Moving House: A Beginner’s Guide to Buying your First Home. Introduction

first-home-owners-grantI remember reading somewhere, sometime, that the three most stressful things you can do are marry, move house and divorce.

I thought they came in that order because people move all the time, marrying is something aspirational and also the biggest day of your life, and divorce is something no one hopes to do so we’ll tuck it on the end and get over it quickly.  Last Friday DH and I completed on our first home together (that is truly ours, not rented) and I am beginning to see a new link between the last two items on the list!

Of course, I am not meaning to imply that our marriage is in danger, but DH and I have been very short tempered with ourselves, the house, and each other.  That said, I think that things could have been much worse had I not spent so much time researching the move and planning each step.  We have been given lots of good advice and, a week into our new lives as home-owners, it feels like a good time to reflect and to share our experiences.  This series of blog posts will do just that.  But first – a couple of important points:

The British Method of Buying a House is Insane.

If you buy a wedding dress (sorry chaps!), you spend hours and hours poring through magazines, discussing it with everyone and anyone who will listen (even after they’ve long stopped listening), visiting bridal fairs, touring all the bridal shops in the local area (twice!) and trying on tens to hundreds of gowns (three or four times) before creating a short-list and doing the whole trying process again.  Having done that, you go through them all again, pick “the one” and then have it fitted two or three times before making a final choice.  The whole process takes anything up to two years, depending on the length of your engagement.  Never mind the fact that before you even get to the buying the dress stage, most people have been together for a number of years before making the huge commitment to get married. You wear the dress for one day.  Actually, no you don’t.  A day is 24hrs – you wear it for a maximum of 12.

Compare that to buying a house.  As soon as I’ve written that, I’m sure you can already see the ridiculousness of the two situations. It’s a seller’s market in England at the moment – all the Help to Buy schemes and the recovering market means that buyers are clamouring to purchase property and the sellers can pick and choose.  This accelerates the process dramatically if you want to get in (two properties we enquired about, which weren’t exactly beautiful, had 50 people waiting to see each of them) and  if you don’t want to be gazumped, as DH and I were on our picture-perfect cottage.  We viewed it on the Thursday, asked for a second viewing with a responsible grown-up (Mum) on the Saturday, were told we had to wait until Monday and then as we were on the way to the cottage, received a phone call from the Estate Agents to say that the couple had received an offer on Saturday and just that moment had decided to accept.  We were forced to forego a second viewing but decide there and then if we were going to make an offer and make it.  No deals, no careful budgeting, top budget offered and then rejected.

How nuts was that?  Not the fact that we’d been gazumped so quickly but the fact that we’d offered a huge sum of money and agreed to make a 39 year financial commitment on the basis of spending 15m in a property. A property, I might add, that we were going to live in for 10 years +, not wear for a mere 12 hours.

A week after losing the cottage, we’d offered and been accepted on the house we’ve just moved into.  We’d seen it twice, spending a total of 1hr in the property and we’d had to forego having a responsible grown-up with us but make the biggest decision of our adult lives completely on our own when neither of us truly felt prepared.  An avid fan of Location, Location, Location, I had more knowledge than some might but even 10 years of watching people being guided through the process doesn’t make you feel any better when it’s your turn to make the leap of faith.

The Scottish system isn’t much better – they often work on an offers over basis but because of the sealed bids system (I don’t think all property sales are done like this but many are), prospective buyers have to work out what their best offer is and if they’re willing to put it in.  If they don’t, they run the risk of losing a property to someone else’s sealed bid that could be just that tiny bit higher.  This could mean that, if you truly madly love a property, you could end up paying way over the odds and you’d never know. In addition, a property might be put on the market at offers over 120K but the estate agents will anticipate it going for 180k in the end – how many people unfamiliar with the system or local area might go and view a property thinking they can just afford it, only to lose out time and again?

The Aim of this Blog

This series of posts aims to offer some advice and insight from the perspective of first-time buyers, for first time buyers.  I hope that people will find it useful and it may make navigating this crazy system a little easier.  By no means am I an expert, but I have done a lot of research and learnt a lot along the way.  Read it, take the bits you think “Yep, that makes sense” and ignore anything that doesn’t. I am in no way saying that readers of this series should do everything I did or how I did.  In fact, as you’ll soon discover, DH and I made plenty of mistakes along the way but it’s all part of our adventure!

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