I’ve been excited to write this blog post for a good while now, but too scared to tempt fate and everything fall through! We’re due to exchange contracts shortly so I thought now was the perfect time to share our exciting news… We bought our first little West Yorkshire house! Buying a new build house was something we had on the cards for 2021 and I’m so pleased to say that it looks like we’ll be there by the end of the year! Rich and I moved to Pontefract, West Yorkshire in the last week of September 2019. We aimed to get settled, rent for about 12 months and buy a house pretty promptly but then the pandemic kicked into place. For us, this actually helped us out financially – I remained working throughout the entirety of the pandemic and whilst Rich was furloughed for a while, our company paid 100% during the furlough period so he wasn’t financially impacted either. With reduced costs elsewhere (both of us saving ~£150 on transport, not spending money on eating out) we managed to whack our savings up quite significantly over a short period of time. We decided in January 2021, after 8 months of saving, that we wanted to start seriously looking for a house.
Richard and I both work Full Time for the same organisation, in different departments. Whilst we have been looking for a house on and off for a good while now, we’ve been seriously looking at houses within our budget for the last 12 months. We set ourselves an upper limit of £180,000 which for the area would get us a 2-3 bedroom house with a garden. We wanted to ensure that we not only didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves deposit-wise but also ensure that our mortgage payments were affordable – we wanted to ideally spend less on our mortgage than we currently do on our rent so we can use the excess for an emergency house pot, should anything go wrong with the house, as well as be able to finally book and properly save for our 2023 wedding.
I was going to dive straight into our saving practices here but thought it would be worth explaining the type of house we wanted and why first of all, as it affected the way that we needed to save. Richard and I first moved in together in February 2018, when we still lived in Liverpool. Back then, we had a 2 bedroomed terraced house in a reasonably nice area of Liverpool. It was a lovely house and suited all of our needs – it was spacious, didn’t need any work doing to it and for the most part, didn’t cause us any problems. We had a small outdoor space too, which was an added bonus. When we moved to Yorkshire, it was VERY spontaneous. I applied for a job, got it and then Rich did the same – luckily, he also got a role within our company’s Leeds-based head office. We then had about 3 weeks to find a new house and move to the area to start work. The house we currently live in doesn’t really meet our needs – it has a lot of damp, leaks and is cold. Because of this, Rich really wanted a new build house – so we could have something completely fresh, clean and something we could put our own stamp on. We also knew that buying a new build meant we could apply for the Help to Buy loan which was a massive incentive. That said, we didn’t completely rule out buying a house that was already built, provided it met our incredibly specific requirements – we wanted 2-3 bedrooms, a nice garden, a kitchen and a bathroom that were done to a high standard and clean, spacious rooms. We ideally didn’t want to do any work at all, aside from basic decorating. Naturally, this was quite restrictive so we set about viewing new build developments.
We went to look at a couple of houses and decided that whilst on paper the 3 bedroom was better suited to us (gave us office space and future baby space that we wanted), the master bedroom suffered as a consequence and the extra room wasn’t really worth the extra money we’d have to pay. We decided instead to go for a 2 bedroom house – we knew we weren’t buying our ‘forever home’ this time around so it made sense to spend less and be able to pay more into the house as equity to use on our next house. With developments, the houses get released in batches and you have to be on the ball to secure your plot. We were told that the next batch of the house type we wanted would go on sale in mid-August so we thought we had some time to wait and save a bit more cash. Boy, we were wrong.
Notifications for the houses went out by email and we were shocked to get that email at the start of June. As we weren’t expected it at all, we didn’t have a plan in place for what we would do, which house we 100% wanted and how we were going to approach calling to reserve. I was working and Rich ran up the stairs a few minutes after – and then we umm-ed and ahh-ed over whether we wanted to go in for the house right there and then. The umm-ing and ahh-ing slowed us down to the point where the single 2-bed house that was released had already been reserved by the time we got through. We weren’t too disappointed; we weren’t prepared at all, we hadn’t had mortgage advisor discussions or anything at that point and we felt a bit over our heads.
A few weeks later, a spanner was thrown in the works. We were still actively keeping an eye on Rightmove and Zoopla for any houses that might have come up and when browsing one Saturday afternoon, a house instantly stood out. It had only gone on the market the day before, it was well under our upper budget, it was a 2 bed house that was a new build 2 years previous and had only had the one owner. It had everything already done – garden completely ready to go to a very high standard, nicely decorated, gorgeous carpets, was a reasonable size and was in a gorgeous area too. We booked a viewing for the day after and fell in love immediately – it was the perfect family home. We went home brimming with excitement and put an offer in as soon as we got home – for the asking price, as we had been told that someone had already gone in just below. We had a call from the Estate agents the next day asking what our absolute maximum offer would be. Then it was a waiting game – we contacted a family friend for some guidance on mortgage advice, agreements in principle and so on. Sadly, our offer was beaten by another and we didn’t want to go higher than the upper amount we had bid. I expected to be absolutely devastated as I was convinced that this was ~the house~ for us when we viewed it but weirdly I wasn’t- maybe that was an indication that there was something else waiting for us? Who knows.
2 weeks later we got the email that we were prepared for – another 2 bedroomed house had gone on the market and we were very quick to reserve. A few days after reserving, we actually got a message from the guy selling the house we had seen a few weeks previous to see if we were still interested as the buyers were looking likely to pull out. I believe that everything happens for a reason and while there was a temptation to pull out of the new build house and agree to buy the other one, we stuck with our choice and paid our reservation fee. House, reserved? Completed it. Now we just needed to get our mortgage sorted!
How we saved
I love saving money but it’s fair to say that I used to be absolutely rubbish at it – I’d get excited at the prospect of treating myself (far too regularly) and every time I felt down in the dumps, I’d treat myself to something pretty. In early 2020, I realised I had to get a hold of myself (quite literally) and reassess my finances. I paid off my university overdraft in full over the space of the last year which was something I had been putting off since I graduated in 2016 and looked seriously at how much money we needed to get to our goal.
As I said above, the vast majority of our savings came when the lockdown period was still ongoing – as we weren’t spending money on travel (work or otherwise), going out for meals, going out for drinks, shopping and so on we were able to save a solid amount every month. We roughly knew how much money we would need for the deposit and we were kindly gifted some money towards our deposit which meant we were able to save the amount we needed within about 9 months.
I also made a conscious effort to make my own finances more responsible. I tracked each and every one of my spends to the penny and made sure I wasn’t wasting my money on ridiculous things I didn’t need. I still do this now, 9 months on and it was a good habit to get myself into as it meant I could see how much money I’d have left at the end of the month and enter the cost of any spontaneous purchases into it to see whether I could afford to do it. I set up the tracker to run from payday to the day before payday the next month so I didn’t have any nasty surprises and entered all my bills in before any money had moved around – this means that I know exactly how much disposable income I have on offer. It meant that not only did I not overspend or waste money, it also allowed me to save more as I was constantly aware of just how much money I had left.
Buying a new build also meant we have to pay for extras and flooring – we’ve opted for our developer to upgrade our shower to a standing shower and tile around it, paid for an outdoor tap and outdoor electric fittings, taller fencing around our garden for privacy, an upgrade to our oven and dishwasher space. Some of the other options (installing our shower rail and heated towel rails, for example) we have decided to get fitted ourselves as we believe it would be more economical. We also chose to get an external provider to fit our flooring as it was significantly more expensive for the developer to do this, at a lesser quality too. We also had to consider solicitors fees and make sure we had budgeted this into our savings.
Our mortgage application was actually relatively straightforward, considering. I get incredibly stressed out and worked up about things and it’s fair to say that the mortgage application was the thing I was most stressed about – what if, for some unknown reason they wouldn’t give us a mortgage? We sent off our bank statements and information regarding our finances, outgoings, future costs, credit card statements etc off to our mortgage broker when we reserved the property as we needed an agreement in principle to fully reserve our plot. The agreement in principle came through quickly and our reservation was secured and then we got all of the information we needed for the actual mortgage application. We had to provide proof of our deposit, the same bank statements and confirm a few details of transfers on our statements and within a fortnight we had our mortgage offer from a high street bank. Our mortgage broker didn’t cost anything as they are paid by the mortgage provider. Once completed, all of the information was sent to our solicitors and they began their checks. We paid a chunk to the solicitors for the initial checks and the rest was payable upon completion.
After the mortgage offer was confirmed, we had solicitors checks, land registry checks and all sorts of other paperwork to go through. Today, 10th November 2021, we have finally exchanged contracts on our house with an expected completion date of mid-December as it stands. We’ve paid the solicitors for their services and have only our carpets left to pay for – putting us in a fantastic position when we move into the house. We have our rough estimated completion of 15th December which is slowly but surely creeping up on us – I have a feeling it might be slightly after this, but we can hope! Once we’ve paid for the carpets, we have the fun job of spending our money on blinds, curtains, new furnishings, a new sofa and so on! We also want to start saving to get our garden done – we want a lovely patio, some grass and decking, as well as some vegetable patches so we can grow fruits and veggies next year.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
The overall process was relatively stress-free and coming from me, that’s saying something – there was a period of time where I convinced myself we hadn’t actually accepted our mortgage offer as we hadn’t sent anything back to the bank providing the mortgage. It turned out that the copy we’d received said (in very big and obvious letters) that we didn’t need to return our copy of the form as the solicitors would have us sign everything they needed on their end – phew! The hardest parts were definitely the bits that we had full control over – saving up the ridiculous amount of money needed for the deposit, the solicitors, the carpets, the extras (which we paid in full about 2 months ago!) and also deciding on whether to go for the slightly bigger 3 bed or have more disposable income and get the 2-bed property. I’m really proud of the hard work we’ve put in over the last 12 months saving and securing our little home and fingers crossed, this time next month we’ll be looking forward to moving in in a few short days!