"Frightening, frustrating, exciting, challenging, and ultimately the most wonderful thing I have ever done."
How I did it: The first thing I did was scour the property websites and set up a large and detailed bookmarking system for houses that interested me. This is crucial as comparison is the key to getting what you want, where you want it and at a price that is fair and that you can afford.
Information is vital when dealing with estate agents as they will spin you all sorts of guff if they think you don't know what you are doing.
After a lot of surfing in the comfort and safety of my own home (rented) I decided to break the seal and view a house, even though it didn't appeal to me. I did it to find out how things worked. It was way overpriced, badly located, in poor condition, had an unpleasant atmosphere and was too small. But the experience was invaluable.
Over the following months I narrowed down my preferred locations but kept scouting new ones when ever I had some free time. Finding out that you don't like an area is as valuable as finding one that you do like.
When I started to find some places that were realistic for me I went to my bank and went through the torturous process of mortgage approval. I have an insecure and moderate income so I was not good mortgage material. But they agreed to give me some money. Not much, but enough.
I kept viewing, kept looking and was very cautious. The market was falling so I knew I had time on my side. Several good options began to appear and finally, last Monday, I rang the estate agent of the house I wanted and put in a bid. He quickly got back to me to say that my bid had been topped. The next 24 hours were extremely stressful. I was bidding against one other person. Fortunately I had very good advice from a relative who is an estate agent herself. Tuesday lunchtime I got the call to say I had won the bidding and the house was mine.
Lessons & tips:
When viewing, don't be distracted by what the agents tell you. They will try and make you feel foolish for not liking a place. Learn your questions - How long has it been on the market? Who is selling it and why? Has there been much interest in it? Has anyone bid on it? Has anyone had it surveyed? If you know you're not interested, don't be shy, say so. If you spot a fault, damp, cracks, whatever, discuss them. Let the agent know that you know about them.
Check neighbouring houses for planning permission signs. I saw a house I liked only to spot that the neighbouring house was applying for pp for a three story apartment block to the rear. I would have ended up living in perpetual shade.
When you find a place that you know you want to live in, act quickly.
Revisit the house at different times of the day. What light does it get in the evening? Do surly teenagers hang out by your front door? Visit the local shops, bars, restaurants. If you meet a neighbour say hi. Are they nice?
The bidding advice I got was this. Have your sums done and know where you stand before you start. Initially, bid low enough to give yourself room to go up. Know when you want to stop. Know how much extra you can go if you have to. Know your absolute stopping point and DO NOT go past it.
When bidding, do it fast and aggressive. Small increments are fine. If you know you are going to top a bid do it there and then. Don't wait. There is nothing more demoralising for the person you are bidding against than to have their bids constantly and quickly topped. Change bidding pace when you need to. If bids are rising in 500s a sudden bid of 1000 can force the issue. Its psychological.
Finding a house you want takes leg work. Buying it takes courage. Don't be put off if you find it terrifying or frustrating or difficult. It is all of those things, it's not just you.
Finally if you get a bad feeling about a place, for any reason, trust your instincts. Buying a cheap, convenient house that you don't instinctively like is no good.
Resources: property websites
advice from friends
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