Buying a house has long had a reputation for being one of the most stressful life milestones a person can experience. From delays in getting your mortgage to breaks in the property chain, there are so many things that can go wrong.
If you’ve got your heart set on making a house a home, don’t let the possible pitfalls put you off. After all, you’ve got so much to gain! There may be a few hurdles to overcome but once you’ve got your keys and you’re making the mandatory trip to Ikea, it’ll be so worth it.
I started the home hunting process in December and the process has been fairly smooth sailing so far. Here’s my home buying timeline to give you an insight into how the process could go…
In November I moved back in with my parents… for what felt like the 50th time in my adult life. I’d just spent six months living with my boyfriend but when he and I split up at the end of October, I decided to keep my head down and buy my own place once and for all. I was sick to death of moving!
I absolutely loved the flat I’d been renting and although I was still saving some money while there, I’d kinda put my home ownership dreams on the back burner in the hope of eventually buying somewhere with my then-bae. So when we split up, I kinda got this petty ‘well, fuck you, I’ll buy a house on my own then‘ mentality. Towards the end of the month I’d go from crying my eyes out one minute to listening to Little Mix and dreaming of world domination the next.
Moving back in with my parents was tough but I sat myself down and looked really closely at my finances. I added up how much I had saved for a deposit and decided to just take the leap and see what I could get with my money.
In December I started looking at homes on Zoopla and Rightmove. I introduced myself to estate agents, signed up for their mailing lists, and arranged viewings.
At this stage I had no idea how much I’d actually be able to borrow towards my own place and decided to chat to a mortgage broker for help. The first broker I spoke to was through one of the many estate agents I visited. We’ll call the broker Bob and the estate agents Ben’s Homes.
I’ll be honest, from the moment I met Bob, I got a bit of a bad vibe from him. When I sat down with him for a no-obligation mortgage consultation, he joked about being hungover. I instantly knew that this was not a man who had his shit together; he still had a tiny piece of tissue under his nose from where I presume he’d cut himself shaving. Then again, I had a black eye having fainted in the shower on Christmas Day, so who the hell was I to judge? I reluctantly decided to give him the benefit of the doubt cos he seemed to know his stuff, which I guess is what really matters.
He explained the mortgage process in a way that was easy to understand and after looking closely at my finances, he estimated how much I’d be able to borrow. I was pleasantly surprised by how much it was. He then typed my details into his fancy mortgage deal comparison tool and showed me the lenders who’d be likely to offer me the best loan.
He sent me on my merry way and told me he’d email me a mortgage in principle a couple of hours later.
By some miracle, I spotted an off-plan flat (a flat that’s not built yet) the very next day and it seemed like a fantastic deal. It was being sold through a different estate agent than the one I’d visited the day before. I still hadn’t received the mortgage in principle from Bob so I dropped him a text to see if he had it. When he didn’t reply, I innocently popped into Ben’s Homes to see if he was there for a catch up. I’m needy, okay? He wasn’t in. One of the estate agents took a message.
Half an hour later I received a phone call from Bob and he must have spent 5 whole minutes telling me to never pop into the branch and ask for him again. He said I’d gotten him into trouble with his boss, or something like that. Well, sorry for asking you to do your job, you patronising prick.
Since I’m a massive pushover who hates confrontation and just wants to be liked, I apologised sweetly and emphasised that I had only been trying to reach him because I didn’t want to miss out on the flat.
Once I’d received the mortgage in principle from Bob, I got in touch with the estate agent that was selling the new build property I wanted. We’ll call them Helen’s Homes. Helen’s Homes asked if I wanted to speak to their mortgage broker (Henry) and since Bob had been such a colossal dick, I decided to cut out the middle man and let Henry help me with the rest of the process. After all, I hadn’t given Bob any money and was under no obligation to continue using him. Also, Henry’s service was free of charge and still offered me a choice of mortgages from the whole market.
Henry was a fantastic help and quickly sorted me out with a great mortgage deal through Nationwide. On January 5th, I officially put an offer on the property and parted with a £1,000 reserve deposit.
Later that day, I contacted a local solicitor to ask them to help me with the conveyancing process. I decided to use the solicitor that my parents and grandparents used for their wills, as they’ve always had a positive experience with them in the past.
Sat at my desk one morning, I looked down to see my phone ringing. It was a number I didn’t recognise. I slid out of the office and answered the call. It was Bob! He was calling to see how my house hunting was going. Awkwarrrrd. I honestly had intended to tell him that I wouldn’t be using his services anymore and had even drafted out an email that I was going to send to him. I had just forgotten to send it. I’d abandoned it in frustration because I wasn’t sure if my wording was polite enough. I’m honestly like this all the time. Why am I like this?
I’m sure most mortgage brokers are used to being dumped but not Bob! When I told him about Henry – an older and more sophisticated man – he was furious. He went on this rant about how he’d report Henry to the mortgage broker ethics board, or some shit like that. When I hung up, he sent me an email desperately trying to make Henry out to be shit at his job.
Over the next few days, I gradually sent copies of my bank statements and payslips over to Henry so he could obtain a more formal agreement from Nationwide and prove to the developer I could afford the property. Not all developers require this information but some do.
The builders arrived at the plot of land and began building!
Henry emailed to say that the developer had sent site plans to the lender for assessment. If you’re purchasing a new build like I am, the lender will want to see this information so they can begin to assess the property’s value.
Not much to report from February. I visited the development every week, desperately peering through what I like to call The Glory Hole.
At the start of March, my solicitor sent me a copy of my flat’s lease. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of leasehold homes, this essentially means that although I own the flat itself, I don’t own the land that it’s built on and therefore have to rent the ground off a landlord.
When you buy a leasehold home you’re required to pay ‘ground rent’ to the landlord each year and you also have to pay maintenance charges to cover the cost of keeping the outside of your flat looking its best. That’s right. I’ve spent all this time desperately trying to escape the clutches of evil landlords and look at me now.
I’m trying to reassure myself that everything will be okaaayyy because virtually every flat is leasehold. I mean, it’s difficult to divide the land they’re built on between each flat owner. What I think is a real con is the number of houses being sold leasehold too. This is completely unnecessary and just a way for developers and investors to make money off homeowners.
After reading through the lease and researching the ‘leasehold scandal’* that’s plagued the news in recent weeks, I emailed my solicitor with some questions. He’s an absolute angel and got back to me really quickly to explain the terms of the lease and decode the jargon.
*I’ll write about the leasehold scandal in greater detail in another post.
My mortgage broker got in touch to let me know that the developer had sent all required information to the bank for a final assessment.
At the start of April I received the following from my solicitor:
- Site plan (this had been changed slightly since I first expressed an interest in the property)
- Details of local searches and planning permission
It was at this point that the solicitor also asked me to pay 10% of the property’s value. I spent a few weeks reading through the contract before emailing him a few more questions. As always, he got back to me really quickly. I’ve been told that most solicitors are not like this. Lucky me.
I popped into the bank and asked to move the 10% deposit from my account to the solicitor’s. I could have used online banking, I guess, but I was scared my account would be blocked. This one time, I bought gig tickets and the bank blocked my account because it apparently considered me having a social life ‘unusual activity’. Since you can’t get more unusual than moving several grand to a mysterious account, online banking was a risk I was unwilling to take for my deposit.
My perpetually worried face must have been putting on a real show in the bank because the nice man asked me if I was being forced to move the money against my will. I’m serious. He asked if I was being ‘coerced’. I made a really funny joke about how I didn’t really want to move the money before realising that I was talking myself into losing this flat.
This morning I had a meeting with my solicitor. This was the first time I’d met him in person and he happily answered a ton of questions I had about everything from the mortgage to the lease. I signed the contract and he told me that he’d heard my apartment could be finished as early as July! On the one hand this was great news because I’m desperate to move out of my parents’ house but on the other hand it made me panic because I don’t have any furniture money saved up just yet!
I’ll keep updating this post as I go along…