Jo has just bought an end-of-terrace house in need of a bit of love in the Poets’ Corner area of Hove. In this series she’s sharing her experience of the purchase and renovation process, starting with buying a house in hove.
Part 1: Buying the house – the emotional rollercoaster.
I moved to Hove just over two years ago with my husband. As we were new to the area, and wanted to be able to make the move from London without the additional challenge of dealing with buying and selling property, we let our London flat and rented a lovely flat with a sea view on Grand Avenue. Hove quickly felt like home, so towards the end of last year we decided to start the process of buying a house.
I am very much a person who makes plans, and true to form we had a plan for this;
- Sell the London flat before we even start looking (while fortunately the block has no cladding, it is a high-rise ex-local authority so we knew the sale would potentially be fiddly).
- Find a charming fixer-upper and buy it.
- Continue to rent while renovating and move in at leisure.
We put the flat on the market in January and secured an offer pretty quickly. Of course, we couldn’t resist looking at houses… By then we had decided the Poets’ Corner area would be great for us (a 2-3 bedroom terrace house near some excellent pubs, yes please) and at that point there wasn’t lots on the market. We found a great candidate and had an offer accepted! We had just got the provisional mortgage offer in when lockdown started…
Reader, we didn’t buy that house. We had a home-buyer survey which revealed more significant problems than were visible at viewing (like active woodworm) and (especially in the economic uncertainty triggered by the pandemic) it was too much of a financial risk.
In the meantime, we managed to sell the London flat. We had just decided to stay put in the rental flat for a while and revisit buying later when we spotted something exciting on Rightmove… an end of terrace house with a bigger than average garden and a workshop space at the end of it. After a socially-distanced viewing, we made an offer and after a bit of negotiation got it accepted.
We desperately tried not to get too attached* while we waited for the homebuyer’s survey… It came back with plenty of problems (including rising damp, the possibility of Bungaroosh, see more in our guide to renovating in Brighton…) but nothing we couldn’t tolerate so we pressed ahead. With our finances already well lined up, the purchase process was relatively speedy**, and 11 weeks after making an offer we had the keys.
By this point we had abandoned the plan to renovate before moving (partly for money reasons, partly because of lock-down driven enthusiasm for having a garden asap), so with a week left on our lease we moved, spruced up the rental flat and said our goodbyes to it. And now we’re in!
Tips for coping with the process
Buying a house is often described as being one of the most stressful things you can do. Given the emotional and financial significance of buying property, I’m not sure it can ever be stress free, but here are the things that I found helped.
- Get a good solicitor.
Your solicitor should have a wealth of experience in buying houses, so as well as acting as your legal representative they can potentially be a great help in navigating through the process. Make sure you have a conversation with them prior to appointing them to make sure you like how they communicate. I left every conversation with mine feeling a great deal calmer than I started, for which I am very grateful. http://www.cornfieldlaw.co.uk/
- Get a Survey.
For me, part of the stress of buying a house comes from the fear that I am in some way being tricked. Especially as someone who works on renovations for a living, the prospect of missing a big problem with a house and only discovering it after moving in is horrifying… but while problems like rising damp will usually be fairly easy to spot, there are plenty of things you can’t expect to diagnose yourself during a viewing (especially with gloves and a mask on!). Getting a survey helped us to check that the price was fair for the condition of the property, to start planning renovation work, and it took the edge off the inevitable post-move niggles.
- Make a really good list.
If you are the sort of person who likes to plan and to work through deliverables at a steady pace until the deadline, prepare to find the purchase process up until exchange extremely challenging. The process moves mysteriously and at its own pace, and most of the time there isn’t anything you can be doing to move it forward. The deep uncertainty of when (and let’s face it, if) you will be moving makes it difficult to make any other plans.
- Get help packing.
We benefitted from the Stamp Duty holiday so decided to pay for packers as well as moving. Knowing we had that booked significantly reduced the stress of not knowing exactly how much time we would have to make the move. Well worth the money if you can. Thanks to http://www.brighton-removal.co.uk/
- Start researching useful suppliers.
It’s fairly likely that within the first few days of moving in you will discover problems with the house, some of which you’ll want to fix asap (a malfunctioning boiler, for example). Arming yourself with the details of a handy-person, electrician and plumber will help you to act quickly if you need to.
*I absolutely did get attached. I went on the planning portal, found Architect’s drawings from a previous planning application, copied it into Vectorworks and started designing.
**Every second of it felt like an age. Especially in the context of Covid19 when no-one had anything fun or exciting on the horizon, every social conversation featured the exchange ‘Any further on buying the house?’ ‘No, we’re not ready to exchange yet. We’ve handed in notice on our flat so we don’t know where we’ll be living in September. It’s all a bit uncertain but it’s fine. It’s fine. I’m totally fine.’