Our First Place – Part 4 – Settlement

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Thanks for joining me again for this final post in my Our First Place series.

It details the journey my husband and I took when me made the biggest purchase of our lives – our first home.

It’s a topic that I feel many can relate to despite how difficult it is to buy a house at the moment in this economy.

For those of you who are taking the plunge for the first time I wish you good luck!

I hope this series has given you some encouragement and food for thought. It’s not an easy ride for most and I salute you for going on the journey!

In today’s post I relate my experiences following the acceptance of our offer to buy our first house.

Once our 10-day cooling off period had elapsed and we were well and truly locked into the purchase of this house our days were filled with preparations for the move.

Moving house isn’t fun at the best of times but when you have two young children and few people to help it becomes chaotic.

What followed was 6 weeks of anxiety and stress.

They say the 6 weeks that follow the end of the cooling off period to the settlement date fly by. And they do.

They also say you should expect that the settlement date may be delayed due to unforeseen reasons – which at first, I didn’t believe.

The party that causes the delay is usually penalized for doing so and I for one, was determined that we would not be the perpetrators of such an infraction.

I like to think I had the first few weeks pretty well under control.

Moving boxes and packing gear were ordered, unwanted clutter was disposed of or donated, the landlord was notified and utility services were arranged for transfer.

Everything was going to plan until approx. 2 weeks before the date of settlement my husband was notified by the seller’s real estate agent that a problem had occurred with the swimming pool pump. It had broken down and would take 4 weeks to repair.

The seller had arranged the repair and requested that we settle on the scheduled day and wait for the pool pump to be repaired after we moved in.

Technically we didn’t have to take possession of the house unless it was in the condition that it was when we submitted our offer to buy it.

When we did, the house had a fully functioning pool pump and filter system.

Delaying the settlement date to insist the seller return the property to its original condition prior to this issue would have been deemed acceptable according to our conveyancer.

The problem was, it put all our best laid plans to waste.

Delaying the settlement would have meant asking for an extension of our lease and continuing to pay an additional 4 weeks rent which wasn’t factored into the moving budget.

Also it would mean contacting all of our utility services and delaying the transfer of our accounts. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you’re left waiting on hold with the telephone company, internet provider, insurance companies and the like for up to an hour a day.

With all of our belongings packed up and in boxes we were practically living on takeaways with cushions and mattresses to sit on.

Our conveyancer to her credit tried to insist that the seller either replace the pool pump with a new one or allow us to withhold money from the settlement until the pump was repaired. After all, if the repaired pump still didn’t work who would be liable to rectify the issue then?

To our surprise this request was flatly refused by the seller.

Our conveyancer said we could either delay the settlement on the basis that the house was not in the condition we were expecting and wait until the repair was complete to make sure it was done properly or accept the seller’s terms to take possession of the house on the original settlement date and wait for the pool pump to be repaired.

If we chose the latter, the seller would be released from the transaction after settlement and it would be very difficult to claim money back to rectify an issue should the repair prove ineffective.

We were angry. We couldn’t understand the seller’s stubbornness.

It made sense to us to withhold some money from the settlement to ensure that the repair to the pool was done correctly. We were fully prepared to release it to them if the repair became a success.

But the sellers were steadfast in their refusal to cooperate and it only added to our anxieties about what we would be walking into when they finally handed over the keys.

I had suspicions that the sellers had botched the repair and wanted to hide it until it was too late for us to hold them responsible for it.

I felt a deep-seated mistrust begin to embed itself within me.

If that wasn’t enough the sellers had placed a very large pile of garbage and construction refuse on the front lawn of the property and simply left it there.

Numerous requests to remove it were returned with promises that it would be gone before settlement day but all the seller seemed prepared to do was move the pile from the front lawn to the kerbside for collection.

Fortunately, the council confirmed that an inorganic pick up had been arranged for the pile however the pile turned out to be so large that it equated to almost 3 times the normal load.

Residents in this area are allowed 4 inorganic refuse collections per year so before we even moved in, 3 of our allotted collections had been taken up by the previous owner’s mess!

As anyone who has moved house knows, there is plenty of clean up that follows.

Packaging material needs to be disposed of properly, random junk and clutter needs to be thrown out and a free inorganic collection along with recycling is a good way of getting rid of the mess.

We were faced with not only having to potentially repair the pool pump ourselves but also hiring a skip to take away our moving rubbish.

As far as the pool went, my husband decided to call the pool maintenance company in charge of the repair to get further information about the broken pump.

He was told that it was recommended to the seller that the pump be replaced entirely with a new system because of its age and that a repair would be a temporary fix which, while cheaper would only last a few months at best.

The seller would hear none of buying new pumps and insisted on a repair which was only a fraction of the cost.

It was also recommended that while the pump wasn’t working, extra chemicals should be added in specific measures to the water to maintain its clarity, cleanliness and safety to swim in.

The seller simply bought a giant bottle of chlorine and dumped the whole thing into the water paying little attention to whether it was safe or not.

After hearing our plight the pool maintenance people offered to sell us a new pool pump at a discount by subtracting the cost of the repair of the old pump already paid for by the seller.

They assured us of its effectiveness and would provide us with a warranty. And if we settled on the original date they would come out shortly after to install the new system for us.

We would also have to purchase chemicals for the pool water and take the time to get the levels right before using the pool.

As the costs kept mounting so did my anger and resentment towards the sellers.

To this day, my husband and I are still disgusted by their behaviour.

In the end we settled on the agreed date. We had the pool repair company come out to install the new pool pump shortly after moving in which is still working beautifully almost a year later.

Overall it cost us less to replace the pump than it would have to pay the extra 4 weeks rent if we had delayed the settlement for the repair.

I managed to find a large skip bin at a discount rate which meant we could get rid of all our moving rubbish and clutter in one go.

While the weeks leading up to settlement came with unexpected expenses and stress I am pleased to say we got there in the end. And it was worth it.

We love our new home and hope to be here for many years to come.

We’ve loved being able to put our own stamp on the place and decorating it to our tastes.

Also, no landlord inspections and no rent!

Building equity in our own home feels like money well spent.

We love our first place and are grateful for all the lessons learned along the way however hard they were to take.

I hope to take this journey again someday in the pursuit of an investment property somewhere along the line but for now, I’m bringing my house hunting adventure to a close.

Thanks for coming along.

  • Lady V
*Disclaimer: Please note that all experiences related in this post along with all others are personal to the author and make no claim of offering professional advice of any kind on the subject matter. For further information regarding purchasing property it is recommended that you make enquiries with the relevant professionals in your area.

Our First Place – Part 3 – Sealing The Deal

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Thanks for joining me again on this continuation of my series entitled Our First Place which is about the journey my husband and I went on in purchasing our very first home in the western suburbs of Sydney, Australia.

I apologize again, like I do at the start of every post for the long gap between new posts on this page.

Again, I put it down to a very demanding family life but I appreciate you bearing with me and listening to my story.

In this post I relate the experiences we had once we finally found the house we wanted to buy and what happened when we placed our offer to buy it.

I reflect with amusement at the point at which we actually made an offer on this house and had it accepted.

I can best describe it as a bizarre mixture of exhilaration and buyer’s remorse.

I remember thinking “Yay! We’re buying a house!” and then “Oh God, what have we done?”

The seller’s real estate agent had made us aware of a few other offers that had come in but which had been declined by the seller.

He also told us of an offer that was initially accepted but where the potential buyer’s finance had fallen through.

He then gave us the minimum amount the seller was willing to accept for the house.

At the time I had no reason to doubt the agent or his insistence on the seller’s minimum price but as time went on I often wondered if this was merely a selling tactic to get the most for his client as possible.

You learn early that very few people in the process are on your side when you’re the buyer.

The seller has their agent whose best interest it is to get as much as they can for the product they’re selling.

As a buyer you’re often left to wander the woods on your own.

It helps if you have family or friends who can hold your hand through the journey.

You can hire professional buyer’s agents to help negotiate the price of a property down for you but these come with their own costs and you really have to decide if the savings they achieve for you outweigh the fees they come with.

My husband and I were left pretty much to our own devices, armed with as much research on the subject of buying houses as we could gather from books and the internet.

There weren’t many properties on the market in the neighbourhood we wanted.

The house we took interest in was in better condition than most we’d seen in the area and in neighbouring suburbs. It had undergone some recent renovation but was priced much higher than most of the properties being sold in what is still seen as a developing neighbourhood.

Going through past sales brought up many houses sold for far less but in much worse shape too.

It was hard to determine if the price for this house was too high given that there wasn’t much to compare it with.

In the end we agreed to offer the minimum the seller was willing to accept, which was still over our initial budget. We took into account the location, proximity to schools, amenities, transport links and plans for future infrastructure improvements and decided it was worth it.

Going through the contract of sale and signing on the dotted line with the agent was daunting.

Stupidly I’d forgotten to get a copy of the contract to send to our conveyancer so while the clock was ticking on our 10 day “cooling off” period, our conveyancer was left twiddling her thumbs waiting for the document to come through for almost 2 days.

Speaking of conveyancers, we had called a couple of them before we actually saw this house and in the end thought that they all seemed very similar by way of pricing and services offered.

We learned the hard way that not all conveyancers are the same despite similarities in pricing schedules.

After making our offer to the sellers and having it accepted we suddenly realised that we needed to decide on a conveyancer asap and in our haste we decided on one that was recommended by a friend.

It was a mistake.

I didn’t feel that our conveyancer had our best interests at heart and I often had to chase up responses to my emails and follow up phone messages days later. Not ideal during a cooling off period of just 10 days and when time is of the essence.

As a first timer you want to know that your legal representative has your back, is willing to explain the finer details of the contract and negotiate the terms of the sale in a way that benefits you.

There were certain aspects of the property and its condition, following our building and pest inspections that I felt warranted a negotiation of the price with the sellers but our conveyancer was reluctant to convey them and had an attitude of “you’re buying the property as is”.

The impression I got was, if we didn’t like the property or the terms of the sale then we should just walk away from the transaction rather than try to negotiate on price.

Maybe she was right? As a first time home buyer I honestly didn’t know what to expect from her.

I had however believed that as our legal representative, who we were paying over $2000 in fees for we’d be getting a little more support?

In hindsight, it would have been far better to have spoken to several different conveyancers and settled on one we were comfortable with well before beginning our house hunt.

If we ever try this again it will be one of the first things I do before even going to an open home.

In the end, we had committed ourselves to this house and this purchase when we decided to make our offer.

Not even the seller’s unwillingness to negotiate or our conveyancer’s indifference was likely to deter us.

The defects in the property weren’t taken into consideration by the sellers and the price didn’t change.

Fortunately none of these defects were major so we still went ahead with the purchase.

I suspect much of this transaction was ruled by the heart.

We fell in love with this house the moment we saw it and were determined to make it our new family home.

Our journey was far from over though.

After the cooling off period is usually a 6 week waiting period before settlement day when we as new owners take possession of the property.

Unfortunately for us our waiting period was fraught with some unexpected surprises but I’ll go into more detail in my next post.

I learned a number of different lessons here about being prepared and asserting my expectations.

I hope you stay tuned for my next post which I will explain in more detail the final stages of our journey from preparing to move to finally taking possession of our new home.

Thanks for sticking with me and I’ll see you again soon!

  • Lady V
*Disclaimer: Please note that all experiences related in this post along with all others are personal to the author and make no claim of offering professional advice of any kind on the subject matter. For further information regarding purchasing property it is recommended that you make enquiries with the relevant professionals in your area.

Our First Place – Part 2 – The Search

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Finding the motivation to write can be such a struggle sometimes.

There’s seems to be so much going on in this household it’s hard to find the energy much less the time to put thought down on paper (or screen).

This is a continuation of my first post on July 22, 2016 called Our First Place.

In this series of posts I jot down my thoughts about being a first time home buyer. It is by far the biggest purchase either my husband or I have ever made to date and one that has made a lasting impression on us both.

We took this journey in large part, on our own. We didn’t have family or friends to guide us through the experience.

All of our family is overseas and many of our friends are busy with their own lives and don’t own their own homes yet so much of our knowledge of the process was earned from researching articles on the internet, reading books and very brief conversations with people we know.

Needless to say, it was a steep learning curve.

My husband and I have different approaches to doing just about everything.

You could say that we are opposites. My approach is to think things through practically. To prepare for the worst and set realistic expectations.

I’m the one in the relationship with the tightest grip on the purse strings.

Surprising given that I also author a shopping blog.

I’ve always believed though, that money should be spent wisely and it is possible to have nice things on a tight budget if you’re willing to shop for the best deal…that was, until I was faced with house hunting.

I have heard that it is best not to allow your emotions to get in the way of your judgement when purchasing a house. After all, parting with such a large sum surely requires that you have your wits about you, especially if you’re going to be committed to that investment for a very long time, right?

I have seen several examples on TV of people having extraordinary expectations for their next property purchase without being sensible of what their budget will actually allow.

I was determined that we not be one of those couples who bought well beyond our means and told myself that I might have to settle for a house that was a little less than perfect for my first family home and over time make the improvements and build up some equity.

Being in a position to buy at all is a rare gift and I was determined to remain humble about my expectations.

Oh but how the search did test me.

While I told myself to keep an open mind and to see the potential in every property I couldn’t help but be disappointed, even surprised at how little you can expect to get in this city for what used to be considered a generous sum.

To us, spending over half a million dollars even on a house seems like an enormous amount of money. Clearly that’s a naïve attitude when you’re looking at buying a 3 bedroom freestanding house in the western suburbs of Sydney.

It was clear that despite my best efforts our wishlist was unrealistic for our budget and as the search continued we decided to cull the list of must-haves to the absolute basics:

  • Freestanding house with some yard space for the kids
  • 3 bedrooms
  • A 4th bedroom/study/office (heck even a walk in wardrobe) to set up a home office
  • Close proximity to our kids’ schools (within 10 mins drive)

The emotional effect on us during the house search alone was astonishing.

We’d go through a continual cycle of excitement whenever we’d find a potential listing, hopeful optimism when meeting the agent to inspect the property and then painful disappointment when the property fell short of what we were hoping for.

This was always followed by an exhausting in depth analysis of each property’s merits between my husband and I along with input from our daughter, who was determined to have a rainbow-coloured unicorn theme in her bedroom. Then further assessments of our wishlist and must-haves.

On and on it went with each house we inspected. The whole saga is draining mentally and emotionally.

In general, my husband and I have a reasonably harmonious marriage and we work hard to maintain a peaceful household but house hunting definitely tested our bond and our patience with each other.

Where our differences would usually provide balance, in this case it just created conflict. Then when we actually found a house that we agreed on, the process only tested our limits even further.

I often felt like I was playing tug-of-war with him. Some kind of weird battle of the spouses.

The Budget vs. The Wishlist. Functionality vs. Style. My practicality vs. His dream.

It may not seem all that surprising. It’s almost cliché how often couples fight about buying a house. I mean, you see it all the time on TV.

For us though as first time buyers and as usual allies it was difficult and confusing.

I don’t regret buying this house at all but we made some obvious rookie mistakes.

If I could go back in time I would have avoided bringing my kids to the inspection of the property.

The problem with bringing the kids is they get way overexcited or unsettled when they’re in an unfamiliar place.

While hubby and I were trying to inspect the house the kids were running up and down the back yard, running in and out of rooms, opening and closing doors and we were torn between inspecting our future home and preventing our kids from damaging anything.

I would have liked to inspect the house when the kids were at school and take my time to look at everything including inside cupboards and wardrobes, flush toilets, turn on taps and light switches. Open and close doors, check the water pressure and even check the mobile phone reception.

In theory that’s the ideal way to inspect a house.

However, in our case the agent who listed the house was pressed for time and couldn’t stay with us long. His only available time slot for a private viewing was on a Saturday (when both kids were home) and for a max. of 20 minutes.

It was clear there was a lot of interest in the property. Several people attended the open home and by the time we managed to meet with the agent there were already multiple offers.

Me watching the kids in the front yard so that my husband could look at the house first meant that I missed a lot of what he saw.

We don’t usually leave our children with friends because our son who has special needs gets very upset so we had no choice but to bring him with us.

The other thing I wish we had done was arrange a conveyancer or solicitor before embarking on our search.

Hiring a conveyancer at the last minute after our offer was accepted and our 10 day cooling off period had started was a mistake but I’ll go into that in the next post.

In the end my husband and I found ourselves very much attached to our first house when we found it. Throughout the whirlwind of house hunting we had committed not only our money but our hearts into the transaction.

Our emotions became entangled into the deal and we did spend more than our initial budget.

It’s precisely what I’d been preparing myself not to do all along. And yet, we’re happy.

I love this house for its uniqueness and character.

I love that I feel instantly at home the moment I walk through the door.

I love that it’s a permanent stable home for our children and I hope to see them grow up here and come and go at various stages throughout their lifetimes.

Well that’s the plan anyway.

My husband believes all houses like ours will be knocked down someday to make way for higher density dwellings like townhouses and apartments and that “the Australian dream” will evolve into something that requires lower maintenance and less space so who knows what life will bring next.

They say home is where the heart is and our hearts are definitely at home here.

  • Lady V
*Disclaimer: Please note that all experiences related in this post along with all others are personal to the author and make no claim to offer professional advice of any kind on the subject matter. For further information regarding purchasing property it is recommended that you make enquiries with the relevant professionals in your area.

Our First Place

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Earlier this year my husband and I made the biggest purchase of our lives; our very first home.

It may have come a little late by traditional standards. In fact, we started the process much earlier on in our marriage when we were expecting our first child but a lack of confidence and the magnitude of the looming debt filled us with anxiety and stopped us moving forward.

Little did we know the financial market would take a drastic turn just a short time later and stricter lending criteria combined with a huge leap in Sydney property prices meant that the dream of owning our first home was snatched away before we knew what hit us.

Sadly such is the story for so many people struggling to set foot on the property ladder these days.

Almost a decade later, a little older and wiser and being now a family of 4 we were fortunate enough to be in a position to set down roots.

The house buying process is a daunting and stressful learning curve for a first timer and it goes without saying that preparation and research are crucial before even starting the house hunt.

We learned the hard way that despite our best efforts, mistakes and unforeseen events can and do occur and I reckon it takes nerves of steel, plenty of deep breathing and a sympathetic ear or two to get you through the process without completely losing your mind.

While being happily settled in our new home for almost 4 months I find myself reflecting on the experience quite often and wondering what hurdles others have experienced during the process and how they coped.

Overall I found the whole process interesting to say the least. I have heard that there’s no better way to learn than by doing and I have to say after diving head first into the deep end I feel like I’ve learned a lot and aged 5 years! lol

At this point I want to make clear that I am NOT here to give you advice about buying property. I am hardly qualified or experienced enough.

I do however want to share some of the obstacles we faced and how we got through them in the hopes that others may be able to relate as home buyers – past, present and future.

I will continue this thought as a series of posts because honestly if I wrote it all down at once, this post would go on forever.

I hope you decide to follow along and please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments sections.

Stay tuned!

  • Lady V
*Disclaimer: Please note that all experiences related in this post along with all others are personal to the author and make no claim to offer professional advice of any kind on the subject matter. For further information regarding purchasing property it is recommended that you make enquiries with the relevant professionals in your area.