Wow, it’s certainly been a while. I feel like I am so inconsistent with this blog and although I always say I’m going to change that and I never do – that’s something I really want to work on. Not to make excuses, but there has been a pretty big reason for my absence; My boyfriend and I bought our first home!
It’s been stressful as hell and I feel like I don’t ever want to move again because it’s just been such an absolute headache but now we are in and settled, I am so happy! Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot to do and this certainly isn’t our forever home but things are going in the right direction and I feel like it has been an amazing adventure for us to share!
What’s a mortgage? How do you buy a house? Help to buy?
I was so completely clueless when we started out on this adventure of ours and I feel like if nothing else, I have learnt so much! When we first decided to buy a home I felt so completely out of my depth and honestly the first few meetings with the bank and the mortgage advisors I just felt so stupid!
Our first step was to get together a deposit. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that this is actually one of the hardest parts of buying your first home. Your deposit is such a big amount of money (depending on how much you want your budget to be) and it is so tricky to cut back and save so much money each month. It’s also worth remembering that just because you might have saved £20,000 for your deposit, you will still need to find another couple of thousand pounds to pay your solicitors bills and yet more hundreds of pounds to actually furnish and fill your home with all of the things you need. Of course the financial element doesn’t end there – you are now the proud owner of so many bills each month that you don’t know what to do with them, literally.
Once we had saved up our deposit we arranged a few meetings with some mortgage advisors and banks. It is incredible daunting but I would definitely recommend arranging a few different meetings. We ended up using habito (an online mortgage advisor) to scour the market for the best mortgage lender for us but I would certainly recommend using a mortgage advisor of some sort because even though you might have to pay an extra hundred pounds – which in the grand scheme of things is barely anything – you will know that you’re getting the best rate and the best mortgage for you. When you are meeting with banks and mortgage advisors, think of a few questions that you would like to ask and ask the same questions to everyone to see how their answers might be different. A tip that I personally would suggest as well, something which I tend to do for most areas of my life, is to play down my knowledge. I might have researched something extensively but there is no way that I am going to let the mortgage advisor know that. There are a few reasons for this, firstly because you know you will get a more in depth and full explanation which may be slightly different from what you thought you knew but also because it’s human nature to get kicks out of knowing more than someone else. If your mortgage advisor feels like you don’t know as much they want to help you more because they want to show you just how much they know! Be careful with this though, theres a massive difference between playing down your knowledge and just playing plain dumb. No one will appreciate someone who is just out and out stupid!
Something that everybody recommends when you are looking to buy a property is to open a help to buy ISA account. It is definitely worth doing this (you can open one account per person so if you are buying with a friend or partner you can open one account each). I would recommend opening these accounts and saving the maximum amount each month to really make them worthwhile. There are a few things that no one really tells you about these accounts which I wish I had known before!
- You cannot use the money in these accounts towards your deposit.
- Your solicitor has to claim the government bonus 5 working days before you complete on your purchase – our solicitor didn’t tell us this until a couple of days before he needed to claim which meant that we really struggled to get our accounts closed and our closing statements through in order to claim in time
- The government bonus (25% of what you save) will usually be used towards your solicitors fee’s so you will never see that money, you will only see the money that you put into the account so don’t rely on getting that additional 25%!
Once you have done all of the boring financial bits and learnt what a mortgage is and how much you can afford, it’s time to go shopping!
How do I find my dream home?
The best way to find your dream home is to not look for your dream home. If you set out with the expectations of finding your forever home, chances are you will never find something that meets your expectations within your budget. It’s pretty much a given that unless you have an unlimited budget, you will have to compromise. My partner and I started by making a list of what we wanted from our home and we then sorted the list into what we absolutely needed, what we would quite like and what we would definitely have to compromise on. Once you have an idea of what your budget is and what you need from your home you can get looking. We spent hours and hours on right move looking through properties, making appointments and viewing flats. It was pretty draining and there were definitely a few times where I thought we were never going to find somewhere to live.
I personally found the viewings quite difficult because I didn’t really know what questions to ask. I would definitely recommend doing a google search of the area and find a couple of questions to ask in advance. I would also suggest taking someone who isn’t going to live there with you along to the viewings. You might not want to do this at the first viewing but if you think you like somewhere, it’s definitely not a bad idea to get a fresh set of eyes involved. My boyfriend and I took his mum along to see a lot of properties and she had such a different outlook as someone who wasn’t actually going to be living there which I would never have thought of otherwise.
Solicitors? Exchange? Completion?
Once you have found the place where you want to live, you have to make an offer and try and agree on a price with the sellers. This can be quite difficult if you both have different ideas of what the property is worth, for example one property that we put an offer on, the sellers were asking for a few thousand pounds more than the market value because they had paid more for it so we had to let a flat we loved go because we weren’t willing to pay more than it was worth.
Eventually you will have agreed your price and it’s time to start the long and tiring process of buying your property. You will need to find a solicitors, I would suggest using someone local so that it is easy for you to drop in paperwork once you have signed it. Most of the next few months, you will be in the dark as to what is going on (unless you have a really good solicitor who keeps you updated) and you will only hear from your solicitor when there is something that needs signing or a decision that needs to be made. I found this part the most frustrating because I just had no idea what was going on for about half of the time! After lots of back and forth between your solicitors and the sellers solicitors, you will get send a massive document of every bit of information there is about your future home and you will receive your contracts to sign. Once you have signed your contracts, it is time to agree an exchange and completion date with the seller. The exchange date is the day that the contracts will be exchanged between you (the buyer) and the seller. The completion date is the date when all the money gets moved and you will finally get the keys to your new home! Depending on your mortgage lender and solicitors you may have to wait a few days between your exchange and completion dates.
Once you have got the keys, it’s time for your adventure to start..