My money lessons: Buying our first home

Yorkshireman Jonathan Whiting tells USNewsRank about the trials and tribulations that he and his girlfriend, Harriet, have experienced while trying to get a foot on the property ladder in London

From a young age I’ve held the hope that one day I would be able to own my own home. Somewhere that I can put a stamp on and call mine. As they say, an Englishman’s home is his castle.

My girlfriend, Harriet, and I started to get serious about the prospect of buying in the capital after living for over four years in rented flats in London.

We were very content in our little south London flat, but grew tired of seeing our monthly rent fund a faceless landlord’s early retirement. So we started to do the maths.

At first, we didn’t know where to begin. It was a steep learning curve understanding all the various permutations of financing the purchase, from Help to Buy Isas, high loan-to-value mortgages and stamp duty thresholds.

All we knew was that we were going to have to get together an eye-watering amount of money for a deposit if we were really set on buying our first home in London.

Thankfully we have both been brought up understanding the value of savings, so have saved up a modest deposit between us. Harriet even had savings she had kept since her first retail job at the age of 17.

Plus, we were both fortunate enough to have parents who were in the position to help us out, something we are both incredibly grateful for.

Location, location, location

Parents and friends all said ‘location, location, location’ was the most important factor in our house buying venture – but for us there was also the compromise between being on the tube network, commuting distance to both our current jobs, having some outside space and being close to friends.

Unfortunately, the reality is you can’t get everything you want – some things needed to take priority. For us, number one priority was indeed location.

We tried to look for the “ugliest house on the prettiest road”, somewhere we knew ticked the location box, and the connection to central London box, but also meant we could put our stamp on it and make it a home.

Not easy to find!

“You can’t get it all, some things must take priority”

Viewing 60 properties

We began the search 18 months ago when we decided we were fully committed and dedicated to buying. We have since spent many weekends, evenings and days off viewing properties and exploring some of the more affordable areas that our budget would allow for.

There were areas of London we loved and dreamt of but were sadly way out of our budget. On the flip side there were areas that we’d not even visited once that seemed within budget, which felt worth exploring.

Harriet had always been a south-of-the-river girl and I had lived in north London previously, so we were very open to looking for new areas. After looking around Walthamstow for nearly five months we decided we weren’t sure it felt right, despite the value for money.

We then came back south of the river, to Dulwich, Peckham and Herne Hill – but all those areas felt over-priced.

After viewing over 60 properties we started to feel disheartened and frustrated. It became all we spoke about. We were receiving over 30 Rightmove property alerts every day. Our motivation started to dwindle.

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Harriet and Jonathan: their own home is finally in sight

Harriet and Jonathan: their own home is finally in sight

Does Brexit matter?

Despite the location being an incredibly difficult decision to settle on, there were also other factors at play. Brexit uncertainty has been a real concern, with the prospect of house prices dropping significantly. All our friends and family offered their own 10-pence worth on what would happen too.

In the end we decided there’s always going to be something in the bigger picture that could impact house prices, and we could end up waiting forever for the ‘right time’ to buy. Only hindsight will give us the answer there!

It’s been a long and pretty emotional 18 months and after a number of flats falling through, and offers being rejected, we’ve finally found somewhere we love and have had an offer accepted on it. Ironically, it’s slap-bang in the middle of East Dulwich, an area we looked at nearly a year ago.

For us, the most complicated part starts now, trying to debunk mortgage, surveyors and solicitor jargon. Although there will be more bumps along the way, we’re hoping this is the beginning of the end of the process.

We are very fortunate to have supportive friends and family who are ready with the boxes and paintbrushes once we’re in – bring it on!

Do you have a lesson you’ve learnt about money you’d like to share? Please email editor@usnewsrank.com

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