Buying A Flat In London – A Three Part Series…

May 22, 2019
Picture of me in front of a for sale sign for a flat.  Buying a flat in london post.

I love living in the vibrant city of London with all the hustle, events to go to and new friends to be made.  It’s not unusual for me to hear comments that buying a flat in London is hard, impossible and not achievable.  I’ve piped up enough times now to dispel this media myth and encourage others to purchase London property.  There are lots of tips online, but people don’t always go into the details.  I’m sharing my experience of purchasing in London and Australia.  An international property owner as my Dad proudly tells people! He just doesn’t mention the banks own 95%!

The Nerves are going to hit hard!

There is a lot of weighing on your mind when buying a property and I felt that too when I purchased my first flat in Melbourne, Australia.  The fear of buying a flat, buying the wrong flat, buying a disaster flat, making the worst decision of your life suddenly became all I could think of!  There is always someone who knows someone who it all went pear shaped for fanning your terrified flames.  It’s awful that this happens to a few, but also know these stories are rare, despite receiving the most media coverage.

Even when I told some people I was writing this blog post series I was told ‘good luck with that’ in a quite sarcastic tone!  No, I replied, I’ve done it. Twice.  That’s what I am writing about.  Oh really?  Well the whole thing is horrendous and…and actually, I am not going to give them any more of this space!  Life fares better when you are armed with information and this post series will give you that.

Australia and the UK both have a cultural pressure to purchase quite young and I’ve seen friends rush into it with the wrong partners.  Honestly, if we are all going to work until we are 75 and live until we are 120 there is time!  My parents didn’t purchase their first house until they were in their 40s, not because they didn’t want to due to circumstance.  They saved three deposits before they got there. The cut off age for a mortgage is 75 so a 25 year mortgage can be taken out by a 50 year old. Just consider if you can pay the mortgage when you are that old and might be on a reduced income.

I bought my first flat at auction, standard in Australia, and this adds the fear of accidental bidding.  From experiance I will say it can’t happen!  I had already made an offer on this property to try and take it off the market before the auction.  The sellers were going through a divorce and Mr Seller was not happy about the separation. 

I’m pretty sure during the auction I stopped breathing at one point!  I stared down my opponent to the very end, countering his bids immediately, never breaking eye contact.   Determination came over me and it was a red bull to a flag when my competition was told by his mother, ‘Keep going, I will win you more money at the casino.’  No, you won’t honey, this is my flat!  Top tip – people do not like to be stared at and if you make quick confident $500 bids, near the end, they think you have more money than you do! 

I won!  Always a weird statement because I won a mortgage!  Paying $20,000 more than my first offer, a total of $230,000, for a one bedroom flat in the heart of Melbourne.  The state of the flat meant I was buying it for $100,000 less then market value.  My Dad was quite angry on my behalf for having to go to auction and took a walk around the block, but I was happy!  To be fair to my Dad it was obvious in the process that Mr Seller had planted a bidder in the crowd who jumped up the price by $30,000.  The guy didn’t even try to hide it.  He bid and then walked away!

The whole auction also had this air of urgency to get Mr Seller to sign the paperwork.  He had refused and disappeared three times over the past two years.  Throughout the auction there were so many near miss car accidents outside the building.  Mr Seller had parked his car literally in the middle of the main road.  I waited, signing after Mr Seller and then we waited for Mrs Seller to turn up.  She was at the local café, waiting as not to cross paths with her ex.  The whole thing is comical in hindsight but at the time this just added to my nerves!

Purchasing my London flat was a much smoother process.  Remember the first time you booked a holiday by yourself?  Or signed a rental agreement for a flat?  These are all just as scary but once you have done it you are a pro!  You will have done your research and buying a property is when you must trust yourself.  I bought off plan for this second purchase to remove all the quirks that come with buying privately in the UK.  I worked out where I was purchasing, rang up the company, reviewed a price list and picked from the floor plan.  Done! 

Don’t Get Emotional!

Don’t get emotional everyone says.  What utter bullocks!  You will, as I did, need to navigate new areas and decide if the commute works for you.  Part of this will be understanding if the local Sainsbury’s can deliver and suss out the Deliveroo options.  There will be emotions every time you even look at a flat online. 

Both times I have bought my flat I have felt drained by this part of the process and felt very low when an offer fell through.  You must keep on keeping on, acknowledging the ones that get away and the one that is meant to be. commissioned research and the number one most stressful experience in modern life was buying or selling property.  This trumped divorce and losing your job!  It is a complete time suck and even harder if you are doing it by yourself.  But the end goal is worth it I promise!

This is a three part series. Part 2, publishing next week, talks about saving for a deposit, getting a mortgage and finding my flat. If you have any questions about home ownership or anything I have spoken about here I am more then happy to talk. Write a comment or contact me in my DM’s on instagram.

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