Buying Our First Home

As some of you may remember from these posts, we’ve come a long way in 6 months.
Literally.

Our move home to the UK from Australia has largely been a smooth one. Neither of us have felt much grief or to be honest, even thought much about it. It’s almost like those 6 years and glorious beaches never really happened. Although I did have a wee wobble last week when I was on a boring phone call to Google for over an hour (I work in marketing) looking out the window of an industrial estate onto a cold grey sky and misty rain. The pang passed pretty quickly when I remembered we had two lovely long weekends coming up, one in Cardiff and one in Edinburgh. Things I would not have had on the horizon had I still been living in Aus.

All in all, I can report that we are super happy carving out a home in Scotland. I’m adoring watching the seasons change (is it just me or has Autumn just landed overnight?!), loving my new little weekly routines (hallelujah three-day work week) and the fact that I’m only ever a 30 min trip away from being home in Ireland to see my family.

So what’s next? Well, at the ripe old age of 30 & 37, we’ve decided to buy our first home. Admittedly we do feel a bit late to the party, but I suppose we’ve loved the last 6 years or so of gallivanting around the world, so no regrets there. However, this whole financial advisor/mortgage broker/solicitor thing all feels very grown up and a little scary to my free-spirited heart if I’m being honest.

At the moment, we’re living with Gavin’s parents in order to build as big a deposit as is physically possible. We’re also saving for the fact that we literally have only a few sticks of furniture and some boxes of worldly possessions, however, there’s not a single washing machine or fridge between us. So when we do buy a place, there is going to be a large outlay for whitewoods, furniture and grown-up necessities like a laundry basket and some good knives.

The saving part is feeling good. I’m getting great satisfaction out of watching the ££ slowly build and I’m using some software called YNAB which has made the whole money monitoring process, dare I say it, actually enjoyable(?!) The living with the in-laws situation is going much better than I had hoped, although that is a whole other post.

But at the moment, we’re in that weird place of waiting and saving and saving and waiting.

We went to view a house last night, which was a big mistake because I loved it. Unfortunately, although we could have afforded to put in an offer, we have some hoops to jump through and time to kill regarding how long we’ve been receiving UK paycheques since living abroad, so like I said, we’re waiting.

It’s likely that we won’t be able to actually start looking until after Christmas which I suppose will give us time to save more, but it’s also more than a bit frustrating as I’m SO ready to put down some roots and paint some walls. But most importantly, to give my wee nomadic boy a nice solid and stable home where he doesn’t have to think about which bed he’s sleeping in or what size of suitcase his toys fit into.

We have an idea of an area we want, and a vague idea of things we’d like to have, although I feel as though we should probably make a list of our non-negotiables and nice-to-haves to make sure we don’t just get wooed by a lovely home but actually buy something that fits our lifestyle.

So for those of you who own a home… Do you have any sage advice? Anything you wish someone had told you before buying? Money, legalities, pitfalls… I’m all ears.

And for those of you in the process of buying who are maybe saving and waiting like me… How are you coping?!

Because I’m as impatient as a kid waiting for cake.

xo

mm
Naomi can’t decide which she loves more: adventuring with her boys or being left alone in a luxurious bath with a great book.
Follow Naomi on Instagram @naomiliddell

28 Comments. Leave new

How exciting! Hope the waiting phase passes quickly!

Two things (that are probably really obvious to everyone but me but I’ll share them anyway!)

1) your first mortgage payment will be higher than your subsequent ones so be prepared

2) make sure Stamp Duty is very much on your radar and you’ve left enough money for it

Like I said, probably obvious but things I thought about a bit late in the day!

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Totally not obvious Fionnula! I hadn’t thought of either! Thanks for letting me know 🙈

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We only ever viewed one house because we decided it was THE ONE. however, we were worried it had blinkered us to any negatives so we asked if we could view it again and took both sets of parents. *looked super grown up*
We asked them to look for pitfalls and ask us any difficult questions to see if there was anything we were missing.

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That’s such a good idea Charlie!

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We’ve done it twice now and my advice is…
1) definitely use a mortgage broker, ideally one you can meet with face to face. The first time we used a free one on the phone, the second time we used one who came to our house 3 times and it cost £199 but he was great and worth every penny. It takes a lot of stress out of it if you have a good one!

2) You don’t necessarily have to put ALL of your saved deposit in. Both times we’ve kept some money back to do work and it’s made little difference to the monthly payments. It’s all to do with being in a certain loan to value ratio bracket – again, a broker can work all this out and find you a good deal.

3) Try to find a solicitor through recommendation. We had a terrible one first time and a great one the second and it made a huge difference to how stressful the process was!

4) definitely decide what your top priorities are for the house but think about long term potential as well as right now. Always do a second viewing and listen to your gut instinct! X

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All of these points are super helpful Sarah. I hadn’t actually thought of a loan to value ratio bracket. Definitely going to keep that one in mind and make sure we get a broker that works that out. I’d like to keep some cash to buy furniture & do any immediate work needing done. xo

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We’re just buying our first home too and we were surprised we didn’t need as many backdated paychecks as we thought. Husband is a contractor, I’m coming back from mat leave and we were borrowing well over three times the UK average but we used a broker and actually, I didn’t need to have finished my probation and the fact his business is structured a certain way with a low salary/high dividends didn’t make a difference either. Had we gone to a high street bank we would have had problems so that’s worth checking out. Mortgage is still WITH a high street bank etc. and low interest rates for a 5 year fixed it was just easier for broker to look through the products.

The other thing is that freezers, fridges and dishwashers are now so often integrated into modern kitchens you get them included. Not a massive help but its £2k you can spend on a sofa instead!

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Should add our broker is WAY more expensive than that above but has been worth it so don’t mind

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Rebecca, this comment is super reassuring! Maybe we should go see a broker sooner rather than later?!

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However solid the house looks there will be work to do. We bought a 1990s build but 6½ years later we are still fixing bodge jobs by the previous owners. The wiring in the garage was interesting and probably highly unsafe and illegal. The downstairs loo was put on top of laminate! We filled many holes (oo-er) due to many shelves being ripped out before we got in. Having a spend averse Scottish husband with anxiety (intolerance to uncertainty) meant after initial quick redecorate when we first moved in progress has been slow! I’m currently sharing the living room with boxes as part of the 50 shades of grey living room project!

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Haha! I want to hear more about this 50 shades of grey living room project 😉

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Ha it’s terribly tame and very much inspired by RMS. although husband is trying his hardest to get my mojo back! 2 pregnancies in 2 years, (1st sadly NND) And this chuffing pill means it went bye bye!

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We also had a broker, we had come back from overseas, he was employed from the UK so had continuous employment for that time. I was unemployed when we applied, we managed to get what we needed with me as a “homemaker” as “unemployed” got flagged up, even though the money coming in is the same!
We weren’t eligible for a couple of banks as we hadn’t had continuous residence for 2 years+ but there are ones available with good rates.

I was terrible, constantly looking at rightmove, not being able to progress anything, it was an obsession!

All I can suggest is putting money in different pots for furniture, white goods ect, asking around for things people are getting rid off (two sofa’s off the in-laws that meant we could put off buying for 9 months) people will hold onto things for you. Tell them your going to get rid of them so you don’t feel like you have to hang onto it.

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Jenn the furniture thing is such a good idea. My husband’s work has a warehouse and he’s pretty sure we can store stuff so perhaps I should start putting the feelers out. I’m only working part-time and thought that might impact our application, but I guess as long as there’s enough income, it doesn’t matter where it comes from…

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Ooh exciting! We just bought our second home and my main tips are –
1. Try and ‘future proof’ so think about how you’ll want to use your house in 5-10 years time. We didn’t do that with our first and it meant we had to move once our little boy came along as the house wasn’t working for us. But, on the balance of things, make sure the house works for you NOW – that’s more important! We went from a separate living room, dining room kitchen to one huge open-plan space because that’s what works for us now.
2. If you’re in a chain, try and get the names of everyone along the chain – that way you can email/contact them directly to decide basic things like day of exchange and day of completion. When you do it via the solicitors, it can be a bit of a nightmare. This might be different in Scotland however as I think buying up there is a bit easier!
3. Another vote for getting a broker. Ours was amazing. My husband had gone from being technically self-employed in an SME to working for a large organisation and getting a mortgage was technically quite tricky but our broker sorted all that out for us with very little input required.
4. Solicitors recommendations are worth their weight in gold. It’s a stressful, difficult process and having a solicitor you can rely on makes it all a lot easier.

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Thanks for all that Kate. Every tip is great but I think #2 will be GOLDEN. I often find having a single person to contact during bottlenecks in any process is the best way to go. Better start asking for Solicitor recommendations then…

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Another push for a broker! Plenty of the high street estate agents can put you in touch with one (ours has an office in our local “Your Move” but is not affiliated with them in any way) and as already mentioned above they take out a lot of the stress involved – especially if you’re not in a straightforward (who even is, now?) mortgage application situation. They can also help if the house you are buying is not straightforward e.g. listed building, semi-detached to a shop or pub, plot of land etc. as some of the lenders have special conditions which could mean you a refused a mortgage for reasons I’ve just listed and all because you’ve gone with the wrong lender. Our broker does have a fee of £199 but he also earns his money from the lenders he secures, so it is absolutely in his/her interest to get you a mortgage first time. We were actually refused a mortgage by one lender, but didn’t even know about it because the broker was able to manage this without it affecting a second application through another lender. Without a broker, you would have to wait at least 3 months before you re-apply.
Another tip, are you buying in Scotland did you say? I’m not sure if this applies UK-wide but if you are putting in an offer OVER the home report value, make sure you remember that the difference has to be made up by cash and not as part of your mortgage. e.g. your house is worth 100k on home report, your offer of 120k is accepted, you put down a 25k deposit and mortgage the 75k, you need to fork out additional cash of your own for the 20k to make up your 120k offer. Hope that makes sense! We fell into that trap by thinking we could mortgage the total (with applicable deposit/mortgage ratio) but since the crash 2008 this rule enforces house values are relevant to lending!
Oh and maybe an obvious one, but try and spend as much time sussing out areas in which you plan to buy. Especially in Scotland where the assumption is that houses are “much cheaper”… you certainly can get a whole lot for your money in some areas (relatively speaking), but unfortunately there are a lot of towns and villages that simply do not have the infrastructure or communities that make these “cheaper” houses worth living in!!
Good luck with the saving and searching! x

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Maddy thank you so much for all this. I will definitely be looking into how that ‘offers over’ legality translates in Scotland.

Luckily, we’re thinking of buying in the area that Gavin grew up in, so although it’s rural, it’s where we’re living now so we’re getting a really good feel for the area and the logistics of living here. The only thing is that there is a new development going up here soon so the prices are set to rise. Hoping this doesn’t happen before we buy!

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My husband and I have owned our tiny two bed terrace for nine years, but we are desperate to move. Realistically it will be around 18 months before we can as we need to bump up the deposit for the next house. In the next house I want all refurb jobs done properly and am dying to get stuck into making a (hopefully) forever home of our own – I’ve given up on the current one!

When we bought our house we knew it would not be permanent so we stuck to the same kind of house we had been renting. We were clueless as to how much work a Victorian house actually needed and how difficult diy could be on uneven walls and awkward alcoves. Having a bit of money aside to get some initial jobs done properly would have been much more sensible.

We also deferred some mortgage fees which we have to pay at the end of the mortgage. We thought it seemed sensible as due to inflation the amount would seem to be less at the end of the mortgage term. I’m now regretting this as we will have extra costs to add on to selling, buying, removal etc all in one go.

I hope the saving goes well and it will be so worth it to have your own home x

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I’m kinda swinging between older properties and solid 1950’s builds in our area. The more people I speak to with older houses, the more I’m thinking of the 50’s builds! I don’t think a new house is likely for us with the area we want to live.

Good luck with your next move though! I guess the whole thing is just one long learning process!

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I agree with most already said. My advice from experience is as follows:

– beware the period property. I’ve lived in some lovely Victorian houses full of gorgeous character, period features, and nooks and crannies, fantastic for storage. But the damp! The mould! The cracks! The ingrained dirt that can never be made clean! It’s a compromise to make and if you have to money to work on it and sort it out, then happy days. But we spent precious savings on removing a chimney due to damp, damp proofing various rooms and re plastering, fixing knackered roofs, none of which brought me joy or pride in my house, just a lot of stress and worry! (We now live in a new build and I have enjoyed spending money on it because I see the benefit – nice wallpaper, funky shelving etc, not just maintenance)
– linked to above, I would never max out my mortgage again. We bought our ‘forever home’ 4 years ago and put all our money and monthly salary into it. We sold it 3 years later, halved our mortgage and now have enough disposable income to book two holidays in the next six months after not going on a plane for 3.5 years!

Good luck, it’s an adventure and so worth it to feel safe and secure and in control of your destiny 😊

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Natalie your second point rings true with me. We’re actually looking into buying a house that’s far less than we *could* afford. Purely because we want to be able to travel, go out etc. and we have quite a few friends who have warned us about joining them in ‘mortgage poverty’. I’m not one for heaps of room (for activities) anyway, so I’m quite happy with a small abode.

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How exciting! Christmas will be here before you know it and you’ll be buying something fabulous I’m sure. Definitely look at a few different properties, make sure you are comfortable with the area (and think about schools, childcare options, where the nearest swings are etc as necessary, so easy to forget about the things that actually matter the most in your daily lives as you get distracted by the lovely kitchen or garden!!). The more you look at the more you get an idea of what you can and can’t live without. We looked at a house where the walls weren’t remotely at right angles, they were all like a rhombus, we decided there was no way we could live with that – funny the things that put you off!! Work out what sort of work you would, or wouldn’t, be willing to do. Are you complete house reconfigurers, competent DIYers or definitely don’t want to do anything structural and actually finding a paint brush isn’t for us either? Be realistic – pre children we did an awful lot but I think now, while I wouldn’t dismiss a wreck, I wouldn’t do most the work ourselves and would want to stay somewhere else until it was ready I think. That obviously has financial implications, so something to think about properly before getting too far down the line. Definitely try to find a local mums Facebook group or similar if you have one for your area – we have one for our area in SW London and it is better than Freecycle for all the stuff you can pick up when you buy a house. Loads of sofas, white goods etc – while you probably want to choose all this yourself, it can save a few pennies or help while you look for something you actually want. They are also great for finding solicitors etc via personal recommendations. The other thing I would say is don’t discount tracker mortgages. I appreciate you need to understand the risk, but we are in a relatively low interest rate environment (albeit likely to increase soon) and fixing may not be the most cost effective, something to consider before dismissing out of hand. They also generally, as far as I have seen, have no penalty for overpayments and no penalty for switching to another offer unlike fixed deals so there is much more flexibility (and you can fix later). I really do appreciate they are not for everyone but I just wanted to offer my two cents! Finally, can’t remember if this is the same in Scotland, but in England I was astonished to discover that if the survey brought up something such as a roof needing repairs you could get the seller to pay (or at least contribute)!! This was a revelation to me, I had no idea, and really helped stretch those pennies further for the first few months.

Good luck with the search!! I’m sure you will find something lovely.

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I second the comments above, but as a Property Solicitor myself there are a few other considerations. The work I do I limited to England & Wales (as other posters have commented Scotland operates a different system) so it may not be the same for you. I would always recommend:
– a Buying Agent – especially important if you are new to an area. Rightmove doesn’t do everything. Buying agents will find out about properties before everyone else. I’ve got some articles on this at http://www.lapa.co.uk
– use a reputable independent lawyer/solicitor and ensure that they do not do volume work. Even more important for first time buyers. It astounds me how many clients report bad service from a volume outfit that they found online, simply to save £300 for a sofa. You have to be able to get on with your lawyer, you’re about to talk to them probably every day for 6-8 weeks (hopefully not longer!) so you need a good working relationship.
– make a list of what you need in a property, but be open to different styles/periods. Where I live Victorian homes are in such demand that people pay crazy money for them. They look beautiful done up, but the premium could outstrip your renovation budget easily. You have to be one step ahead of the demand!
– don’t buy a house without having a full structural survey first
– finally, enjoy the search! If the house doesn’t make your heart sing it’s probably not the one.
Good luck with the search.

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Great tips Annie! Thank you. I’m pretty keen to make sure there are no overpayment penalties in the mortgage we end up with. You never know how your career could progress, so how nice to be able to pay off a mortgage sooner!

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As I work in the industry, I would absolutely recommend seeing a broker/advisor ASAP. They can work out exactly what and how you can borrow and it will mean you can move much quicker when the time is right and not fall in love with something that won’t work! I work in England and I am aware things work VERY differently in Scotland as far as accepted offers etc. I would say get the best survey you can afford (again works differently north of the border) and try to keep some funds back if it is at all possible. Also, don’t be afraid to question something that doesn’t make sense- things can go horribly wrong based on misunderstandings and assumptions – the people who deal with it every day fully understand they are in the minority of understanding!! Hope that helps!!

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Also, forgot to say … when you are in and settled, overpay if at all possible. It may seem tough but even £10 per month can save you thousands overall. May seem hard, and life is WAY too short not to enjoy yourself, but worth checking out! Xx

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As you know well, we moved from HK to the UK with two babies and so I know only too well how it is to start again from scratch.

My only advice to you, is to think very carefully before you buy. The dream would be for you to find a home that doesn’t need an awful lot of renovation, if any at all. The amount of change you’ve been through as a family is tough enough, let alone heading into a home that needs renovating (i say this as we are two years into a renovation and it is starting to take its toll). It took a whole year for the purchase of said house to go through, and we went in knowing it would need work but we didn’t realise how much until we started. It would have been so nice for us, after moving house (internationally and nationally) so many times to just settle into our new home and live happily ever after! I wish with hindsight we would have looked further afield and found something that hasn’t taken two years to get merely half way through. wishing you the best of luck xx

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