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What I learned as a first time home-buyer

In the year we all got told to stay at home, I of course, got sick of my home. It was a modest Victorian terraced house in the community of Clarendon Park in Leicester, and the second house I’d rented with my partner.

With lovely original wood flooring, charming fireplaces and an interesting colour palette as chosen by previous tenants, for over a year it was the place we loved to play cards at our dining table, eat with plates on our knees beside our blue shed in our patch of garden, and watch movies in the front room whilst people watching on the busy street.

When the spare room became our office, and Leicester became known as the city to never leave lockdown, cracks began to show in everybody’s home life - didn’t it? Unluckily for us, they also began to show in our walls, decorated with damp and mould. Winter came around and we were locked down in what felt like an ice-cube.

We were always fortunate. We had a home, jobs to pay the bills, a garden to sit outside in and we were close to family and friends when we were able to see them. I will always count my blessings for that.

We were also fortunate that the lockdown allowed us to save the last pennies we needed to buy a place of our own, and we managed to do so - in the space of six weeks!

Sitting now in our new study, using my mobile phone data as a hotspot, here are the top five tips I’d give to any first time buyers.

Check sites like Zoopla to learn the history of the property

Type in the address and you’ll be able to see all of the previous sales prices, and links to its previous listings, providing a treasure trove of decors past! This will allow you to see the transformation of the property, giving some insight into what is under the carpets and wallpaper.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to see exactly what the current vendors have done to the place to justify their price allowing you to make an informed offer. We managed to put in an offer 10k under the asking price based on this, and it was accepted.

Have a survey completed early

If you’re interested in a property that is slightly older or you know, has its quirks, I’d suggest paying that extra bit of cash for a survey. Homeowners have certain responsibilities to obtain things like gas safety certificates annually, and they should be able to provide these, as well as any warranties for electrical goods and things like double glazing.

If you’re buying a place that was previously let, landlords have even more responsibilities including electric safety certificates.

If your survey reveals work that needs completed, or any faults, you may be able to negotiate this in to the price or have the vendors complete it before you purchase.

Expect things to change, and quickly

When you hear about people knocking on doors looking for somebody desperately, you think of Love Actually, you think of the great romcoms. Not when it’s past 3pm on your exchange date, in the middle of a pandemic and you need to find somebody willing to be a witness for your contract.

We were plodding along after making an offer in late October, and received a call early December confirming a completion of 18th December. They wanted to exchange next week! Panic stations.

When things start moving, they move fast. So stay calm, keep an eye on your emails and don’t be afraid to ask your solicitors and estate agents for advice and updates. Also - buy a printer with a scanner!

Don’t be bullied

That being said, don’t allow yourself to be bullied if you’re a first time buyer at the bottom of a chain. Pressures will be put on you, but it is not your job to meet them necessarily - it is the job of the solicitors and estate agents. Don’t sacrifice getting the information you need; such as answers from your queries, or results from the survey. We were being pressured to exchange without receiving an electrical report we’d paid for (thankfully, all okay!) and without all kitchen goods listed as fixtures, so have had no freezer or washing machine for the last month. Alas. We learn.

Everybody in the chain plays an important part and need each other.

Respect where you currently live

It’s easy to go overboard making Pinterest boards and buying furniture and decor, but you run the risk of turning your current home into a storage unit for several weeks and believe me - it isn’t healthy! It also makes moving day very difficult.

Consider purchasing a storage unit where you can store new purchases and begin to move packed up belongings, allowing you a clean home to enjoy some calm before moving.

On your completion date, consider cracking open a bottle of champagne and cleaning your new home from top to bottom without any furniture in it. Remember your vendors are likely to have packed up and left that morning prior to living surrounded by boxes, so they aren’t concerned with its cleanliness. You will be, however! So get it done whilst it’s bare.

Good luck!


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