Tuesday, 20 February 2018

BUYING A NEW BUILD SERIES: HOW TO CREATE A 'SNAGGING LIST'

If you're a new build owner, you'll be no stranger to the infamous 'snag list'. Some people's have a few things on it and some new owners have lists which are much, much bigger. I personally was at a bit of a loss as to what to look for to put on it before I moved in properly but trust me your snags will become apparent when you move in.

For those of you who are wondering what 'snags' are it's basically things that need touching up or adjusting in your house because ultimately builders will make mistakes and miss bits when they're working to tight deadlines. Some snags will seem petty but when it's your house and you've paid a lot of money for it you want everything to be right. I wouldn't recommend trying to snag on your home demo; you'll only see glaringly obvious stuff then and you need to use that time to listen to what your site manager has to say about your new home because he will give you some valuable advice. Personally I think snagging is best done gradually, taking one room at a time and looking carefully.



Here's what I would pay particular attention to:

GENERAL SNAGS

Have all your Finishing Touches/extras been included? Part of my turf incentive was a 1.8m fence which hadn't been included. Granted they only ended up putting it on one side anyway because only one side belongs to me (*eye roll*) but it's one half that I don't need to pay for.

Outside brickwork - make sure there are no chips, cracks or holes that shouldn't be there

Settlement cracks - these are perfectly normal and shouldn't be anything to worry about but they are unsightly nevertheless so you need to make a note of where these have appeared. These will appear for a while after your house is built so they may need to come back a few times to fill them in. I've heard some site managers won't fill in until you can fit a pound coin in them, however this hasn't been the case with mine - I had a huge crack along my stairs and they filled it within the first month along with a few other small ones but they are still showing up nearly 2 months after I moved in.

Try all light switches/sockets/USB ports/phone sockets and TV aerial sockets - be mindful that until you have a TV aerial your sockets won't work; in my previous post about hidden costs of a new build I mentioned that new builds generally don't come with an actual aerial.

If you've not had flooring put down check that your floor is level and there's no huge gaps between the skirting and actual floor - you can still do this with flooring down but it might not be as easy to spot.

Check the door frames have been filled round the edges - I ran my fingers along the top of the door frames in all rooms and discovered that there was a huge gap between that and the wall where they'd not filled it. To me this is just laziness in the hope that the homeowner doesn't notice; it's a two minute job though.

Check all exterior doors and handles work as they should - The lock had actually dropped quite a lot on my front door for some reason which meant that the handle was a pain to lift and when you thought you'd locked it the door was actually still unlocked!! Again a couple of minutes job just to adjust the door.

Check all windows open and close as they should - You should have received keys for these if they are key-operated so make sure they open and close properly. If you're unsure how they work just ask your site manager to show you again.

Make sure all radiators are working properly - are they all getting hot as they should?

Is all paintwork and finishing neat and tidy? - Have any walls been accidentally scratched or marked since they've been painted? Have the undersides of your windowsills been painted (an area which seems to be overlooked!).

Check behind things to make sure they've been finished properly - Behind the small radiator in my downstairs toilet was an absolute mess of wires etc. which hadn't been properly plastered, painted and finished (presumably another thing they thought I might not notice with it being behind a radiator) and they've also not finished off the painting properly behind my downstairs loo.

KITCHEN

Try all appliances and make sure they work properly - one of my snags was that my oven made an awful rattling noise when it reached a certain temperature. Turns out that the casing had dropped slightly and was catching on the cooling fan, it was a simple fix of just adjusting it slightly and it's fine now. Check all gas rings and extractor fans.

Check all taps, plugs and overflow pipes to ensure there are no leaks and water pressure is good - I had a leaky tap (identified by the pool of water which collected at the bottom of it) and a leaky overflow which hadn't been properly sealed (identified by finding water dripping into the cupboard under the sink).

Check all cupboards are aligned - sounds daft but a slightly wonky cupboard will drive you insane!

Boiler pressure - keep an eye on your boiler pressure and make sure it stays somewhere between 1 and 2. If it drops below one this can indicate a problem but don't try and solve it yourself, make sure you always notify your site manager.

BATHROOM/DOWNSTAIRS TOILET

Make sure toilet flushers work properly - sometimes a slight misalignment can mean it can be awkward to push the button down to flush the loo - nobody wants that do they.

Check all taps for leaks and adequate water pressure - the pressure on the cold tap in my bathroom is shocking and has yet to be sorted. I also had a leak on my bath taps which I found out the hard way when a huge wet patch appeared on my living room ceiling. Not ideal at all and it did happen twice in my case because the first time they came to 'fix' it, they hadn't actually fixed it but when they came back a second time they replaced the taps.

Check the seals round the bath - also do this after you've had a full bath.

Check that the bath side panel runs flush with the floor - mind didn't and the builders put an extra bit on the bottom to tidy it up.

Check the extractor fan works - and always make sure you use it when you shower or bath.

Check that the plugs don't leak water out - Both my upstairs and downstairs bathroom sinks have a defect in the plugs where water escapes even when they're pushed down and closed. I'm told it's a manufacture's fault and I'm waiting on replacements.

Check tile grout and alignment - Unfortunately when things are rushed attention to detail often isn't a priority but you will notice it if your tiles aren't properly straight also check all tiles have been grouted properly.

Check your shower fitting and make sure it works and there are no leaks

Wow, that seems like a huge list for snagging and believe me this is not an exhaustive list. As I said, some of the snags will stare you square in the face but others you will have to look a little closer for but it's well worth doing so because generally if the builders are still on site they're easily contactable and they will come and do all your snags for you. If they haven't and you have encountered problems you must go to your sales office and push for help and if you don't get any joy from there you need to ring Persimmon (or your developer's) head office. I did that with my leak and they got the site staff on it pretty much straight away.

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Monday, 19 February 2018

BUYING A NEW BUILD SERIES: HIDDEN COSTS

When I bought my house I noticed a distinct lack of information like this, as a lone-buyer (like a lone wolf but just an independent woman buying a house on her own *insert sassy girl hand out emoji here*) all I wanted was some real life advice and guidance on buying new builds; the pros, cons, tips and 'warnings', if you will. This is by no means a definitive fact sheet but mainly advice I can give based on my own experience. As some of you may know (especially if you're here from Instagram) I bought a Persimmon Homes new build but I imagine that a lot of the information here will also apply to most other new build property developers. You'd assume that buying a new build would mean you'd be ready to go with all the things you need included in the price but unfortunately this really isn't the case but here's what experience has taught me...



You need to ask what they're willing to give for free 
This will very much depend on the site and how popular it has been but it honestly doesn't hurt to ask the question about what extras they can include free of charge. I'm lucky to have a step-dad who isn't a stranger to bartering and he managed to get me money off the release price of the house and turf to the rear of my house. Persimmon often have promotions on certain houses which can be found on their website if they're looking to sell a particular type of build so make sure you check on there and make sure you just ask the question in the sales office. The worst thing they will do is say no.

Be aware of what is and isn't included with your house
You'll quickly realise that with any new build the majority of the 'nice' things in a house come at an extra cost; the extra bits that you would probably assume would come with your house could cost you a pretty penny so although it's unavoidable I always think it's better to be forewarned and forearmed because unexpected costs can be a shock especially if you're on a tight budget. Here are some of the things to remember when considering your 'finishing touches' spend:


- Standard tiling in bathrooms is minimal; depending on your style of house they'll maybe only do 2 rows of tiling or in my case they'll tile up the wall where the shower is but then leave a huge square bare so the shower is rendered pretty much unusable unless you want to wet the plasterboard through. 

- Which leads me onto the shower situation; in my experience a standard shower above the bath in Persimmon homes isn't great, it's literally a shower head on a fixed holder with a ring to hold the hose in place halfway down meaning that it's very difficult (if not impossible) to use the shower to swill the bath out. They also gave me the most horrendous white, crinkly shower curtain which I quickly replaced with a £3 Primark one which was infinitely better. In houses with an ensuite they do not include a shower above the bath as standard. That said, if you are just looking for a slightly better shower above your bath you can get these from B&Q for around £30 and glass shower screens can be bought for around £80.

- You only get a choice of kitchen up to a certain build stage so you need to enquire about this at your sales office. If you can choose you will probably only get a choice of 3 different colours of door; I upgraded to a full choice of colours and designs which cost £350 for a 2 bedroomed house and the price does increase the bigger the house. 

- The standard appliances in Persimmon homes are limited to a white oven and hob. You can upgrade to stainless steel extractor hood, hob and oven for £375 - that's all down to personal taste though, it doesn't improve functionality and you can definitely live without it. 

- Your new home will not include a TV aerial so unless you get sky you're looking at around £125 to have an aerial installed. I paid for an additional TV aerial socket in my bedroom and at no point was I told that I didn't get a TV aerial. Slightly annoying and £125 that I didn't expect to spend. 

- Your home will not come with turf as standard. I think lots of people have found this out the hard way; as I said I was lucky enough to get turf included as an incentive but both my neighbours currently have a mud garden. Not ideal in winter especially when you have children and dogs. 

- Waste/recycling bins aren't anything to do with your developer but it's definitely worth keeping in mind that your local council may charge you for bins. I have 2 bins which cost me £36 each... another £72 I wasn't expecting to pay! Pop your postcode (or one near yours if you're unsure what it will be) into the government website to find out more information from your local authority.

- Carpets do not come as standard this shocked me when I first found out and they're really bloody expensive from Persimmon. However it is something that I've known a fair few people get included as an incentive. I didn't get them included but I did use a local company for mine (Floor Coverings Local for anyone in the South Yorkshire area) and they managed to shave over £1000 off the price that Persimmon had quoted for my whole house and I had picked the best underlay and premium carpets. It is a pain moving into an uncarpeted house but I was lucky enough to be flexible with my move in date so I just arranged for them to go as soon as I received my keys; they were brill actually, I'd definitely recommend them.

- Double check that your house is freehold. Some houses are sold as leasehold properties which basically means that you own the bricks and mortar but you actually rent the land it's on from the developer which will incur a yearly cost. It's just something to double check so you're not hit with an unexpected £100+ a year ground rent charge. Persimmon actually sent me an invoice by mistake and I nearly hit the roof when I saw it because I knew full well that my house was freehold - thankfully after a quick phone call it was all resolved but you really do need to be aware that leasehold properties do still exist.

- You may need a joiner or someone handy with tools to cut holes in your kitchen cupboards for appliances - this might not incur a cost if you've got someone who can do it for you or the people on site are helpful and accommodating but your kitchen won't come with holes for things like your washing machine piping and fridge plug so you'll need to get these sorted.

So as you can see the costs can mount up if you're not expecting them but this shouldn't put you off new builds because you have to remember that if you were to buy a pre-owned house there'd probably be things you'd want to change immediately which you'd obviously factor in when you were buying the house; so this is very much the same. What you have to keep in mind is that everything in your new house is shiny, new and 100% yours to put your own stamp on.

*all prices in this post are correct as of September 2017.
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Thursday, 15 February 2018

BUYING A NEW BUILD SERIES: THE PROCESS FOR FIRST TIME BUYERS (INCLUDING NEW BUILD EXPERIENCE USING HELP TO BUY)

Buying a house for the first time can be a very daunting experience but if you go into it feeling clued up and aware of what's actually going to happen then you shouldn't feel so overwhelmed by the whole thing. I did it on my own (I had support from my family in terms of them just being there but I was the only person signing on the dotted line so-to-speak) and I am so proud of myself now, I'd definitely put it down as one of my biggest achievements in life. I'm going to focus this post more on the paper work side of buying a house rather than the fact that it's a new build because that'll be a whole different post.

Luckily I actually kept a timeline of dates so I knew exactly what happened and when. From the date of receiving a mortgage in principle to legal completion it took just over 3 months. This can differ quite wildly even with new builds depending on your site and build stage so the dates I give obviously don't provide a hard and fast rule but they do give an idea of the process...

10th September - Mortgage in Principle

After viewing one of the houses similar to the one I was interested in, I went into the sales office and used Persimmon's recommended financial advisors from Safeguard Financial Services who assisted in getting me an agreement in principle (also known as mortgage in principle). An AIP is basically where a lender will tell you that they are prepared to lend you money. They ask you a few questions relating to your incomings and outgoings and they assess whether you can realistically afford to buy the house you're interested in. Luckily I was given an Agreement in Principle there and then; sometimes it can take 30 minutes or so for a decision. This doesn't mean you've got a mortgage, it means in theory based on your income they would be willing to lend x-amount.

An agreement in principle is usually valid for 90 days but this can vary.

16th September - Plot Reservation

So I knew that they would lend me the money I needed 'in principle' but I gave myself a few days just to mull it over in my head so I wasn't making any rash decisions - this was buying a house after all!! After weighing up the pros and cons and making sure in my own head that I could afford it, I decided to reserve the plot with Persimmon. This was £100 and was refundable if the mortgage offer fell through. 

17th September - Finishing Touches

With new build houses, depending on the build stage you can choose extras and upgrades (believe me pretty much everything costs extra in a new build... but more on that in another post) and because mine was approaching the cut off point for ordering finishing touches I decided to get on with it and I paid for a kitchen upgrade to full choice of cupboard door colours and designs, stainless steel hob and an extra TV aerial port upstairs in what would be my bedroom.

18th September - Instructed Solicitors

The next step is to instruct your solicitor to do the conveyancing on your behalf. What you can usually do is get a rough quote before you choose who you go with and bare in mind that it will probably cost a little more if you're doing Help to Buy due to the extra paper work. 

19th September - Mortgage Application Submitted & Valuation Fee Paid

For me, this is where Safeguard Financial Services really were very helpful for me as they were a really good helping hand in getting all this done properly. They went through all the questions with me on the phone and although there's a LOT to answer they're really good at making you feel at ease with everything. So my mortgage application was submitted and as part of getting a mortgage you need to have the property valued by the lender so that they know that they're lending on a house that's worth the money you're paying. This cost £315 and was payable immediately. 

21st September - Mortgage agreed subject to valuation

I think those two days were some of the longest I've ever experienced; waiting for a mortgage offer is torture because I personally thought of a million different stupid reasons as to why they wouldn't lend to me. They were all unfounded worries because I'd passed the credit check stage of it and just had to wait to make sure the house was worth what they were selling it for. 

25th September - Help to Buy application submitted

In my opinion this was fairly straightforward - most of it was filled out by Safeguard but I just had to check it over and make some minor changes to the property information form - small mistakes can be a pain in the neck which I soon discovered.

26th September - Help to Buy approved

Wahoo, that was quick....

28th September - Valuation done

29th September - Mortgage Offer Received

This is some of the most marvellous news when buying a house, especially for the first time because it means that everything should be able to get moving. Mortgage offers usually last 6 months though so it's important to make sure you complete in time otherwise you could end up having to re-apply which can be stressful.

4th October - Help to Buy sent back

So I got an email from Yorkshire Housing to tell me that they had in fact been handling my Help to Buy case in error, they approved it but realised that my Local Authority wasn't in their area. Durrr. So anyway it was re-done and re-sent to East Midlands Help to Buy. Just something that I didn't really need or want to happen because it involved a lot of paper work.

10th October - Help to Buy re-approved and Authority to Proceed re-issued.

This basically meant that again they had agreed to let me use the help to buy scheme.

9th November - Exchanged contracts

It was all quiet on the western front for a month and I was getting a bit anxious about the fact that nothing seemed to be happening and Persimmon like to keep to deadlines and timescales. I spent much of the month chasing my solicitor and pushing for an exchange. Basically exchange of contracts is the point where backing out would become very expensive - usually the majority of the deposit for your house will be transferred over (at least to solicitors who will then pass it to the bank) and you sign a legally binding contract to buy the house.

1st December - Notice to complete received

Once the building work is finished, Persimmon will give a 2 week notice to legally complete on the house which is when your solicitor should be putting all hands on deck to get everything in place ready for a specific date. 

15th December - Legal Completion

This part was probably the smoothest and most stress-free part of the whole buying process. I knew completion was the 15th, I had a home demo the day before where the site manager showed me round my newly built house and then on the day of completion I got a phone call from my solicitor to say we had completed and that the house was now legally mine! I then gave my Persimmon sales office a ring to see if she had had notification from their solicitors and she had so I could go and collect the keys whenever I wanted. That day was very, very surreal but the most amazing feeling!


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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

I BOUGHT MY FIRST HOUSE

Among all the other stuff that happened in my life during 2017 one of the biggest things to happen was I bought my first house. All on my own, mortgage and everything, proper adult stuff. I had lived away from home for 8 years with my ex-husband and I moved back to my mum's in the interim but I was so desperate for my own space. In all honesty all I've ever wanted was my own property because it was something I never had because my name was never on any mortgage etc. even when I was married.

I started looking for property pretty much as soon as I moved back to my mum's because I knew that was the ultimate next step in my life. I already had a deposit ready and I had used various mortgage tools online to estimate the kind of price I'd be able to pay. I looked at lots of 2 bedroomed properties online which were around the price I could afford but I couldn't help thinking that there was always something that I hated about the houses and I knew I wouldn't have a great deal of money for renovations etc.

I decided that given the sales incentives and government help from Help to Buy that a new build was probably the best option and I decided on a 2 bedroomed 'Morden' home from Persimmon...


Mine is the one on the very end, this picture was obviously taken during the building process because I used to house stalk on a weekly basis to see how far on it was. Over the coming weeks I will be publishing a series of posts about the house buying process because I felt soo in the dark when I was buying especially because I was buying on my own so I'd love to be able to answer some of your questions or at least give you a little bit of an idea of what it's like getting on to the property ladder!

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Monday, 22 January 2018

QUARTER LIFE CRISIS.

I'll be honest, I don't even really know where to start with this blog post.

I'm trying to find a word to describe 2017 as a year for me; 'eventful' would be one word to use I suppose. For these reasons, I've kept myself to myself where social media is concerned for quite a while now which has probably been a very good thing over the last past year because so much has happened in my life that frankly belongs as far away from social media as humanly possible.

I actually wrote a little bit about my 'quarter life crisis' about 2 and a half years ago (June 2015) and it did kind of touch on some of the issues. Basically I felt like I was failing at life; I didn't feel in control and although I took some steps to regain control such as getting a new job but there was still the age old issue of not having enough time to myself. My life was consumed by work and I had very little time to do anything for myself. I became a shadow of my former self and although I had done so much to try and change that (I lost weight and I got a new job) I still wasn't happy.

I'm not going to go into any detail really about it because I'm not the only party involved obviously, but part of my path to becoming the person I recognised again was to change my life completely. And that life change involved a divorce. I don't think I'll ever really want to discuss that publicly because I am not the only party involved and the reasons why are neither here nor there, the bottom line is I wasn't happy and I took steps to do something about it.



So 2017 was a year of massive change, I spent 8 months living back at my mum's and then found and bought my own first house. Which I shall talk about in a little more detail in another blog post. Believe me, 2017 has tested me in so many ways but it has shown me that I am incredibly strong and I am able to face reality and deal with the consequences of my decisions. For the past 9 months I've felt more like myself than I have during my whole adult life and I can honestly say that I am exactly where I need to be right now. I'm still a working progress in some ways but I am well on my way to becoming my best self, as cliché as that sounds.

The purpose of this blog post is to let you know that if you're sitting there unhappy with your life you absolutely can change it. I never thought I could say the words that would ultimately lead to the end of my marriage but I can tell you now that all it takes is 20 seconds of insane courage...

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