BUYING OUR FIRST HOME, BEING TURNED DOWN FOR A MORTGAGE, AND A PROPERTY EATING PLANT
I'd erased the frustration of buying a property from my mind but after seeing so many people in the same position as we were last year I thought it might be helpful or comforting to share it. We went through it all, landlords selling form under our feet, legal issues, mortgage rejections and even property eating plants. Yep, no 'little shop of horrors', it's a real thing.
Jason and I are close to hitting our 9th wedding anniversary now and we have probably been wanting to buy somewhere since about our 2nd year married. At first we looked at loads of the part buy part rent schemes. We didn't like the properties that were available, but we didn't have a choice at that point. Part buy part rent schemes usually only sell newbuilds, which have paper thin walls and an extreme lack of any features or individuality. They also retail at way above what the current market does, and if you're buying a resell from a previous owner there is practically no wiggle room for negotiation. Any profit you make on work you do to improve the house will then be shared with the scheme as the other part property owner. Anyway, we could have taken anything we could at the time, but alas, we couldn't get the mortgage.
We were then renting, and after a couple of years in the flat the landlords decided they wanted to put it up for sale. A serious pain in the ass. We wanted to buy it, and I think they would have been happy for us to buy it from them and make it easy but again we just weren't in the right place financially to get the mortgage. You can imagine our frustration as people came snooping around to buy the flat we were currently living in when we couldn't. I didn't leave it messy on purpose during viewings I swear.
We decided after they had an offer on the flat that the best thing we could do for ourselves was move back to my mums house and save for a few months. So we did that, sorted our credit scores out (I will do a separate post on this, but essentially it just meant paying everything on time and reducing our lending, credit card bills etc) and after I found out I was pregnant a year and a half later (yes we ended up staying there for ages), we knew it was time to really go HAM on the whole mortgage / buying a flat thing. After all, we couldn't very well have our newborn baby in the tiny room with us at my mums. We did in the end but more on that later.
The first place we saw and liked was an Art Deco flat in a block built in 1931, with amazing period features and more space than we saw in any of the other flats we looked at. It was also in the perfect area. But It was a shell that needed loads of work, and it was just outside of our budget. Plus with the cost of the work needed we knew it would be a stretch. We sadly continued our search.
We then found a good second option. A smaller Victorian maisonette in Norwood Junction which didn't by any means need as much work, had its own free parking right outside, a small courtyard area and good transport links. The area wasn't really where we wanted to be, but for a first home it seemed like a good option. We made an offer just under the asking price and were accepted. Plus we finally got our mortgage approved!
On the whole mortgage thing - this was a serious headache. Well, the first headache in a long series of headaches. Until recently I have been freelance and running my own company, as well as doing some part time employed work. This meant that banks just DID NOT GET IT. I had to get my accountant to re-write my letter explaining my situation about 5 times. We had to change lenders twice and finally settled with Halifax, who seemed to be a lot more lenient towards the self employed (go Halifax)! We were FINALLY approved. After a good 5 years of back and forth we were there. Smooth sailing!
Or not. So most people don't realise that when you put an offer on a house and it gets accepted this basically means fuck all. Until you have done the survey you don't know what is going to spring up. Of course you have to start paying people before that though don't you! So we paid for the survey, and it came back with a pretty major problem. The property next door had Japanese knotweed growing. 'What's the problem?' I thought, and then I googled it. Japanese knotweed basically EATS houses.
It can grow up through concrete, through floorboards, walls, you name it. It grows literally overnight. It messes up the foundations of your house and makes it worthless. We went back and forth for months with the sellers offering to pay for treatment (of course, they wanted to move and were in a chain) and we were close to accepting it as the thought of starting all over again was just too much, but we thought about it some more and chose to decline their offer and stop proceedings. We lost money. We had to start again.
Going back out to look at what was on the market a few months on, and we noticed that our old lovely Art Deco property was still on the market. Interesting. It was £10k less. VERY INTERESTING. I knew we had the upper hand here. The property had been on the market for at least 6 months so the owner must have been getting itchy feet. I knew it needed work and it had a short lease. We offered £6k under the now asking price and were accepted! So eventually, we got the flat we wanted for £16k less than we thought it was going to cost. FUCKING SCORE!
That wasn't it though. The legal proceedings dragged for months, months and more months, By now I was about to give birth. There was a hold up with the lease, as it hadn't been properly registered by the owner when he bought the flat, so they were now having to go further back down the previous owners to get it signed off. It was a complete ball ache. Every week I would ring up the solicitors to find out what was going on and get air. How dare they air a pregnant woman! I was furious, hormonal and stressed. Plus the seller had advertised the property as that he would pay stamp duty when someone bought it. They later managed to find a loophole that got them out of that, so we had to pay a couple of grand more than we expected to. Clever. Our mortgage offer, now a year later, was about to expire. I sought advice from my auntie who is a lawyer, and in a matter of words told me I had to play up the emotional trauma card and cry down the phone to the solicitor. I did, extremely easily, and weirdly it worked.
A few months later, I had our daughter, and we were still in the tiny room at my mums. Even when we exchanged and had keys we still had a load of work to do to the flat before it was liveable. But eventually, in May (we put our offer on the second flat in July the previous year) we moved in! It was a seriously stressful period, and I felt like giving up a number of times. But it all turned out alright in the end. To those currently looking at buying, or applying for a mortgage, I do not envy you, but I promise, it will work out in the end!
Are you in a similar situation now, or have been in the past? Please share this blog or leave a comment below, I'd love to hear your stories (or nightmares)!