Last year, Sean & I unlocked a massive adult achievement and bought our first house. It's been almost a year since we bit the bullet and reserved the plot of mud & scaffolding that would one day turn into our little home and what followed were some of the happiest, most exciting and stressful months of my life.
As is to be expected, through buying our house we learnt a lot, and so I thought I'd write down the advice I have. These tips may or may not be obvious to you, but are all things I hadn't thought of before we made a start.
Sean and I made the decision to consult mortgage broker rather than going through a bank, and I'd recommend that anyone buying for the first time does the same. He ended up being an invaluable resource, we were able to ring him with any queries we had and he patiently explained every step of the process. You have to be prepared to evidence your whole identity to be accepted for a mortgage and honestly, it would have been so overwhelming gathering this information together without our broker to guide us.
You're going to need to provide a minimum of three months worth of bank statements (every! transaction!) to be accepted for a mortgage, which really focuses your mind on what you waste money on. We were fine, but I'd really recommend cutting down on takeaways, frivolous spending and things like online betting where you can to make this process less embarrassing. The extra money you save can go towards your house anyway!
We knew that was 2017 was the year we were going to buy a house but we procrastinated on searching for one for a good few months, it was just so hard to know where to start. When you're buying a house, you'll quickly realise what you will & won't compromise on. It's a good idea for you (& whoever you're buying with!) to get down all those ideas down before you start looking, having some criteria to narrow down our search really helped us in the beginning. Are you willing to commute? Do you want to be near family? Do you want a garden? Do you have pets to accommodate... or do you want to get a pet? Need a dishwasher or parking spots? How many bedrooms would you like? Do you like open plan living? The list will quickly grow and you'll probably end up buying a house with two of the things you listed, but at least you won't be searching aimlessly.
Once we had our deposit, we were ready to buy a house! What we hadn't really accounted for was all the fees that come along with doing that. In terms of the actual buying procedure we needed to cover our broker, a solicitor, reservation fees, searches and surveys, credit checks... the list quickly added up. Don't be discouraged, but don't be naive (as I was) about the fact that you need a good chunk of change on top of your deposit either. It's also worth bearing in mind that if you're buying a house for the first time, chances are you've been renting or living at home up until this point and don't have much in the way of furniture. It's wise to set some money aside for 'essentials' you'll want or need to be comfortable when you first move in and then build from there. For us this included our bed & mattress, a couch and white goods; a fridge and a washer/dryer. That shit is expensive!
Before we bought our house, we were choosing between a 2 & 3 bed model. We ended up going for the 2 bed because the larger houses weren't going to be completed when we needed to move in. We thought our budget could have stretched to either house but when we started to add on the cost of everything that isn't included, the difference between the prices of the two houses quickly narrowed and we wouldn't have been able to stretch ourselves. You don't want to blow your whole budget and have nothing left to play with.
If you're buying a new build house, as we did, don't assume anything is included. It was a real slap in the face for me and Sean to learn that flooring cost extra. When something as basic as flooring wasn't included, we were surprised to find that other, more trivial things were. Included in the cost of our property was an outside light (front & back!), a decent choice of kitchen fittings and a glass shower screen. We (...Sean) managed to get some bits thrown in when we reserved our property, but we needed some money to pay for extras we wanted like a garden tap (ha, adulthood) and a better shower.
On the topic of new builds, I have some advice on measuring your expectations. There's a 99.9% chance your house will not be ready on time. I was furiously optimistic about this until ours ran-over, and in the end it was almost two months late. It's also likely that your home builders won't be willing to go 'off-plan' for some of the things you want. Our house is in a terrace of five other houses and three of them have porches. We weren't allowed a porch... even in exchange for money. It was also a 'no' when we wanted our bedroom door rehung, wanted to squeeze in a dishwasher and a breakfast bar, wanted to run plumbing out to our shed... and well, do anything that was off-plan. The sales office strung us along, but ultimately everything was a 'no'.
Honestly, when we were buying our house I got to the point where I couldn't remember what it was like to not be stressed. I have zero chill anyway but it's hard and you have to make a lot of sacrifices. We had to turn down no less than three holidays and a lot of invites to do fun things with our friends. There were times when we had to leave the house & go to a coffee shop just to motivate ourselves to read the small print on whichever piece of paperwork we were completing. There were so many morning's when my colleagues would ask me how things we coming along with the house and all I could do was grumble. It will all come together in the end though, so hang in there and try to enjoy the process as much as you can.
We feel so incredibly lucky to own a home. Once you're in, it really is the best thing ever and five months later the novelty has yet to wear off!