You will probably have got the gist from my post about ‘saying no to a relationship‘, that I fairly recently found myself in the position of buying a house on my own.
Buying at all, let alone on your own, is a yes that can be really daunting, incredibly scary, but more than a little bit exciting. All at once. Where once had the opportunity to read through paperwork together and make sure at least one of us understood it, I now had the sole responsibility of one of the most expensive purchases you (are likely to) ever make in your life.
So, I thought it would be useful to share some tips with you all, in case you find yourselves in the same situation – though in fact may of these things will apply to anyone buying a house, on your own or with someone else.
take someone with you to look at the house
Buying on your own doesn’t mean that you are on your own. All of my house viewings (bar one) took place solo.
This wasn’t entirely intentional, several attempts were made to garner a second opinion but because I did most of my viewings straight from work, the pieces didn’t seem to fall into place.
In the end, I was the only person to see the house that I purchased before I had my offer accepted. And that was fine, but I could have done with the reassurance. It wouldn’t have changed the decisions that I made… but on the one viewing I did with someone else, my Mum did manage to guide me away from a house that I am pretty sure would have been a nightmare.
I had fallen in love with the vast space, and the beautiful way that the current owners has decorated. But there were bathrooms that would have needed moving, converted lofts without full planning permission, windows to replace and lawns to be laid. Too much work, not enough money. It’s on the same road I am living on now and it’s still up for sale.. Sometimes you need someone to help you see through the rose-tinted glasses.
So whether you take a family member, a partner, or a friend. Get a second opinion, it will put your mind at rest.
For the record, the same applies if you are buying your first house after living with parents – it can be tempting to want to go it alone, and make this important decision without them. But if you take them along you get a different view on things, and they tend to keep an eye out for the practical things, rather than the pretty. Their opinion is invaluable. You don’t have to take their advice but someone else’s take on the same place can give you great insight into the pros and cons.
trust your instincts
Even though I thoroughly advocate getting a second opinion when you are making such a huge decision, your gut instinct is really important too. In fact, when you are house buying it is your best asset.
When two people are buying together it can be more difficult to rely on gut instincts because it requires both of you to have the same gut feeling in the same place (that said, it does happen, I promise you). When you are on your own, you only need to think about number 1.
As soon as I walked into the house that I eventually bought, I loved it. I thought ‘I can totally see myself living here’. I then proceeded to look at umpteen other places because I was worried that I was just jumping in feet first, that I loved it because it was the first place I’d seen. But no matter how many places I saw, none of them felt like they could be home quite like this place did.
My gut instinct was spot on.
get a financial advisor
I’ve used the same financial advisor when buying my previous and my current house. And he has never let me down. I have recommended him to friends and they have raved about his services as well.
The best bit? His sound advice didn’t cost me a penny. You see, he is paid by the mortgage company if you take out a mortgage with one of the lenders that he works with.
Obviously that does mean he has a vested interest in the advice he is giving….as does any consultant or business, and as some lenders won’t go through financial advisors it does make some offers off the market to you.
But I felt that was a worthy compromise for being talked through (in detail and sometimes multiple times) exactly what each mortgage option involved. Having a recommendation, and an explanation behind the recommendation, that I trusted. And answering my numerous stupid questions patiently and helpfully. And you know when you really good advisor? When they spend numerous hours giving you advice on products that they won’t even receive financial reward for (that’s another story, but that’s what I most certainly found).
It’s also important to have your financial advisor in place before you start looking, because they will give you a realistic expectation of what you can afford.
If you find a good advisor, stick with them. If you are interested, I used Robert May Financial Services. I really couldn’t recommend Robert enough.
get the full survey
If it’s an old house, get a full survey. This one might seem obvious, and normally the sensible person in me would have done this in a second. Except I seemed to miss the part where I had to make the decision on this because I was drowning in paperwork. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt I was asked the question, I just have no recollection of it and therefore suspect I didn’t give it any real consideration.
One basic survey later, I really wish I had got the real deal. Again, it wouldn’t have changed my mind… but there were certain ‘shortcuts’ that the previous owner took when doing the house up that would have been flagged up, and could have helped me knock down the price a bit. Sot that I could use the spare pennies to pay for sorting them out.
The key to it all
Once the deal is done, but before you officially sign on the dotted line, make sure you get the written agreement of your estate agent to collect in all of the keys to the property prior to exchanging.
I naturally imagined this would just happen, but when I went to pick up my keys from the estate agent they advised that the seller was leaving their own keys at the house. A little odd I thought but I was excited to get my hands on my brand new house so I thought nothing of it. Until I realised that my front door keys were not in the pile of keys the previous owner had left for me.
He still had those. And was reluctant to drop them off at anyone’s convenience other than his own. Despite nearly ending up in tears on the phone to my estate agent, reasoning with them that I was living on my own and did not feel safe with a strange man having access to my house, they told me there was little they could do. Possibly not, but it was their responsibility to get all of the keys to hand over to me in the first place. In the end it took well over a week for me to get my own house keys back. And a lot of stress and frustration. So I would highly recommend you double check this in advance, silly though it may seem.
So that’s it in a nutshell. If you are keen for more house buying advice, whatever your situation, there’s a great feature on Rock My Style on that very subject. I echo some of the advice above from my own experience, but there are some other great nuggets in there too that will help you make sure you say yes to the right house for you!
And in case you hadn’t already guessed – the slightly misty snaps littered throughout this post are the ‘before’ photos of my house. I remissly didn’t take any myself, so have had to grab these from an old RightMove link…but in a few months I will share some of the decor pieces that I have said yes to, to make this house my home.
feature image source: viahouse.com