Buying your first house is a hugely exciting step in anybody’s life but it’s a notoriously stressful experience – up there with getting married and having a baby as one of the most stressful things you can do, apparently! My partner and I are in the process of getting ready to buy our first home together so I thought I’d document bits and pieces of the process and share any tips and tricks I learn along the way.
Another reason I’ve decided to share my experience is because I’m self-employed, which makes our situation a little more unique. A lot of people (myself included, until recently) think being self-employed makes it almost impossible to own your own home but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find it doesn’t complicate things half as much as I thought it would.
So, what have I learned so far?
Sort Out Your Finances
This is an obvious point to make but it can’t be overstated – get a grip on your finances. Buying a house in today’s market is incredibly difficult and, even if you’re looking for a simple first home, getting your deposit together can be the biggest hurdle to overcome.
Be honest with yourself about your financial situation before you start saving. Do you have debts that you need to pay off? A car that needs replacing? Spending to curb? Take stock of your accounts and draw up a savings plan that you can stick to. Whether it takes you six months or six years, when you’ve got that deposit saved you’ll be ready to take the next step and it will feel fantastic. When you’re about to blow £££s in the ASOS sale, just take a second to consider whether you really need six more striped tops or if that money could be put towards your deposit. Saving can be tough but it’s worth it in the end.
Another tip is to make sure your credit rating is as robust as possible before you start looking to apply for a mortgage. Our mortgage advisor told me I should start using my credit card more often as, surprisingly, not using it could actually make my credit rating lower than if I use it and pay it off regularly. For the last few months I’ve been putting at least one payment a month onto my credit card and paying it off the same day, just to help elevate my credit rating that little bit more.
Consider Your Area
If you’re looking to move to a new place than it’s smart to set aside some time to really get to know the area. I’m talking about visiting the area at different times of day and different days of the week to see what it’s like late at night, early in the morning etc. Have a drink in the local pub, go for a walk through the local park, get to know the local amenities. Buying a house is a huge investment and I can’t imagine anything worse than moving into an area, only to find a nasty surprise that you weren’t expecting. For me, I work mostly from home so it’s important to me that our house is in an area that’s quiet during the day so I can focus on work and carry out Skype meetings without being interrupted.
Look to the Longterm
If you’re planning on living in your house longterm then consider how your life might change in the next two, five, ten years. Are you hoping to start a family in this house? If so, spend a bit of time researching local schools in the area. I’m not talking about anything as intense as booking a meeting with the headmistress but it’s a good idea to plan for the future if you’re hoping this will be a ‘forever home’.
Another example, are you likely to change jobs while you’re living in this house? If a job change might also result in a location change then bear this in mind while looking at houses. You don’t want to move an hour away from a big city if you may be looking at jobs there within a few months of moving in.
Identify Wants and Needs
This is something I’ve definitely learned over the last few months. You’ll have a list of ‘wants’ and a list of ‘needs’ and you need to know which category each thing falls into. ‘Wants’ are things that you’d like your house to have but aren’t deal breakers, whereas ‘needs’ are things you absolutely can’t compromise on.
For example, I want a separate utility room because it’ll make doing laundry so much more pleasant but I need high speed internet for my job. I want a decent-sized garden so I can have a vegetable patch but I need a workspace.
Be brutal when you’re deciding on your ‘needs’ because a lot of the time they’re actually ‘wants’. Keep your list of ‘needs’ as short as possible so you don’t end up ruling out otherwise perfect houses because of something tiny that they’re missing.
Unwind with Pinterest
Finally, as looking for a house can be stressful at times, set yourself up with a ‘Home Inspiration’ board on Pinterest so you can relax after a busy day of house hunting by obsessively Pinning pictures of your dream home, perfect kitchen, spa-inspired bathroom and cosy reading nook. My weakness? Gorgeous home office spaces that I’m seriously hoping I can replicate with my limited DIY skills!
So those are five things I’ve learned so far on my journey to buying my first house. We’re still a while away from being ready to get a mortgage agreed and start looking seriously but it’s getting ever closer, so I’ll be sure to post again further down the line with any other bits and bobs I learn. In the meantime, if you have any advice of your own you’d like to share then please feel free in the comments – it’ll be much appreciated!