This time last year I was walking into the estate agents to collect the keys to our house. After years of saving and months of paperwork, the moment I collected the keys was actually a huge anticlimax. There were no party poppers or anyone ringing a bell, not even a shake of a hand… the lady simply handed me an envelope containing a key. Despite the lack of ceremony, I was elated that the wait was finally over.
Suddenly that year has flashed by and we have made the house our home. Looking back at the whole process has made me realise that I learnt a lot, so here are my tips for anyone saving to buy, or buying, their first house…
The most frustrating thing of all for us was getting our deposit together. It was disheartening knowing we could easily afford a mortgage but were just missing the upfront lump sum of cash. We saved for a few years whilst renting and still maintaining good social lives and it was tough at times but well worth the effort.
My advice would be to work out how much you can realistically save each month, then look where you can cut back. It could be things like making your own lunches for work, getting rid of the expensive Sky TV package and replacing it with Now TV or Netflix. Then plough those savings into your house fund as well. Once you see the savings tot up it makes that goal more realistic and spurs you on even more.
Help 2 Buy
Both Shane and I saved in Help2Buy ISAs, this meant we would get a 25% bonus on our savings because we were first time buyers. This was such a big help as it made us want to save the maximum £200 a month so we could get as big of a bonus as possible.
There are now Lifetime ISAs that have a yearly deposit limit of £4000 a year that are also eligible for the 25% government bonus for first time buyers. If you haven’t got one of these accounts, open one as soon as possible. After November this year you’ll no longer be able to open one. There are also other Help2Buy schemes available on new build houses and through local councils so it is well worth checking what is available to you.
We had the most fantastic mortgage advisor: Chris Lyons. He made everything so much easier to understand when it came to how much we could borrow, when to apply for a mortgage in principle and how and when to put offers in. Chris dealt with everything over the phone or via email and best of all, his services were completely free!
I’ve since recommended him to so many people who have all been more than impressed with his work. If you’re in need of some help and advice, definitely get in touch with him. There’s no catches, Chris and his team are fully regulated and make their money from the commission they make on finding mortgages. He is now (unofficially) the money saving and debt free community mortgage advisor.
I found this was the WORST part of the whole process. I think we were unlucky with our conveyancer, there were a lot of emails and phone calls back and too to get things sorted that we had previously agreed on. What was worse was the company was recommended to us by a family friend. Despite ours being a bit of a nightmare, the price we paid was great and they got the job done.
Make sure you get lots of quotes and ask for recommendations from people who have recently used a solicitor or conveyancer. It is important to keep in mind that these people are making sure everything is done correctly to make sure your sale goes through without any mistakes. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or say you don’t understand something and check in with them once a fortnight for an update on how things are progressing.
At one point I was really fixated on saving for the deposit but then I started to think about other things that we would need to pay for. Things like the solicitors fees, van rental, new furniture, potential charges from utility and TV companies for closing or moving accounts. There we even little things I’d not considered like the cost of new blinds and the hidden costs of decorating. Rolls of masking tape, dust sheets, paint brushes and wallpaper paste can quickly become quite expensive.
To prepare for those things I started a side pot of savings and I’d advise you to do the same. Having that extra pot means that you don’t have to worry if something unexpected comes up which it inevitably will. It also great if you spot something you want for your new house as it’s likely you’ll have some spare cash to buy it.
We spotted an amazing – and expensive – dining table set whilst looking at couches. We tried to think of all the reasons we shouldn’t buy it then realised it was perfect, exactly what wanted and we had the money for it. After years of saving like crazy we thought why not treat ourselves? Especially as our previous dining table was second hand and had cost £40 from eBay. A year on, I still love the table and I am so glad we splashed out.
I started buying small bits and pieces for the new house around a year before we moved; I bought things like cutlery, bedding and pans and soon had a nice stockpile that hadn’t cost too much. We took it to an extreme when one day though when I spotted a bargain bed deal at Argos. We got a King size bed frame and memory foam mattress for just £325.72 rather than £536.92!
If you have the space, a spare room, under stairs cupboard or loft space, why not start your own little stockpile too? It saves on little added expenses that soon tot up. The month that you is one of the most expensive ones ever, so it helps to have things like bedding and towels stored away ready to use. Keep your eye out in the sales and clearance sections of local shops for new house bargains.
The whole process is a weird one from start to finish, there a lot of of waiting and anticipation which I found incredibly difficult at times. In the run up to completion you might not know if you’re coming or going! It is a stressful time that seems to last forever but once you get the keys time will fly! So savour those first few days and weeks in your new home, enjoy the painting, try not to argue too much whilst in flat pack hell and be prepared for a few days of eating takeaways on the floor.
I don’t want to move house any time soon but I’m sure as the years roll on I’ll forget about the stress of it all and want to eventually move. For now, I am still loving our home and so pleased to be at this stage in the journey. The house already holds some fantastic memories in such a short time, it’s where Shane and I got engaged, my TV debut was filmed here, it’s where I’ll get ready for my wedding and who knows what other amazing memories it will hold in the future…
Thrifty Clair x