Like A Rolling Stone

So much has happened in the past month that I didn’t really know where to begin! I was going to break it all down into smaller posts but that has just led me to procrastinate typing it all up so I’m going to just write it all in this post!

A couple of weeks after our first foray into viewings, we were back at it.  This time we went by ourselves and had a look at a small village about ten minutes drive away from the first town we had a look at.  We quite liked the quieter feel while still being close to town.

We viewed four properties that day.  There was one definite ‘no’ due to a lack of natural light and a small garden and two definite maybe’s for various reasons. The last one of the afternoon I didn’t even recall booking the viewing for.  We loved it.  It needs some work but not nearly as much as the other place we looked at did.  It had three bedrooms, a garage and a huge garden.

After the viewing, we went to the local pub to discuss what we had seen.  We started chatting to the bartender and she told us more about the area (and the other local pubs!).  Talking about what we wanted from our forever home really cemented our decision and we put in a lower offer on the final place we saw.

A few days later we found out we had been successful and our offer had been accepted! We were both in a bit of shock, we fully expected the offer to rejected as it was last time.  Over the next week there were a flurry of emails from the real estate recommending mortgage brokers and solicitors to us going to comparison websites and doing our own research.  We ended up going with the real estate agents recommended broker and finding our own solicitor via the comparison website and this seems to have worked out well.

We had a homebuyer’s report done on the place to make sure there was nothing serious wrong with it (again, we used a comparison site to get the best deal).  Thankfully there wasn’t.

So as it stands, our solicitor is making the final checks on the property and we are still awaiting the outcome of our mortgage application.

We are still in two minds about potentially leaving London.  I’ve gone over the pros and cons in my mind more than a few times and there are advantages to both options but  ultimately I believe we can make a good go of living in this new area.

I look forward to letting you knowing whether we are going to be homeowners or not in the next post!

Building up momentum – house viewings and free money!

Before I continue, I should probably explain the ‘free money’ part of my post before people begin to think I’m running some kind of give away!

You may recall in a previous post how we had filled our Lifetime ISA.  This is a special account that you can use for the purchase of your first home or retirement.  You can save up to £4000 in it each financial year and the government will top up the balance by 25%.  Well, we just received the bonus today, it was a good feeling! Even better was that for this first year you could transfer your Help to Buy ISA and receive the bonus on that amount too.  It has given our house deposit fund a good boost.

Another exciting development is that we have booked to view three houses next week! All three are located within 10 miles of my husband’s family.  We’re still not sure where we want to buy but these three places tick a few of our main requirements which are:

  • Be freehold (find out more about that here)
  • Be within our price range (this should be common sense but it is surprising how many people overextend when looking at properties!)
  • Between two to three decent sized bedrooms (one has 4 bedrooms!)
  • Have a good sized garden
  • Have an good sized kitchen

Our criteria are still pretty broad at this stage in the game but I’m certain that once we’ve seen these places we will continue to narrow down our key requirements.

The first house we are seeing has been owned by the same couple for 50 years! The interior will need some updating and it also has a strange bedroom layout where you have to go through one bedroom to reach the other one.  But it looks great outside and has an absolutely massive garden.

The second house is three bedrooms and the garden backs onto a lovely peaceful river.  Unfortunately it is on a main road and doesn’t have central heating but the house looked nice enough to warrant a look.

The final place is 4 bedrooms (that we could even consider looking at a 4 bed place on our budget is a testament to how much cheaper homes are in this area compared to London).  The interior is… interesting.  Very bright and every room has a different patterned wallpaper but aside from this (and let’s face it, we can always redecorate), it seems to tick all of our boxes.

We still have to wait a week until the viewings which isn’t ideal and we may lose out on them for not being quick enough but even if we only end up viewing one, I think it will be a valuable learning experience.  I feel like I’ve been all talk about buying a house but no action and finally the wheels are being set in motion, it’s all very exciting!

What were your criteria when looking at houses? How many did you view before you knew you’d found the right one? Do you have any viewing tips for these real estate newbies?

Things I learnt when my brother-in-law moved to Denmark

Two weeks ago we said farewell to my brother in law who has finally made the move to be with his long-term girlfriend in Denmark.  They have been long distance for almost the entirety of their relationship so it’s great to finally see them living together.  Now that he has somewhat settled into his new home, I had a chance to reflect on what his life changing move has had on us.

Keep your eye on the prize

Not that his girlfriend is a prize to be coveted, but once they had gotten through the initial ‘honeymoon period’ of their relationship, they both started to think about their future together and where it would be.  Both the UK and Denmark were considered but ultimately, my BIL’s job was more transferable and his girlfriend had just started her university degree (which might I add is fully funded by the state… not envious at all…) so Denmark seemed like the logical place for them to begin their lives together.  Once this was established, they set a date for him to move and steadfastly worked towards their goal.

The importance of regular saving and an emergency fund

As you can imagine, it can be a bit expensive moving to another country.  I know firsthand after moving to London from Auckland, New Zealand but my brother-in-law had never saved substantial amounts of money before but soon realised that he would need to in order to make his dream a reality.

He moved back home in order to save money paying rent, gave up expensive habits such as smoking and cut down on going out with mates to the pub.  Once he started saving a bit more, this motivated him to increase his monthly savings so he had a good cushion once he arrived in Denmark.

Time spent in planning and preparation is rarely wasted

To be fair, his girlfriend takes most of the credit for this next point.  My BIL is laidback almost to a fault so she found affordable accommodation near her university for them to live, researched the documents you need to live and work in Denmark (think the equivalent of a National Insurance Number in the UK) and started finding potential jobs he could apply to.  My BIL started learning Danish and has enrolled in a Danish school. He updated his CV and had an interview booked the same day he arrived, which he got. As a stroke of luck, one of his new coworkers is from the same town in the UK!

Read the T’s & C’s before you sign!

Unfortunately there was one pot hole in the road in the lead up to the move.  After deciding he would sell his car before moving to add some more money to his savings, he was a bit shocked to discover that he had purchased with PCP (Personal Contract Purchase) finance. With this kind of finance, rather than paying off the entire value of the car, you instead pay how much the finance company predicts the car will lose in value over the term of the deal (usually 24 or 36 months) minus the deposit you’ve put down. This means that the monthly payments are usually lower.  At the end of the deal, you can either give the car back or trade it in for a new one (less penalties for going over stated mileage or damage) or pay a balloon payment to own the car outright.

My brother-in-law had been hoping to add to his savings pot but instead found himself having to pay to give the car back.  Thankfully he had an emergency fund to cover himself but it does highlight the importance of carefully reading contracts so you know exactly what you are signing for.

Support networks are crucial

As I mentioned before, his girlfriend has worked very hard to ensure his adjustment to Danish life has been as smooth as possible.  Both her family in Denmark and his friends family in the UK have tried to do everything they can to support the couple as they enter this next chapter of their relationship. They have offered practical advice, reassurance when fear creeps in and moral support over Skype.  Although many people have moved long distances alone, knowing that there are people out there willing you to succeed can certainly help you when having a down day.

 

Have you or one of your family members moved a long distance away? Did you find yourself reflecting on the experience? What did you learn?

5 ways to get out of a rut

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post for some weeks now but the ideas weren’t flowing nor did there ever seem to be the time to actually sit down and draft something out.  I’m off for a week over Easter and I finally had some time to consider what was wrong.  I would like to share a few tips that I’ve used over the past few days.

Consider external factors

You’ve probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or seen it displayed as a pyramid with the most basic physiological need such as food, sleep and shelter are at the bottom, progressing through to self-actualisation, or the need people have to achieve their full potential.  You cannot begin working on the more psychological growth needs until the more basic needs are satisfied.

Over the past few days, our son has been having trouble sleeping at night, constantly waking almost every hour. This has led to an unhealthy lack of sleep for both of us.  The off shoot of this is as well as being chronically tired, we’re not taking time to eat well or exercise which perpetuates the cycle.  If you’re not feeling particularly inspired, have you stepped back to ensure all of your basic needs are being met?

Try the 5 Whys Technique to establish the root of the problem

The 5 Whys technique was created by Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries in the 1930’s and the company still use it today.  I first read about this in a blog post and have found this an excellent way to pinpoint the exact cause of my worries.

You begin by defining the problem and then ask ‘Why?’.  When you have answered this question, ask yourself why in response to your answer.  This process continues until your answers to why produce no more useful responses.  The five in the 5 Whys is subjective, you may be able to reach the root of the problem in only 2 or 3 whys or you may need to keep questioning further.

In my situation, I felt the cause of my lack of productivity was caused by uncertainty about our housing situation. I’ve previously written about where we want to eventually live but we are still currently saving our deposit so feel a bit in limbo at the moment.

Look at your long term goals and check the short term goals that you need to achieve them

It’s important to set goals however it can sometimes be overwhelming considering the steps required to take action. Unfortunately simply dreaming about what you want will not get you where you need to be.  Similarly, dwelling on potential problems can be as equally paralysing.

Instead, break the goal down into smaller, easier-to-tackle parts. Completing these smaller steps can generate positive momentum, a bit like the debt snowball you frequently read about on personal finance blogs. If you need help with setting goals, the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) is a useful tool for drafting them.

Our end goal is to own our own home.  To do that we need a mortgage so one of my smaller attainable goals has been reading everything I can about the process to maximise our chance of a successful application.

Take action

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”

– Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher

Of course, writing your goals down is the easy part.  Enacting them is the challenge which is why it is important to have a time scale in mind. Regularly review your goals and check your progress, are you on track to achieve them in the time you’ve set?

Taking action can also mean admitting to yourself something is not going to plan and rethinking and potentially abandoning that goal. Some of the bloggers I have read that have been steadily working towards FIRE (Financial Independence, Retiring Early) have achieved the goal, successfully retired early and then have found that it’s not the right path for them. Have they failed? Certainly not! They had to reach that point in order to know it wasn’t right for them and now they are setting new goals for the future, with far more financial resources to help them.

One of our mini goals was filling one of our Lifetime ISAs for the current tax year. And it does give you a boost to know that you’re on the right track.  We now need to check our goals for our next achievement towards that ultimate goal.

Take a break

Sometimes, you just need to take a step back to recharge. Scientific studies have shown that the brain is able to perform better when given the opportunity to divert from a task. A chance to rest and the time away can give you a fresh perspective when you return to the task and help avoid getting into a rut in the first place.

I’m only a couple of days into a week off work and already spending time with my family and using my free time to pursue my hobbies and even just sit back and watch Netflix has enabled me to approach my projects with fresh eyes.  I was able to look at some of our house buying goals and not feel hopeless anymore. Incidentally, I do believe this is going to be my longest blog post to date so I’m going to accept that as evidence that taking a break works!