I am so excited to be posting this today. Mostly, because if you’re reading this, it means we’re finally in our first ever home. Currently, we’re slowly approaching the end of the process, but we’ve been trudging our way through for well over 12 months (actually closer to 15!). So to say that I’m ready to be out of negotiations and actually into our home is quite the understatement.
Scott and I started the process of buying our first home last March, when we put a reservation down on an off-plan apartment that was being built on a new development in our hometown. Since March, we’ve had quite the journey. Including two delays, three new potential apartments, and finally a townhouse that we found, fell in love with, and reserved instead. Each of those twists and turns came with huge decisions being made on our part, and now that we’re nearing the end of our journey, I wanted to put what I’ve learned through it all into a post here on the blog.
I want this blog to serve as a sort of catch-all. When we were starting out, I wanted to be able to read a post like this, from somebody looking back on what the home buying process taught them, but couldn’t find one. These are simply the lessons that I’m wiser of now on the other side, and warnings I’d let my past self know of if I could speak directly to myself a year ago.
You might have seen me reference writing a post like this on my new year round-up, while we were stuck in delays and yet to fall in love with our coastal townhouse. It’s safe to say that this post is a much lighter tone than what I thought I’d be writing, and transferring into this home was the best decision we could have made.
Sometimes, Things Fall Apart
This is one of the biggest lessons. When we started this process, we were both so naive. We thought everything would be done and completed by the first deadline and there’d be nothing to worry about. Oh how wrong we were. When buying off-plan, nothing happens quickly. In a sort of lesson to managing expectations, I’d rule to be skeptical of any date that’s given to you for completion.
For Scott and I, the development we were joining already had a ‘phase’ of residential properties before ours, so we used that as a marker for completion on our own. After that phase was delayed for six months, it was only a matter of time before ours was too – and so on, and so forth.
Annoyingly, a lot of unforeseen problems can crop up – which can feel like you’re constantly being thrown in and out of whack with the weather. Even after Scott and I transferred from the apartment plot to our townhouse, which was slated for a month left on the build before completion, we were hit with unexpected delays due to the groundwork. It’s an annoying process, but you just have to remember that in the future, when you’ve lived in your house for a year, the additional time will not have mattered.
Also, if you manage your expectations, it’ll give you chance to really soak in the process. You can make sure this is what you want, do double or triple checks of other available properties for reference, hire an independent valuator, and so much more. Take advantage of any time you have as an opportunity to check back in with yourself and make sure you’re confident and comfortable with the plans going ahead. And never forget to negotiate if you’re being inconvenienced. (It also gives you extra time to scope out the best interior pieces you’ve been dreaming of!)
There’s Never a Stupid Question
Acting like I had gone from home buyer to residential detective and inspector? Check. Ha, I’m kidding. But seriously, I was surprised at how much information I would pick up when asking questions. One thing that I’ve found during the home buying process is that nobody is forthcoming with information. Nobody. The paranoia in me had it down to people being able to tell you that you “hadn’t asked” if you were unhappy with an aspect, so instead I took to asking every little question I could whenever I had the opportunity.
Don’t feel stupid or like a bother if you have a question, buying a home is one of the biggest investments a person makes in their lifetime. Find out if it’s leasehold or freehold, what can or can’t be adjusted, if there’s negotiations open on certain aspects.
In line with there being no stupid questions, you can also never know too much about the house you’re moving into. This is going to be your home. Don’t hold back with anything that you’re wondering.
Besides, if we hadn’t asked questions, we never would have stumbled upon our townhouse and instead could have been kept waiting for the apartment.
Talking About Money Doesn’t Have to Be Scary
Okay everybody, lets collectively unclench. Seriously. Money is a daunting topic. In England, there’s a big taboo on discussing money, and it’s safe to say that I hate that notion. Money shouldn’t be a big scary – the monster lurking on the other side of the door. And this process has helped me get to grips with actually being able to talk about it rather than keeping my mouth shut and praying nobody asks.
Air out all the financials, work with an advisor and see what’s available to you. Financial advisors will have heard and seen almost all money situations before – so don’t be embarrassed if that’s something you’re worried about. Being well informed will ensure you’re putting your best foot forward, and when working with an advisor, they have access to a lot of deals and information that isn’t readily available to the public.
Plus, a lot of financial advisors are free to have a consultation with – so take advantage of their time when you can. Scott and I worked with First Mortgages as our mortgage advisor/broker – and they were incredible. If you’re based in England, I definitely recommend checking them out and setting up a potential call with them. After all, they have 5,000 5* ratings on Trustpilot (which is what got our attention!) for a reason.
Being on the Same Page is Key
Between Scott and I, there was nothing as important as making sure both of us were on the same page. Between viewings, decisions, personalisations and financials. I’m so proud of how we work together as a team. Taking time to air out our feelings, see where they’re different and make sure we understand each other.
Having a team mate is having someone you can vent to: who will respect your side even if they don’t agree with it. And having somebody you can split your differences and make sure that you’re taking the right step forward with, together.
On top of an investment, buying a home is a collaboration. You’re joining with somebody to create a place you’ve both dreamed of. Making sure you both feel heard, understood and appreciated is of the utmost importance.
Throughout the entire process nothing has been as important as the communication between us both. And I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else to navigate this process with, either. Scott’s patience, understanding and ability to put me at ease was something that I can never take for granted.
Negotiating is Another Language Altogether
I mean, seriously. I joke to my friends that this year was the one that I truly learned the art of British passive-aggressive emailing. It’s like a sport. Between realtors, solicitors, financial advisors, mortgage brokers. The barrage of messages you receive if you dare let a real estate company know you’re looking for somewhere to live, to manuevering your way between passed deadlines and housing questions and viewing requests with everybody else. It’s a minefield.
In fact, with the company who built our home, we ended up being passed between three sales consultants. It was a blessing in disguise though, as our final consultant was the best of all three and offered us the perfect amount of help we needed throughout the process.
Don’t Take Anybody’s ‘Word for It’
I hate to throw this little cautionary tale into the mix, but it needs to be done. If you’ve been following me on Instagram through the process, you might have noticed a few Story series that I posted talking about the trials and tribulations of buying a home. Towards the end of the process, Scott and I had to actually report our solicitor because they were in no way working in our best interests. This included covering up certain facts in the contracts and trying to rush us into signing without answering any of our concerns.
This brought the entire process to a grinding halt, as the moment you feel like you’re being coerced into something, we wanted another independent evaluation of all the facts. After swapping solicitors, things got moving again, but for a few weeks it was one of the most stressful periods that Scott and I had ever been through. Every day felt like a battle with new emails, phone calls and who knows what swimming in and out of our inboxes. What I took away from the process was to always trust my gut when something doesn’t feel right, and to remember that you should never feel rushed into making any decision if everything is sound.
You’re Going to Fall in Love Like Never Before
And finally, my favourite. There is nothing quite like finding somewhere and just knowing that this is where you want to plant roots. The second Scott and I walked into our home – we knew. There’s nothing quite like the excitement of finding your home. And I can’t wait for all the decorating, renovating, altering and living that we’re going to experience in our favourite place over the coming years.
What Was it Like Buying Your First Home?
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