There is a suggestion that there are two things you will do in your life which are the most stressful. Getting married and buying a house.
Let me assure you that the minimum stress of getting married is nothing compared to that of buying a house.
Currently in the UK there is a lot of help for getting people on the housing ladder ranging from ISA programs through to government backed help to buy schemes assisting with up to 10% of the mortgage price.
The help to buy schemes are usually directed at new builds as back to basics infrastructure building projects help the economy as well.
About a year ago my wife and I decided to buy a house, I’m in my 40s got a decent salary, no dependents and we managed before then to save over £50k..
Our first attempt was truly stopped because of my credit rating. While some of this was my fault for not closing bank accounts, however be warned the UK mobile phone companies will heartlessly destroy your credit rating given any chance.
Pro house buying tip number 1
Head over to Experian and Equifax set up an account and check your credit rating weekly. If it’s not good, sort it out.
So having spent a year getting my credit sorted we put our to in the water to see if we could get a mortgage.
We got a mortgage in principle and life looked better.
Then came the Estate agents, a group of vultures who will do what it takes to feed on the carcass of your soul for a commission.
Over 2 months I learnt that Estate Agents are actually miners, they are mining for your data, phone numbers mainly although email addresses will do just fine.
To extract their quarry they will put houses not for sale, that don’t exist or were sold months ago on Rightmove and such sites. This is done in order to “call” you.
Nothing an estate agent does con be done via that handy web form on Rightmove you will fill in for an inquiry it must be done over the phone. Even in most cases it’s to read back what you wrote in the form.
Once your number and email are confirmed it doesn’t matter what you said you wanted to buy, you will get an avalanche of inappropriate properties fired at you.
Pro house buying tip number 2
Setup a new Gmail account and ONLY use this when buying your house. Never use your own mail account or you will get spam forever. Also head over to Skype and purchase a Skype number, use this with during the process as your phone. You can get the numbers on a month by month basis it’s about £10 and will save you from a life of ppi calls. Essentially your phone and email will find themselves being sold and doing this means once finished you can dispose of the accounts.
The system of dealing with an estate agent is one as old as the hills and as an observation head to the high street of the place you want to buy a house. If they seem to have a lot of high street estate agents then something consistent will happen in the area.
The house prices will creep up, which will lead to properties having been on the market for a very long time. This is a simple process where estate agent X has put a sellers house on the market and that has not been sold in 6 weeks, so the next bottom feeder rocks up and tells the seller not only can they sell the house they can get the seller more money than the previous estate agent. Repeat cycle for houses which have been on the market for 18 months and prices seem to be rising, however nothing is selling.
We saw this on numerous occasions watching as the same houses had asking prices rise implying a buoyant market however nothing was selling.
On multiple occasions we were laughed at for the offers we made, and on almost all of those occasions the house eventually sold a few months later for what we offered.
The market is being maniplulated via Estate Agents on rightmove to make prices seem more than they should be for properties, the problem you’ll also have is it just takes one person to pay the inflated prices in the road you’re looking and within a few weeks a 30 to 40k increase in price in some areas.
Pro house buying tip number 3
Don’t accept the house price as its seen, they are often hugely inflated and its often worth tracking an area for a month or two if you can as you’ll start to see what is and isn’t selling and get a better idea of what prices should be.
Pro house buying tip number 4
If the sellers are there, talk to them, find out how long they have been trying to sell, why they are trying to sell and what the future plans are. This can help hugely when negotiating an offer.
We eventually went for a new build, this was mainly because despite the elevated price it was on a UK Help 2 Buy scheme, and with the government assistance of 20% the actual mortgage we took out was less than we would have done with a regular purchase. And despite the need in 5 years time to figure out how to pay this extra money back to the government we will be getting a much bigger house than we would have otherwise.
Finding your house however isn’t even half the project…
You find yourself with a mortgage in principle and an offer accepted on a house its time to walk out of the wilderness and into the forest of absolute despair.
This next stage of your journey is best described as taking a step back to a time before computers and customer service. Its like stepping back to the 1970’s
I don’t say this in jest either, your solicitor will move at the speed of continental drift and communicate as little as possible with you, they will throw legal jargon around and expect you to understand it.
Our solicitor was allocated by the online conveyancing company we found, we did this based on price and would NOT recommend doing this.
Pro house buying tip number 5
Find a local conveyancing company, with an office you can go into and pay a little more for it. I appreciate like us you may be budgeting however the extra money you will pay to put a face in front of a person will save you a HUGE amount of stress.
As you progress down the path of getting surveys in, as a personal opinion i’d ask your solicitor for a weekly status update even if that is “nothing to report” however as times get close you’ll want to be in touch with your solicitor daily.
Your solicitor will not like this, customer service and communication are not phrases these people seem to be aware of, this isn’t just based on a personal opinion either, this is based on hundreds of people providing feedback of their experiences.
Remember, you are the customer, you are paying for a service they have advertised and if you feel they are not communicating enough, force it, get blunt and abrupt if you need to and provide valid examples of why you feel this way. Find the Partner in charge of the solicitor you are dealing with and communicate your concerns directly with them and do this early on if you feel you are not being provided feedback, information and what you need.
The legal system really doesn’t seem to understand concepts of email, scanning and docusign (which is interesting as research doesn’t state any reason why this can’t be used) and insists on paper..
Also find out what your solicitor is doing, we had occasion when ours was waiting for Help to Buy (H2B) to “send them a form” after 3 days this seemed strange so i contacted H2B, the form had been sent 3 days earlier and was stuck in the solicitors junk mail.
We had “the word document sent to us was corrupt” as well, as an IT professional I can’t remember the last time i dealt with a corrupt word file, this isn’t really a thing. Again however i followed up got myself AND the solicitor sent another copy of a form which worked perfectly.
I’ve transferred money to them and used a changed reference number for CHAPs (the black hole of money transfer) and been told i’ve done something wrong and having pressed on this found out that they had not informed their accounts team of the amended transfer reference number (we removed a . and a / because they are not supported).
Pro house buying tip number 6
Solicitors don’t seem to understand email and that you may have a printer and a scanner. So will insist on mailing you documents to sign which eat days of valuable time especially over the weekends or bank holidays. If your solicitor has sent you a document in the post to sign and you have a scanner/printer (25quid will get you one) ask them to send you an email copy of the document. Often this will do fine and they don’t need the signed version till later.
As well as the solicitors being difficult our seller Barratts were a right royal pain. they have a 28 days to get everything sorted policy then sign contracts.
It is almost impossible to get from A to B in 28 days, especially when Barratts themselves took 2 weeks to send out solicitor the paperwork they needed to start the process.
This however did not stop Barratts sales on day 28 to threaten to pull the plug on the whole thing and put the house back on the market.
Pro house buying tip number 7
This 28 days is NOT a legal requirement, its imposed upon you, if this happens to you, push back and get dates of things being sent and show its not you’re fault, and then arrange for regular updates with the seller. If you expect it from the solicitor they you must do it for the seller too.
If you feel that they are slowing things down, let them know quickly, and follow up on it, if you feel you are slowing things down, push your solicitor.
What have I learnt from this process?
I’ve learnt a lot from the process
- You are going to get stressed, vent, just not at your loved ones.
- Keep everything that has happened written down with times and dates and keep email chains
- Keep EVERYTHING to do with the process in Evernote.
- Communication is key
- You are a project manager so use tools like Trello..
However the most important thing to remember is.. once you’ve moved in this will be a distant memory you WILL laugh about…