For many people, 2020 will forever have a bit of a stinky reputation. However, for me, 2020 will always have a special place in my heart as one of the best years of my life. If you’d like to know more on why 2020 was so amazing for me, click here.
Anyway, towards the end of 2019 me and my partner decided to start looking for a property to purchase together. Finding something we loved was a trial in itself, but that actually turned out to be the easy part. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong for us did go wrong – from simple misspellings and incorrect contracts to missing mortgage brokers and lying agents, we faced it all, and that was all before a global pandemic.
Get yourself a cup of something warm and maybe a cookie or 2, it’s going to be a long one.
- House Buying Jargon
Buying a home is undoubtedly one of the biggest financial commitments a person will ever make and it is a good idea to get familiar with some of the jargon the sales people and industry pros will throw around. Familiarising yourself with some of the key terms and processes before making an offer can help avoid confusion down the road. For example, get to know the ins and outs of terms like ‘conveyancing’, ‘land registry’ and ‘stamp duty’.
- The Area Lowdown
It goes without saying that you should always know a little about the area you are hoping to move. If all goes well, you could be spending several years of your life tied to where you are about to invest in so you want to make sure you know as much about the vicinity as possible.
Dig deeper than simply looking at the surrounding properties. Investigate local amenities such as local shops, transport links and schools and speak to the local council about possible building works planned in the area. Before you make an offer, view the property more than once and try to visit at different times. Your first viewing may be on a Tuesday morning when most of the cars in the street are out. Chances are, the parking in your street would look very different at 9am on a Saturday morning.
- Know The Market
It is essential that you demonstrate at least some awareness of the property industry in the area you are looking to buy. You must have a rough idea of how much square footage can be expected for your budget in reference to where you are hoping to buy. For example, what will buy you a three or four bedroom town house with a garden in the North East of England will probably cover the cost of a studio flat in much of London.
Investigate the sale prices of properties in the surrounding areas. Often, a move just a mile or two down the road can equate to a lot more square footage for your money and may even stretch to a parking space if you are looking to buy a flat in London! Take all of these factors into consideration before making an offer.
- Take Pictures
When you find a property you really take a shine to, take pictures of it. It likely won’t be the only property you have seen and if you are anything like me, after a few months worth of viewings, it becomes difficult to decipher one property from another. Pictures can really help.
- Calculate the True Cost
You may have already sat down to work out what you can afford in terms of your deposit, but there are so many other fees you need to consider. Some extra factors to consider include;
- Stamp duty and land tax
- A structural survey for your new home
- Solicitor fees
- Broker fees
- Agent fees
- Removal fees
- Energy Performance Certification
- New furniture (especially for first time buyers)
- Securing an ‘Agreement in Principle’
This is one of the main reasons you need to familiarise yourself with the house buying process early on. An agreement in principle is essentially written confirmation from your lender declaring how much money they are willing to let you borrow to buy your home. This can help you to determine your maximum budget for your search too.
Having one of these agreements is not essential and you can still attend viewings of properties without one, however if you have already secured an agreement in principle, it goes a long way to show agents and sellers how serious you are about buying a property. It may even give you an advantage over other sellers as it shows you have already thought about your finances, should you wish to make a purchase.
- Don’t Be Intimidated
Do not let smarmy agents intimidate you when you are on your first viewing. Many estate agents will insist that there is ‘a lot of interest‘ in wherever you are viewing and I don’t think I have viewed a property yet where there wasn’t ‘a few more viewings later’ that same day.
Do not let this get inside your mind. If you feel like you like a property, ask to view it again if you wish. This is often when an agent will tell you that there’s 136 people coming to see it in the next week. So what? If you find a place you can’t say no to, make an offer to the agent under the proviso that they take it off the market. This will show them how serious you are and also prevent the seller accepting higher offers should one of the 136 fake viewers also show interest. Remember, until contracts are exchanged, either party can back out at any point in the buying/selling process.
- Communication is Key
If, at any point, you feel confused or overwhelmed, come clean to your agent or broker. Remember, it is their job to help you through the buying process so they should be able to explain anything you are not sure about. If you want clarification on a matter, make a call or send an email. You are about to make an investment of a lifetime – you deserve to know exactly what it happening.
In addition to this, agents, brokers and others involved in the buying process are only human too. They can (and will likely) make mistakes. Pay extra close attention to all the fine details – it can be so easy to misspell a surname or miss out a special clause you agreed with the agent – so double, triple and quadruple check everything, then have another read through.
- Book a Removal Team
This was something we didn’t actually do when we moved house in 2020. We also actually had almost one month sofa surfing (staying in temporary accommodation) between moving out of our rented property and into the home we had purchased. We placed all of our belongings into storage and lived out of suitcases for a whole month. When we finally got keys, it was a gradual process of bringing bits and pieces from storage into our house so we didn’t hire a team.
However, removal teams make the whole process a lot simpler and take the literal weight of the day off your shoulders. From helping you pack up, to making sure your most delicate possessions are safely transported, we will definitely be hiring a removal team when we next come to move.
Whether it is your first foray into property or you have snapped up your forever home, buying a house can be a long and arduous process. At the end of the process, you must remember to celebrate in your own special way. Events of 2020 somewhat limited the realms of our celebrations but nothing could dampen our spirits completely. While a large housewarming party was out of the question, inviting your friends and family over one a a time can be just as fun. In my case, there was less mess to tidy up and multiple opportunities to drink champagne and eat cake.
Woohoo, you’re all moved in. Before you stress too much about where needs a new rug and what colour your cushions should be, remember to update your address everywhere you can think of – I have a blog post on that too in case you forgot anything!
Have you ever bought a home before? What are your top tips for the process?