Big House Purchase Post – Part 2

[NOTE: this post is out now only because I’m still dithering over my 2022 goals!]

In part 1, I covered the financial aspects of buying my house. In this second part, I’ll try to cover all the other stuff, which isn’t really anything to do with FIRE but it all affects me and my FIRE journey, plus I need to get it off my chest!

Since money is such a big part of a house purchase, I apologise in advance for the few monetary mentions which will inevitably sneak in!

What?

When I first started house-hunting, I was looking for a 3-bed semi, with garden and a private driveway, and so it seemed was every other man and his dog at the time! Preferably in a cul-de-sac, which tend to be quieter and provide more privacy.

What I’ve ended up with is a two-up-two-down semi, with a garden, private driveway, in a cul-de-sac. 3 out of 4 aint too bad!

I am however not too far from a main road, so I can sometimes hear big lorries rumbling past, especially when they hit the potholes in the road, and am also near a railway, although the sounds of trains haven’t bothered me so far.

My house is not new and there are numerous things which need repairing and replacing. Unfortunately, several of these are not cosmetic (those were mostly sorted when I had the whole place redecorated and had new carpets fitted before moving in), and some of these things will cost thousands of pounds to sort out.

There have been essential costs/repairs I’ve had done since moving in which I hadn’t budgeted for (hello, emergency funds!) so it’s felt like I’ve been bleeding money recently, including today, when I had to pay to have 3 tiles replaced on my roof, casualties of the storm we had recently.

Where?

Another of my criteria when I was house-hunting was that I didn’t want to move too far away from where I was. I’m a creature of habit and I wanted as little change to my life in that respect as possible.

So it’s just as well that I’ve ended up in a house which is just 2 miles away from where I used to live!

Over the years, I’d driven past it on numerous occasions, never realising that I’d be living there one day.

I have to say that I’m pretty certain that had I not been working from home and been able to view the property at the drop of a hat, I would have missed the opportunity to buy it, so thanks COVID!

Just moving two miles away has had me crossing a border, into another council’s  borough, into another city even. Don’t get me started on the different coloured bins now for recycling – I have to keep referring to a post-it note before I throw anything away!

I am now closer to both my sis (only 5 mins drive away) and to my friends.  My gym is further away by a couple of miles but I can actually get there quicker as I can hop onto the motorway to reach it now. Manchester city centre is still less than 5 miles away, so still close by for social life and work (when I’m back in the office).

I also have a pub within walking distance from my house!  This wasn’t on my wishlist but something I always thought would be nice to have.  However, it’s been many years since I’ve been in that particular pub, so I don’t know what the clientele are like now, plus current climate has deterred me from just wandering in for a quick pint and a gander. More on that I’m sure at some point.

Sadly, I’m no longer within walking distance to a tram stop, so public transport will have to be the bus (unless I have time to drive to the tram stop I used to use); buses are not my favourite mode of transport, as I can’t read on them. This might be a time for me to finally embrace podcasts.

Neighbours, Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

“What are the neighbours like?” I had asked, during my second viewing of the property.

“Oh, they’re lovely!” gushed the estate agent.

“She would say that,” commented my sister afterwards. “Who knows, you could end up with nightmare neighbours!” Gee, thanks, sis!

Sadly, it was not just noisy, unfriendly neighbours I had to take into consideration for my house move; although my race and ethnicity has barely been an issue for me in my life and not even something I really think about, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but wonder how the people would feel about a non-white person moving into their neighbourhood.

How does one know what one’s new neighbours are like?

By speaking to them of course!

Prior to exchange, I drove over one afternoon to see if the neighbour was in. She was indeed and not only was she friendly, she invited me into her home for a chat!

Box ticked – PHEW! What a huge relief for me, but probably for her too, that she wasn’t  going to have a new nightmare neighbour herself!

Two days after I moved in, I invited her round for a cuppa. She’s now no doubt told the neighbourhood about me (she has various friends and family members living on the estate) which is great as it has resulted in a couple of others stopping to say hello and asking me how I’m settling in. I do think it’s worth getting to know neighbours, plus now, I have someone I trust to accept my deliveries when I’m not home!

The neighbours on the other (non-adjoining) side? It’s a rental property and although I’ve been told it’s a couple of beauticians/nail technicians who live there, I haven’t seen or heard a peek from them yet. Their garden (front and back) is a right mess though.

And the old neighbours?

The day before I moved out, both sets of my old neighbours had me round at theirs for a cuppa to say goodbye and in a lovely gesture, both gave me leaving cards and gifts – we had gotten to know each other more during lockdown and I will miss them.

Moving and Settling In

The day of the move (an Auspicious Day no less, something important to my family which I was happy to go along with), all went smoothly and as the removal van didn’t have very far to go, the whole process from loading up everything to emptying it all into my house took just under two hours! I was fully packed and ready the night before so there was no waiting time at all for them and they were really quick about their business.

As I wasn’t in a chain, I only moved bulky items, furniture and essential stuff – enough to fill the removal van but not to the brim! Since then, I’ve been back at the old house to pick up bits and pieces, things I want to keep but I wasn’t sure if I would have the space.

I’ve effectively downsized from a 4-bed house to a 2-bed (dropping three Council Tax bands in the process!) so wasn’t sure until I moved in and unpacked whether I could take all of the nice-to-have stuff left behind, or if they were destined for charity or the recycling tip.

In the old house, I used to make use of two of the spare rooms (for laundry and extended wardrobe purposes, ahem!), a study (for WFH), a shed, a utility room and garage.

Now, my spare room is the spare bedroom-cum-study-cum-laundry room and my shed will also have to store the things that I have in the garage, which has yet to be emptied – me and sis are putting this off til the last minute, probably will start panicking as the sale of the old house progresses!

Most things at the new place were set up easily, apart from my broadband, which inexplicably took a month to connect (fortunately I had use of a wifi mini hub so work wasn’t disrupted) and over 10 hours on the phone to sort out with BT, although they have given me a £20 credit because of my complaints…

I’m still trying to get used to buying my groceries from a different supermarket and actually miss my old Tesco’s, where the layout made sense (to me) so I could be in and out really quickly.

Morrissons on the other hand seems to be laid out to trap unsuspecting shoppers down random aisles, inviting and tempting me to make purchases I shouldn’t make, but I have to say that I do like their fresh meat and fish counters.

Forever Home?

I’ve lived here for less than a month so have no idea if this will be the case. I have however already planted some shrubs (shrubs I’ve dug up from the old place which won’t be missed!) which won’t mature for many years so that might be me thinking long term!

It still doesn’t quite feel like home yet; I can’t yet get used to how different it sounds from the old house, the different creaks and rattles. That said, my only restless night was the night I moved in, as I was sleeping in a ‘strange house’ – I’ve slept very well since.

A few friends (and colleagues) have asked for photos but I’ve declined – it’s my private dwelling and if I invite them round, they’ll see what it looks like. Only my family have seen photos of it (they obviously recognise all the furniture from the old place!), plus I did a little video tour to show them the size of the place – it was a very short video, haha!

After years of being used to living in a big cold house, I’m finding this cosy one a little on the warm side as it heats up really quickly when the heating comes on (my thermostat is set at 19 degrees). I’m sure I’ll get used to this and at least this means lower bills, a good thing with energy costs going up. The first thing I did when I moved in was get a water meter fitted as I saw that the previous owner’s water bill was more than double what I paid at the old house (including when sis and nephew were living with me!)

And that’s it really on my ‘home sweet home’.

Aptly, this pic shows the 3 new tiles I got on my roof!

I do hope that as time goes by and I settle in some more, I will stop possessing this  ‘critical eye’ as I can’t help but see things which need doing up around the place.

How long until I will stop this ‘seeing’ and just start being content to just live with these imperfections, so I can maintain my focus on FIRE?

I guess it’s just as well that I’m not one of those types who strives to maintain a beautiful home with all the mod cons, fit to grace the front cover of ‘Ideal Home’ magazine, otherwise my FIRE plans would be well and truly stuffed!

I have a couple of friends who do have such wonderful and beautiful homes, but they’re also the ones who mysteriously claim that ‘their house is their pension’, whatever that means.

In any case, I’ve banned myself from going to B&Q for the rest of the month and I think I need to do the same for the Amazon website!

December 2021 Savings, plus round up

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had an enjoyable festive period and a good start to another new year.

I’ve had a nice mostly quiet time getting used to being in my new home. Still not fully unpacked properly but I’m still moving some last few things from the old house (not sorted the garage or the shed yet – eek!). I can see that I’m going to have to do the whole KonMari thing again at some point!

Anyway, let’s just get the numbers out of the way for 2021!

I saved 13.2% of my net salary.

The above includes £150 from taking part in an investment community exercise, another £25 Premium Bond win and £42.80 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

Was there a Santa’s Rally? I wasn’t paying attention but perhaps there was as my Future Fund finished up at £232,272.61.

Here’s how it all looks at the end of another year:

Considering the unexpected house purchase, I’m just relieved to finish with a bit more in the pot than I began with at the beginning of the year.

Dividends and Other Income

An average final month for dividends:

Continue reading

November 2021 Savings, plus other updates

November was a blur, here are a few highlights:

  • My house purchase was completed! I nearly cried with relief!
  • My niece was up for half-term and was with me when I went to the estate agents’ to pick up my house keys. She helped me choose new carpets!
  • My sister came over for a quick visit from Hong Kong – it was so good to see her after nearly 2.5 years. She helped me choose some new lights for the living room! I was able to hand over some family Christmas gifts for her to take back. Unfortunately, she’s still not quite home yet, as she’s currently 5 days into a 21-day quarantine in a hotel…
  • Not everyone’s cup of tea and certainly no ‘Game of Thrones’ but am loving  Amazon Prime’s adaptation of Robert Jordan’s high fantasy series, ‘Wheel of Time‘. I’ve read all 14 books and one of the the most fascinating things is hearing how the names are pronounced (yes, in my head, I’ve been pronouncing them wrong!).
  • I was awarded Employee of the Month at work, which was a real surprise (though of course, very much appreciated) as I’ve just had my head down, doing my job, nothing which I thought was exceptional.

So, how did I get on with my savings this month?

I saved 13.5% of my net salary.

The above includes £39.20 from doing Prolific surveys.

Shares and Investment Trusts

No new investments, I just topped up existing ones.

Current share/IT portfolio can be found here.

(Entire portfolio here)

Future Fund 

A wobbly final week of the month for the stock markets due to concerns caused by the Omicron variant of the virus – indeed so big is the concern, that our works’ Christmas party has been cancelled – but I ran my numbers the evening of 30th November so avoided the plunging ‘Black Friday’ values.

Not that there was anything to celebrate, my Future Fund stayed pretty much the same at £227,349.

WIth one month left, here’s how the graph is looking (I’m continuing with the original graph, rather than the house-purchase adjusted one):

Well, it was too much to hope for a V-shaped recovery but steady as she goes. Perhaps there will be a Santa’s Rally!

Dividends and Other Income

A decent month for dividends:

Continue reading

House Purchase Post: Part 1

So much to write on this, so I’m just going to talk about the money side of buying my house first.

Bloody ‘ell, BTL

The plan had originally been to sell my buy-to-let (BTL) flat to fund my house purchase. However, my flat is caught up in the cladding polava and unless I wanted to make a massive loss by selling it to a cash buyer, that route was closed to me.

So plan B was to attempt to remortgage, to release some equity.

Alas, the lender valued my flat at a big fat ZERO as it did not conform to the new fire safety regulations.

To pile on more financial stress, the service maintenance charges on my BTL for the past year have trebled, to pay for a Waking Watch.  Although I believe a new fire alarm system has now been installed resulting in the WW no longer being employed, I have yet to see what the final bill will be to ensure that my flat will fully comply with regulations and secure the coveted EWSI certificate which will allow me to sell the property. I have already been advised that us leaseholders will not qualify for full government rebate, so await with dread on how much more I will have to pay.

Since I couldn’t release any equity, I had no alternative but to accept the loan from my parents and dip into my Future Fund.

The BTL has been a good investment but I will very likely be selling it – receiving rental income isn’t part of my FIRE plan. Assuming prices haven’t plummeted for such properties in the area, the equity I get from the eventual sale should repay the family loan in full and might even fill the hole that has been made in my Future Fund.

Dead Pledge

As per a comment I made on Monevator’s recent post which suggested that making payments on a mortgage was a form of saving, it was with some trepidation that I took on board the biggest debt of my life (on my own) at an age when many are (or close to being) mortgage-free.

At my age (the wrong side of 50), the length of the mortgage term was restricted – I certainly wasn’t offered 30-year deals!

As I went through the application with the mortgage advisor (which was all done online and over the phone, versus the face-to-face interview at the building society which I had for my first mortgage, armed with paper copies of my bank statements and payslips!), I was surprised at how much I could borrow on my own.

Some would say ‘get the biggest house/mortgage you can afford’ with these (current) low interest rates, but since I’m still aiming for FIRE, I was mindful of the size of the mortgage payments. I didn’t want to feel like the mortgage was a noose around my neck, it needed to be affordable and I needed to be comfortable with it.

So in the end, my budget didn’t cater for the biggest house I could get and I ended up with a mortgage with a LTV (loan to value) of 64%, which gave me affordable repayments and a bit of spare which I will need to split between saving for FIRE and a fund for future ‘house renovations’.

There will be some who will think that the deposit I made should have been smaller, that I could have invested the extra cash and made the most of investment returns. I did consider that but knowing me, it would have just caused me both investment stress and stress over higher mortgage payments so I did what I did for better peace of mind.

Anyway, I’m on a 2-year fixed repayment mortgage, 1.25% interest. It makes my mind boggle that the interest rate for my first mortgage over 20 years ago was 8% – let’s hope we never see those kinds of numbers again!

My mortgage term is 22 years so I’ll be in my early 70s when it’s paid off (earlier of course if I make overpayments).

How do I feel about carrying such debt into my old age?

I didn’t feel comfortable with it at first but it’s likely that when my DB pension kicks in at age 65, the 25% lump sum can more or less clear the balance of the mortgage, so I will have options when the time comes.

My mortgage payments will be more than what I am paying my parents for living in their house but at least my utility bills will be lower, which will provide some offset. However, until my parents sell their house, I will be paying 2 lots of bills but I chose to do this rather than be caught in a chain.

My savings rate will unlikely to ever reach its previous dizzy heights but I’m resigned to this – I think if I can achieve a savings rate of around 10%, I will be happy with that until things settle down cost-wise. Need to be smarter with some of my expenses and hope that the stock markets continue to do their thing for my portfolio.

Other House-Buying Costs

I wasn’t planning to get my property during the stamp duty tax holiday so I didn’t join the frantic and desperate race to try to complete before the end of July, although there had been a chance to complete before the end of September to pay a reduced amount. Sadly, this didn’t happen (the seller and then my solicitor were on holiday so three weeks were lost) so it was with a grimace that I paid out over £7k in stamp duty – ouch!

With some time on my hands before I move in, I decided to get all the rooms redecorated/painted, new carpet, floor tiles and fitted wardrobes.

Getting people in to do all the work during such a busy period has been a right pain and the labour costs have not been cheap – I feel like I’m just bleeding cash and will be so glad when it’s all done.

I do have an actual moving in date set but still so much to do (and pay for) before that happens but at least things are moving forwards.