Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Our experience with buying a house in London

There is hardly a day that goes by without any form of news regarding the housing boom in London and Britain in general. Just over two months ago we completed and moved to a modest Victorian terrace in South East London, I feel that I had to write about our experience. If only I hope that our experience can help others to their advantage during this feeding frenzy, even if it is during this so-called off-peak winter period.

We started exploring the idea of moving out from St Albans into London around last year but Visa issues meant we had to delay until this year. That was an expensive mistake, as buying last year would have saved a lot more than what we paid for in the end, but something we had no control of. The reasons to moving to London is plenty, and while I understand that not everyone loves the idea of living in a capital, we just love it here.

When we started looking we narrowed down our range to East and South East London, particularly Rotherhithe and Hackney area, but it soon dawned on us that we could only get two bed flats with our budget. This wasn't an issue initially, and indeed we actually offered on a two bed riverside flat in Surrey Docks, only to be beaten by a cash buyer. In hindsight we dodged a bullet there, but the delay meant we were able to up our deposit and look for something bigger, and more importantly, a forever home.

As we've decided that perhaps we did not want to move into a larger flat, only to outgrow it in a few years and move again, we had a new focus. Being priced out of an area meant we had to look further afield. Fortunately the London Overground's East London Line expansion has brought us towards previously unconsidered areas of hip and trendy Brockley, Forest Hill, Peckham and Nunhead areas. Much to our delight, these areas contain a huge abundance of Victorian and Edwardian housing stock.

We registered with a couple of estate agents via emails, Rightmove/Zoopla and phone calls. We were naive initially believing we can always offer lower and enter a negotiation, but alas that proved fatal. Each and every time a new property gets listed, it gets offered on the next day. It was mental. We also made a mistake by offering lower than the asking price, only to be told that they've had multiple offers on the asking price.

The trick is to call the EAs every day. They have hundreds of interested buyers on their list so whenever a new property comes on their book, they only have so many people they can call. Just call, or better yet, visit them (do not bother with Rightmove if your priority is to be quick as most agents lists houses on Rightmove after they have contacted prospective buyers). Eventually these suits will remember that you are a serious buyer and, with luck, whenever they get a new instruction.

We got on really well with a particular agent. In fact we became 'hot buyers' (estate agent's words, not ours), so when the sale of a house we were interested in fell through, we were the first contacted. We viewed and offered on the property the evening after. Four months later we completed and moved in. We've lived here for two months now, and while the property has thrown endless of hidden problems (as do all homes new or old), we still love it here.

It was all stress for a couple of months, but in the end it was worth it. But we sure wouldn't want to repeat this process again anytime soon!