There are a few things we've learned in the past couple of years since we stopped doing the expat blog. One thing we've learned is that we learn something new every time we move. The first thing is to watch out for i mold. This was not a problem in the first couple of places we lived, but a couple of years ago, Bill wanted to try living in Moville, on the Inishowen peninsula in the most northern section of the country--Malin Head is just up the road. We rented an apartment that was in a refurbished corn store and apparently, the work that was done was not done well. We looked at it and it was fine. Three weeks later, when we moved in, the bedroom had mold halfway up the wall. When we opened the curtain, we saw that there was some kind of gunk growing between the panes of the double-paned window. We scrubbed the mold, but there was nothing we could do about the window. It was contained in there, so not hazardous, and the mold did not visibly reappear through the summer. But we had a cold snap in the autumn and then it warmed up quickly to be in the 60s and it took off. No room was unaffected and there was black mold growing everywhere. It was gross and I was ill because of it. We now live in a house without a mold problem and you can bet that we checked everything carefully for any trace when we looked at it! So that's one thing.
Another thing I would look for is an electric shower. In the apartment, the shower was hooked up to the mains and the immersion (water heater) was not big enough to accommodate that. That's another issue--the immersion heaters. It's good if they are hooked up to a timer if you happen to be in an area where there are off-peak and peak electricity rates. It will come on during off peak times and go off before the peak times, but you can turn it on during the day, if needed. I think there's a post about that in the blog, because we had it in Ballinrobe. The place where we are now does not have this, so if we want hot water from the tap, we have to turn it on and wait. There's an electric shower here, though, so that heats up the water on demand.
If you like an open fire (people here are crazy about their fires!) a back boiler is nice, as it will heat the water and radiators.
Furniture is also important. Make sure you sit on the couch/chairs to make sure they're comfortable. Most rental places come furnished, which is great, but sometimes the landlords use the rental as a storage unit for unwanted stuff, so things can be cluttered and they often do not want to remove stuff. In the moldy apartment, there was a huge TV in a small living room/dining room. We don't watch TV and asked for it to be removed, but they wouldn't. And, although the place was set up to be a holiday home, and there were 3 bedrooms, there was only a loveseat and 4 uncomfortable wooden dining chairs to sit on. The loveseat folded out into a bed, but was sinking towards the middle, so sitting on either end caused a backache.