Homeowner: day two

I woke up early (well, for a weekend day) on Saturday and filled my suitcase and large IKEA bag of more stuff (some strategic, some less so) and headed across London to my new house. I now had a kettle, mugs, tea, a vacuum cleaner, wine, and a random assortment of easily-transportable-by-Tube-not needed-everyday stuff from my flat.

”A random assortment of easily-transportable-by-Tube-not needed-everyday stuff”

My parents were coming up and bringing some things I had left at their house as well as taking me to IKEA with me with their conveniently large estate car.

I got on with cleaning the kitchen while I was waiting for them to arrive – I wasn’t far off being done with that when I heard a knock at the door. I showed my parents around and then we headed off to IKEA.

My parents had only ever been to IKEA once before and that was over 15 years ago when I was a student needing to buy some basics for my first flat. They were amazed by it and got quite excited by the prices – it was quite entertaining, although it did make for a slower trip than I’d have done on my own.

”The meatballs and the salmon with the delicious sauce”

I had a list of things I needed to buy (mattress, TV stand, full-length mirror, pots and pans, etc), but there was no way of being efficient when every few minutes while they exclaimed over some piece of furniture that was exactly what they needed. I might have made them into IKEA converts! I even took them to the cafeteria and fed them the meatballs and the salmon with the delicious sauce (my mother actually bought some of that sauce from the shop!).

”I put my brother in charge of buying the tools”

While we were in IKEA, my brother phoned. He, my sister-in-law and my niece had been visiting someone close to London and said they could come up if I needed a hand. The more the merrier, said I! I put my brother in charge of buying the tools and told him he could buy whatever he thought I’d need. I think I made his day – he happily went off to Wicks to spend my money!

We all arrived back at the house at the same time and started to build IKEA furniture. Although my niece is 19 months and there was a fair bit of distracting her too – she’s in that wanting to help phase so we just continuously gave her random things close to hand to take to different people.

”I made everyone a cup of fruit tea (no fridge, no milk)”

Then suddenly it was early evening and everyone was talking about leaving. Most of the furniture was assembled (with the exception of the chest of drawers which was missing a vital part – I guess that means another trip to IKEA).

I made everyone a cup of fruit tea (no fridge, no milk) before they left and then I was alone in my house surrounded my half built furniture. I was supposed to be going to a friend’s birthday drinks but I bailed – I was exhausted.

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Homeowner: day one

I had taken the day off despite not wanting to move straightaway, but I needed to do some work, and I’d thought I’d be able to get that done in the morning as my solicitor has told me that completion usually happened at about lunchtime.

”I threw some essentials in a suitcase and an IKEA bag and set off to the estate agent’s to collect the keys.”

However, I’d just settled down with my laptop and a coffee when they called to tell me the house was mine – it was 9.38 in the morning. Wow! I really had to get some work done, but I was pretty distracted – as I’m sure you can imagine! I did the bare minimum – if that – and then I threw some essentials in a suitcase and one of those large IKEA bags and set off to the estate agent’s to collect the keys.

It was a bit of a painful journey on public transport as the estate agent wasn’t close to the train station or to my new house. I ended up getting a Uber from there to the house.

And there I was outside my new house. I’d never unlocked it before – it’d been the estate agent who’d done when I came to view it – and as I did, I noticed that the front door was a bit tatty – another job added to the list.

”You can’t do much without light!”

The first task on that list was to sort out the gas and electricity. They are on prepaid meters and they were deep in debt as the house had been empty for about a year. I phoned up EDF who set up an account for me and explained what I’d need to do to zero the meter – it turns out it’s a bit of a faff. For the electricity, they gave me a reference number and told me it would be active in an hour and a half and once that happened I’d need to buy a new key quoting that number (sadly the closest place I could buy one was a mile away), then I’d need to insert the new key into the meter, which would zero the meter, then I’d need to go out again and find somewhere (thankfully a bit closer) where I could put money on the key and then I’d have electricity. Well that took a couple of hours running about town, but it was definitely a priority – you can’t do much without light!

The gas was more complicated as they needed to send an engineer out to zero the meter. It was a bit late in the day to get an emergency appointment and the closest non emergency one was at the end of the month. Not ideal. However, the lady I was speaking to suggested phoning back early on Monday and I might be able to get an emergency appointment then. In the meantime, I could use the existing in-debt account. If I put £10 on the previous owner’s gas card, they’d take £7 for the debt and leave me £3. It was a bit irritating but better than no hot water, so I did that. Apparently, I should be able to claim the £7 back – although we’ll see about that!

”I went out and bought a load of cleaning products and a vacuum cleaner and started to clean.”

I then sorted out the water (which was very simple) and went out and bought a load of cleaning products and collected the vacuum cleaner I’d ordered at Argos and started to clean. It was in a decent state to be fair (in fact I wondered if they’d had a cleaner come in in the not too distant past) but not clean enough that I wanted to prep food on the kitchen surfaces or use the shower. I made a good start on the kitchen but had to leave at 5.30pm as I was meeting a friend for dinner – where I talked about my house non-stop!

More tomorrow!

Moving – the logistics

Well I’ve completed now – exciting stuff! But I haven’t moved as yet. I’m fortunate, I guess, as a first time buyer, in that I am renting a flat, so my current home is not part of a chain. This meant that, once things actually got going, there was no delay in competing. It also meant that I don’t need to move straightaway.

We’d agreed to complete in the middle of the month and I have my flat until the end. That’s not ideal from a money perspective – I’m paying rent and mortgage at the same time and bills for two properties. But on the plus side, there’s no rush to get everything done in one day.

”It was completely empty – no fridge, freezer, washing machine, not even an oven!”

The place I’m buying has been empty for about a year and was tenanted prior to that, so I was expecting a few teething problems to crop up (and they have, but that’s another blog post). What’s more, it was completely empty – no fridge, freezer, washing machine, not even an oven!

And having lived in a furnished flat for the last seven years, I don’t have much in the way of other essentials – saucepans, plates, a bed, wardrobe, kitchen bin, and so on.

”IKEA here I come!”

Having these two weeks gives me a chance to buy everything – and when I say everything, I mean that almost entirely literally! As I want to renovate fairly quickly after I move in (within the first year), I don’t want to spend too much on things I might eventually want to replace so I’ll be nabbing bargains from Facebook marketplace and getting everything else as cheap as possible. IKEA here I come!

Where is my seller?

The last anyone heard from the lady who is selling the house I am purchasing was in early July.

The Homebuyer’s Survey had thrown up some damp issues and I decided to get an additional Damp Survey. That found a number of smaller issues but nothing big, which was a big relief. However, the survey gave estimated prices for fixing all these small issues and they really started to add up – to around £6,000 to sort everything out.

I decided to ask the seller if we could split the costs by reducing the price by £3,000. I wrote an email to the estate agent setting my position out and a couple of days later, the estate agent got back to me saying the seller had asked for a copy of the survey. I forwarded it on and waited.

And waited.

After a week or so I chased up the estate agent who in turn said she’d chase the seller.

I waited again.

A week later, I chased again. The estate agent didn’t get back to me that time (but estate agents are a whole separate blog post). I followed up a few days later and the estate agent eventually came back to me by email:

Well at least she’s trying.

Since then, I’ve emailed once a week but had no joy. I’ve even tried telling the estate agent that I’m going to start viewing other properties. She was very apologetic, but she just can’t get hold of the seller.

It’s now been six weeks since the estate agent has been able to get hold of the seller. I don’t know what’s happened – hopefully nothing serious. But I feel a bit lost. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.

The failed purchase

I first put in an offer on a place just before Easter. It was one of those places which had a guide price between a range and I put in an offer towards the bottom of the range. It wasn’t in particularly good condition and I’d have gone in lower, but I knew the owner had recently rejected one offer so I thought I’d better not go in right at the bottom.

The house was on the market through Purplebricks, which is a new breed of estate agents with an online focus. On their website you can follow properties and if you do, it notifies you if a viewing is booked or an offer is made. That’s quite a cool feature, but in general after my experience with this house, I’m not a big fan of their model.

It’s great to be able to book viewings online, although I prefer doing the actual viewing with an estate agent rather than the owner (which is mostly the case with Purplebricks) – it’s easier to ask certain questions when it’s an intermediary rather than the actual owner. But, on the other hand, obviously the owner can give you more information about the property itself.

Anyway, I made my offer through the online portal and someone else made an offer at the same time. An estate agent called me and asked whether there was an leeway in my offer and I told him the highest I’d be willing to go. Suddenly before I knew it, he was saying that was my new offer, which wasn’t exactly what I’d been saying, but I went along with it as I knew there was another offer.

Then it went silent for nearly a week. Except for one call from the estate agent to ask if I’d heard from the owner. He was the only point of contact between us so I don’t know quite why he was asking that! But eventually he phoned to say my offer had been accepted, which was quite exciting!

I got on to my mortgage adviser and sorted out a solicitor (I went onto moneysupermarket, entered my details and chose the cheapest one with the best reviews). My mortgage adviser has been great and really efficient throughout this whole process and he soon has my mortgage application submitted and a survey booked.

And it was the survey that caused the whole thing to fail. The surveyor valued the property at about £20k below the offer I’d made. This meant that the bank wouldn’t lend me more than that valuation. My mortgage adviser told me I could appeal if I could find evidence of similar properties sold nearly for my offer price. So I looked. And it was a revelation. I hadn’t looked at sold prices before (you can see them on Rightmove and Zoopla) and I realised that places were selling at well below the asking price.

That made me pause and I decided to go back to the seller and ask to renegotiate. I messaged the estate agent I’d been dealing with when I made the offer, but he told me I’d need to speak to the post-sales team and have me the number of a call centre. I phoned them and explained and they said they’d speak to the seller. And this is where I really don’t think much of Purplebricks. All their call centre did was to forward emails between me and the seller. They gave no advice to either of us and had no idea about the market where I was buying (it was a nationwide call centre). I’m fairly sure a local estate agent would have advised the seller that she needed to negotiate – unless she can find a cash buyer, the bank won’t lend the amount she wants to get for that property to any buyer.

But she refused. And at this point I’d received the write up of the Homebuyer’s Survey I’d commissioned – and it wasn’t great to be honest. I knew the house needed at bit of TLC but there were so many problems identified in the survey that I was worried about how I’d ever afford to put them all right. It stopped seeming exciting and started to feel like I would be overpaying for a house with a load of of problems – and the bank wasn’t willing to lend me the money anyway!

So I pulled out. I’d spent £500, which I was never going to get back, but I’d learnt a lot in the process.

Offer accepted!

On Tuesday I had an offer accepted on a house! I first went to visit this house about a month ago. It’s a little terraced house set a bit back from the road, with an inset porch, one window downstairs and two upstairs and it’s painted white (although it needs repainting – it’s a bit grimy). It’s not beautiful and it never will be, but with a bit of TLC, it could be quite smart.

Going inside, my first impression was how small it was. It’s pretty tight for a two bed place (55m2) and the way it is laid out makes it seem more so. It’s a typical two-up-two-down house with the bathroom just off the second downstairs room (which is being used as the kitchen). It was actually listed as a three bed, but the third bedroom is a small boxroom off the back bedroom (directly above the bathroom).

The inset porch eats into front room and then there’s a strange little half wall that leads down from the porch, to create a semi corridor. It makes the front room extremely narrow. The walls were covered in woodchip and the floors were carpeted, but it looked in decent overall condition.

The next room was the kitchen. It’s not beautiful but seemed OK. The biggest problem is that the room is too small to fit a table. Even a two seater would be difficult with that layout.

Off the kitchen is the bathroom – it’s s a decent size and an inoffensive white. Upstairs the two bedrooms are an OK size and the boxroom has the boiler in it. All the rooms are carpeted with woodchip on the walls. It also has a little south-facing garden overshadowed by neighbouring trees.

I left fairly sure it wasn’t the place for me. And that should have been that. But I guess my brain kept turning it over and I had an idea. What if I could turn the bathroom into the kitchen and move the bathroom upstairs into the boxroom? The boiler is already up there and the house is in overall decent condition so I’d have a bit of money to do some work. Not enough to do everything at once – in addition to a new kitchen and bathroom, I’d need to switch the stairs around and put in a corridor upstairs. I’d also want to redo the floors, repaint the outside, sort out the garden, and get rid of the chimney breast upstairs in the second bedroom.

I thought I might as well go back to have a second look, so off I went last weekend. It clearly wasn’t getting much interest – it’s currently unoccupied and it smelt very musty. It seemed like no-one had been inside for a while.

It was just as small as I remembered, but the bathroom was definitely big enough to turn into a kitchen. I told the estate agent I’d think about it and left. Over the rest of the weekend, that’s exactly what I did and I decided that I’d put in a cheeky and see what happened – there’s definitely potential and it’s a good location, but I don’t love it.

So that’s what I did. And much to my (and the estate agent’s) surprise the seller accepted my cheeky offer with no negotiation! So if all goes well, I’ve got an exciting project on my hands – and that’s what this blog will be about.