house

The things no one tells you about being a first time buyer…

In May 2017 my partner and I set about looking for our first home together after 3 years of hard saving and scrimping and some help from a very wonderful Aunt.
We finally moved into our first home on Friday 13th October 2017 – yes, we are aware that we are nuts to choose to move house on Friday 13th but if you knew us as a couple, you probably wouldn’t be surprised!

Here are a few tips we picked up along the way – some obvious (now, in hindsight!) and some not so obvious…

ONE

Know thyself.Β 

When I say this, I mean know exactly what you want in a property before you set out – it really helps to have a firm idea of what you need vs what you want. We agreed very early on that we would never consider purchasing either a flat or a new build – a period property (Victorian, or Edwardian at a push) was the ONLY option for us and we stuck to that – even when offered to view affordable 1930s properties, we stuck to our guns because we knew in our heart of hearts what was right for us.

TWO

Know the Compromises

We knew we’d never be able to afford a ‘liveable-inable’ house straight off. We viewed some real shit holes to begin with then as we viewed more properties we learned what certain things mean in property listing on sites like Zoopla and Rightmove; such as a ‘manageable, low maintenance garden’ usually means a concreted or paved courtyard that you couldn’t swing a dick round.

There was one thing we were not prepared to compromise on, and that was the garden. We did however, fall in love with a property that had quite a tiny garden but we put an offer in anyway as the house itself was almost perfectly formed. Thankfully, we didn’t get that house – we found a house that was even better with a BIGGER garden in the end – so, perhaps ignore that bit of advice πŸ˜‰

THREE

Know your limits

If you’re confident at haggling then this will definitely stand you in good stead for the ‘making an offer’ part. Be prepared to hear the ‘big sell’ – things like exaggerating how much interest they’ve had in the house, exaggerating how many offers they’ve had and even being asked after you’ve made an offer, if you can offer more. If you have trouble saying no, then try and get some help from friends or family to give you support while you make your negotiations. Don’t be fooled into thinking the estate agent is working on your behalf – they are not, they are working for the SELLER to sell the house at a price they want (and the estate agents really want to sell houses and get their commission!)

FOUR

Know your budget – and stick to it.

When we agreed on our budget, we decided on what we could afford to offer and we stuck to it. We stuckΒ to our guns so that we didn’t break into our ‘renovation fund’ that we had running alongside our deposit fund. We sat down and agreed on the mortgage we could afford – we did not go for a huge mortgage, we saved for a bigger deposit instead. We agreed that being mortgaged up to the hilt is not for us and we want to have a good quality of life while we pay off our mortgage; so we worked out how much per month we could live comfortably on while paying the mortgage.

FIVE

Know your geography or at least learn it!Β 

We moved to a relatively new town – I’d been a frequent visitor to the town for years but have never really paid any attention to anything other than its shopping centre. We learned very very quickly from many many viewings which areas to avoid! There were around 6 areas of the town and we very quickly shaved 3 areas off the list simply by viewing houses in the area. The best piece of advice I can give you is ‘buy a not so great house in a great area, not the other way round’ because after all, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. It’s a cliché  but it’s true.

SIX

NEVER Scrimp on a survey

I spent months reading and researching Victorian properties and quickly learned a few important differences between new builds and period properties. I phoned up innumerable surveyors and asked how they measure for damp – old houses are usually damp and I found a wonderful gentleman called Peter Ward (look him up on Youtube) who knows everything about period properties – from his site I learned that a decent surveyor won’t use damp meters. They will know that victorian properties need to breathe and will point out things that a not-so-knowledgeable surveyor may not notice. I can personally recommend 1st Associated surveyors – we had a full survey done and the report was over 100 pages in length and was incredibly detailed. Even our estate agent was impressed with it – it helped us to re-submit a lower offer taking into account the structural issues with the house that we wouldn’t have known about without the survey. It wasn’t cheap, but it was absolutely worth every penny (or pound!)

SEVEN

KNOW YOUR PROPERTY

LIME EVERY TIME

The most frustrating thing I found when viewing properties was how much damage people have inadvertently caused when ‘modernising’ period properties. Seemingly simple things like re-pointing brickwork with cement mortar instead of lime mortar can severely impact the level of damp in a house. Cement mortar creates a barrier that means that moisture in the house cannot escape the way it was designed to – through the bricks and mortar.

Another death to period properties is double glazing windows (and in lots of privately rent homes, we noticed very few extractor fans were in use) and no ventilation – and hence, damp and mould.

PERIOD PROPERTIES NEED TO BREATHE – That is the difference between new builds and period properties.

Also look out for modern plastered walls – always try to replaster period houses using lime based plaster, not gypsum plaster, so that the house can BREATHE.

A Final Word

For us, the biggest hurdle when buying a house, was the deposit. It took us years and years of living separately and saving. We lived within our means (and continue to do so) and saved as much as we could get away with, without leaving ourselves ridiculously poor. We went without – I didn’t fritter my money on clothes or shoes and when we did buy things, we bought things ‘for the house’ – like furniture (thank you to my Mum and Dad for allowing us the use of their loft as storage for the past 3 years!)

The hard save is worth it – that pair of shoes or latest games console, is not.

Your deposit is what gives you freedom – freedom to choose a decent mortgage, a decent property and gives you freedom to own more of your house from the outset. In my opinion, there is no point putting down a 5% deposit and paying a huge mortgage for 35 years and living hand to mouth. Live within your means. Good Luck!!!

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Victorian House Hunting!

I last wrote in March about how uneasy I was feeling about my life. It’s amazing how quickly things can change.

Tomorrow, I turn 31 and on Saturday I’m taking my other half to view a house that I’ve fallen in love with. It’s a beautiful (yet slightly dilapidated) Victorian Terrace in a village and is full of potential for our first home project.

I’ve written previously about my passion for history and my biggest obsession in life has been wanting to buy a Victorian house and restore its original features like fireplaces and open fires, sash windows and corbels etc.

Luckily for me, my partner in crime hates new build houses as much as I do, so we quickly agreed we wanted to buy a period property and do it up in the style we like. We settled on a Victorian terrace. My Grandparents owned a Victorian end-of-terrace in Liverpool and we visited them during my childhood. I can still remember the high ceilings, big rooms, beautiful wooden banister, the red carpet running up the stairs with stair rods, the stained glass porch and the bakelite light switches. From the age of around 8 I fell in love with that old, dilapidated house and I’ve been determined to own something so beautiful myself.

With that in mind, we started house hunting only a few months ago, and in the space of around 2 weeks we viewed 11 properties of varying states of undress (!). The first Victorian house we saw had a 200 foot garden, which had such amazing potential, especially for us, as we’re keen to get green fingered and I’m something of a Hedgewitch. Unfortunately, the house (or cottage!) itself was “compact and bijou”, in need of an awful lot of TLC and the kitchen was the smallest kitchen I’ve ever seen with the lowest ceiling I’ve ever seen! Suffice to say, we let someone else take a punt on that house!

Next came another Victorian terrace that had been refurbished upstairs but not downstairs so the 1970s kitchen was in desperate need of being ripped out and started again, with a more age-appropriate kitchen. The road it was on was unbelievably claustrophobic, so that was a no from me.

We then went to view 2 properties a few doors down from each other. Both were previous HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) and were damp as f*ck. There’s no way we could afford to sort out the damp and have enough money to make the house liveable in. So they were instant nos.

It’s actually incredible how fast you learn when you’re thrown into the deep end of a project. I’ve never lived anywhere other than in my parents council house – it’s a terraced house built in the mid to late 70s and structurally, we don’t do any maintenance to it as it’s not our responsibility. So, looking at Victorian buildings with absolutely no experience in home owning/building has been a very steep learning curve already.
I’ve spent many hours researching how to renovate old buildings, and together, we have built quite an arsenal of knowledge over the past couple of months. I’m actually rather proud of myself – I’ve spoken to mortgage advisors, estate agents and the like, and I’d never done anything so grown up in my life. I definitely feel like I’ve achieved so much personally, already.

Knowing what we know, we’ve narrowed down our search radius to two areas of a town we want to live in. We’ve excluded ‘rougher’ areas from our search as we’re in the mind of buying a ‘shit house, in a decent area’ and making it nice. Postcode means a lot to us.

I have to say, I have, at this stage, fallen in love with a house. It’s everything I want (even if the garden is a little smaller than I’d like, it has potential to be really cute) and I can really imagine us living there together, as a family. I can already see what I could physically add to the house (stripping and painting architraves for example) and I can see the wallpaper I’ve chosen on the walls and the fireplaces opened up and restored with open fireplaces and wood burning stoves. It’s in a beautiful village on a beautiful street of Victorian terraces that all look loved and cared for…

The Big But…

Unfortunately for us, I can say with absolute certainty that this ‘dream house’ is also going to be the ‘dream house’ for many other house hunters. The house is for up for informal tender – this means that you view the house, then you write a ‘sealed bid’ – hand your sealed, secret offer into the estate agent for the vendor to then decide who they want to sell the house to. It’s a fair way of doing it, but still absolutely heartbreaking if our bid isn’t successful.

I know I shouldn’t put all my eggs into this one basket, but when you fall in love, you can’t stop it, you just have to go for it. So, we’re going for it. We have our deposit, our mortgage in principle and I’m so ready to start my new life with my incredible partner in crime.

I just hope with all I have, that this is the house for us. I’ll keep you posted x

*Disclaimer: Featured image subject to Copyright – the Victorian Emporium*