House hunting, part 1: A tale of three houses

We view three properties with an estate agent for the first time, here’s how it went.

As I mentioned last week, we lined up a few viewings last Friday.  We were looking within a town about half an hour drive from my husband’s family.  We quite like this town as it has all the amenities that you need but the town centre still looks delightfully traditional and isn’t too busy to walk around (as much as I love London, the sheer amount of people can occasionally be overwhelming).  My father-in-law came along too for moral and practical support.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a day out. We viewed three properties that all cost the same, but were vastly different from each other.

House One

This property had been owned by a couple for nearly 50 years until the husband had passed away and the wife had moved into a care home.  As soon as you walked in, you could tell it had been a cherished family home.

The carpet and wallpaper in every room was dated but in good condition.  There were still a few mementos left behind such as the decorative plates lining the walls and the hand cross-stitched wedding scene hanging proudly as you first walked in.

The downstairs was segmented into a living room, then through a doorway to the dining room, then another door to the kitchen.  Unusually, there was also a large utility room where the washing machine and dryer were kept. The bedrooms were upstairs and all were a good size.  You had to walk through one bedroom in order to get through to the other which felt a bit unusual but was apparently common for properties of the time.

Already fairly impressed with the size of the interior, we were blown away by the garden.  It seemed to stretch on endlessly (well, 150 feet) and was in pretty good condition. The couple had maintained various beds of vegetables however all that was left was a neatly manicured lawn.  There was also a shed and a single garage.

My FIL noticed the neighbour working on the roof of the house next door and shouted out to him.  He gave us a bit more information about the area and how he had extended his own property (which was the same design originally). It was a helpful conversation although I’m not sure if our estate agent approved!

House Two

The next place was further down on the same road and boasted four bedrooms and a huge garden.  It was questionably decorated in the advertised photographs but as I’ve said, we don’t mind spending a few weeks decorating if it means that we get a beautiful home for a good price.

Oh how wrong we were.

We walked in.  The black, glittery, mismatched wallpaper peeling from the walls greeted us. In the living room, glittery decorations, perhaps from a final house party from the outgoing tenants, hung sellotaped to the ceiling.  The light switch was screwed in sideways.  My husband liked that, “It reminds me of when I was at uni”.  The downstairs toilet hadn’t been cleaned in months and that was apparent without lifting the lid.

The house had a huge kitchen (decorated with glittery butterfly wallpaper this time) however there were gaping holes from where the whiteware had been ripped out.  There were more holes in the ceiling, this time from leaks that had gone unchecked for too long.  The sink area, at first appearing tiled, was actually tile wallpaper.

The garden was one of the highlights of the property and although had a lot of rubbish to be cleared, was in reasonable condition.  I stepped in something and my foot couldn’t move.  I asked the estate agent what it was, he just shrugged and laughed.

Upstairs, there were four good sized bedrooms and a bathroom.  There was nothing much to say about them aside from needing redecorating.  There was also a good-sized loft.  The estate agent invited us to go up and look, we declined.

All in all, this place would have been perfect for someone who had money put aside and the expertise to restore the home to a liveable standard.  We however, weren’t in that position so it was a hard no from us.

House Three

We took a break and had lunch at a local pub on the river before going to view the third and final property for the day.  The town is really lovely and I do enjoy spending time here, especially when the weather is so nice.

The third house was in a housing estate built in 2004 so a fairly new build.  The previous owners had owned it since new and were upsizing to a larger property.

The place was really well presented and in great condition.  It had three bedrooms and the master bedroom had it’s own ensuite.

The garden was a bit small but in tidy condition.

There was nothing wrong with this place yet my husband and I weren’t excited about it.  I guess it was just too perfect? My FIL said “This would suit your sister in law perfectly but, and I say this with love, you two are weirdos and are looking for something a bit different.”

His explanation was perfect, we were looking for something a bit different and we would have had no idea that that was what we wanted until we had viewed these properties.  We now have a much better idea of what to look for when viewing listings and organising further viewings.

 

 

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?