I am a Chartered Surveyor and the property industry has been my home for over 30 years. I have inspected literally thousands of homes for thousands of clients, from first-time buyers of modest studio flats in the likes of Hastings and Crawley to buying agents acting for the super-rich purchasing multimillion pound townhouses in Belgravia.
Not a day goes by without me talking to at least one, and usually several property professionals including solicitors, estate agents, developers, mortgage brokers, financial advisers, trusts and wealth managers. The people I meet most often, however, are not the wealthy London prime property buyers that rarely enter the country, let alone the house they intend to buy. No, I meet the 50% that help to drive the real property market, they are the worried, the nervous, the sad, and the excited, the individuals that have already taken the plunge; they are the owner occupiers. The other 50% are about to take their place and they are my clients – the buyers.
And of course, sometimes they are both.
Every day I find myself talking to both purchasers and sellers, who can be anyone from an enthusiastic first-time buyer to an anxious elderly widow moving for the first time in 40 years, and the hundreds of others in between.
The property obsession
The UK has obsessed over home ownership for decades, and especially since the Thatcher era of the 1980’s. At dinner parties, in pubs, restaurants and cafes, from Exeter to Edinburgh, conversations invariably turn to the topic of property and the price of housing.
There are literally millions of articles advising home owners and buyers on countless subjects, and thousands of publications devoted to property ownership. Well-known brands like Grand Designs, to more obscure local magazines, such as ‘House Magazine’ (apparently Dorset’s ‘favourite’ local periodical) flood us with often conflicting advice on how to increase the value of our homes (as my wife says, it’s all a matter of taste – good taste, darling), how to design our kitchens and bathrooms, where to find affordable building plots (good luck with that one), the list is endless.
Rarely does a week pass without a tabloid newspaper screaming “Home owners earn £500 a month doing nothing!”, or conversely, “Home owners losing £1000 per week in house price crash!”. It is not surprising that the subject is so often at the forefront of our minds.
For some, the idea of owning a home seems an unaffordable fantasy; the thought of borrowing thousands of pounds and committing to a 25 years debt is frankly all too scary. For most of us, however, we overcome the fear, discover we can afford it, and take to property ownership like a duck to water.
Nearly everyone, it seems, wants to be the owner of their own home.
Why this blog?
It is a cliché of course and you have heard it a million times before I’m sure, but it’s a fact: buying a home is undoubtedly the most important financial decision we make. It may not be the biggest; after all, the super-rich often spend more money on art then on houses, but it is the commitment of your first home purchase that is so defining.
Once a decision is made to buy a home, it is rare for people to look back. When we outgrow the first house, we buy a bigger one. Then, throughout our lives, most of us move several times as we encounter different stages of life: independence, relationships, children, separation! Once on the property ladder, these are just a few of the events influence our decision to buy or sell. Even after we die, we have an impact on the real estate market as our house is sold or passes to others.
Despite the sheer scale and complexity of the UK real estate market, there are few clear and simple guides or “bibles” for those with limited experience in making such an important commitment. It is not only the first-time buyer who is daunted; some long-term owners may not have moved for decades. I often encounter families who are downsizing after the children left the family home, and parents have completely forgotten how complicated, let alone unsettling the process of selling and buying a house can be.
They face the same challenges as someone who is buying a home for the first time; fear of commitment and can they afford it? Sometimes a downsizer finds the ideal smaller home does not leave as much disposable income as they expected, and in these days of low interest rates, the income can be miserly leaving little left to enjoy their retirement.
Many people are under the misconception that the property market is a very different kettle of fish from when they last moved. In fact, the fundamentals have changed little. Through this blog, I hope to share my experiences and the experience of others and provide guidance to navigate challenges we face. You could be buying the home of your dreams or the first investment of many. In fact, this blog can help you decide if you should buy a house at all. After all, property ownership is not for everyone. In my experience, however, these individuals are the exception. Even those with extreme left-wing political views are often homeowners. I know several; every single one of them has at one time owned a house, and most still do.
Of course, you might read this blog simply to either reinforce your opinion on property ownership or for the sheer entertainment. I would be extremely pleased in the case of the latter and hopefully, some of the anecdotes (look out for the dog shit story) will make this not only an informative read but also an enjoyable one.
It might even encourage you to download my book. That however remains a work in progress, so watch this space.
In the meantime, if you are buying your first home, or making the leap after many years of living in the same home, good luck, your next adventure starts here…….