Lessons learned buying our first home

Posted on in Life

On the 5th June, after many weeks of lockdown separation, Lauren and I picked up the keys to our first house.

Keys in hand, and together for the first time in months

Here are some of the lessons we learned along the way.

  1. When looking for a house, work out your priorities for rooms/space, and try to imagine how long you plan on staying there. You can rank viewings more objectively this way.
  2. That said, trust your gut. We went into some houses that on paper were perfect, but we got all the weird feels from them. We’re so glad we didn’t go for them.
  3. View houses above and below your price range, it’ll help you spot a good deal and an overpriced house.
  4. Some estate agents boast that they “sell their properties for £Xk more than the others in the area. That’s a big turn off for buyers. If the house is on with multiple agents, maybe look at one of the others.
  5. Estate agents, particularly those showing you around properties, are almost exclusively awful, and know less about the propery/area than you do.
  6. Use this as an opportunity to practise patience.
  7. Everything is free till your offer is accepted, so make the most of it. There are a load of people wanting to make a nice profit out of you, so take their free advice, but know that they’re ultimately there to make money.
  8. Go into mortgage meetings prepared. Do your sums beforehand. Have your payslips. Heck, we had a spreadsheet forecasting earnings for the next twelve months, ready to plot in their mortgage offer. It’ll speed things up and make you look trustworthy and professional.
  9. Your parents/loved ones won’t always be behind you, and that sucks. So find some trusted friends to lean on too.
  10. So much of the process is based on blind trust, it’s kinda scary how far you can go without proving you are able to afford it, and how easy it is to pull out at any stage before exchange. Which leads me on to:
  11. The exchange process is a mess. You have to get home/life insurance to exchange. To get that you need to know what date you are exchanging. But to get the date for exchanging, you have to give you insurance details. Which you can’t set up because you don’t know the exchange date… and so on.
  12. CHASE solicitors. Good grief, they are slow. And they don’t communicate with one another unless heavily chivvied.
  13. When it feels like it’s all getting out of control, slow it down to your pace. You are more in control than you’re led to believe.
  14. Neither of us have had credit cards, and our credit checks went through just fine, despite some of the warnings to ‘build up our rating’.
  15. Mortgage advisors cost money, and don’t necessarily get you a better deal. The rates you and I can see are the same as the IFA’s, despite what they tell you. If you can go directly to a bank, you’ll save a £500 fee. It’s a bit more effort, but their advisors are free.
  16. Exchange day felt like an eternity. Not really a lesson here, other than don’t expect to be productive on that day.
  17. Utilities are easier to organise than you think: make a list, work through it in a morning.
  18. On moving day, if you can, put aside 30 minutes in the empty house to appreciate the space before you bring in all of your clobber and things. It’s the last time it’ll look that neat.

And finally…

  1. Try not to buy during a global pandemic.

Posted on in Life