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The Foot on the Ladder

At the start of this year if someone had said to me that I would have my own house I would never had believed them.

But that’s the crazy thing about life; it can take a turn and lead you down a different path and that’s what is so exciting.

Our house is more than I would have expected for a first time home. Somehow we’ve struck it lucky and have 3 bedrooms, a wonderful garden and enough space to swing a cat in but it has been a product of a number of years of hard work and saving, which is by no means easy.

 

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Our beautiful garden!

We managed to complete on our house within 6 weeks of putting in an offer, which I understand from talking to different people is absolutely crazy!

Getting on the housing ladder is difficult but statistics show that in 2006 just over a third (36%) of all house purchases financed by a mortgage were made by first-time buyers. In 2016, this proportion is estimated to have reached almost half (49%), the highest level since 1996.

So as more and more people strive to own their first home, I wanted to share what I’ve learnt about the whole process…

  1. Get your finances into shape. This is so, so, so important as mortgage lenders have tightened their belts since the financial crash of 2007/2008 and you need to be able to present to them the best financial version of yourself. The best place to start is Clear Score which is free to sign up to and helps you identify areas which you may need to review before submitting your mortgage application. For example, you should be on the electoral roll at your current address and this needs to match on your credit report. If your credit score is not too great then I would seriously consider building this up before starting the mortgage process. I helped my partner go from a score in the 200/300 mark to him now having a score higher than mine just by ensuring he was on the electoral roll for our previous address and clearing as much credit card debt as possible. He obviously learnt from the best 😉
  2. Research. Having never bought a house before I had no clue about what happens in the different stages. The Money Advice Service has some amazing guides which explain the whole process clearly.  This one I found particularly helpful as it broke down the different stages.
  3. Mortgage Broker. For first timers I think it is best to use a mortgage broker. They have access to a wide range of products and as they know the market, they can advise whether your end goal is achievable or not dependent on your budget. The whole mortgage process can be stressful, so we found it great to have a mortgage broker to ‘lean on’ when deadlines were tight. One thing I’ve learnt is that personal recommendations are priceless, as our mortgage broker and solicitor were suggested by family members who had used their services before so they were tried and tested.
  4. Prioritise. You need to sit down and work out what is important to you as there are so many factors to consider when buying a house. We initially said we wanted a property in the country after living in a flat in the centre of town. But it’s important to not become narrow-minded and to view a range of properties, as you may totally change your mind. In the end, we own a property that was built in 2010 (we initially said we didn’t want a ‘newish build’) yet it is a new development that has a village feel, with country walks nearby but a 20 minute drive to the nearest town. The perfect balance! We realised that being in our twenties we need good road links for employment and socialising…living out in the country is beautiful but it would soon become a chore having to drive miles to get anywhere.
  5. Extra costs. Getting on the housing ladder is expensive. It does pay to be organised and sit down to work out how much stamp duty you may have to pay on a property (this handy calculator can work it out for you). There’s also solicitor and mortgage broker fees, council tax (I Googled the property address plus ‘council tax’ and managed to find a rough estimation), removal fees (we luckily had our families help us out which saved us quite a bit of money), decoration costs not forgetting the bills that will start arriving sooner or later! It pays to log onto a comparison site like this one to see if you can bring the cost of your energy bills down.

 

2017 for me will always be the year of the house. Hopefully this blog post will encourage you to take the leap, work your butts off and get yourself on the housing ladder!

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The Little Corner of Paradise

Living in a flat with no garden or outside space (although exciting news to follow…) I’ve begun to appreciate how lovely it is to have a garden to come home to. At the moment my garden to come home to is that of my Mum and Dad, who have transformed the space from boring concrete to somewhere to relax and unwind.

I always used to joke to my mum that I’d never be into gardening; I would watch her tend to her plants with enthusiasm and would always think of a hundred and one other leisurely pursuits that I could be partaking in.

And let’s face it, gardening it yet to have it’s cool makeover. Baking has had it with Mary Berry and things like sewing and craft work has had a resurgence. But when I think of gardening I still think of Alan Titchmarsh and the Ground Force days.

But having basked in my parent’s garden in the recent good weather that the UK has enjoyed I’ve come to realise that gardening can in fact be exciting. I suddenly had a desire to share what they have achieved with the world.

Their garden isn’t large and there’s in fact no grass but with more and more first time buyers unable to afford a property with vast outside space (or no space at all if you’re in a city) I thought it apt to share my favourite selection of what they’ve concocted to create their own little corner of paradise.

Reflections

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Mirrors instantly make a space look larger. Once reserved for inside the home, outdoor mirrors are becoming more popular. My parents picked this one up in a local garden centre and I love the shabby chic style of it, as it really fits in with the rustic Mediterranean feel that the garden oozes.

Cacti are a cheap, exotic addition and require little maintenance as they rarely need watering. I in fact managed to kill my recent cactus plant through, I suspect, over watering so less really is more!

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Lights hung around the edge of the mirror give a pretty finishing touch and allows the mirror to become a great focal point when the sun goes down.

Personality

I love the idea of utilising wall space, especially in a garden where ground space is precious.

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Mum and Dad bought this wall plaque when, you guessed it, we went to New York in 2010. It was such an amazing trip and one we all still talk about today.

Instead of staying in downtown New York we opted to stay in Brooklyn, which is (and was unknown to us at the time) very hipster-ish. So in fact this goes really well with the style of the garden; as it’s not all straight lines, greenery and well tended much like the Brooklyn district.

I think it’s great to inject some personality into a garden as a centre piece wall like this will be a talking point for guests and acts as a way to reminisce about the good times.

 

Height

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This was a recent addition to the garden and if space is tight on the ground why not create a mini floral skyscraper and go upwards?

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An old step ladder can be transformed into the perfect place to put pots and the varying heights gives an extra depth to the garden compared to objects all at one level.

Consume

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To grow food that you can eat most people conjure up the image of an allotment. But growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs is relatively easy to do and can be done in the tightest of spaces, even on a balcony.

Mum has chosen a selection of herbs as well as a tomato and cucumber plant. The latter is the cutest to grow as it starts out so small (you wonder how on earth it will grow into something remotely edible) and then suddenly there’s this huge cucumber dangling off the plant, defying gravity.

 

I’d love to hear your own suggestions as to how to create your little slice of Eden. Comments are welcome below!