WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!

The month was June, the day was Tuesday and I was spending it with Nikki as she was in England for a short while.
As we walked along the Thames, my phone rang.

“Hello Amy, it’s Annabelle, just calling to let you know that the vendor has accepted your offer”.
I stopped dead in my tracks, then shuffled to the right – because yano, it’s London and if you stop in the middle of a path of people there’s a huge chance that you will get squished.

“Are you joking? ERMAHGERD AHH!!”
We hashed out a few details before I hung up excitedly and called S.

“ERMAHGERD ERMAHGERD ERMAHGERD SAM THEY ACCEPTED OUR OFFER.”
“Shut the front door” came the reply.
Our call was brief, because he was at work and whilst they had accepted our offer there was still a kazillion and one things that needed doing.
Things that we had never done before.

You see this was our first property.
Something which we weren’t sure we’d ever own because we’re incredibly indecisive over where we want to live in the world. Combine that with the fact that the property market in England is bullshit and you have apprehension over whether it’s a possibility. Property in England is so often out of reach in the South because there aren’t enough affordable houses being built to accommodate the growing population. The generation before us millennials however, had an abundance of property within their reach, and they still do. It’s amazing how much things can change in one generation, and I’m not trying to guilt trip anybody but just so there’s some perspective on what so many are up against; the generation before ours were born into a time where; rent was affordable, 100% mortgages existed and the average house price was between £5,000 – £40,000. Nowadays those very same houses which once cost under £40,000 are now priced between £250,000 – £1,000,000++. which is great for the people who bought them, but terrible for the people trying to buy them. That’s one hell of an investment. There’s no way the value of a property I bought now would quadruple in 20 years. It’s very much a sellers market and buyers don’t have much in the way of help. Low wages, high cost of living, companies which only offer unpaid internships because they’re too cheap to pay a wage and increasing transport costs are some of the reasons. Having an addiction to avocado toast is not an actual reason – despite what an Australian Millionaire who received a $34,000 handout from his grandparents to kickstart his business wants you to think

Sure there is the occasional Government scheme but it’s not actually as helpful for first time buyers as the Government think. There seems to be a huge disconnect there. For example; when we were first looking for a property we went to see a couple of financial advisors to see what our options were with regards to lending and what kind of mortgage rates we were looking at. We had a good deposit saved (S spent over 10 years saving) and enough cash to cover solicitor fees so we were feeling optimistic. We told the first advisor that we had a budget in mind because we knew we could afford the monthly repayments, bills and still have some left over to be able to afford to live and occasionally travel. We made it very clear that we didn’t want to exceed this because that financial balance was important to us. To the point that I would have rather continued renting than faced a mortgage which financially crippled us. He said he understood and told us we could more than afford a property in our budget range with affordable repayments each month. Excellent! Or so we thought, because when the time came to discuss our options the advisor essentially ignored every single element of what we had previously discussed and spent the next half an hour showing complete and utter bias towards the ‘Help To Buy’ scheme.

For my readers outside of the UK; the ‘Help To Buy’ scheme is a scheme implemented by our Government which was (supposedly) designed to help first time buyers to get on the property ladder. It sounds amazing because so many are stuck in generation rent because we spend too much on avocado toast English property prices are bullshit. Anyway – the Help To Buy scheme works by the Government fronting 20% of the property’s value, enabling you (the buyer) to put down a 5% deposit instead of the usual 10%+ which is required. The remaining 75% is then covered by the mortgage lender which is paid back as a normal mortgage would be. This handy little graphic made by the Government explains the breakdown:

This scheme helps so many people to get onto the property ladder because for the first five years there is no interest on the 20% loan the Government provide. After the first five years you face repayment rates of between 1-3% depending on market fluctuations. The problems come with the limitations of the scheme. For example; if you are buying as a couple you are only eligible if both parties are first time buyers, and you cannot be linked to any other properties financially. So if your partner owns, or has owned a property previously, they’ll be considered ineligible. The scheme also prohibits you from extending, altering or subletting the property until the 20% repayment has been made. Neither of the aforementioned points are hugely problematic until you consider that this scheme is only available on new builds. The new builds that they’re not currently building enough of. The new builds that cost about £40,000 (minimum) more than an older house of the same calibre.

When we saw the pushy-for-new-builds financial advisor he basically told us that whilst we could afford our budget, if we bought a new build for £315,000 instead we could apply for the Help To Buy Scheme. So we would have essentially had to pay £65,000++ more than we wanted to, in order to afford help getting on the property ladder. Messed up isn’t it? I don’t mean to sound all “whoa is me” but WHOA IS ME. How does making people spend more than they want to, to get help, actually help people? Oh government, so helpful, so wise, so out of touch.

Prior to beginning our search for a property, S and I had agreed that no matter what, budget would be the one thing we wouldn’t budge on. We’d change location, size and expectation; but never exceed our chosen budget. No matter how charming the building was. This rule helped to keep house-hunting in perspective because when you live in an old Roman town where not much happens; the buildings are really rather beautiful. S wasn’t bothered with the style of the house because we knew we could decorate it however we wanted, but I‘m partial to character properties. If it has wonky floors and is a pain in the arse to decorate, then there is a 100% chance I’m going to fall in love with it. No disrespect to new builds – they’re more economical, have better insulation and are already painted white or beige so you don’t need to do much when you initially move in. They’re just also a bit… Boring. There’s no nooks and crannies, just smooth edges from floor to ceiling. It’s a bit too sterile and a bit too perfect for where we want to live.

Our search took a while. We were renting off a family member which enabled us to save a little bit more each month so we had time on our side. Which was just as well really because properties were not becoming available often. There was a bungalow which needed a lot of work but had heaps of potential which we loved, but were outbid on. Then there was a house in a remote village which we saw, but whilst we loved the house and it was in budget – we hated the location. We put an offer down because we felt the pressure to move out of our rented accommodation but we ended up retracting it as we just couldn’t face the prospect of living there.
Lesson to anyone looking to buy a property: Don’t rush. Always wait.
You are buying somewhere you will see everyday. You want to feel excited when you see it, not full of dread.

The property we ended up purchasing was actually the down the road from the one we were renting at the time. It had been on the market for a few months and we laughed because it was so ridiculously overpriced. The owner of the property we were renting had recently had it valued so we knew roughly what to expect price wise; so when we saw the one which was up for sale around £50,000 above what they said – we knew it was a solid nope, so we didn’t even think to view it. No exceptions on the budget remember. But when we got back from our French motorbike trip and noticed it was still for sale, so we booked a viewing. We kind of already knew that we would like it because the row of houses we live along were all built at the same time, in the same style. But we went to see it regardless because buying a property you’ve never seen would be weird.
We loved it, we put an offer in, and that was that. We didn’t think anything more of it.

Until the current day.
The one in this post that I’m writing about (June 2017), not today’s date.
I’d just hung up the phone with S to tell him the good news. I was still a little bit speechless because there had been a lot of back and forth that day as we tried to agree on a price. But there we were; with an offer accepted, ready to make the biggest, most freaking expensive, purchase we had made in our lives thus far.

It took two months and two days from our offer getting accepted (June 13th), to us receiving the keys (August 15th) but minus a run in with the most incompetent surveyor I’ve ever had the displeasure of speaking to, the whole process ran without a hiccup. I don’t know if you lot care about the ins and outs of our experience buying a property because I know you come here for the travel and occasional quarter-life crisis, but if it’s something you’re keen on let me know in the comments and I’ll put together a post.

But for now, I’m going to bed because I’ve just been to the cinema and had a Nandos so my food-baby and I are 110% ready for some sleep.
But we did it.

This avocado-loving millennial and her S are officially homeowners.