Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thoughts on House-buying

Hi! So it's been a bit quiet on here. So many things going on and I don't even know what to think most of the time.  We're so happy to be getting married- yay! It's finally under the 100-day count and under the 3-month count.  Ten-month engagements are too long! For a lot of this time, we've been exploring where we would live.  We had a house all lined up, such a darling one too, and it fell through today.  We're pretty gutted as it seemed perfect, but these things happen and we're confident that we'll be completely taken care of come January 4!

Such a growing process! Here are some things we learned:

1. Don't use the estate-agent's solicitor. 
            - We didn't do this and we are SO delighted.  Turns out our estate agents played dirty.  They withheld a letter dated June 7th, 2013 from a kind neighbor explaining our questions regarding property boundary.  We didn't get that until October 11, 2013 after we had found the truth ourselves! If we had used the lawyer from J W Wood, we would have been pretty miserable wondering if they were on our side or really just working in the interest of our estate agent. You need friends going into this business and let your lawyer be one of them!

2. Employ the most competent solicitor, even if that means a bit more.
            - Fran sent off about a dozen emails to different solicitors.  He chose the one that replied the quickest and seemed most competent, even if that meant paying just a little more.  We're SO happy we did this!

3. If you're in England, make sure you get a very good copy of your title plan.
            - When we received ours, it was minuscule.  On an A4 sheet of paper, our property was marked out in red in about the size of the thumb print. This made land boundaries very difficult to distinguish.  Especially if it's a country house, land boundaries are very old and finnicky, so make sure you see a detailed report on size!

4. If things are taking a while, take things into your own hands.
            - It took AGES for them to tell us the property boundary.  It turns out the sellers and our estate agent lied claiming they were selling land they didn't actually own.  This took so long to figure out.  The seller's solicitor was so slow. He went on a 2.5 week holiday (that lovely British vacation-leave) during this time.  When he got back, gave us some very shady reply about "being common land."  When things were slow, we should have just gone to the land registry and checked it ourselves rather than waiting.  While you're lawyer should be your friend, no one quite looks out for you as you do! So don't be afraid to do a little sleuthing on your own.

5. If in England, the estate agent isn't your friend.
             - They are employed by the seller and want the seller's interest. They want the property to sell for as high as possible! And when they do take you around, they aren't like the cushy-kind.  They are gruff and after 30-minutes, they kick you out as they have another appointment to rush to meet (even if you're trying to see how badly the roof leaks).  They also won't know *that* much about the property (it seems like to every question I had, the reply was "I don't know"!), will tell you everything you can't do (I apparently wasn't allowed to test the electricity, lighting, or central heating), and occasionally, just flat-out lie (they told us the parking space was included in the land, when it wasn't).  Be shrewd as serpents. They can be worse than a used car salesman!

6. Very old houses are charming, but come with a host of problems.
            - Especially if your landlord is reigns from afar, in our case Jersey! They aren't there to look after the property as they would if they were living in it.  If it's not damp, it's the roof. If it's not the roof, it's the floor.  If it's not the floor, it's the walls. 

7. If you're getting a mortgage, trust your bank with the value of the house.
            - They definitely have a vested interest, like you! We thought our house was worth more even though the bank valued it at less. Turns out, now that we're on the deep end, that we think they are exactly right in what it's worth.  Even if the sellers don't.

8.  Don't be dazzled by charm.
            - Fundamental problems will continue to be just that, fundamental. Is it near a road with a lot of traffic?  Is it near a rail-way line? Does your house get any sun? Morning or evening light? Or does it face North-South? A bigger problem than you would expect in the terraced-house culture of England!  These are things that will not change, no matter how darling the house.

9. Involve your family
            - We've been so SO thankful for all the very shrewd advice we've received from family.  They even came up to look at the house to make sure it was sound, and they were just as delighted as we were! Once problems came up with the land, the advice they gave was perfect.

10. Don't crow too loud.
            - While we've honestly answered our questions revolving "where are you going to live once you're married?," we've only done so when people have asked, and even then, have been a bit reluctant to talk about it. Even when our offer was accepted, I'm not sure we told anyone apart from family.  From the beginning, we didn't feel like we could freely tell other people until we had signed the papers. What if it fell through? What if this isn't what God had for us? As it turns out, this was a good thing, as it didn't go through.  Imagine having to un-tell so many people after this seeming failure! As much as possible, we kept it close to ourselves and to each other.  This has helped us grow in closeness and excluded too many nosy opinions.

11. It takes a lot of heart.
            - Such an emotional expenditure!  We have been on the highest of highs and the lowest of lows regarding this house.  When things weren't going well, Fran and I were both at our desks vainly *trying* to work. When things were well, we imagined the vegetables we'd grow.  If you had told me it would be an emotional roller coaster and to steel my nerves, I would have laughed at you. Not so now.

12. Don't be afraid to renegotiate price
            -When our housing survey came back, there were some big things wrong with the house, namely a leaking roof that had caused damp.  This lowered the value of the property and our surveryer suggested we negotiate.  We thought about it, but were too shy when the sellers bullied us a little. And we loved the house and thought it would just about work out even.  When it came back that the parking wasn't included, we did have to renogiate. If we had tried firmly to renogitate before, it would have made renegotiating parking easier.

13 A level one survey will do
            - We paid for a level two, because we thought we'd have to live there and wanted to figure out how to make the repairs.  But it's more expensive and wasn't worth it in the end. We'd have received mostly the same information with a level one survey, just not in as much detail.

14.  Houses aren't forever.
            - This too will pass.  It has engendered so many conversations between us about identity, paternity, and eternity.  I wouldn't trade those for anything.

Whew! So that's what we've learned from our experience.  Right now our over-riding emotion is relief! Relief from uncertainty and freedom from unsavory experiences. Keep us in your thoughts and if you find any super-awesome housing, let us know! xxx

No comments: