November 20, 2018. Today marks a momentous milestone in our family – we completed on our first house!
We thought having a baby would be a baptism of fire, but all the poo rivers and spew spates in the world were no comparison to the rocky road that became our house-buying journey.
We had it all. Defeat at the hands of an investor, pulling out of a buy moments before signing on the dotted line and negotiations which felt like we were dealing with a bad-tempered EU chief negotiator who had gone without his morning pastry all made things more stressful that the worst deadline day.
But be in no doubt. At the ages of 26 and 27, we are incredibly privileged to call ourselves homeowners (though technically the bank is more one of those than us, currently!).
Day one: already an end in sight…or so we thought
Like overconfident parents naively awaiting the arrival of baby number one, we thought we’d smashed this house game on day one of the search.
It was April 23, 2018, and we had just viewed the first house of what would turn out to be a good two-dozen.
It was perfect. So much so, practically on the doorstep we submitted a offer for the full asking price, led to believe the sellers were keen on a quick sale and would probably sell by close of play.
Sadly, it wasn’t to be, and we lost out to an investor who came back with an offer way out of our ballpark.
Take two: offer accepted!
We currently live in Worthing, where Hanna grew up. Having lived in Swindon before spending time at Portsmouth University, my decision to relocate to Hanna’s neck of the woods nearly six years ago didn’t take into account house prices.
In Swindon, the cost of a two-bed house may as well have been a can of beans in comparison to the inflated prices in Worthing.
For our modest budget, it appeared a stately home was in reach back in Wiltshire, while in Worthing our limit barely stretched to the type of home we were after.
We’re not the type seen on Escape to the Country. There was no ‘oh, our budget is £250,000 but for the perfect place we can stretch slightly to £1million’. And despite some agents appearing to apply the ‘Escape to the Country’ approach with offering us places way out of our league, we needed to expand our search area.
We eventually settled on a place in Littlehampton, just a few miles down the road. Bruised by our first failure, we complied with the ‘offers over’ asking price and went slightly above the guide price.
It worked…but then our journey really began.
So near, yet so far
We did all the official stuff, from instructing solicitors to brokering a mortgage deal and surveying the house to check it wasn’t made of biscuits.
Our offer was accepted on May 2, and to cut a long story short we were anticipating everything would be done by early September.
Despite everything initially going smoothly, we felt forced to walk away just over three months later. It became clear that issues with a new-build house meant we would not be able to agree a fixed completion date and time would likely drag on for what could have been months.
Things quickly turned into a bit of a shambles and we cut our losses. Looking back, it was precisely the right decision for so many reasons – but the whole experience highlighted some flaws in the house-buying process which we felt didn’t work in buyers’ favour.
By now the clock was ticking (August 10) and frankly we were getting tired of the whole thing. We wanted to be installed in a new home by the time Hanna went back to work.
Househunting is a drain. Inevitably viewings either eat into your working day, precious little evening time or dominate your weekends, especially when you hit the market hard like we did next.
Every viewing with Albie in tow added a little stress to the occasion. In full ‘reflux mode’, any pad with carpets became a case of whip in, whip out, while hoping the boy didn’t chunder his Ella’s Kitchen pouch over someone else’s floor.
We wanted a new place, quickly and since Littlehamptongate, we looked again at our priorities and decided location (Worthing), was the most important.
But after a few more viewings, included a rejected bid, we knew we were never going to find the perfect place, in the perfect immediate location, to call home.
Cue a meeting with our excellent broker, Richard Cackett, and we discovered we could do a ever-so-minor ‘Escape to the Country’ and slightly increase our war chest to just about push us into the realms of our dream property.
And a couple of weeks later, in a viewing which saw our nephew tag along and insist on using the toilet and Albie throwing up three times in the house, we found the one.
It wasn’t clear whether Albie’s vomiting spree signalled his approval or dislike. Ignoring his indecision, it was in a decent Worthing street, had an amazing downstairs layout and came with a bonus third bedroom. Our nephew has already staked a claim!
As perfect as can be
I think it’s rare to find a house which is perfect.
This one comes pretty close, with fairly minimal structural work and mainly cosmetics to tweak upstairs.
Unusually, the freehold home comes with a service charge, given it is on a relatively new estate.
There are some odd covenants, too, including needing written permission from the housebuilder for exterior alterations and even pet ownership.
Needless to say everything has been extensively examined by experienced solicitors and ourselves, and we are fully aware of our responsibilities.
But the alternative for us may have been worse than a no-deal Brexit, or the thought of accepting Mrs May’s deal from the perspective of Jacob Rees-Mogg.
Had we not wanted to go for our new home, the wait will have gone on past Christmas, adding to the £40,000 we’ve paid out in rent while we’ve been together.
We are lucky to be on the housing ladder, and even luckier to have an amazing family home with room for us to breathe.
Albie’s eviction from Mummy and Daddy’s room is imminent!
More to come
Moving house has consumed our lives for seven months and it feels like an eternity.
My blogging has suffered substantially in recent weeks, while we scrambled to get this over the line and I effectively worked two jobs in the office covering a colleague’s absence.
There is much to say about moving, which I’ll share with you in the coming days.
In the meantime, our brains will be adjusting from goldfish mode, where we begin to realise we can walk further than the equivalent confines of our one-bed flat and work out what to do with more than two kitchen cupboards.
Thanks to all who helped us in the moving process. From family members who have advised us to the professionals who got everything over the line.
These include our broker (see above), solicitors GWCA and estate agents handling the purchase Robert Luff Goring, led by David King.
As first-timers, we were utterly clueless about a lot of what we needed to do – but it was all a breeze thanks to everyone’s help.