Let’s take you back to April 2016, when Ian and I first decided to buy a house together. At the time, we both owned our own properties; I lived in a One Bedroom Flat only a 10-minute walk from the centre of Reading, Ian also owning a One Bedroom Flat in West Reading.
We had been living together in my flat for 12 months (Ian rented his flat out after moving in), but it had got to a point where we were running out of space. We were also getting frustrated with not being able to put any focus on a suitable house project.
We grasped we had outgrown our current home, and with the ever-growing house prices in Reading, now was the time to seriously think about moving and buying something together to move up the ladder.
I remember thinking over and over, what type of property were we going to buy? What location would we buy it? What was the most important thing we wanted from a new home, and what sort of budget would we have? Would we also agree on a house and what if one person loved it, but the other hated it!? So many questions, and with so little experience of buying a house, we needed to be realistic.
The starting point went something like this:
- Budget £350 – 450k
- Period House
- Semi-Detached or Detached
- Potential to extend
- Large Garden
- Location – a 3-mile radius from Reading Town Centre to stay close to friends and family.
All pretty achievable things to aim for on that list, you would think?! Well, it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. We started to look at houses before putting our own properties on the market to see what was out there and help set the right expectation to ensure we were realistic.
It soon dawned on us that we would not get a lot for our money in Reading; with Crossrail driving house prices up in the town, it was limiting our options. When looking at houses at the low end of our budget, we would have to live in areas of the town that neither of us really wanted to move to. I then started looking at houses in our preferred locations, but these homes were at the top of our budget, leaving us no money for any renovation work. Finding something in-between that still met our criteria was proving extremely difficult.
We viewed lots of houses that ticked most boxes but then would have the tiniest garden or at a reasonable price but with no potential to extend. We soon realised that there would have to be some form of compromise, and it was unlikely that we would tick every box. Annoying, but just the way it goes when house searching! Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s just not going to happen.
We viewed over 25 houses in the space of a few months, and lucky for us, during this time, we both accepted the asking prices on our properties, so we were in a position to offer on something as soon as we had found a house that was right for us.
House hunting was getting monotonous; we would see the same couples at every house opening event we went to, it was almost like you could tell they were looking for the same thing, and it would be the fastest finger first with an offer if you liked it. It was also when people would outbid each other and offer over the asking price, and that really wasn’t a game we wanted to play!
With offers accepted on our properties, we knew that we would need to get a move on but were running out of ideas; we didn’t want either of our buyers pulling out in case they got cold feet or saw something else they liked. I frantically checked Right Move every day, every 30 minutes, to see if Right Move had added any new houses. It was getting desperate, but we persisted in viewing lots of different houses even if it didn’t cover all points on our wish list.
We decided to book a week off work to block view a load of houses and try and re-focus on our search in the hope of finding a great house. On a very wet Tuesday morning, we went to view a property that was currently being rented out; the pictures of the house didn’t look great, and you could tell it had been neglected for a long time. The photos below are taken from Right Move and what we first saw before viewing the house.
As we drove down the road, I remember saying to Ian,” this is a nice street”, you could see it was a well-maintained road. All the verges were kept up together, and there were trees full of blossom as we drove down. It had a good feeling about it. Running from the car to get inside the house due to the torrential rain, we met the Estate Agent inside, who showed us around downstairs. Ian and I would always walk around the houses and not say anything, just looking at one another to see if we could read each other’s mind.
The house lacked character for a 1930s house; for example, the original fireplaces had been removed in the front room, and previous owners had replaced the main bedroom, all the old 1 over 3 Oak Internal Doors with more modern looking doors. The original Front Door had been replaced with a standard uPVC door. The garden was so overgrown you had to go upstairs to view it from the back bedroom and look for the tree at the back of the garden to get an idea of its size and where the garden ended.
To make matters worse, there was also a horrible leak in the hallway with water dripping from the ceiling onto the walls; you could see it had been leaking for a while, it concerned me what long-term damage it may have caused. The bathroom was also full of mould, which we thought was related to the leak. All I kept thinking to myself was how much Ian was going to hate it.
It was very dated decor-wise and in need of some serious work that you would typically leave to a builder to buy and sell on, but for some reason, it didn’t bother me; I felt for the first time we were looking at a house that could be a home. There was a feeling of wanting to give it some tender loving care!
Ian says he remembers the high ceilings and the rooms feeling really big (even though they were average-sized rooms). We had the potential to extend the house, it had a massive garden, within 3 miles of Reading town centre, within budget, we would have the money to renovate it, and it was a period house! All boxes ticked! Finally!!
We got in the car, and it was so weird how we both felt the same about it; Ian was like me and didn’t care about any of its flaws, only talking about the positives and what we could do with it. I was super excited. “Do we put an offer on it? Shall I call the Estate Agent now?” We didn’t wait around, we got home, and I emailed the Estate Agent and offered the full asking price on it. In hindsight, we probably should have offered a lower price to test the water, but we did not want to lose the house we had just seen, we weren’t sure how many other offers had been made, and it was a dog eat dog market back then so we had to go for it!
The owner was living in Thailand at the time, so we had to wait a few days for a response from the agent, but we got a call two days later to say that our offer had been ACCEPTED!! Result. Such exciting times but so nerve-racking at the same time. We kept asking ourselves, are we doing the right thing? Was it too big of a task for us? Should we have just bought something with less work?! All these questions go through your head, but I kept thinking back to how I felt when we saw the house and how no other house had made us feel like that, so we knew it was the right thing to do.
I continued to look on Right Move right up until to moving day to see how the market was fairing after the Referendum; no one was putting their houses on the market as the uncertainty of Brexit looming. I’m so pleased we stuck to our guns and got what we feel was the best house on the market at the time!
Forward on a couple of months to August 2016, and we finally had the keys to our first property together, and we were ready to start making a house a home!