My experience buying a house during a pandemic

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and they do not reflect in any way those of No1 CopperPot Credit Union.

My mum always said she thought I would leave home at 18 like she did. Unfortunately, at 18 I was working part-time in retail with little in my savings. As much as I wanted to buy my own place, there was no way it was happening anytime soon, especially as according to Halifax, the average UK house deposit this year is £32,841! Luckily I didn’t need anywhere near that amount for the deposit on my first house, but over the past few years I have tried really hard to save. Fast forward to the present day, I am now 22 and last month I completed on my first house!

It became apparent after looking at houses for only a couple of weeks that as fast as they were getting added to the market, they were being sold. I knew I needed to act fast to make sure I was in with a chance of getting my offer accepted. The house I bought was only on the market for five days. In that time, I had viewed it only once, put in an initial offer, and made three further counter offers before it was accepted. I offered less than the asking price to start with, but in the end my final offer was £950 less than what it was put on the market for.

Viewings were advised to be done virtually unless you were seriously interested in a property, and only then would you be able to view it in person. The viewing was a little strange as masks had to be worn by both myself and the estate agent, and all doors were opened for you to minimise how much of the house you touched. You were only able to attend with one other person from your household and it was strange being in someone else’s house with other people, yet you couldn’t even visit your own family!

The housing market at that time was so busy. The Estate Agent and my Mortgage Adviser both made comments on how they hadn’t been this busy in a long time. The stamp duty holiday, ending in March 2021, may have played a part in the busy market as people hurry to take advantage of the potential saving before the holiday ends. We wrote a helpful article on this a few weeks ago which you can read here: www.no1copperpot.com/stamp-duty-holiday/

I never met my Mortgage Adviser during the process of buying my house. We spoke on the phone and the rest of our communication was done via email. I met the Estate Agent a few times during viewings and when I went to pick up my keys on the day of completion, but I only met the solicitor once to sign some documents in their office. I know prior to lockdown there would have been more meetings involved, but I personally didn’t mind all communication being done over phone and email as it suited my home-working schedule.

It took just under a month for me to receive my mortgage offer after submitting the application. Prior to lockdown you could expect to hear back within two weeks. Once this was received, the conveyancing stage started. The local authority searches took longer than usual to come back. The process may have also been delayed due to me not being able to attend their office, which meant almost all documents had to be posted, signed, and returned. I found it hard to get regular updates from the solicitor and when I did speak to them it felt rushed. It seemed like the pressure of the fast-moving market was impacting them and in the weeks before completion, the vendor was pushing for a completion date and I couldn’t give them any answers because I couldn’t contact my solicitor. Luckily, I completed on the 9th October which was only one week later than the vendor had requested.

As I was buying my first home, I can’t compare the experience to what it would have been like prior to the pandemic. The government have said the property market is still able to continue throughout the second lockdown, but to make sure the current guidelines are being followed. I would advise anyone looking to sell or buy a home in the near future to be prepared for the process to take longer than you initially expect, but also don’t be put off because of the current circumstances. Try and enjoy every moment as it’s a massive achievement and milestone for anyone, never mind during the middle of a pandemic!

Rachel, Marketing Officer at No1 CopperPot.

The government have created a helpful page for anyone looking to buy or sell their home during the pandemic to use. It is useful as it gives you an idea of what you can and can’t do under the current restrictions.
www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-moving-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak

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