In case you’ve been wondering what the deuce has happened to my blog over the last 3 months, it may just have something to do with this:
Look, our own traffic cone too…
(That and the lack of inspiration. I go to ground over winter, and the run up to Christmas and Christmas and, worst of all, New Year (groan) leaves me exhausted and frustrated in the creative/inspo department. Every time.)
So yes, we bought a house. 19 weeks from start to finish, which isn’t the best but isn’t too bad either.
Maybe you’re thinking of buying. Maybe you are embroiled in a sale at the moment. Maybe, you’ve been put off completely by the media, house prices and all the legal hoohah. Either way, here are my tips and little things I’ve learnt during the process which may just make it a little easier for you.
Work out your budget.
Buying a house is expensive. First time buyers need a seemingly impossible whack of deposit to get on the ladder, plus don’t forget your solicitor fees, mortgage fees, survey cost, possibly stamp duty… and you might need something left over to give the house a lick of paint when you get moved in. Even if your family can help you out it is likely you will need to save something. So think: Do you really need that coffee on the way to work/handbag/night out? If your shoes have holes by all means get a new pair, but stop and think if you really need it, or if it could buy you a roof tile or bath tap instead. Don’t cripple yourself though, it makes life unbearable if you are saving too much and can’t afford to pay your bills/buy food.
Go and see a mortgage adviser – most high street banks offer this for free especially if you bank with them – and be honest! You might earn diddly-squat and have a mountain of credit card debt, but not declaring this when they are working out what the lender will let you borrow is not helpful. If anything, it will make things worse.
Stick to your budget.
You will undoubtedly have saved like a person possessed for a good long while to make sure you can afford to get on the ladder. You’ve been to see a mortgage adviser and know what you can borrow so you know what your budget is. Do not start looking at houses you cannot afford! This is a waste of time. Look within your budget, and less – you never know what might take your fancy.
It’s all about compromise.
What can you and can’t you live with? Great house but a slightly dodgy area – can you deal with that? Two bedrooms, not three? No garden? If it’s a no, that house is off the list. If you absolutely hate everything in your budget, you need to save more money. However you need to….
Everyone has their dream house but chances are your first house is not going to be that pinnacle of homeyness. It’s all about balancing your heart and your head. Be sensible, but you have to love it too. You will have to live there for a little while!
Have a look round.
You need to go and look at the houses you like. Estate agent photos do not always show you the whole picture. Are the rooms teeny tiny? What’s next door like? Is it near a power station? At the risk of sounding all new age hippie, houses have a feel to them. You know if you feel at home or not in a house. When we walked into the house we’ve bought, it felt friendly and well, like home.
Get a solicitor that emails.
This may sound daft but emails take a lot less time to compose and send than a letter does. If your solicitor likes to email it will cut down your house buying time and cause you a lot less anxiety. Emails are quick, therefore the answers to your questions will be quick too. Post is not quick. Post is slooow. If you can email your estate agent and mortgage provider too – all the better.
Make sure you understand.
Don’t feel stupid asking questions. It’s your money and your house, you need to know what’s going on. Things like loan to value amounts can be complicated and there is a tonne of jargon involved in borrowing money and house surveys. Ask them to explain exactly what they mean, and what that means for you. They can draw you a picture if they have to.
Stick to your guns.
Buying and selling houses is a funny thing. Sellers generally want more than the house is worth because they’ve lived in it and spent money on it, buyers want to pay less and estate agents sit in the middle playing one off against the other. There are some brilliant estate agents out there who will be honest and straight with you (I’m friends with some of them). They will do their best to get the most for the seller AND the buyer. There are others who are awful, who seem to spend the whole time making the process as protracted and painful as possible, until its all second guessing and mind games. It’s the luck of the draw which you get. There generally is a lot of negotiation when you buy a house but if you feel you’re being pressured for the wrong reasons, stick to your guns. Again, it’s your money and if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to. You might lose a house or two, but that’s better than paying more than you want for a property that you’re not convinced about.
Hope this helps! Don’t forget, you don’t have to buy the conventional way either. Friends of mine picked an area they liked and flyered the houses they fancied asking if anyone was wanting to sell. They used a financial adviser provided by one of their employers to sort out the mortgage, and used a solicitor for the bare minimum of stuff…
There is lots of advice out there if you need it, MoneySavingExpert is a brilliant place to find things out. If you’ve got any of your own tips/hacks/experience to add, please do below…