Lily is our Social Media Manager and she’s recently bought her first home. She’s been telling us all about the ups and downs so naturally we asked her to share her story (and tips!) with you…
Having recently bought my first home, I can confirm that it’s true what they say: it is one of the most stressful things in life.
I had my offer accepted in February, had to wait until June for the owner to finally take action to remove the tenants, then hung on in there until September for my builders to be free to take on the work (top tip: people you know may be busy and can’t help when you need them so if this happens try an online service with homeowner recommendations).
What started as noticing a leaky tap became an entirely new bathroom… which then became replacing the boiler (a worthwhile investment), removing an old water tank and knocking the kitchen through into the cupboard that housed it and building a new cupboard further down the hallway (never underestimate how much storage you’ll need!).
With just a few more days to go until the paint’s dry, the carpet’s down and the internet’s installed, here are my five top tips to make that tumultuous journey a little smoother:
1. If you’re having work done, finding a tradesperson you trust is vital.
Aside from the obvious (that you’re letting someone into your home to knock and bang away at those walls you paid so much for) you’ll want to be sure that when they advise you of anything extra that needs doing or recommend a pricier alternative, you can be sure it’s in your best interests, not theirs.
Considerate tradespeople will also be aware of the fact that your neighbours’ metaphorical fuses might be blowing through living in a building site. When my downstairs neighbours flagged a leak, the builders went down there to apologise, thoroughly checked out their property then followed up with me and them. Even after suffering four weeks of banging and hammering – and with two young children at home – they can still muster a smile when they see me. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Get in there early with your neighbours.
This isn’t renting any more – you can’t just move on when the going gets tough. So it’s worth doing your best to become, if not friends, at least friendly with your neighbours. I popped a note in every mailbox to say hello and to warn them of the upcoming work I was having done. I reassured them that I knew the builders well, that they were trustworthy and gave everyone my contact details in case there were any issues.
Being neighbourly appears to have somewhat fallen out of fashion, especially in commuter-ville where I am, but it really does help to get them on side. One’s already popped in to give my new kitchen the once over and get a quote from my builders, while another’s collected my post (and I’ve since returned the favour). Building good relationships with those in close quarters can not only make your new home a much more enjoyable place to live, but can also make you feel safer and help resolve any issues more amicably if or when they arise.
3. Handle with care the offers of friends and family to help.
You might have friends or family who offer help with jobs around your new home. Handle these with care. As lovely as these offers can be, broadly speaking these people will fall into two camps: the ones who offer but then suddenly have particularly full diaries when you go to cash in the favour and the ones who very sweetly, genuinely want to help. The latter are by far the more dangerous. You’ll find yourself nervously and surreptitiously correcting their once they’ve gone – this is your new home and you’ll find your standards suddenly go sky high when it comes to even the smallest jobs.
4. You’ll end up spending more than you expected to.
It’s just one of those things. Yes, you’ve just spent an eye-watering amount on a deposit and your wallet currently consists of a bundle of receipts and a few pieces of fluff, but guaranteed there’ll be a multitude of demands on your depleted funds. It takes a surprising number of things to make a home and it’s not all decorating and fluffy new towels. By the time you’ve bought rubbish bins for each room, cutlery, crockery, blinds, plants, mirrors etc. you’ll start to feel like you’re propping up the UK economy single-handed.
Take your time to shop around. By all means browse in department stores, but before making any purchase do a quick Google Shopping search and make sure you can’t find the same item from a lesser-known supplier or even direct from the manufacturer.
5. Do your research and find your style.
While in theory the items in your home can be replaced and the walls can be repainted, further expense will not exactly be top of your list right now. If your home really is your castle, make sure it’s as close to your idea of perfect as possible. Take the time to build Pinterest boards of inspiration – I completely changed my ideas on how my bedroom should look after falling in love with an animal picture hook! Start with one or two key pieces to build a theme around, rather than trying to do everything at once.
I was gifted a pair of wonderfully lived-in tan leather sofas, so I already had an idea of colour and style to work with for my living room. I built the rest around them, including the wall colours (a pale grey-blue), the lights (brass “antique” ceiling lights and copper floor lamps) and the rest of the furniture (“rustic” wood and metal). I also found it useful to carry painted A5 pieces of paper with my wall colours at all times to compare to prospective purchases.
Obviously this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a head start to help make your journey that little bit easier.
If you’re in the process of buying your first home, or you’re reading this in your new place and thinking back to moving day, let me know about your own experience – do you have your own top tips to share?
Need a cleaner, builder or handyman to help make a new house a home? We’ll help you find the right tradesperson for the job.