Buying and Selling Property - Frequently Asked Questions

20 March 2024


Embarking on the journey of buying or selling a property in Northern Ireland can be both exciting and overwhelming. Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned property investor, navigating the intricacies of the property market requires a solid understanding of the process. 

In this article, we address the most frequently asked questions surrounding buying and selling property, to guide you through every stage of the transaction, from legal requirements to financial considerations.

How do I buy a house?

To buy a house in Northern Ireland, you will typically start by finding a property you're interested in, making an offer to the seller through their estate agent, and then engaging in the conveyancing process. This involves legal and administrative steps to transfer ownership of the property. It is advisable to work with a solicitor experienced in conveyancing in to guide you through the process smoothly.

What is conveyancing?

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from seller to buyer. In Northern Ireland, conveyancing involves several steps, including property searches, title checks, preparing and reviewing and contracts, liaising with any bank involved and handling the transfer of funds. A solicitor will oversee this process and ensure all legal requirements are met. A solicitor will also deal with post completion requirements such as registering the property in your name, or redeeming any mortgage if you are selling.

What costs are associated with buying or selling property?

The costs for buying a house typically include solicitor's fees, stamp duty (if applicable), land registry fees, and any additional costs such as mortgage arrangement fees, or surveyor's fees. The total amount can vary depending on factors like the property price and mortgage arrangements. 

When selling property, you will typically incur costs such as estate agent fees, solicitor's fees for conveyancing, and any necessary home improvement or staging expenses.

A solicitor will give you a full breakdown of all associated legal costs by way of a quote before being formally instructed. It is essential to budget for these costs to ensure a smooth and financially sound process.

What are the steps to selling a house in Northern Ireland?

Selling a house in involves several stages, starting with preparing the property for sale and choosing an estate agent. You should appoint your solicitor at the same time the property is placed on the market, and not wait until it is sold. Once a buyer is found, you will negotiate offers and engage in the conveyancing process. This includes preparing legal documents, responding to buyer enquiries, and completing the sale with the transfer of ownership.

How long does it take to sell a house?

The time it takes to sell a house in Northern Ireland can vary depending on factors such as the local property market, the condition of the property, and whether the property is part of a series of transactions, known as a chain. On average, it may take several months from listing the property to completing the sale, but this timeline can vary significantly.

How is property ownership legally defined in Northern Ireland?

Property ownership is legally defined through the Land Registry or the Registry of Deeds. your solicitor should be experienced in dealing with both types of title. If you buy a Registry of Deeds property, your solicitor must change that title to a Land Registry title, known as Compulsory First Registration. The property will be allocated a folio number and records of this will be kept electronically in Land Registry.

What is stamp duty and how is it calculated in Northern Ireland?

Stamp duty land tax, or SDLT, is a tax on property transactions. The amount is calculated based on the property's purchase price, with different rates for different price bands. It can also be influenced by your circumstances such as whether you are a first time buyer, whether this will be your main residence, or whether you are a UK resident.

Can I get a mortgage?

Yes, obtaining a mortgage is a common practice for property purchases. Lenders will assess your financial situation to determine eligibility. You should seek the assistance of an independent financial advisor who can guide you through the process.

What is the role of a property solicitor in Northern Ireland?

A property solicitor handles legal aspects of property transactions, ensuring compliance with laws and protecting your interests.

How can I ensure a smooth property transaction?

Engage an experienced property solicitor, have your own papers and finances in order, and communicate effectively with all parties involved for a seamless property transfer.

For advice and assistance on any matter relating to buying or selling property, contact Ruth Flinn on