I was asked to write about my home buying experience by Sandra Starke who has a book offering advice to first time buyers who may be unsure as to how to go about it.
I bought a terraced 3-bedroom house in an affordable area when I realised that buying a house would be the sensible financial thing to do. That was pretty much the only inspiration for it. I had moved back home after uni and saved up a reasonable deposit, so I was in the fortunate financial position to do so. When I picked my house, I was very methodological and hence succeeded with the house hunt quite quickly. In hindsight my house buying experience went to plan. However, it was a nerve-wracking experience.
1. How did you find your home?
I tried to approach methodically. I secured an agreement in principle before I started house hunting. Before I began, I decided that I would look at five houses before deciding. I conduct surveys on domestic houses for a living, so I knew what I was looking for in terms of property construction. I had a list of criteria that I wanted from a house including, good public transport links, links to the motorway, near green spaces, already insulated with a newish boiler and of course within budget.
When I looked at the houses, I was joined by a friend’s mother. She had bought and sold several houses over the years and gave me some valuable insight as to what I should be looking out for. Funnily enough she looked at four out of five houses with me. The only one that she did not visit with me was the one that I bought.
At the end of viewing five houses, there were two that I would have considered buying: the first and last that I viewed. I immediately dismissed two of the houses that I looked at because they were made of concrete. The first house that I would have considered was in a desirable location and was of a similar style to the house I eventually bought, but this house was sold before I finished viewing five houses.
At the end of the search there was only one house that fit the criteria that was still for sale, so I made an offer that was accepted.
2. How was your conveyancing process?
Excellent. I had a friend who worked for a solicitor so I went through them. Davies and Partners in Birmingham City Centre. I only met my Solicitor once to have some documents checked. All of the other correspondence was via the phone or email. My solicitor always responded quickly and professionally .
3. How were the exchange and completion?
I was a first-time buyer, but the people that I bought from were not. The sale was delayed for three months over a dispute about a lack of a gas safety certificate for the boiler. I know that a boiler that needs replacing can costs thousands to replace or even worse be dangerous. I wasn’t willing to buy a house without a gas safety certificate. Eventually the other party paid to have one completed because the house that they were going to buy was ready for them or it was nearly ready. We had agreed a completion date, but the estate agent for the other party asked to delay the completion date for a week as their new house was not ready quite yet. I agreed as I was in no rush. My solicitor was not happy with me for agreeing this.
4. How did the moving in go?
There was a good 3-6 months between making an offer and receiving the keys for the house. I could only vaguely remember what I bought. I didn’t take photos of the house, which was a mistake.
When I got the keys and first went to look at it a friend who had recently bought came with me to check that the house was as I expected and to offer some advice about moving in. Other than a few cracks in the wall hidden by posters and a dodgy old, wooden front and back doors, the house was as it should have been.
Fortunately for me I had a friend who was an architect. I bribed my friend with beer, and he came around to my place to give me some advice about the state of the construction. I also had a friend who was a permaculture gardener, he designed me a garden and with the help of a group of friends we transformed my garden from wooden mulch and a shed to a nature friendly habitat.
After the completion date I immediately went on holiday for two weeks where I ran the Berlin marathon and explored Europe via train. When I returned, I moved in. I hired a van and with the help of a few friends moved in in one evening. I lived in a flat previously and don’t have many possessions. The move went smoothly. I scavenged furniture second hand off friends.
5. What do you wish you had known?
In hindsight my house buying experience went to plan. However, it was a nerve-wracking experience. Being interviewed by the bank for my mortgage was intense. The bank manager asked many detailed questions about my life. I just about qualified for a 40-year mortgage. Whilst it did not hinder the overall purchase, the three-month delay from the gas safety certificate was unnecessary. I could have just paid the £50 myself rather than stubbornly playing the waiting game.
· Speak to people you know. I was fortunate enough to know a few people who had bought houses not long before me. I asked for their advice. One friend was an actuary, so I asked him about the financial aspects of buying a house. He explained to me that I would get a better deal by going for a fee free mortgage as my mortgage was not large enough for the lower interest rate to offset the cost of the fee. I did not go for a broker. I did my own research from comparison sites and took the results to my actuary friend. During the interview for my final offer with the bank I phoned two of my friends when I had fifteen minutes to consider accepting the offer from the bank.
· Consider your values. I try to be an ethical consumer. This meant that most of the high street banks were off the table. Eventually I had the choice between the co-op bank and a few building societies, I chose the co-op bank as my current account was with them anyway and the co-op bank offered a good deal. I could have got maybe half a per cent lower interest rate with one of the big banks, but that was never an option for me.
· Make the most of your situation. In terms of house buying, I was in the fortunate position of having little baggage. I had the full deposit and a bit more already in place before I started looking. I was single so could focus on exclusively what I wanted. No compromising of my ideals needed. I was in no rush to move, I could have stayed living with my Mom if required. Being a first-time buyer meant that I was not in a chain.