Buying A Flat in London – Part Three

June 5, 2019
Picture of me sitting on my couch.  Buying a flat in london, a three part series.

This is a three part series about how I bought property including my flat in London. The first post can be found here and the second post is here.

Let’s Talk Completion Dates…

This is where I have two very different experiences buying property.  In Australia a completion date is set between the buyer and seller, contract signed, and you are locked in.  If either party pulls out the buyer loses their deposit, or the seller must pay the buyer the equivalent.  It makes it smooth sailing and the day my first flat purchase went through, 30 days after purchasing(!), I picked up the keys and visited my flat that night.  Then promptly went home to my parents to plan the much-needed redecorating of this smokers flat.  Ew!

In the UK I find everyone gets frustrated.  There is a long gap between having an offer accepted and ensuring an exchange of contracts so that that property is firmly yours.  Even at this point things can fall over and six months down the line you can be a week from moving with no house to go to. 

In chain system in the UK, where your purchase is dependent on the person buying your flat, with multiple parties involved, are hard to avoid and stress inducing.  One of my friend’s chain seemed to be going well, until he arrived at his new home to find that the sellers had yet to pack!  With no real sense that they were leaving anytime soon, my friend started packing up their belongings, eventually advised by his solicitor to put everything out on the lawn.  My friend went to bed at 1am listening to the sellers arguing about how to fit all their possessions from a 3-bed house into a small white van!

To avoid the chain situation, I deliberately chose to purchase from a developer off plan.  This doesn’t get rid of all the problems.  A week prior to moving in I received an email saying that there had been delays and as it was nearly Christmas they didn’t think we would get an update until early February!  I had five days to store my belongings and move out of my rental.  I stayed on some friends couch initially and then between trips for work booked Airbnb’s in lots of different areas of London.  As it was January there were lots of beautiful apartments that were discounted, and I was able to ‘live’ in areas where I could walk to work.  I also learnt from speaking with lots of people that new builds are always delayed typically by two months.  I moved into my flat 3 months after the completion date.  Fortunately, I had a thought to check the flat first before I turned up with all my belongings as the final clean hadn’t been done.  I couldn’t even find a space to rest my handbag let alone move in!

And Now It’s Moving In Time!!!

When you move into your new home you are asset rich and cash poor.  Checking the letterbox will often result in a bill from someone for more money to set up another service.  I remember when I moved into my first flat I was so stressed out as some months I seemed to have money and then the next I didn’t.  One day I sat down and put together a spreadsheet that tracked each payment and it all became clear.  There were bimonthly and quarterly payments, some overlapping which made me a rich human and then a poor human depending on the month.  Now I have a separate bank account for bills, allocating an amount each month and the stress of being overdrawn is over.  I also have a very detailed budget spreadsheet which has helped keep track of all my outgoings.

With all this money angst you will also be looking to furnish your flat as well.  Money was so tight for my UK flat purchase that I couldn’t afford to buy a bed.  I moved into the flat with a dining table, some wooden chairs and a dressing table.  No bed or couch and slept on the floor for six months.  I don’t recommend it!  My hips became so sore from lack of support and the day I got my bed was the best sleep ever!  The thing is I wanted to make sure I didn’t owe anyone any more money and I wanted to get my budget under control first.  Owing money is my most stressful trigger which meant sleeping on the floor made sense!

Now That You Are In…

Congratulations you are a home owner!  The best bit about being a home owner is knowing that there is no one that can kick you out.  You can have the flat how you like, paint the walls, hang up pictures and change the light fitting if you want! 

Living in London I have rented my Australian flat out and am now a dreaded landlord!  I’ve handed the reigns of that over to a real estate agent and am happy to pay the 7% fee.  In the seven years there have been three tenants and only one repair fee for a broken hob.  Touch wood!  There are rumours the current tenant is actually an Airbnb business.  We are yet to find any hard evidence. 

When I first moved into the Australian flat about two months later bailiffs turned up for the previous owner.  I’m glad I had the foresight not to buzz them in and took the contract down as proof of ownership transfer.  They were very nice but also two big burly men which would have felt a bit much in my own flat.  I gave them the details of the previous owner’s solicitor and didn’t hear anything else.  Until over 100 letters turned up in my mail box addressed to him!  Turns out he had a hold on his mail but didn’t collect it, so the post office delivered.  No worries.  I made up a bunch of return to sender labels detailing his move and for two months solid returned no less than three pieces of mail a day.  It worked!

My flat in London was a new build which means I was the first to live in it.  So nice!  It also comes with a two-year warranty so anything that goes wrong must be addressed by the builder.  Make sure if you have a new build you report everything as once that two years is up you have to make you own way.  Also read the maintenance guide carefully.  I wasn’t able to paint any walls for the first 18months or it would void the plaster warranty.

What’s next?  I love my flat and it has a lovely view of a park that barely anyone goes into.  My day to day life is quite central London and I would like to move closer in.  My dream would be to live in Kings Cross, as it is the home to the Eurostar and trains that go to my favourite areas in Kent.  I’d also love a bath and a bit more outdoor space.  So, my goal is to get my finances in order this year, make some more money through Instagram coaching and celebrant ceremonies, providing me with the cash to move next year.

This is a three part series. If you have any questions about home ownership or anything I have spoken about here I am more then happy to discuss. Write a comment or contact me in my DM’s on instagram.

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