Today I wanted to discuss some pointers that J and I discovered during the process of buying our first home and I wanted to share them with anyone else also feeling a little overwhelmed by it all. This is just more specific to us and our situation but hopefully you’ll find something amongst this post that could help with you purchasing your first home too!
1 – Spend one day calling or visiting all your local estate agents to get on their mailing list; some emails you receive will be specific to your price range, bedrooms etc and some will be general but this allows you to have access to the market right at your fingertips.
2 – Visit as many properties you can, the first time can be exciting but don’t fall in love too soon. Try to always be realistic; a small second bedroom isn’t useful if you have a child or having a large lounge may not be what you need. Once you’ve found a couple properties, visit the area at different times to get an idea of traffic locally, if there’s noisy neighbors etc.
3 – If you can, spread the cost of furniture by buying what you can here and there (if you’re able to store it somewhere). We bought a bed, wardrobe, tv, little sofa and kitchen tableware/utensils about 8 months prior to the big move, which meant less money was spent during the move and also means we have nicer furniture in comparison to if we bought it all at once. I know this isn’t always an option for everyone but even just picking up a really nice cutlery or dining set a couple months prior to your move can help make your new home feel a bit more homely, that little bit quicker.
4 – We found mortgage advisors to be a pain. They were negative about our situation (even though J is in a professional and stable job) and some were even discriminatory towards me as I was taking a year out of university, some tried to call me another dependant as well as the baby. The mortgage man (a technical term haha) at the bank was much more helpful and positive and didn’t limit J’s budget even further by claiming me as another dependent as he understood I would have some money coming in the following year, so in our opinion, skip the mortgage advisors and head straight to the bank.
5 – Also only buy within your means, don’t get overexcited that a bank may offer you £160k and then find it difficult that your mortgage payments are higher every month. Finding somewhere slightly smaller and well within your budget for your first home helps you get used to budgeting from the very start. If you’ve come from renting, you may be used to paying one bill, so remember they’ll be a mortgage, electricity, gas and even service charges and ground rent if you’re buying a flat.
6 – Oh, prep yourself with solicitors fees. We got our mortgage through Halifax as they did a cash back towards the fees, but if you’re using a help to buy ISA or receiving a gifted deposit, you may well be charged more for the solicitors to deal with this paperwork. For us this was an extra £200 – to deal with 2 situations that were very evidently to aide our purchasing. It can be ridiculous but just be prepared for it.
7 – When listening to someone who bought their property 10, 20, 30 years ago, only take on board what you want, trust your instincts and don’t feel silly asking questions. But remember that the market is changing so often that some advice can sound terrifying when in actual fact it’s not even relevant anymore. Just bare that in mind.
8 – Do take a parent or relative to visits that will be honest and check for any issues – both my mom and J’s dad came with us on a second viewing to agree that it was worth the price and checked for things like damp etc. This includes googling the area and police checking a post code – J and I had an offer for a flat accepted before discovering that frequent high profile crimes were taking place in the area so try avoid this heartache.
9 – When putting in an offer go in at what you think the property is worth; take into account any work you may want to do and how much that will cost, or if you’re very happy and it’s a property you really want, you may go in above the asking price. Just always discuss every decision at length with your partner/who you’re moving in with and don’t be afraid to ask for advice with pricing from relatives or even the estate agent!
10 – Don’t go for the cheapest survey; we paid for the middle range checks so we knew everything was safe, this was especially important to us as we knew we’d have a baby very soon. Some cheap surveys will literally just tell you if the property exists and won’t even enter the house.
11 – If people offer to help with the move, take it, the more hands on deck or a borrowed van will make all the difference and save you some money/time!
12 – Pack some bags like you’re going on holiday. We packed a bag each with things we needed access to (toothbrush, change of clothes, toiletries) which saves you worrying about which box in which room all your items are and saved us a tonne of time.
13 – Following on from this; pack two boxes, one with your kettle, a flask of milk (keeps it cool) sugar, quick snacks etc so you’re always able to have a quick break. Secondly with cleaning products such as toilet paper, window cleaner, floor cleaner, multi purpose cleaner – just because you would leave your property clean, doesn’t always mean someone else would, so be prepared for sticky surfaces and dusty floors. It is always much easier to clean in an empty home first before all the furniture is in place.
14 – Email your solicitors the day before moving in to double check everything is set for completion. Had we not done this, we’d have had an unexpected bill requested on the morning of completion, but this way there’s no unexpected surprises. Also don’t always expect your move-in time to be accurate – solicitors aren’t as excited as you and can take hours to finalise some details before you’re finally handed your keys.
15 – Check, check and double check all paperwork on the property. If the boiler hasn’t been serviced in years then tell the seller this is a must prior to completion so you don’t end up with any nasty surprises in a years time if the boiler breaks. If the legal jargon is a bit much, sit down with a relative who may understand it better or missed mistakes can be costly.
16 – Clean tea towels, clean towels and clean bedding for the big move! This will massively save you the hassle of transporting dirty washing and also means it’s one less thing to think about – clean bedding on your first night in a new home is a lovely feeling and starts making everything feel a bit more homely.
17 – Ask your seller what some switches are. J and I turned off the shower switch because we thought it controlled the oven and ended up having an awkward bath together (I was 30 weeks pregnant and huge haha) in a couple inches of warm water because we couldn’t figure out the shower haha.
18 – Sometimes your details may already be passed on to the gas/electric supplier by the former owner/estate agent on your behalf. This means you automatically have an account set up with them, so even if you decide to switch suppliers, your electric and gas is already taken care of for a bit. Also, take pictures of all meters, this gives you an accurate reading on the day of your moving in as evidence if required.
19 – And at the end of the day, tell everyone to go home, if you’re moving in with a partner for the first time, it’s always exciting to have some you-time so make sure you allocate yourself that.
20 – Enjoy it! Enjoy hunting, enjoy furniture shopping and enjoy the decorating – this property is all about making memories so make sure you appreciate every moment.
Eleanor Jasmin x