People buying homes in Donegal should beware of taking shortcuts in due diligence, a leading property law expert has said.

Garry Clarke, of Lanigan Clarke Solicitors in Letterkenny, says that thorough checking by qualified professionals is essential for property buyers – especially in light of the blockwork damage reported in many homes in Donegal in recent years.

Mr Clarke, an organiser of next month’s Build18 expo, says “there’s more legal protection for people buying a second-hand car” than for those buying a home.

“The old adage ‘let the buyer beware’ still applies to buying a house so it’s very important to know exactly what you are buying.”

He adds: “Prior to signing any contract, it is essential that buyers have the house checked by a registered and insured surveyor or architect. This is the only way to rule out the presence of structural problems such as damage in the blockwork, subsidence or major planning problems.

“If you purchase a home with one of these problems, you are stuck with it.”

Buying property at auction

Mr Clarke says it is important to be doubly diligent when buying a property at auction.

“Many properties with defective titles go to auction. They are sold with warts and all and if you buy at auction you are legally deemed to be on notice of these problems.”

“There are certain exceptions, but these are limited in scope Most small builders do not carry defects insurance to cover poor workmanship, or quality and do not have the financial resources to cover a claim from a client.

“The former benchmark Homebond Scheme which gave protection for structural defects for ten years has been bankrupted by pyrite-related claims and cannot be relied on. The Premier Guarantee scheme is available for structural defects, but there are very few builders who can afford membership.

 “The bottom line is that buyers would be wise to have competent professionals working on their behalf when buying. This is the only way to achieve peace of mind in what is – for most of us – the costliest purchase of our lives.”

Supported by AIB

Garry Clarke is one of Build18’s team of experts. Build18, supported by AIB, is a free expo for anyone building, renovating, extending, buying or selling a property in Donegal. The event will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25 in Newtowncunningham Business Park. For full details log on to