Buying a house was one of the most complicated, irritating and lengthy processes I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Here’s what I learned:
1. Don’t expect to get anything important done in August
We started searching for houses at the end of May, eventually falling in love with one and putting our offer in at the end of July.
This was our first mistake.
Being someone who has always taken holidays around Christmas and June, I was hopelessly unaware that August would prove to be such an awkward time to do anything important.
The entire month felt like one long, barren stretch of badly synchronised annual leave. The mortgage advisor, the estate agent, the solicitor; one after another, for weeks at a time, nothing would get done because someone within the process would be away.
The obvious solution to this would be to have someone to take over your work while you’re on holiday, but apparently in these types of legal situations, matters of security and data protection mean it’s not as simple as it sounds.
2. The squeaky wheel gets the grease
Luckily, Nath and I have both been brought up with this mantra, and throughout our lives it has proved to be 100% true.
At the start of our house-buying process, we phoned our bank after not hearing anything about our mortgage application for over 10 days. It turned out it had been sat on one person’s desk for a week, and no one had remembered to chase it up.
From then on, we phoned up every other day to check on the pipeline. And not just with our bank; we called and emailed the estate agent and solicitor several times a week too, simply to remind them we existed.
We must have seemed impatient, and towards the last few weeks cracks started to appear, and I’d sense hints of irritation in their responses. We knew we were being annoying, but it sure made them do the job quicker than if we’d sat back and waited.
3. Sometimes you have to be ruthless
We went to see our house for the first time knowing that there had already been an offer placed on it. The estate agent assured us that the house would still be on the market until the other people had handed in their paperwork.
Two days later, we got wind that they were moving forward with their mortgage documents, and that the sellers were about to close on their offer.
We quickly booked another viewing, and put in an offer that afternoon. Unfortunately for the others, our offer was accepted.
In England, this is commonly known as Gazumping, and it isn’t very nice when it happens to you. Of course we felt guilty, but evidently not guilty enough to let a house we loved slip through our fingers.
4. Organisation is key
Half a forest worth of paper seems to have gone into our house purchase, even when we tried to opt for email-based communications. It was difficult not to feel swamped in documents and bills.
We used a box file to keep everything safe and categorised, the Reminders apps on our phones to alert us when to sign and posts various forms and documents, and Google Sheets to create spreadsheets of our costs, allowing us to keep track of what we had and hadn’t paid yet.
5. It’s who you know
Buying our house in an area we’d both grown up in, and where our family members have resided for many years, definitely became an advantage.
Through having good connections, we managed to bag several discounts and were put through a few situations much faster than if we hadn’t been local.
Of course, it’s not fair, but it definitely highlights the importance of having good relationships and connections with people. You never know when you might be able to call in a favour.
6. Get friendly with the sellers
I realise not everybody has the opportunity to be able to do this, and in some situations you simply may not want to, but getting on well with the people selling our house was a nice way to ease into our new home.
We exchanged contact details and visited the house several times whilst waiting for the process to be over so we could move in, allowing us to measure things and learn about the neighbours etc. They also ended up selling us their dining table and chairs for a bargain price, purely because they knew we were first-time buyers with not much stuff!
7. Ask several times, just to be sure
House-buying is a complicated business; the processes are long, the legalese is confusing, and names for things can be used interchangeably between different banks and companies, making it a mine-field for people with no prior knowledge of how it should work.
I may have come across as ‘slow’ more than once. I asked a lot of questions, repeating the answers back to people in my own words just to make sure I’d understood correctly.
I don’t care if anyone thought my questions were blindingly obvious or stupid, because guess what: I was entering into one of the most important legal contracts of my life, and I did not want to make any silly mistakes.
8. Learn how to move on
Towards the beginning of our house hunt, we came across an amazing property that we both instantly fell in love with and were keen to move forward with.
Unfortunately, two days before going to see the property for a second time, we found out it had some severe problems that meant we really didn’t want to risk investing in it.
It was disheartening, but we moved on quickly. Five more house viewings later and we found the house that we proceeded to buy.
I’m extremely glad we moved on fast and didn’t risk chasing the first one. We loved the idea of it, rather than the reality, and in retrospect it simply wouldn’t have been practical for us.