentation is all correct. This is really helpful because if you apply for a mortgage or loan and are refused - maybe because of missing paperwork - it's then tricky to re-apply to the same bank. Chances are, they’ll see you have previously had an application rejected and won’t consider a new application for the next six or 12 months.

If you choose to use a broker, make sure you understand the fees charged before you commit, and whether or not payment is required prior to being successfully approved for the loan you want. Some brokers offset the fees they charge against products they sell, so you get your money back if you buy insurance through them, for example. Others offer ongoing reviews so they’ll help you to check at the end of your initial mortgage term, which is the best product available for you.

What are the legal requirements to get a mortgage in Ireland as a foreigner?

If you’re an expat, but legally a resident in Ireland, you’re free to buy property in Ireland. You can also apply for a mortgage as an expat, although individual banks will set their own terms. Whether or not you’re offered a mortgage depends on the bank policy and your personal circumstances. Generally getting a buy-to-let mortgage is more difficult than finding a product which is suitable for buying a home to live in.

Not all banks want to work with expats, as they’re seen as a higher risk, so you might find that you're offered slightly less favourable conditions, or higher interest rates, as a foreign investor. You might also meet challenges if you earn in a currency other than EUR, for example, if you're looking to buy an investment property but work in the UK or USA. Some banks don't approve loans unless you’re paid in the same currency as is used on the mortgage.

How can I get a mortgage in Ireland as a foreigner?

The process for getting a mortgage in Ireland is relatively straightforward. However, you’ll find that there are a large number of checks to ensure that you can afford the loan. Availability of finance depends on your circumstances. Because banks are reluctant to give out information on email, it’s worth calling into a few banks in person to see what deals they can offer you.

Paperwork (documentation)

The exact paperwork you'll need will depend on the bank you use. However, you can expect to be asked for the following:

  • Copies of your personal identification documents (like a national ID card or passport)
  • Proof of legal residence in Ireland
  • Documents to prove you're creditworthy (usually a credit check, bank statements, proof of your wages, or a letter from your employer)
  • Documents to prove the affordability of the mortgage (these might be household cash flow statements, utility bills, or bank statements which show that you can afford the monthly payments)

All of these documents should be provided to the bank to get a mortgage in principle, which means that they agree verbally how much they would lend you if you find a suitable property. You’ll usually find that you hand over an application pack which then has to be sent to the bank’s head office for approval.

Assuming you get official approval for your application, you’ll have to hand over more paperwork once you have an offer accepted on a home, such as a property valuation and survey to prove it’s priced fairly.

The step-by-step process

To get a mortgage in Ireland, you’ll generally need to follow these steps:

  • Decide if you want to use a broker to explore your options
  • Choose a bank with a mortgage that suits your needs
  • Hand over the paperwork requested and get an offer in principle
  • Find a property within your budget, and agree a purchase price with the seller
  • Choose a local solicitor who will help with the legal aspects of the purchase
  • Pay your deposit to secure the sale, and agree a completion date
  • Commission searches and surveys as required by your bank
  • Once the surveys are complete, you’ll take ownership of the property and become liable for the mortgage payments and any additional taxes or fees

Fees

Arranging a mortgage in Ireland will mean you have to have fees to pay such as administrative fees and legal costs. It’s mandatory to have a solicitor to manage the legal side of the transaction, and this in particular can be pricey. You’ll also have to pay stamp duty if you’re buying a property in Ireland as an investor.

In Ireland, when arranging a mortgage, you can also expect to pay the following fees:

  • Legal fees: these vary, but it’s worth budgeting up to EUR 2000
  • Property valuation fee: EUR 150 - EUR 175
  • Broker fee: around EUR 500

If you’re buying a property before moving to Ireland, you might find paying fees and incidental costs difficult unless you’ve already opened a local bank account. If the savings you have set aside for a deposit and fees aren't held in EUR, it’s important to check what you’ll be charged when you make an international money transfer. Usually your home bank won’t offer you the best deal. Even if they claim to offer fee-free transfers, you can be sure that their cut will be rolled up into a poor exchange rate.

A better option is the use a specialist service like TransferWise, to transfer cash using the real exchange rate you can find on Google with only a small, transparent fee. Alternatively, you can hold cash in many different currencies in a TransferWise Borderless account, so it’s ready to transfer over to Ireland as soon as you close the deal on your new home.

What are the major banks in Ireland providing mortgages to foreigners?

All major banks and building societies in Ireland offer mortgage products, but they might not all have a service suitable for expats, or non-residents. It’s worth checking out the products offered, as they come with fairly strict terms and conditions. Ultimately, the decision about who is eligible for a mortgage or home loan is made by the institution. It’s worth calling into the local branch of banks which you’re interested in, for a chat about which products might suit you - or enlist a broker to help.

You might be able to get a local mortgage with one of the following banks or brokers:

  • Permanent TSB offer mortgage products to non-residents from some EU countries, including those looking to invest in Irish property
  • AIB has a range of mortgages, and may be able to offer non-residents some products
  • Choice Personal Loans are brokers specialising in helping expat buyers find a suitable mortgage
  • Mortgages Direct are brokers who can help non-residents looking for a mortgage in Ireland

Glossary of important terms

If you’re starting to look for your perfect new place in Ireland, the jargon can be a bit bewildering. Here are some important terms to help you:

  • A loan-to-value (LTV) ratio - this is the value of the mortgage expressed as a percentage of the total property value.
  • Standard variable rate (SVR) - the standard interest rate offered by the bank
  • Repayment mortgages - with a repayment mortgage you pay back both interest and the capital amount borrowed over the term.
  • Interest-only mortgages - here, you pay only the interest accruing on the capital borrowed, with the capital to be repaid in full at the end of the term.
  • Fixed rate mortgages - the interest rate is fixed for a set period of time, usually 2 to 5 years, and does not change even if the SVR or Central Bank rate moves.
  • Variable rate mortgages - the amount you pay in interest can be changed by the bank if the SVR or Central Bank interest rates change.
  • Tracker mortgages - these loans track the movements of interest rates, usually the Central Bank rate, and move up and down at a fixed level above it. You might have a Central Bank + 1% rate, for example, which will always charge interest 1% higher than the level set by the Central Bank.
  • Discounted rate mortgages - usually these also move with the market, but instead of having a rate higher than the reference point (usually SVR), they have a discount on this. Generally offered for a short time period only.
  • Capped rate mortgages - although the interest amount charged can change, these products come with an upper limit, and you’ll never be charged more than the cap amount.

Buying a new home is a big step, and when you’re buying in a new country, it can be a daunting process.

The mortgage market in Ireland can be difficult to navigate, especially as an expat, because of limited funding available for mortgages and home loans. If you’re not a legal resident of Ireland, and looking to invest, it can be especially tricky. Taking local advice is the best way to guarantee you can find a deal that works for your circumstances. Before you know it, you could be enjoying your new home or summer place in Ireland .

Good luck with buying your new home!

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