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Sunday, 2 December 2018

Everything You Need To Know About Buying And Renting A House

gucci marmont bag in velvet
Boots online here / skirt online here / coat online here and similar here and here / bag online here / jumper online here / photos by Marta Ferenc  - Ad affiliate links 

If you’re a regular EmTalks follower, you’ll be used to seeing me mention my Mum and how she’s taught my brother and I a very strong work ethic. Something else she’s also very good at is chanting out different sayings to fit different situations, I’m sure you too will experience this from your own parents and some of these sayings stick with you. When I was younger these sayings just used to roll off me but I’ve realised now that they all have their particular meaning and one for sure that I’ve become to relate to in the past year is the phrase ‘nothing is ever simple in this life’ followed by a familiar eye roll…  Uhuh, never a truer word spoken and that’s why I thought I would write this rather ‘adult’ post about the housing market – renting or buying - and my experience to date because believe me, it really isn’t simple.  I wanted to write a blog post with everything you need to know about buying and renting a house, particularly in London but this should help you in other places too. If it helps just one person stay a little calmer through what seems to be the most complicated, unwieldy and unfriendly process to date that will make me happy. I’d heard a lot of people say buying a house is the most stressful thing, you’ll ever do and I honestly didn’t believe them, until now… 
topshop faux fur coat

So, what’s been going on I hear you ask? You will have seen snippets of things in the past year – one minute I was buying *had actually BOUGHT A HOUSE AND WAS READY TO MOVE IN* the next I’m renting and then sometimes I’ve talked about a family home in North Yorkshire and other times I’ve been ready to move into the house I bought in London. It's been pretty back and forth, that's for sure.

leopard print skirt


Therein lies my first lesson.  1: Firstly, work out what you think you are going to be doing with your life in say the next five years and let that drive your decision about where to live.  
You may not know this by the amount of travel I do but at heart I’m a real home girl and I love the country side (so long as it’s within easy reach of noise and bright lights!) My big ambition is to have a country home where I can raise a family and have my family and friends visit for coffee, cakes and annual events like Easter, Christmas etc.  With that in mind buying a home close to my family would have been an obvious choice, it's just a shame that right now, I am young and need to be where my career needs me, rather than in the countryside. 

So, that’s a long term ambition but in the short term, I love my job and I have serious work to do and that means that for the time being I need to be close to my clients so that I can meet them and talk to them.  The majority of the people I work with are based in London so actually, moving there seemed to make more sense when I really thought about it. I have a bit of a love hate relationship with this, as much as I adore my job and wouldn’t change it for the world, I wish it wasn’t so London centric but that’s just the way the world works and people do tend to commute or move to where the work is so that's what I have to do. I can still have the best of both worlds and work in both London and Yorkshire, just with a base in both rather than spending thousands on hotels per month.

So, currently for me, work comes first and I don’t want to be commuting miles – I can honestly say that living between cities for the last few years has been tiring and inefficient. I massively feel like my wellbeing has taken a hit and my body/soul too.  So I had decided to move to London – that’s one box ticked, at least I knew where I needed to be…

Next question, do I buy or do I rent?

I’ve always worried about rental payments being ‘dead’ money when I could be putting money in to buying a home so I went down the buying route in London to start with. It seemed silly to me to rent, when I’d saved enough to buy somewhere. If you read my blog post about how I saved money to buy a house aged 23, you’ll know that I’m sensible with my money and have been saving for years for this. 

Lesson number 2 – If you’re young and want to buy in London, do be prepared to manage your expectations down unless you have lots of money behind you.  

I was honestly so shocked when I started looking at 2-3 bedroom flats in London in terms of how much they cost and the general state of repair.  You really don’t get a lot for your money BUT, it is apparently an investment. It’s quite soul destroying though knowing that you could get a 6 bed castle in a beautiful village in Yorkshire for the same price as a 2 bed house in a nice area of London and it took me a long while to get my head around that. 

After endless visits I finally found somewhere I wanted to buy.  It was at this stage I learnt lesson number 3 – always pay for a full structural survey doing and don’t rely on the seller to tell you about faults with the property.  They want a quick sell and ultimately, they want to make money. I thought I was good to go and boy did I get a surprise when the structural survey came back to me.  I was not happy at the price of the detailed survey and nearly went for the basic one but believe me looking back it was worth every penny to find that the house was damp, had woodworm and needed a lot of money spending on it (we’re talking 10’s and 10’s of thousands).  The seller came down on his selling price (by £1000?!) and felt rather embarrassed that he had tried to hide just how bad a condition the property was in but by this stage it was too late.  I decided I just didn’t want the hassle of all the work going on and I fell out of love with the property (losing thousands of pounds in the process). 

In between all of this as part of the mortgage application process I had learnt that, as a self- employed person, having proper accounts by a registered accountant for the past 3 years was a good move (thank you again mumma Shel!)  Lesson number 4 – if you are self-employed you can’t get a mortgage easily without proper accounts.  I did also learn lesson number 5 at this point – when you are self-employed, lenders range from being really happy to lend you money or simply don’t want to lend to you at all so really shop around.  Fortunately I found a mortgage broker who shopped around for me and took all the pain out of it for me so if you are in this situation I’d recommend getting a good mortgage broker because the mortgage process just isn’t easy.  Ohh and that reminds me of lesson number 6 – don’t expect to be able to borrow the same amount as a self-employed person as you would if you work for a company! I ended up having to put a much higher deposit down purely because I’m self-employed. Save your pennies if you are self employed and looking to buy. 

While in the process of purchasing, here are a few other lessons I learnt too:

  • Always have a deposit – a minimum of 5% of the purchase price but more if you can.  The more you have the more access to better deals you will get. If I’m honest, a lot of brokers for self employed wanted much higher deposits and work that out on a London property? It’s crazy. 
  • Don’t forget about all the other costs you incur while purchasing – they are endless – survey costs/solicitors costs/potential removal costs/valuation fee and the god forbidden stamp duty (a tax that you have to pay if you are buying a house over a certain price).  This is charged on a sliding scale and the rules change so always check! You will need a few thousand just for this little lot! Not forgetting stamp duty on top which is crazy money on properties over £500,000. 
  • Although lenders do check that you can afford a mortgage based on your earnings, please do check yourself that once your payments are calculated you have enough left for bills such as food, utilities, council tax, mobile phones, broadband, insurance, car fuel, car tax, car insurance etc. I was buying alone so wanted to ensure I could afford the repayments etc by myself so didn’t need to rely on anyone else to help me out. 
  • There is either a freehold purchase (meaning you own the house and the land) or a leasehold purchase (which means you only own the house or flat (this usually applies to flats).  If you’re purchasing a leasehold property check for additional costs i.e. ground rent and check the remaining term of the lease – if it’s short you could get stuffed for more costs. 

So when looking to buy a house I learnt 10 lessons and decided, due to the state of the property versus the price it was costing, it was smart to pull out.   After all of this I was still learning the questions to ask myself.

- Lesson number 11 – I’m moving miles away from home – do I really want to buy right now or would I be better renting for a short period first to understand what I really want and if I’m happy there?  After all, if this is the house buying process what would it be like to sell…

After searching for months and months and not finding ‘the one’ to buy after pulling out of the last one, I decided that I needed to have a re-think and dip my toe in the water first in rented accommodation rather than buying an expensive, badly maintained property in London that I may not be able to sell easily if I wanted to move back to Yorkshire.   Wow, I really am growing up making decisions like this haha. 

Chelsea street style photo


So, off I went to search the rental market. Ohh goodness, where do I start now? They say buying is hard? Wow, try renting in London as a self-employed person… 

Lesson number 1 – Consider a range of Letting Agents and give them detailed requirements. Check what the Letting Agents fees are – don’t get stiched up.  Also you may want to talk directly to landlords, before you do check that they belong to an accreditation scheme via your local authority such as the National Landord’s Association.  It’s worth spending a bit of time researching all of this and also using help from other people you know who are renting, there are scammers out there who will take your money so be careful.  I have found talking to others about who is reputable and who isn’t is very helpful here. I quickly realised there are certain London estate agents to point blank avoid. 

Lesson number 2 – expect Estate Agents to come back with what they want you to take off the market for them – don’t be fooled – stick to what you want and only go and view if you are genuinely interested. 

Lesson number 3 – one that I really didn’t expect – check for sure that the landlord is receptive to having a younger person/self employed person living in their accommodation.  The number of offers I put in and had rejected because I was self employed or too young was unbelievable. It’s honestly horrendous how badly you are treated when trying to GIVE SOMEONE MONEY TO LIVE IN THEIR HOUSE! You couldn’t write it, honestly. 

Lesson number 4 – how much can you afford each month taking in to account all your bills?  Estate Agents very often try and take you to properties that are much more expensive than you can afford. I ended up paying double my budget and I’m paying for it entirely by myself as I don’t have a housemate. If you go along try and negotiate a lower rent if you like it and if they won’t negotiate and it’s too expensive then don’t look. I was stumped 3 times because someone came in with a higher offer, out of principle I wouldn’t make my offer any higher. 

Lesson number 5 – how long do you want to rent for?  If you’re really unsure about staying around, go for a 12 month tenancy with an option to quit after 6 months.  Alternatively if you’re really sure you’re sticking around and sure about the property then go for longer and negotiate a cheaper rent on the back of it. Some landlords asked me to sign for 2-4 years and only wanted long term renters, as I know I’m going to be buying soon and this is just a stop gap, there was no way I would be doing this. 

And here are a host of other things to be clear about before renting: 
  • Is there a deposit to pay and if so ask the landlord if the deposit is protected in a government approved scheme so that you will have a chance to get it back at the end of your tenancy (subject to the conditions being met).
  • What are the bills such as council tax, is there parking or is there a separate arrangement for that and are there any rules about pets, children etc.
  • Are smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors fitted and working? They have to be so if not ask your landlord to do this.  Also, if you have gas in the property it is much better to have a reputable gas safety officer check the applicances before moving in.  My landlord did this and found a fault that needed rectifying. 
  • Check your tenancy agreement carefully before you sign it – it may have things in it that you are unhappy with. 
  • Agree an inventory with your landlord and take photos of anything that you think may lead to dispute in the future. 
  • Remember to take meter readings when you move in so that you don’t end up paying for the previous tenant’s bills. 
  • Know your landlord and build up a good rapport with him/her.  Check before you make any changes in the accommodation that it’s acceptable. 
  • Make sure you report any faults to your landlord quickly – if you don’t and things get worse you could be held responsible.
  • Take out contents insurance and make sure your landlord has buildings insurance. 
  • You're not a tenant until the day you move in - I got a contract pulled because someone had paid a higher price! Some landlords will pull contracts at any point, I don't even think this is allowed. 
Boots online here / skirt online here / coat online here and similar here and here / bag online here / jumper online here / photos by Marta Ferenc 

Phew, after all this, I’m finally in. I feel like I’ve been through a real baptism of fire in the last 12 months and feel elated and proud that I finally have a place I can call my own in a location that I need to be in for my work.  Part of me is heart broken because I am eating into the money I’ve saved to buy my own place and right now, I’m paying a mortgage for someone else but until I find the right property to buy? I’m not going through the stress again so it’s better for me to wait and hold onto my money PLUS, there are some good landlords/estate agents out there and I realise that so many people do rent in London, if it gets you closer to where you want to be, do it. Don't feel the pressure to buy. It's totally okay to pull out like I did and it's totally okay if you never want to buy a house. It's a personal choice. I've also been advised to wait to buy until after Brexit anyway now, so maybe everything does happen for a reason, and me pulling out of the house I did buy was a blessing. 

I’ve started a new chapter of my life and I’m feeling happy, if not a bit nervous.  I’m loving choosing furniture and making my own d├ęcor choices.  There have been some downsides – I had some chairs delivered to my home address because I didn’t change my address on Amazon (lesson 500)!  My bedding hasn’t arrived yet so we’ve had to buy some temporary stuff but hey ho – I’m in, I’ve made it and I’ve got some independence finally so it’s all good. I’ve got some great things organised with my family and friends in the coming weeks and I’m going to be doing some vlogs in the accommodation so I can show you my journey and share more lessons.  I hope you’ve found this useful and make sure you’re following on YouTube for more moving updates. In the meantime, I'll continue looking at the housing market and let's see what happens next year... 

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Lots of love, Em x

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