Today has me reminiscing, because three years ago today we completed on our purchase of what we now call Spolland House, and our home. I have written about how we got our mitts on the house and what first attracted us to it (read more here), but I thought that I would take some time to go through some of the buying process as first time buyers, some of the obstacles we have encountered since buying the house, the transformations we have made and to just reflect positively on the experience so far. That won’t be just in this blog post though and may take a while, so bear with me!
The Buying Process
As first time buyers, we felt that it was really important for us to get our mortgage Decision In Principle sorted, before we even arranged viewings. We found that process fairly straight forward and there were some online tools, especially through Martin Lewis and moneysavingsexpert.com, which helped us to navigate what can feel like a minefield of jargon.
I work in conveyancing, so appointing someone to deal with the legal side of the purchase wasn’t a problem. There are plenty of firms out there that make big promises on prices for conveyancing and time frames, but they can often fall short on the details, the local knowledge and don’t always turn out to be good value for money either. Find someone that comes highly recommended by those in your local area, gives you a full breakdown of the costs involved and who puts you at ease throughout the process.
We had a Home Buyer survey done on the house, in addition to the valuation survey done by the mortgage company. We wanted to have a professional’s view of what hidden work would be needed. More on that later, because there were a lot of issues that weren’t flagged in the survey!
The main issues and stress were with our Seller. He was a nightmare!! We should have known then how many problems there would be with the house. He tried to shortcut a lot of the information required in the Contract documents for the sale and was generally very pushy. It was ironic how pushy he was actually, since on more than one occasion we were waiting for him so that the purchase could move forward. At one point he said that if we didn’t come up with a completion date, that he would rent the house out. Empty words since the property was nowhere near letting standard and we had been waiting for a response to an enquiry from him! Anyway, it’s a good job he lives on the other side of the country and isn’t local anymore.
Unfortunately, you can choose your house, but you can’t choose the current owner of it! One thing to remember though is that you are paying for your Conveyancer so get them to push and also use the estate agents to get pushing on the other side too. That’s what they’re there to do. Leaving it to them definitely reduces the stress. All we needed to do, was make sure that we replied promptly and returned essential documents. That’s it. Don’t make it more stressful than you need to!
We were in a rental property before we bought this house and so that took some pressure off – we didn’t need to try and coordinate the completion date with a sale too. We gave notice on our rental once we had exchanged Contracts and started to box and pack everything up.
Slightly related to this stage is my Honest Chat About Renovation Fatigue (read this here). I was involved in a nasty car accident three weeks before we moved and that really affected me physically (mentally very soon afterwards too), so I was fairly limited on moving day. I am pretty stubborn and so I did try and ‘soldier on’, but it wasn’t wise! I was a wreck, emotionally and physically and I wouldn’t recommend it! I’m so grateful for the family and friends that helped us once we got the keys to Spolland House. It was nice to enjoy fish and chips with family and friends later on and to spend the first night in our new home.
The house had been empty for over a year and had been rented out before that, so to say that it needed cleaning is an understatement! There was a lot of dust and we had to chuck some of the rugs because the smell was just disgusting. One thing I discovered too, was that the shower head was being held in place with limescale – nice! I’ll also not talk about the toilet (heaves).
Some tips that helped me with packing are:
- View it as an opportunity to have a clear out. Many bags went to a local charity shop and there were a couple of visits to the tip too. You don’t want to be moving everything from one house to the next if you don’t need it. Packing space is valuable!
- Pack a suitcase of clothes, toiletries and other things you will need for the first week. This makes it feel like a weird kind of holiday, but also takes the pressure off unpacking, especially for the first day back at work!
- Pack hanging clothes on their hangers. Just put a few items into a bin bag and keep them together. They can be placed in the wardrobe straight away.
- Pack a separate box with everything you will need for a meal and a hot drink – kettle, some cutlery, cups and perhaps the kind of plates that you would take on a picnic. You don’t know how long it will take to find everything again!
- Pack according to the room and label the boxes. I wasn’t at Spolland House on moving day, I was still at the rental, so it helped those involved to know which room to put each box in.
Not a lot happened in the first year. As I said earlier, I was a physical, emotional and mental wreck when we moved here and I actually started to regret us ever buying this house. I think that came from quite a dark place at the time, but the reality was that I was just frustrated. I wanted to get stuck in and I couldn’t do it.
That didn’t mean that I didn’t start planning though and the Pinterest boards were full. It was also around this time that I started an Instagram account to try and document our renovation and find inspiration for our home.
We had decided to do the bathroom first (read more about that here) and so I spent my time planning and sourcing what we needed. We also made some ‘interesting’ discoveries within the first few months – the extent of the damage to the roof and the red walls in the landing and hallway, to name just two!
I’m torn about how I feel about not starting work on the house straight away. When I see some renovators who have bought a property and been able to get stuck into changes, I have to try and remember how bad I really was and how impossible it would have been. It was good for us to take our time to figure out what we would do, since the headspace to do that in the three weeks leading up to the purchase was filled with pain, insurers and trying to get a new car.
One of the things that we able to start to do was shop our home and made do with what furniture we had, go shopping for vintage and antique furniture, and have another big clear out of the things that we 100% did not need in this house. We also started to insulate and board out the cellar for storage. That made a massive difference in our first winter here and meant that the living room was cosy, since the cellar is directly underneath that room.
Two of my favourite purchases in this time were the dresser in our dining room and the writing bureau in our living room. We went to a local charity shop furniture warehouse to find a piece of furniture for our bathroom sink to sit on and came home with a dresser for £45! I love the dark wood and the details. The writing bureau came after searching on eBay for something just right for this alcove. Again, I love the dark wood and it fits perfectly in this alcove and works perfectly with the new living room colour too – more on that soon.
Work on the bathroom began in April 2018 and was the springboard to the ongoing renovation of Spolland House.
To be continued…