*Disclaimer: this is not one of those annoying click baits, “Saver who never pays full price bought a house at 24”.
We all enjoy a casual news scroll until they declare, “I received £XXXk from daddy” — believe me, I want to chuck those articles in the bin as much as you do.
I started The Wong Blog when I quit my job to travel the world. It has created opportunities I ever imagined (including contribution to my home), and I’m eternally grateful. If you’ve been checking in on my Instagram, I took a year-long break. And this broke my heart. I never meant to abandon the blog that I spent years developing.
A lot has happened, but I’ll stick to the most pressing matter, I bought my dream property!
I’m going to make every effort to ensure that this post is honest and relatable. For any privilege that has come into my life, I will talk about it. I want to be fully transparent with you.
Okay, so I know you want me to hurry with the good stuff! Let’s go:
Live below your means.
Despite how it looks on the gram’, I didn’t use any old money trust fund. My parents would just laugh in my face if I tried. It’s great when families work hard to support their children, but let’s be honest, no one is on an equal playing field. Those who have built their success from graft genuinely know and value what it is to buy a home, start a business, etc., from the ground up.
Everyone’s level of ‘living below means’ will be different. It’s all about short term sacrifices for long term gains.
When I graduated, I worked full-time in my office job; then at the weekend, working at Hollister during the day & Mahiki at night. I also lived in the tiniest box room, which cracks me up every time I think about it. Everyone thought I was nuts! I became much fortunate later in life with my career but no regrets; you learn and grow a lot more from the challenging parts of life than the easy ones, I promise you.
Be prepared. Get organised.
I chatted to you about my year break because buying property is genuinely a whirlwind. My house buying experiences were stressful. I encountered numerous barriers, from building delays and legal issues — of course, buying during a worldwide pandemic didn’t help.
Be mentally prepared; try to avoid buying during a difficult time in your life. Brace yourself for the prospect of offers falling through or sellers deciding to pull out at the last minute. Get support from those who have bought in the same position as you.
Get your documents in order: grab a cuppa, put your feet up and dedicate an hour to this mission. Create a new folder and start putting together your proof of income (job offer letter, contracts), address (tenancy, utility bills), identity (passport, drivers license), bank statements, etc. This will make everything a lot easier when you start the process. You’ll thank me later.
Up that credit rating
Have a nosey at your current credit rating here. Once you’ve got your score, here is my housekeeping advice:
Check for mistakes on your file – time to get that magnifying glass out! Data inputs like marginal address errors will affect your score. Check all of the deets, please.
Clear any debt – an obvious one, but pay it off. You may have forgotten that Klarna ASOS retail order you buzzed at checkout. The bank checks through your mobile contract, car finance, bills etc., to check you haven’t missed any payments.
Show that you’re a responsible lender – try to keep your credit utilisation at 25% or lower & always pay back IN FULL (direct debit is the best invention since sliced bread).
You need to manage a good blend of credit. If you’re a hey’ big spender (please, always only take out credit if you are confident with money), always get cashback on your purchases. My AMEX helped boost my credit score; get £20 free cashback if you start with this; the restaurant and retail offers are so damn delicious.
Register on the electoral roll if you haven’t already! This is for identity reasons; It confirms that you are who you say you are.
Bringin’ home the bacon (deposit)
- Channel your inner Excel whizz skills and start a budget spreadsheet. Enter your current monthly spending and forecast your post-property outgoings.
- Open a LISA – if you’re not planning on buying soon. A LISA will incentivise you to deposit every month. If you decide to buy a property up to a specific value, you will receive interest + government bonus at completion. If you don’t end up buying, you can use it as a retirement fund + benefits instead, so either way — win-win! Don’t confuse yourself with the Help to Buy ISA as it’s not open to new applicants, so don’t worry about this (if you already have one, well done & keep saving)!
- Research current government schemes – if you’re buying new build, look into the Help to Buy. You put down a 5% deposit, and the government will give you an equity loan of 20% (40% in London) of your mortgage, which you don’t have to pay back for the first five years; it’s around 1.75% interest + inflation from year six onwards.
- On payday, transfer an achievable amount from your current account into your savings, always trick your brain into thinking that you have less money to spend than you have.
- Shop smart, only buy things you will use and always work out the cost per use/wear.
- Start selling anything you don’t need; moving house is stressful enough, you don’t need to shift the stuff you don’t want to your new place!
An oldie but a goldie, here’s my article with further tips on how to save.
Choosing the right mortgage
I highly recommend having a natter with a mortgage advisor to get an idea of what you can afford. Talk to a few, so you get an idea of how they work and soak up as much knowledge as you can from them. It’s in their interest to hunt for the best deal, so they should be happy to help. They will provide a mortgage in principle, which will make you shinier to all parties.
I went directly to a bank because my circumstances are different (if you’re a limited company director or self-employed, you will need three years of accounts from your accountant). The general rule of thumb is that you can borrow 3-5 times your annual salary.
First, you have to decide which location is right for you—the areas that work around your job, hobbies and local amenities. Start digging into local crime rates, commute and traffic. My best advice: research what the council will invest in that area in years to come. Are they building a new train station nearby? (HS2 is a great example). In future, will a tower block your view? Are they upscaling the high street? Are they creating an extravagant film studio? These are factors that will ensure you are investing in an area that will increase in value.
I invested in my borough on purpose; it’s close to the capital’s most prominent financial district and easily accessible routes to all the film studios. Pop into Google, the name of your local council, and have a nosey in the news section.
The House Buying Process
usually goes like this:
House viewing > offer > offer accept > mortgage application > solicitor draft contract > mortgage accepted > searches > exchange of contracts > completion.
Please ask your mates for a cracking solicitor; conveyancers are cheaper but less qualified so ask for recommendations. You will be chasing the solicitor All. The. Time, so make sure it’s a proactive one.
The conveyancing stage is the most mindboggling so bear with me. ‘Searches’ are enquiries from the authorities that hold information about your property. I dug into all of them because I’m nosey. Primary searches will be Local Authority, Drainage, Environmental and Chancel. There’s also indemnity insurance, title register, deeds and plan. Please don’t worry! Set up a call with your solicitor to talk you through these. The surveyor will look for these but make sure your home is fireproof, no Japanese knotweeds, mould, leaks, excellent roof etc. Please go through your solicitor documents with a toothcomb; there will be no hiccups on my watch!
It will work out, eventually.
It’s a lot to take in, so I hope you found it helpful. I tried to make sure this post is comprehensive as it is digestible.
Please be careful of any scams and do your research. You need a real estate license to trade in the US, but in Europe, any T, D & H can set up an estate agent. If it has less than five employees, check their credentials carefully. For the love of God, please never transfer any money to anyone without a solicitor!
Don’t feel pressured to buy; there’s no ‘right time’. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you have FOMO, I’m telling you, houses are like buses; they all come at once.
They say that you ‘know’ when it’s your house; I had nine viewings before deciding, so don’t feel that you’re too picky. I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason and comes full circle. My parents got married in a beautiful park nearby where I now live. I can’t even explain it; I just always said I would go back there. So if you want a sign to go for something that you’ve dreamed of, that would be it.
But most importantly, have fun! The best part is seeing your world unpacked into your new home — your entire life: photos, books and trinkets. Make it yours, and everything will fall into place.
Ps. If I’ve missed anything and you have a little nugget of wisdom to share, please leave it in the comment section below. I know it will mean a lot to a lot of people.
Have a wonderful time & spam me with your furniture snaps; I love seeing other people’s interior design choices.