I Actually wrote this post a few years ago, under my old blog. My friend who is in the process of buying his first home in London asked me where this blog post was as he wanted to read it. So here it is revived a little and equally as relevant as it was back then!
Since buying my first (and now second) property in London, I realised that there were some things I wish I had done or would have known about before buying my first property. Because I grew up in Australia and had my family and all of their expertise in buying property across the other side of the world, I realised that I was alone in the UK and had no one to turn to when all these side balls hit me. So for anyone thinking of buying your first home, here are the 5 things I wish I had done before buying my first property.
1. I wish I hadn’t moved house so many times.
Unless you can help it and you are indeed planning on buying property, try not to move, or find somewhere to keep a regular address. The banks and anyone else you deal with for proof of identity as well as home insurance etc. will ask you for at least 3 years worth of addresses. I moved 4 times in 3 years and you can bet I didn’t remember every postcode every single time I was asked to provide it, which dragged out the whole process and made it more difficult than it needed to be.
2. I would have started building my credit score.
(I use check-my-file because you see your Experian and Call Credit Ratings instead of just one of them)
I had held a credit card in the UK since 2003 and I had always paid it off on time. I had a pretty average credit score and I didn’t know why it wasn’t better. After a few years of actively trying to better my score, I realised I needed to do certain things in a certain way to actually build my score! Some of these things were making sure that the credit agencies actually kept the right information about me (yes, they were wrong and it takes time to correct the information), I had to ensure I wasn’t getting loads of credit checks (beware getting hits from car insurance comparison sites and the like), I had changed my current bank account to get a better deal as I was preparing to get a mortgage and realised that this affected my credit score as well, because it meant I hadn’t held an account in the UK for longer than a year – which was untrue, but you can see how fickle it got.
3. I wish I had started saving regularly for my house deposit.
Now that the regulations have changed, the banks will need to do an affordability test before giving you a decision in principle. They will check basically the last 3 months of your spending and analyse whether THEY think you can afford paying a mortgage in the UK. I was saving for 15 years for my first home, but I was saving in an ad-hoc way, not regularly. I now save a small amount every week and intend on doing this for the rest of my life. It has become a lifestyle habit that I wish I started earlier.
4. I wish I had started collecting household items for my first home earlier.
Don’t forget that buying a home is very costly and I really was on the edge of my affordability, but I was so determined to own my home I went without in many ways to make sure I kept it. I wish I had started collecting things for my home earlier. I would have beautiful travel memories from my travels across Europe, Asia and the Middle East and I would have had meaningful items to surround my self with. I have now thrown away or down-cycled almost everything I moved into my first home with. I literally had a pile of junk to move with and it didn’t last the renovations and I didn’t care for it to either. Now after 2 years of living in my home, I wish I had carefully chosen or invested in a few good items that i could have taken with me on my new home journey. I wouldn’t have wasted money on cheap items and I would be surrounded by a few meaningful things that make my place feel like a home.
5. I would have started preparing earlier.
The whole process from me deciding to buy my first home and moving into it took 3 months. It was a very stressful three months for me. As a foreigner, many things can cause problems so try and sort these things out beforehand. One of my issues was that I was transferring savings from Australia. They had to do money laundering checks on me and my family and asking family members to hire solicitors can be really stressful and can take a long time if you don’t know someone who can help you from the other side of the world. Also getting all of your documents filed in order and in the right place is really essential. Never underestimate how important it is to be organised when buying a home!
Goodluck and make the most of it, buying a home can be really stressful, so try to prepare as much as possible. I hope this helped you.