10 things we've learnt since buying our first home

Wow, we’ve been in our home for a little over 18 months. It’s a new build apartment and while it wasn’t what I would have picked if I had a choice (I wanted some thing old to do up) it’s ours and it is beautiful. I am also hugely proud of us, we finished university four years ago and 2 years after we had saved enough well a blooming lot to be able to own our first home. We actually put the deposit down 3 days after I turned 23!

In the last 18 months I’ve learnt so many things, some of which may only be relevant if you’re buying a new build but things that I had no clue about before becoming a home owner that may help another first time buyer. I will be mentioning money in this post, I haven’t discussed my house price but I want to be as open as possible without sounding like I am showing off, of course I’m proud to own a home but I want this to help others. If you do have questions you can message me and I can answer more in depth for you.

For reference we have purchased a: 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, top floor apartment in Surrey. It is a new build on a small development of both houses and apartments by Cala homes.

1. How much to save?

This is a hard thing to pin point, however for context Jonny and I in the run up to buying a home we’re saving about £1,000 a month between us plus anything else we could put aside. It was tough but manageable we still went on holidays but we made sure that this money was saved first every month. I found it tough I was on a pretty low income straight out of uni but I sold so much stuff to help me out and decided to focus on what I only needed and not just wanted. We had our deposit but we also set aside about £5,000 for furniture, and bits and bobs.

Our sofa and bed we did on finance as it was easier and we upcycled a few things or had a few items my sister had given us too. This was done so that in time we can replace suff that no longer works or fits and we are slowly doing that.

2. Help to buy, should you do it?

If you need to yes, we did help to buy and it means that while we do have to pay a lump sum back to the government when we sell or after 5 years pay interest (0% for the first 5 years) it meant we could get a more expensive place in the area we wanted. It has its pros and cons but it will help you get on the ladder and for us that was the main thing. We own our home as it’s not shared ownership and that was the main thing for us. We pay our mortgage on the help to buy price of our house nit the sold for price which at the time to be honest we couldn’t have afforded. Our mortgage is due for renewal at the end of the year so we may look into paying our help to buy back early, this will however increase how much we pay monthly on our mortgage.

3. Bills, how much to budget?

We over guesstimated before we owned our home. The mortgage we do separately but in our joint account every month we put about £850/950. This means total out goings are just under £2,000 for us including mortgage. We have coming out of this: water, gas and electricity, sky TV and broadband, TV licence, council tax, property management and our food shop.

With all of this we have about £300/ 400 a month left which just accumulates and we save incase of things like the washing machine breaking or the dishwasher going bang. This is really helpful and is somethimg I would recommend doing because those one off costs are harder if just coming out in one lump sum.

4. Decorating and styling

We had no say in our colour scheme as we purchased off plan and as one of the last properties the set had already been chosen as it’s made bespoke. It’s called amulet silver though its taupe than grey, not my colors of choice but nice enough. It does mean that the colours I pick for our home I have to consider more as its not my usual style. We were lucky as with Cala Homes all tiles, carpets, white goods etc. are included.

Still 18 months on we can now look to add a more personal touch as the foundations will have settled and we can decorate and put our own touch on it. The thing no one tells you is that gosh doing home diy is a chore and while I want to do work to it it’s fixing the urge need too as it’s fine how it is and we just can’t decided what we want.

The other thing is snagging, with a new build you have a period of time where you provide the builder a snagging list of things that are not done to standard. Make sure you write down everything! We had a bodge job on our bath that I made then re do 4 times, a sloping ceiling and 2 boards dropping too so they essentially re plastered my whole house until it was as it should be. Don’t be scared to speak up, they will try and get away with doing some stuff half arsed unless you put your foot down.

5. This probably isn’t your forever home

We tell ourselves this because we don’t want it to consume our lives making a ton of changes that are not needed just because. Realistically we have a 5 year plan and only aim to be there for max 5 years. Its a 2 bed apartment and next we will scarily need a family home. We have no garden but we do have Windsor Great Park across the road so it’s things like this you need to weigh up.

6. Compromise is key!

This is broad and I see it as two things. Compromise shouldn’t mean settling for anything, however your list of all the things you ‘want’ are 99% of the time impossible unless you’re building it from scratch. Think about things you can compromise on, for me it was it had to have two bedrooms and while I was happy to take some second hand items I refused to have a used bed, or sofa. That was my choice and I stuck to it, I up cycled furniture to cut costs and it’s about doing things that work to your budget.

Compromise is also if you are buying with someone, this isn’t just your home. You may like the same things but not everything will be something you both agree on.

7. Home is where the heart is

Your home no matter size, cost or anything materialistic is what you make it. It’s your home and it should be somewhere you create memories and enjoy it. Be it in amoungst the chaos, all finished and as you like it or just about there. You ou own this, it’s yours and its amazing.

8. This isn’t a one off cost

I know it’s quite prevalent in this post, but money makes the world go round and it also is where all your money will go. The initial save, the solicitors, surveyors, agents, bills, unexpected extras, things going wrong, management companies (if in a flat) the outgoings can sometimes seem never ending. Over guesstimate everything and then you’ll have a pleasant surprise when you have some extra pennies.

9. You’ll still look for your next home

I think even a week after moving in we were looking at home much we think our place will go up by when the development was done and therefore, how much could we afford for our next one. Its our next step and goal and we’re already saving for the next move – as I said it fast paced and this is a merry go round that you can’t get off of.

10. Enjoy it

Buying a home is stressful, but enjoy it, its an accomplishment and you should be so proud. So many people especially my age may never be able to get on the ladder due to circumstance and if you have the chance and can do it then what and amazing feat considering how hard it is in the current market. Throw that dinner party, buy the fresh flowers, light every candle you own rather than save them.

If you aren’t there yet, it’s also OK! keep going. Everyone is different people save different amounts at different rates and it should be what you’re comfortable with. Don’t stretch yourself so far you’re not enjoying life but if your serious about doing it, you have to make choices and be strict because it isn’t just something that happens over night.

I would love to know where you at on your home buying journey and like I mentioned at the beginning of this post… Message me if you have an home buying questions!

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