Buying a house at 23 years old…sounds pretty unbelievable right? When I first started my house-hunt, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of information for people in a situation like mine. All the first time buyer forums, blogs or social media accounts I saw were telling tales of young couples buying a new build together or young first time buyers who had a great amount of financial support from family. That just wasn’t a possibility for me so I was left in the dark, fumbling around hoping that I get this first time house buying malarky right.
If like me, you want to get on the property ladder but you have no-one else to depend on financially, you’re on a fairly low income and you have no idea where to even start; I’m here to tell you that you can still do it. You can buy your first house all on your own. Let’s call this the start of a no-bullshit first time buyer blog series. I want to tell you my story as and when it happens. I’ll even discuss the taboo topic of money and how much I’m spending/saving/borrowing/etc. I want this series to be real af and hopefully a little bit helpful for my fellow bewildered first time buyers.
It’s becoming increasingly harder for young adults to get on the property ladder. Worryingly, buying a house may seem like nothing but a pipe-dream to so many young people. Well don’t lose hope. Just like me, you can be a young 20-something years old and buying your first house. Now, I am not saying it’ll be easy. But I want to stress that it is possible. And here comes the shocking part: you can do it all on your own too. Yes. On your own.
First up, I’m going to give a little (read: extremely rambly and long) update on my current home buying situation!
IT ALL STARTS WITH SAVING
If you’re serious about buying your first house, you need to get serious about saving. I opened an easy-access cash ISA 2 and a half years ago. I opted for an easy-access ISA as I wanted the security of knowing I could dip into my ISA without any repercussions if I ever needed to. Thankfully, I didn’t have to withdraw money from my ISA at any point!
When opening an ISA you should also consider the help-to-buy ISA. I personally didn’t get a help-to-buy ISA because on the HTB scheme you can only deposit a max of £200 a month. For me, that seemed counterproductive as I knew some months I would want to save more than £200. If I had opened a help-to-buy ISA, I could have received an additional £2,000 from the Government which would have been a great financial help. But hey ho, you live and you learn.
I made my first deposit of £1,000 and since then I have deposited varying amounts of money into my ISA every month. Some months I wouldn’t save anything at all. I booked an American trip with my sister last summer. We visited Los Angeles, Las Vegas and finished up in Idaho to see our Dad. Our American adventure was pretty costly so my house savings were briefly halted. But as soon as I returned my savings resumed again.
I even took a few other spontaneous trips, including a solo-trip to Belgium and a girly trip to Hamburg for the Christmas Markets. Although I was serious about saving, I didn’t want it to stop me from doing the things I enjoy. Life’s all about balance after all!
If I hadn’t taken those trips, I probably would have been able to save an extra £2,500 a lot sooner. But for me, it’s important that I did’t restrict myself too much as I didn’t want the saving process to take a toll on my well-being. I love saying yes to new adventures and if that meant having to take a little longer saving for my house than so be it!
Each month I would try to deposit at least £300. Some months I would put £600 in my savings, sometimes it’d be £150 or maybe even £0. The amount I saved fluctuated from month to month.
GET A MORTGAGE IN PRINCIPAL
In November last year, I felt ready to start looking at houses. I decided it was the perfect time to seek out some advice. Up until now, I’d kind of just been winging it on my own. I arranged to speak to a local bank to secure a Mortgage In Principle (MIP). A MIP gives you an idea of how much you are likely be approved for mortgage-wise and Estate Agents tend to like you to have a MIP in place before you view properties.
After chatting with the Financial Advisor, I had a better understanding of what was within my budget. I now knew that if I put down a 5-10% deposit, I could afford houses between £70-80k. If you live down south, you’re probably reading this right now thinking “WHAT THE HELL?!”. For that price, I’d be able to get a good sized two or three bedroom house with a garden, in a reasonable location.
Being flexible on location can be a great help when it comes to buying your first home. I would have liked to move to a bigger city, but I knew that would mean having to save a lot more money. So, staying put in this little seaside town for a few years longer will suit me just fine.
START VIEWING HOUSES
Now that I had a MIP, it was time to get booking those house-viewings. Whilst looking at houses, Zoopla and Rightmove became my best friends. I was addicted to clicking on the apps and constantly searching to see if any new properties had come up. Every lunch time without fail, I’d open up the app, search via price range, number of bedrooms and location then scroll through the newest uploads. I had about 50 properties saved to my favourites – some were within my price range whilst others were just out of it.
I requested to view my first house at the start of December. The house was huge. It was in a good location, close to amenities with off-road parking and the perfect size garden for my dogs. It also had a brand new, large kitchen. The downside – it had no central heating. For a house of it’s size that would have been a big and costly task. Based on that alone, the house search continued.
I decided that for my first home, I didn’t want somewhere that needed a lot of work. Cosmetic work is fine and is actually something I’m looking forward to! But a full-blown renovation and structural work is too big a task for me right now. It’s handy to consider how much work you’re willing to do. If you’re happy to take on a house in major need of TLC, you may be able to get somewhere for a reasonable price!
After viewing the first house, I went on to view a further 7 properties over the next three months. Some of those properties I viewed twice (or even three times) before deciding whether to put an offer in or not. Some of the properties were in great condition and others were absolutely horrifying. It’s truly eye-opening to see the state of some of the places.
Viewing houses isn’t always straight forward. There were a couple of properties I really wanted to view but I was unable to arrange a viewing. One time, I turned up to a viewing for the Estate Agent to not even bother showing up. When you manage to secure a viewing, don’t be afraid to ask questions. In fact, ask all the questions, no matter how silly they may seem.
VIEW THE HOUSE MORE THAN ONCE
There were three properties that I saw as having potential to be my first house. Each of these properties, I made sure to view more than once. I tried to view the properties at different times and different days of the week. I would view them weekday evenings or early on weekends. This allowed me to see the properties in different lights and gauge what the area was like at certain times of day.
When visiting the second time, I’d have a more thorough look than I did on my first visit. When viewing one of these properties for the second time I noticed a leak from the upstairs bathroom into the kitchen that hadn’t been evident when I first viewed the property. I really cannot stress enough the importance of going for extra viewings. Buying a house is a huge step so you want to make sure that you don’t get any nasty surprises that could have easily been avoided!
PUT AN OFFER ON THE HOUSE
I found a house that I liked enough to put an offer in. Funnily enough, I almost cancelled my first viewing of the house. I scanned through the listing on Rightmove, feeling underwhelmed. I looked at the house location, thinking it was an area that didn’t fill me with joy. That morning, I sat at my friends house, saying how tempted I was to cancel the viewing.
Boy am I glad I didn’t cancel that viewing! I was pleasantly surprised with the house after my first viewing so booked to go back another day on my own for another scout around. The house was over my budget by £5,000. Whilst viewing the property, I knew it was somewhere I could see myself living. It looked to be in perfect condition and I just couldn’t fault it. Sure, the bathroom and kitchen could do with some work but it was ready to move into.
I tried to stay reserved as the property was out of my budget. The house was new to the market, with the owners still looking to buy somewhere. Based on these three factors, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
Two days later, I put in my first offer of £73,000. It was substantially lower than the asking price and I expected it to bounce. As expected, my offer was rejected and so I put in a second offer at £75,000.
PUTTING IN A SECOND (THIRD AND FOURTH!) OFFER
When my second offer was rejected, I arranged a third viewing of the house. This time, I visited with a family friend, who just so happened to be a builder. I wanted to get his opinion on the property as his skilled eye may be able to spot things that I couldn’t. Alas, he told me the house was in perfect condition and that he’d snap it up himself if he could. This cemented my feelings about the house and my desire to buy it. That night, I sat down and looked over my finances in detail. I wanted to see if it was possible for me to stretch to put in a higher offer.
Once I was happy that I could afford to put in a higher offer, I phoned them back and placed a third offer. This offer was again rejected but my fourth offer was finally accepted. Don’t be afraid to go in low and then go back and forth with the buyer before settling on a price you’re both happy with. I managed to get the buyer to accept a lower offer than the house is listed for and one that I can still afford.
ARRANGE A SOLICITORS
Shit just got serious. I’m buying my first house. So, it was time to get a Solicitor to handle all my paper work and a mortgage advisor to arrange my mortgage loan. Based on a list provided by my Estate Agent, I chose the Solicitor I wanted to work with and submitted my application. Due to my chosen solicitor already working with the Vendor, I had switch and go with a different firm. This delayed the process by a couple of days.
Once I received my Solicitors documents, I filled these in a posted them off within a week. Then dropped into the firm to get my ID certified. Since then, I’ve received my Land Registry documents in the post.
SPEAK TO A MORTGAGE ADVISOR AND CHOOSE YOUR MORTGAGE
I initially spoke to a mortgage advisor at LandC. But when I tried to contact them a further 3 times and failed to get through or hear back from them, I sacked them off. For me, it’s crucial that I have a mortgage advisor I can rely on.
I need someone who was easy to contact. Because of this, I decided to go with the Advisor affiliated with my Estate Agent. She didn’t charge a fee for her services and knowing she worked in the Estate Agents office set my mind at ease. Unfortunately, so far she too has been fairly useless but I’ll save that story for another time.
Together we looked at what mortgages were available. Before my first meeting with my mortgage advisor, I had a look at different lenders online. I compared the rates and whittled it down to three that were of interest to me. My mortgage advisor suggested one of the mortgage offers that I found on my own little search. We decided it was a good fit and so opted to go with them for a 95% mortgage with £750 cashback.
EXCEPT FURTHER REJECTION
A few days later, after lots of chasing on my behalf, I found out that my mortgage offer had been rejected. The lender wanted an additional £2,750 before they approved me for their mortgage. I looked over my finances (again!) and decided that I would be able to afford this by April. I got back in touch with my mortgage advisor and asked her to arrange for me to get a 90% mortgage with the lender.
As she took so long to arrange the new mortgage, I missed out on the £750 cashback. Although this was a shame, my mortgage does work out cheaper in the long run. So it isn’t all bad. Swings and roundabouts, I guess!
TIME TO ARRANGE A VALUATION
Now that my mortgage offer was in place, it was time for my mortgage advisor to arrange a valuation on my behalf. Once the lender receives their valuation results, they will approve my mortgage and the solicitors can get the ball rolling with their searches. This stage is so important to me as between now and exchange, the house could still fall through. I cannot explain how much I want my first house so making sure everything runs smoothly between now and then is crucial.
My valuation was supposed to be on Friday. However, my mortgage advisor somehow managed to give the surveyor the wrong property number. As a result, I spent my Friday trying to rectify their error and my valuation was cancelled. It was pretty disheartening to know that because of another small error on the mortgage advisors behalf, my house-buying process will be delayed by an extra week. I will be phoning my mortgage advisor again tomorrow to ensure that she has re-booked my valuation for next week.
THE WAITING GAME
Right now, I’m just waiting to be told what happens next. My life is currently a series of daily phone calls bugging the mortgage advisor to pull her weight, requesting updates and filing paperwork. It’s also a serious case of knuckling down hard with saving and ordering an abundance of free tile, laminate and wallpaper samples.
I am incredibly excited to get on the property ladder and even more excited to decorate my first home, have my own little space and invite friends over! I’m crazy for homeware wishlists right now, whether it’s bedroom decor ideas or ways to keep my home looking hygge.
I hope you enjoyed my rambly, house update! I promise the next in my no BS house series will be a little more succient as I hope to focus on certain aspects of the house buying process! Either way, don’t lose hope yet as you 110% can and will buy your own home soon enough.