Monday, 26 January 2015

Dear Diary...


Things have been pretty text-heavy around here lately, I don't really care though.

It's January and I've felt much more like writing things than taking photographs, plus, literally my whole weekend was stolen by house-hunting, with no fruits of that labour to show.

I even made a 100 mile round-trip to look at a house we were considering (maybe) being interested in 'off-plan' but, and this is despite the fact it was 3 bedrooms (and a house), it was super-pokey and might even have been smaller than our current little (rented, horrible + cold) flat.

I'm not saying we're in a slump after less than two weeks of trying, but to not find anything that's even worth a think is kind of disheartening.

Oh well, there are a few slightly more fun things to look forward to in the coming weeks and I might get at least some of my weekend back this week. I mean I actually thought this house-hunting thing would be fun but after the third or fourth call to a different estate agent about some other house I'm not sure about it, I kind of lose steam before I've even really got fired up. *phew

Saturday, 24 January 2015

House-Hunting Truths

Here are some things I'm finding that I've had to get used to this week.

Suddenly calling my boyfriend my partner — We're still only 25, and yeah, we've been together 9 years this year, but that's still weird.

Perspective — In no other realm is £200,000 considered cheap.

Getting prepared to hand over all our money in the world in the blink of an eye — This game moves quickly, and it's crazy and scary but apparently how things need to be done.

Rightmove and Zoopla are not the house hunting saviours they claim to be — Actually speaking face-to-face with estate agents and (unfortunately) sales people (when it comes to new builds) is how to get things moving, so it feels kind of similar to job hunting. So while you'll be asked 50 times what your email and the first line of your address is, it seems like it's the best way to actually get to see a house you might (if you're like lightning) be able to put an offer in for. Also, apparently some estate agents put things up on a right move for the hell of it rather than because they're actually available.

Help-To-Buy is not actually particularly helpful — The age-old saying that if something sounds to good to be true then it probably is. While it sounds incredibly attractive to pay much less for a house now than you would without the help of this government scheme, the whole thing seems designed to land you in even more debt in the long run. Correct me if I'm wrong but this is how I see it; with Help-To-Buy you'll be able to borrow 20% of the value of your new home interest-free for 5 years (brilliant, where do I sign up?). Here's the catch, after these five years, when you're likely to be thinking about re-financing, you can either pay off the lump-sum, because people can often manage to save that amount of money that easily in that short space of time, or you can add it to your mortgage, meaning you'll owe more money on that than you did five years ago, with interest. It seems to me that they're really taking advantage of non-forward thinkers and here was the real kicker that put me off it for good - if after 5 years you want to sell your home, you have to pay 20% of that value rather than the original amount of money you borrowed. Brilliant.
I would bet - given that reserving a home under help-to-buy with new builds is half the price, that most developers are in kahoots and with some having such great sales people, it's certainly something I would watch out for.

No viewing before open houses — Because even though someone can come out from under your nose and steal a home you want to buy anyway, it's more courteous that everyone should view it first, on the same day, in the most intense house-viewing circumstances ever.

Everyone's got an in-house mortgage advisor — It looks like this house-hunting 'journey' is really going to teach me to say 'no'.

Lists are not enough — With phone calls, call-backs, e-mails and my own Internet scouring, it's already kind of difficult to keep track of where I'm going, what I'm looking at and what my next step is. Like, I'm meant to be going to an open house today, the viewing is at 3pm but I have no idea where it is, I wrote the first part down but was meant to get an e-mail and that's as far as it got. Worst part, I don't remember who it was with so I can't even give them a call-back to find out; they're in a long list that has since started to mean nothing to me. Good.

I've likened house-hunting to job hunting a lot this week and if you've followed me for a long time, you'll know how much I hated job hunting after I first graduated. It's still not something I would say I'm particularly enamoured with but luckily it's not something that's on my mind right now anyway. House-hunting might even be worse, because at least you're not giving away £hundreds of thousands to get what you want when you're looking for a job and even with that scary money element, there still comes rejection. Awful.

Obviously I've just got to see how it goes and while I'm still excited, I'm scared and frustrated too, I've had enough of horrible carpets, wonky cupboards, upstairs neighbours and no double glazing, I just want to get things going.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Let the Search Begin!

*20-something House-Hunting Klaxon*

One of my goals for January was to have a provisional mortgage idea in place so Moon and I would have a budget to work with to get on the house-hunting bandwagon, well, check. This weekend we took ourselves round a few new developments that are closer to work and it looks like our journey has begun.

Although I'd love to stay in Newbury and it's so much more affordable than Oxford (we won't end up in Oxford anyway), the time and the energy we've been using up in these recent months has made staying here much less worth it.

I'm really pleased with our progress this weekend, armed with a healthy idea for a budget and a list of developments with showhomes we were off to an amazing start and I actually may have fallen hard for the first house we saw.

It would have been actually incredible to go for the first house we'd picked and not worry, but it's a lot of money and there's lots to worry about. There were a couple of cons going for this 'dream home', it was in the middle of the countryside (but still half the distance to Oxford than it is from Newbury) and the transport links weren't amazing (only buses every hour, but still fine as we both drive). I was still in love but sadly it wasn't meant to be as after returning for a second viewing of the showhome the following day we were told that it had been reserved just an hour before!

I must admit, I didn't get why everyone said that what we were embarking on was exciting but I couldn't help but feel a flutter of anticipation with the potential of this cute 2 bedroom semi-detached being mine. Still, I guess the hunt goes on and I have a list of places to get viewing this week.

We actually saw two potential houses this weekend, one from David Wilson (dream home) and one from Carter Jonas (the furthest from my idea of a nice house as a new home could be, statement staircase and triangular rooms? Yeah nah!). It was so difficult to gather myself and put things into perspective when I liked the first one so much and the second one was such a disappointment, so I'm pretty happy that I've got Moon by my side as such a realist.

The other estates we visited had the fanciest high-spec showhomes but still the dream home lingered..

This feels like a very important time in my life, which is a very big thing to say and yeah, this weekend has been a pretty exciting rollercoaster but also a total eye-opener. I guess here marks the beginning of something big.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Worst Try at January, Ever.

Let's try that one again, shall we?

After being completely bowled over by a virus for almost all of this week, my first week in January hasn't exactly allowed me to start 2015 as I mean to go on.
It makes perfect sense now why I didn't feel like drinking much at our New Year's party and why I'd been so lazy in the lead up to feeling actually lousy last weekend.

So, I'm back to normal now and ready to start my year properly - I might get round to that 'fitness regime' I've been putting off and I definitely want to start taking more photographs again, feels like I haven't picked up my camera since just after Christmas - which I guess is true.

I'm hoping that nothing else is going to put me off my stride, or make me such a zombie that I leave my car window open on a rainy night - all night - again(!)

Happy almost second week of 2015! I hope your year is off to a slightly more productive start.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Kew Christmas.

I know we're almost a week in January and we're all (at least, I am) pretty Christmas'd out until the end of 2015 but I figured I just had to get this out at least by epiphany, you can blame a surprise back-to-work cold!

The weekend before last (although do days of the week really exist between Christmas and New Year?), Lucy treated my Gran, my Mum and I to a Christmas at Kew. A twinkling, magical walk around the Kew Gardens grounds, there was a chance to toast marshmallows, watch fire jugglers and see some really interesting light sculptures and shows.

The way they used light with the trees and buildings, particularly the Palm House, was really something, it reminded me of Disneyland!

None of us were sure what to expect but it was a great way to round off Christmas before focussing more on the New Year.

There were a few fire dancers and demonstrations, as well as a funfair, but it was one of the coldest nights of this mild winter so we didn't stick around to watch too much.

Not just any marshmallows... I went for passionfruit + ginger, nice but a little too sweet to be a smore on the fire.


LED cherry blossom LED trees were the bane of my life for such a long time at my old job, nice to see them actually being used properly!

Christmas at Kew finished a few days ago but that's kind of a good thing, as much as I love Christmas, prolonging it is not the one. I was glad to go though and it was a really nice gift, made better by the fact my mum could join us. I really hope to visit Kew Gardens again in the summertime as it's so long since I last went and it's such a nice day out.

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