Buying a House 1 - Scouting for areas

Posted on 17 June 2004 in House (No comments)

For some time I've been meaning to write something about the house buying process and now I've finally got round to hitting the keys. So here we go with part one - the first steps.

I've lost track when I first started looking at the property websites for London - it was probably spring 2003 but with constant witterings of "renting is only dead money" from my mum, I ended up looking more and more.

It's a rather soul destroying process when you realise just how few areas you can actually afford to buy in. Our existing home town of Ealing was way out and most other areas either promised a horrendous journey for work for one or both of us, or were just far too expensive.

I had looked at the South London area though and whilst Wimbledon was too expensive, some of the areas nearby looked like they might be okay.

Launch Scouter!

Catherine suggesting taking a week off work in November which we duly booked. Her original idea was to go away on holiday for a bit, which is why she probably wasn't impressed with my suggestion that instead, we should trog around London looking where were might like to buy somewhere.

To be fair, it wasn't the best suggestion you can make and the thought didn't exactly inspire me either but I think it's fair to say that Catherine really wasn't overly enthusiastic. Begrudgingly though, she agreed and so we spent a fair amount of time doing research - even buying a book to help us on our way.

Know where you want to be?

Knowing where you want to buy is vital. You've got to have an idea of the area. What are the nearby properties like? What's the transport like? Do you feel safe walking up and down the road? What are the local facilities like? And so on. So we walked up endless streets in endless areas. We even walked up the street where we live now.

We ruled it out.

To be honest, I don't really know why but it didn't seem right at the time. In fact we only saw this house by accident - we hadn't intended to but were offered a viewing and on a whim, I thought why not? Anyway, that comes later.

Money Money Money

At the same time, some serious thought went into our finances. I'd been getting some ideas of price from property website Find A Property but seeing the land itself meant re-evaluation. Everything that was cheap was generally cheap for a reason - quite often being that there was no way you'd want to live there.

In the end I resorted to spreadsheets - plotting out as much information as I could. Our total savings for example and a rough guess at home much we could borrow. As part of this, I filled in the forms for a mortgage promise from the Halifax who seemed to be about the only people I could find who would quote you a proper figure for how much they'd lend, online and without speaking to anyone.

The amount was much more than I'd originally anticipated - the rule of thumb of three times your salary hadn't been applied and we'd got a substantial amount more offered than I expected - although it still looked dodgy that we'd be able to borrow enough.

After a weeks soul destroying wandering, we had a vague idea of where not to bother with, and where we might so we sat back. Christmas was coming, the goose was getting fat and there were other things to think about. And we'll start with that in part 2.

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