»10th July 2018

New house

So I have finally bought a house. And it only took six months!

In 2015 I decided it was high time that I start saving for a house, I had a steady income from my job (although I was still on a fixed term contract I was still making more regular money than I had been previously, working as a supply teacher) and needed to do something with my money other than buy Magic cards. ['Wait, there are other things you can do with money?']

I went with Shirley-Ann to the Yorkshire Bank to open up two Help To Buy ISAs, one each. The reason for this is that the Help To Buy only lets you deposit £200 a month, so as we wanted to save quicker, it made more sense to open up one each and save up to £400. When you close a Help To Buy the government pays out a massive 25% bonus on top of the closing balance so long as it's going towards the deposit for a house, this was clearly the best way we were going to save up.

At this point, it was my understanding that you'd still be looking at needing a 10% deposit saved before you could even think about getting a 90% mortgage, so realistically we'd be needing about £10,000 saved up before we could look at buying a house for about a £100,000. £100,000 would probably be enough to get a low-end three bed house, a good place to start. Having to save up £10,000 meant that as far as I was concerned, getting a house would be a long way down the line, well after the wedding next year.

Turns out that 5% mortgages are a thing again so all of a sudden we already had enough to get a mortgage. Shirley-Ann had been keeping an eye on the local property listings for a while, musing on the nice-looking houses. We were suddenly in the position of 'oh crap, we could actually afford that, better book a viewing.'

We had a pretty clear idea what we were looking for. A modern (i.e. not Victorian) house with big windows, a garden, in a better location (i.e. not on a steep slop directly opposite a train track) and not too far from where we currently live (close to parents and both our jobs). New builds were out of the question as they're generally small and massively overpriced. We did not have a problem finding properties that met these requirements. Sarah Beeney would be proud of us, but also disapproving. She's like that with everyone, though.

Further to these general requirements, we had a list of things we hate about the current house. I thought I'd be able to contain all of that in a single bullet pointed list. Turns out it needed it's own blog update.

Late November last year I started looking into what we could get mortgage-wise. Shirley-Ann looked on Rightmove and found a house near my Mum and Dad's in Heckmondwike. It looked like it would be at the top end of our budget at £140,000, but seemed to tick all the boxes.

We went on a viewing and was showed around the house by the most disinterested estate agent ever. 'I'm semi-retired... Yeah, I only really do this at the weekends.' 'Oh, okay, do you know if there's been much interest in the property?' '[Shrugs] Maybe. I only really do this at the weekends.' Do you know how old the-' '[Shrugs, more aggressively this time]' After he'd had enough of our incessant, irritating questioning about things like 'is it a shared drive?', you know, the sort of stuff you're supposed to ask on a viewing, the estate agent spent the rest of the viewing staring determinedly out of the kitchen window, looking into the distance, possibly contemplating the countless eons spent showing people around modest three-bed semis in Heckmondwike. Perhaps by this point, time had lost its meaning, and he spent his days knowing that a single shadow waited for him in the mists. Knowing it would inevitably come, he waited for that day with grim determination. But on the weekends he still does the odd viewing.

Despite the useless estate agent, we really liked the house and wanted to make an offer.

Making an offer on a house is basically a case of thinking of a stupidly low number the other side would never accept, making a counteroffer or whatever [Steps removed and sequence shortened] then accepting about 5% under the asking price. Congratulations, you're Gordon Gekko.

With an offer accepted and a mortgage in place, what happens next is like playing the most degenerate blue/white control/prison deck in Magic. For those who don't know what that means, imagine a boot stamping on that-bureaucratic-scene-from-Brazil forever.

You fill a form out. You sign here.

Don't date that signature. Also, sign here.

We need copies of your bank statements for the last three months.

Sign here.

Scans are okay, send me copies of your wage slips.

You don't need to fill out that section.

The lender needs to know which--sign here.

The documents.

That's great, I'll send those off today.

Can you bring the documents down.

The office.

an Email with the

Just a reminder, you will need to fill out--

Underneath where you signed earlier.

Witness

Return form

Sign here

This continues for a few weeks. There are lulls where you're not sure if the solicitors are waiting for something you need to send, or if you're waiting on the other side to send something. Then there will be a flurry of documents to scan and sign, and then more silence.

Needless to say, this stage is... frustrating.

The best thing I did was download a scanning app to my phone. I have a flatbed scanner, but scanning 18 pages of forms and then finding out you've missed something out and having to repeat the process takes... a long... time... on a... flatbed scanner... that can only... scan... one... page... at... a... time...

So it was the end of March. We'd sent copies of absolutely everything over to the solicitors. Everything was proceeding smoothly.

'Hi Carl, it's the estate agents. Yeah, I've got some bad news, the seller has backed out.'

Family emergency

My dog ate my family emergency

So the seller had taken the house off the market. 'What, so we need to go in with a higher offer?' 'No, we asked him that. We don't know what he's doing.'

The estate agents suggested we wait a couple of days to see if he changed his mind--he didn't. After a period of panic and confusion we set about viewing a whole load of other houses since we were on a clock with the mortgage offer. If we could find another house quickly, within a week or so we would probably not have to reapply for a mortgage.

We tried to book as many viewings as possible. I had already booked the week off (originally thinking I could have spent the time moving house) so had plenty of time to view houses. We managed to get four more viewings booked. We could have seen more but when the estate agent rings you up 'just to let you know, there's been a significant water burst in the kitchen' you know that's a viewing you can pass on.

First viewing, Carlinghow. This is our house. We liked pretty much everything about it. Shirley-Ann loved the kitchen and I loved the garden, #traditionalgenderroles. It was within the budget that the mortgage advisor said we could manage, but was right at the top of what we thought we could manage.

Second viewing: Hightown/Liversedge. This house had recently been rennovated by a property developer, who showed us around the house. He used to be a milkman and was wearing a pinstripe suit, long raincoat and had slicked back hair, really giving off a Bobby George vibe. This house had a massive open loft but was quite small otherwise. Well within budget, but it felt a bit far away from any town centre.

Third viewing: Gomersal. This house was absolutely huge--five bedrooms plus a cellar--and also over our budget. Also, it only had a shared back yard and the front of the property was straight onto a fairly busy road. Since it didn't really meet requirements, this was never really in the running. I just wanted to be nosy. The guy showing us round was really friendly and was a musician.

Fourth viewing: Littletown. This was the cheapest house we looked at, and had also recently been rennovated. It was literally adjacent to a really nice school (you are supposed to worry about the schools in the area. It's a thing.) This one was in the running, close to Cleckheaton, a nice garden, decent-sized rooms. The main thing going against this was being on a main road.

It was Saturday: All the viewings were complete, we had a four-hour discussion about which house we wanted, involving a matrix, Excel spreadsheets and lots of tea. We decided on the first house. We wanted to make a decision as quickly as possible in the vain hope we might not have to reapply for/extend our mortgage offer, and because, well, by this point we had already been packing up to move out and were finding ever more annoyances with the old house.

Maybe a week or so later: Our mortgage offer from January was pretty much up and our mortgage advisor had found a way better mortgage that we could apply for. So we were back where we were in December. This new mortgage would give us roughly another 10% money to borrow for the same monthly repayment, actually £3 cheaper. Reapplying for a mortgage was a huge ballache, but the new mortgage was much better value. All the repetitive paper work would be worth it.

You fill a form out. You sign here.

Don't date that signature. Also, sign here.

We need copies of your bank statements for the last three months.

Sign here.

Scans are okay, send me copies of your wage slips.

You don't need to fill out that section.

The lender needs to know which--sign here.

The documents.

That's great, I'll send those off today.

Can you bring the documents down.

The office.

an Email with the

Just a reminder, you will need to fill out--

Underneath where you signed earlier.

Witness

Return form

Sign here

We basically had about two months where very little happened thanks to the fact that the new mortgage company wanted extra information from us, but we didn't know they were waiting for us so weeks went by whilst the question of rent remained in the air. Despite volunteering all the evidence they could ever possibly want, bank statements were apparently enough. Except they weren't, 'the lenders still want to know how you pay your rent.' 'We gave you bank statements with dates highlighted for when we paid our rent. Do you need like a signed letter from the landlady confirming we paid the rent on those days?' 'No, that shouldn't be necessary. I'll explain this to the lenders again.'

It felt like this went on for weeks.

Moving On Up

Eventually--that's the keyword across this entire story--the mortgage lender had decided that indeed we did pay rent and we had our mortgage once more approved and ready to go. At this point things actually started to go very quickly. The estate agents rang up asking if we could do completion but we hadn't even had our documents posted through from the mortgage. The sellers were going on holiday for a week but then as soon as they were back we were at the point of completion.

At this point we had a fresh new panic. We thought the money in our accounts would be magically transferred by the mortgage people, we'd given our account details enough times and signed various papers already, but apparently no, we would have to get our deposits into our bank accounts ourselves. This meant closing our Help To Buy ISAs and getting a letter from the bank saying 'yes, these accounts have been closed with this amount of money in, earning a 25% bonus'. This required several cheeky trips to the bank on lunch hours.

With the money not-so-safely stashed away in my bank account, everything was set. It was kind of odd having so much money in my current account, which is usually riding close to zero. There was also a vague sense of worry that somehow something could still go wrong. Maybe we hadn't filled something out, maybe some enormous Direct Debit payment would take a chunk out of the deposit, maybe the international banking system would collapse overnight. Anything could probably not happen.

Once the sellers were back from their holiday, it was time for completion. I thought completion would have involved some sort of signing of documents, signing of something, anything really. Maybe we'd need to get witnesses to our signing to sign our witnesses. Nope. Completion was just a case of picking up keys.

So after completion? Well we cracked open a bottle of champagne in the kitchen after picking up the keys. I had another week off coming, not February half-term, not Easter, but now Spring Bank. It really did take that long. Anyway, with this week off coming up I would have time to move furniture. Which took countless car trips.

The official moving in day--the day we used to close the accounts for gas and electric etc.--was 25th May. This was the day we moved the bed over and spent our first night in the new house. Well that was six weeks ago and there's still loads boxed up. But that's it, the whole house ordeal completed.

So, is moving house one of the most stressful things you can do in your life? No. It's a slow, frustrating process. I don't know how common it is to have house deals completely fall through like the first house we were looking at, but that was an absolute nightmare. Trying to quickly sort things out was difficult, but without weeks off here and there the process would simply have taken a lot longer.

It really helped that we had a clear idea what we wanted in a house, and having a mortgage in place meant that we had a good idea what we could realistically afford. More useful than anything was getting a scanner app on my phone--being able to quickly turn around some new stupid document seemed to help move things along. Our solicitors seemed okay, but regularly sending emails to ask 'do you need me to send anything?' and 'what's the next thing we will need?' seemed like a requirement to keep things rolling along.

As homeowners now, or homos for short, we now have that awful air of smugness. We've started reading the Daily Express. We've started worrying about 'the local schools'. 'Someone having a fire on the next street' is a source of deep frustration. We must now vote Tory. Our neighbours are all retired, making us 'that new couple'. I listen to advice from retired neighbours about the garden--that's not going to take in the front garden, it's too exposed to wind.' We know the names of more than one person on the street. The boiler is now a source of fear and fun, unplanned expense. We bought a slow cooker. The door has started making a sound. I am thinking about buying a ladder. Our neighbours are all garden. The Daily Mail source of deep frustration. We get milk delivered and have a window cleaner. That would look lovely in the dining room. Mortgage overpayments. I am thinking about buying a property ladder. That's a lovely rhododendron. Our retired newspapers. Exposed to the front garden. Ladder. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker. We bought a slow cooker.



Extar, over, out.

Extar

Fuck you, Shab.