Buying a home and signing your life away to a mortgage is by far one of the biggest commitments in life that you’ll make but it is most definitely one of the best feelings ever once it all comes together.
Myself and Ben were lucky enough to buy our first home together in January last year after months months of stress, tears, tantrums and of course a whole lotta saving. We were in a very privileged position that we had supportive families on both sides, that put up with us living at home in order to give us the chance to save….. this is obviously something that not everyone is as fortunate to be able to do and I totally empathise with those that are faced with trying to rent and save at the same time. The whole mortgage application process makes no sense to me and it is definitely unfair….. but that’s a topic that could have its own post, so I won’t digress.
I thought that it may be useful to some to do a little blog post on some points, tips and advice that we picked up along the way during our experience of buying a house. Bare in mind we were blessed at the time we bought….. as the First Time Buyers Grant hadn’t been announced yet at the time we put our first deposit down, which has since inevitably caused house prices to rocket (greed!!!). Finding out that we were expecting Ellie was the main reason we put our skates on to try secure a home before she arrived. I don’t know who was looking out for us, but it all came together freakishly well and I am very aware of how lucky we were with timing.
So here’s a few little nuggets of advice if you are saving and planning to buy your first home ( *I can only speak from experience of buying with a joint application, and also with a new property so I know some of this is N/A for those buying a second hand property, or buying on their own)
- Start saving regular amounts in a joint account that cannot be easily accessed. Agree with your other half how much you both can afford to save per month (ideally €1000+ a month between you for a bank to take you seriously when it comes to applying). Have a chat with your bank about different kinds of savings accounts that they offer. Ben and I opted for one that we couldn’t take money out of without giving notice to the bank, and also one that we both had to be present for to sign out withdrawals. We set this account up shortly after we turned 21 so obviously we had a good few years’ of savings behind us…. although we didn’t seriously save up until a couple of years ago, when we knew that we definitely wanted to buy a home together.
- Get in touch with a mortgage broker. I know some people are against them as they prefer to do the applications themselves which is totally cool, but we opted to go with Finance One and dealt with Cian, who was nothing short of a miracle worker! He took away so much stress from us and was in constant contact throughout the whole process. When we initially met him he went through absolutely everything with us, what we needed, realistic figures and told us what we needed to do going forward. There were no hidden surprises and we also organised our health cover through them. I couldn’t recommend the team at Finance One anymore (if you happen to get in contact with them tell them I sent ya!)
- Have a serious chat with your other half about sacrifices and planning your budgets . Saving is no fun, and that’s just how it is! You need to keep your eyes on the prize when you’re stuck sitting in on the 10th weekend in a row while you’re going green with envy watching your pals all over Facebook out on the town and having a ball. Set aside money to have a date night every few weeks etc and don’t totally kill yourselves saving to the point you’re both miserable. That’s not realistic! I’m lucky that I’m not a party animal, so it didn’t bother me as much as Ben to stay in on the weekends (plus I was preggers… so all I wanted was to rest up!). In saying that, I had to respect that Ben needed to get out every few weeks for drinks with the lads etc. So set aside a budget to allow for this, and stick with it. If you have to go asking for loans from elsewhere to do things, stop right there, you just have to grin and bare, and say no.
- Be careful what you’re spending and be 100% truthful with one another. It’s a funny situation to be in when you’re sitting with a financial adviser (who is complete stranger) going through all your bank statements. Some transactions stick out more than others so be very cautious about what you’re spending, and what is it for. Things like an innocent €2 Paddy Power bet are seriously frowned upon, so make sure that you and your other half know that you need to be careful about what will be seen on a bank statements. Spending on a designer bag that will leave you with buttons at the end of a month is also an obvious no no. Self restraint and all that!
- Factor in extra expenses such as Stamp Duty, Valuation fees, home insurance, life cover, Snagging Fees and solicitor fees all of which add up hugely on top of your actual deposit for your home.
- Be prepared for delays, upon delays, upon delays. Our hearts were broken waiting for the estate agents to give us realistic timelines, and I was biting my tongue each time we rang to enquire about our house to be told repeatedly that “it’ll be soon!” In the grand scheme of things, delays of a few weeks will be forgotten about once you get your keys so just try and be patient….. it got to the point that we added 2-3 weeks on to every update which seemed to be more accurate in the long run.
- Make sure that you are in permanent employment for at least 6 months. A bank will not consider you for a mortgage without this, it can be a pain if you are hoping to change jobs, however the rules are the rules.
- Try and be a step ahead- for example have your bank statements printed off , P60s printed, and all of your taxes in order before arranging appointments to meet with a broker or a bank. There’s nothing more frustrating on both sides than missing bits and pieces in order to make an application. Also, it’s worth finding out where you need to go in your job to obtain a salary cert, as this is a main requirement and you may be waiting a while for it to be completed.
- Pay off loans before making an application. If you’re still paying off a loan, try and sort that out before jumping into saving for a home. Having a clean slate for the bank to look at is far more appealing. For example, we weren’t aware that a balance of €200 left on a credit union loan would delay things hugely for us….. stupid on our behalf but you wouldn’t think that it would interfere in the grand scheme of things.
- Keep yourself to yourself. As exciting as it can be, buying a home is HUGE thing and once the ball really starts rolling people loooooove to give their two cents on what you’re doing. I got so fed up with friends/ colleagues/ randomers saying things like “oh god you’re way too young to be doing that” or “are you nuts buying a home together when you haven’t even rented first!!?”. Each little dig will just annoy you, so you’re best off only telling those who really matter.
- Decide between yourself and your partner who will deal with phone calls and who will deal with emails. As there are constant updates going back and forward it’s best to have one person deal with each as it can get confusing with who has followed up with what. For myself and Ben, I dealt with all emails and Ben took all the phone calls. It made life so much easier for everyone involved . It also avoided doubling up on updates.
- Keep a ‘house folder’ and a ‘house diary’. There are so many important documents that need to be kept in a safe place and it’s easy to lose track of everything. We started a folder that had absolutely everything house related in it. It made everything less stressful to just put it in the folder straight away once it came to our hard. Similarly a ‘house diary’ or notebook that you can jot everything down in is really handy. For example all our budgeting and figures went into it, contact numbers for the foreman on site, insurance quotes, ‘to do’ lists etc. It was a great point of reference if we needed to go and find anything important as little scraps of paper will certainly get lost or thrown out.
- Keep a paper trail! If you are discussing anything important to do with your house over the phone make sure that you get whatever was discussed over the phone confirmed with an email/ letter afterwards. Your only point of reference after a verbal chat will be the memory of whoever you were talking to, so don’t take that risk! Get it in writing!
Finally, keep reminding yourself that despite all the stresses and sleepless nights…… the best feeling in the world will be finally getting those keys and calling your house yours!
Hope this was of use for anyone in the process of buying or is thinking about buying!