It’s your move or more likely mine, week 35

This is the last post for this particular blog because on 4 December we exchanged and on 14 December we completed.

When I started this blog in January 2017, all I had was a small financial lifeline that went towards a 15% deposit. I was working in the gig-economy, at times holding down 5 different jobs and as the months rolled by my optimism dimmed.

We had been living in rented houses for 14 years, frequently having to move because the landlord wanted to sell the property. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to buy, the problem was no one would consider us for a mortgage. Despite paying well over £1,000/month in rent for many years, mortgage lenders refuse to accept rent payment as proof you can pay a mortgage.

You can read my first post here It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 1

However, by the summer time I had secured a full-time job and suddenly I was a far more attractive prospect.

So here we are, homeowners at last. OK it’s not the house I imagined I would be living in by this time of my life, but it’s ours to do with as we please and because it hasn’t been touched pretty much since it was built just before World War II, it is a blank canvas.

But the point is, the only reason we were able to rejoin the home-owner club is because we managed to scrape together a deposit and I was able to find full-time employment; neither of which came easily.

There are thousands of people who through no fault of their own are either working in the gig economy and/or cannot accumulate enough money for a deposit, but they are paying often huge sums of money in rent; lining the pockets of wealthy landlords. We have changed from a nation of home-owners to a nation of those who have and those who have not. Generation home-owner has become generation rent and it’s time for lenders to recognise the need to change because before much longer there will be no one left to borrow.

Think about it; the population is already top-heavy with the over 70s and it’s going to get worse as the demographic changes. If the next generation are unable to borrow and the older generation have paid off their mortgage and become reliant on the state as they became too infirm to live independently, having also cashed in their pensions early, who will the banks lend to? Based on current lending rules, those who want a mortgage won’t be able to get one and those who have had a mortgage will be making their last payment, ergo, the need for banks will diminish. Maybe then they will sit up and take notice.

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It’s your move or more likely mine, week 34

The letter has finally come through confirming we have jumped through the section 157 hoop. The letter also states that we will similarly be subject to the same condition when we decide to sell the property.

So the nightmare is over. The funny thing is that after such a struggle and after dealing with so much red tape and bureaucracy, it’s all a bit of an anti-climax. But we aren’t out of the wood yet, we now have to go through the usual channels of property buying including local searches which can sometimes turn up a few problems.

The vendors were extremely relieved; being elderly and having lived in the property for over 30 years, they want the minimum of fuss. I can’t imagine living somewhere for that long. I guess if things had been different and we had found somewhere we liked, then perhaps we would have stayed put.

In the meantime the letting agent sent their three-monthly reminder that they wanted to carry out a property inspection. It’s not just an intrusion and inconvenience, it’s also an appalling waste of time, because they turn up, stand in the hall, ask if everything is OK then leave. They don’t even inspect the property.

They know of our plans, it’s not surprising given the network of estate agents in this area and the fact that half the neighbourhood know, (our neighbour who also rents their property through the same agent told us the agent had asked them if they had heard anything about our move date). But the agent said nothing to us and we have said nothing to them because until it’s a definite, we aren’t taking any chances.

At the risk of tempting fate, I’m starting to think about what’s going with us and what isn’t. After 16 years of faithfully keeping all my personal keepsakes, precious collections and inherited items, pictures and family heirlooms, keeping them in the hope that each year I will be able to unpack them and once more enjoy them; always imagining I would be upsizing as my family grew rather than downsizing.

I now have to face the fact that the house I always dreamed and imagined I would be in by now is not going to happen and many of my possessions will simply have to go. Most of them have been packed away in boxes since 2001 but all of them hold a special memory. Tough as it is, I guess it’s time to start making new memories.

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It’s your move or more likely mine, week 33

After the torture of being told we had an offer in principle from the mortgage lender, to be told a few days later it had been refused due to Section 157 only to be told a week or so later they had changed their minds and would lend; we were told by the East Devon council we didn’t meet the requirements of the 157 and therefore our application was rejected.

We called on the help of our local MP, councillor Ian Thomas explaining our situation and supplied proof that we intended to stay and were by no means wealthy second-homers and if the intention of the 157 was to ensure security of local housing stock for local people, then we easily fell into that category.

He agreed to look into it and get back to us. That was on 28 September.

On 5 October he spoke to the Portfolio Holder and reported back to us that he had supported our application but it was now out of his hands and even after the PH reach a decision, there was a 7 day period for other councillors to challenge the decision.

Another 2 weeks passed without any news. We had no way of knowing whether or not the PH had agreed with Councillor Thomas’ opinion, if they had prepared their report or if they had sent it to the other councillors for their comment.

Our frustration was matched only by the vendors’ anxiety and being an older couple, they were finding it very distressing. But it seems personal feelings and emotions have no role to play in the council chambers.

How is it possible for something that is so simple to take three weeks?

By the 20 October I’d had enough and asked our solicitor to chase them up.

Within a couple of hours of emailing they received a reply; the application for special consent had been circulated and we now had to wait the 7 days.

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It’s your move or more likely mine, week 32

After being told by our mortgage broker that the lender would not give us a mortgage due to a section 157 applying to the property and that there was not even the smallest possibility they would consider an appeal or change their mind, the following day I went along to the estate agent to break the bad news.

Their initial reaction was not unexpected, they said how ridiculous it was and they knew plenty of people who had mortgages with a 157 in place, even one of their own staff had one. But then they recommended using one of their own mortgage advisors who was a local man and experienced in dealing with 157 loans.

I wasted no time and contacted him, he was reassuring and optimistic; we confirmed the appointment for the following Saturday.

We went through the same questions, gave the same answers, but there was a slight difference in his attitude, it seemed, I don’t know, more friendly but perhaps I was just so relieved to talk to someone who said they could help.

Two days later he rang me and said he would be able to get a mortgage for us but we would both need to have a pension and it didn’t matter if we were paying into it or not. This was a huge relief. I let the estate agent know straight away and instructed the broker to go ahead with a formal application.

Then I received an email.

Our original broker had discussed the 157 restriction with the mortgage underwriters and they had changed their mind and they would give us a mortgage after all. I couldn’t help but wonder at the earlier conversation where I had been told categorically the lender would not reconsider their decision.

But could we get a better deal from the other broker? I went through the figures and decided it was a case of better the devil you know so, not wanting to mess the new broker around, I contacted him and asked him to hold fire on everything because things had changed. He was very understanding and wished us well.

Within three days we had the formal mortgage offer in writing.

On the same day I contacted the East Devon District Council to find out what decision had been made regarding our application to buy the property – as we haven’t lived in East Devon for three or more years (we’ve lived here for just over 2 years), we had to make a special application to the council.

I eventually spoke to them. Our application had been refused.

One step forward, two steps back.

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It’s your move or more likely mine, week 31

Remember the days when you had to go for a face to face interview with your bank manager each time you needed a loan? There was no online banking and definitely no call centres in countries you had never even seen. There was that nervous feeling, that worry you might say something you shouldn’t, perhaps let something slip, you are on your guard.

Well sitting at our kitchen table on Saturday morning with the mortgage broker was a bit like that. Whilst I had ‘known’ him for over 5 years,  it had been via email, so there was an element of the unknown as he started to trawl through our financial past in minute detail.

Most people, when asked for their addresses over the past 5 years, give one or perhaps two different ones, we gave four. In fact we showed him the list of houses we have lived in since 2000; it’s 13. That’s 13 moves we have made in 17 years, five of them because the landlord wanted to sell the house we were renting. That’s why we want to buy a place of our own.

Then we went through our income, outgoings, debts, credit cards, loans; every single piece of our dirty financial laundry was hung out to dry.

But the broker was confident. He had found a company who was willing to lend to us despite our ages and with a fixed rate that meant we wouldn’t face an interest hike due to the Brexit fallout.

By the time he left we felt buoyed and quite positive.

On Wednesday I was at an all day workshop so my phone was switched off. I picked up my messages during the lunch break. There was a message from the mortgage broker saying quite bluntly that the lender had refused the loan due to the section 157.

It wasn’t just the carpet that had been pulled out from under me, it was the whole house. Having been so close, been reassured it would be plain sailing that we met the criteria, it was a local housing restriction that had put the spanner in the works.

It made no sense, even if they had to repossess the property, with the size of our deposit they would easily get their money back. The section 157 was simply a measure put in place to stop second homers which I didn’t disagree with, but no matter what I said, it all fell on deaf ears. The decision had been made by the lender and there was no going back, no possibility of reversing their decision, no chance of them changing their mind.

After waiting so long, getting the small lifeline that meant we could finally get back onto the property ladder, what had seemed so close was once more a very long way away.

I returned to my workshop with a very heavy heart.

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It’s your move or more likely mine, week 30

Having found a house we liked and a price agreed, it was time to go back to the broker with the good news.

There had been quite a few different numbers thrown at us since we had first made inroads into getting a mortgage; a £200k mortgage with a £30k deposit would be 85% loan to value (LTV) on a 2 year fixed rate of 2.14% = £1025/month

Another deal was based on £197k + deposit over 19 years with a 2 year fixed rate at 1.59% would be £1006/month

Both these were a little bit higher than I hoped; I thought of our mortgage we first took out back in the 90s that cost around £650/month and had we kept that mortgage, not only would it have been paid off by now, but we would own our home outright. I hate hindsight.

Having obtained every possible bit of financial information, our broker now asked for copy driving licences, passports, utility bills, council tax bills and wage slips.

A couple of days later the broker said the best deals he found were a 2 year fixed rate at 1.59% giving a £930/month mortgage payment or a 5 year fixed rate at 2.29% giving a £991/month payment.

This was closer to what I was hoping.

He sent a ‘link attached to a portal’ where we could log on to see what was happening to our application and he made an appointment to come and see us on the Saturday to go through the final details.

This was the closest we had been in over 12 years to securing our own home, there was a feeling of jubilation combined with trepidation but also doubt, it was all just a bit too easy.

But then we hadn’t yet heard anything from the East Devon District Council as to our application under Section 157.

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It’s your move or more likely mine, week 29

After going for my first serious property viewing, I thought it must have been fate that threw me into the hands of this particular estate agent because she told me about a house that they were about to take on that I might be interested in.

When I discovered it was just three houses down from where we live, I jumped at the chance and told her we definitely wanted to see it. Trouble was, the owners were away on holiday and no matter how keen we were, there was nothing the agent could do. But I am nothing if not tenacious, so just to be sure the agent wasn’t mistaken, I popped a note through the door of said house explaining our plight and how much we would appreciate it if we could take a look round and be given first refusal. Of course I knocked on the door, be churlish not to, but of course there was no reply.

So we waited, impatiently.

But a week later the owners returned and a couple of days later we were shown round. Funny thing is, the agent hadn’t even been round up to that point, so I’m guessing they were hoping for a quick and easy sale that wouldn’t even involve a ‘For Sale’ board.

The house was dated, probably a good 25 years since it had anything done to it, but that didn’t daunt us, we wanted something we could mould into shape. The loft was big enough for a conversion which meant we could add the extra space by going up rather than out. The garden was a reasonable size too. It all looked very promising. I would have been happy to make an offer there and then but my OH wasn’t quite so keen and wanted to sleep on it.

So we returned for a second look and this time made an offer. Of course it wasn’t accepted but we met in the middle and agreed on a price.

It’s a weird feeling, when you’ve lived in rented houses for so long, you forget what house buying is all about, I can just about remember the excitement I felt when we used to buy houses 18+ years ago, but it’s a different emotion now, instead of the thrill, the excitement of what the future might hold, wondering if you will stay there or move up the property ladder; I felt relief.

Relief that we wouldn’t have the ever likely possibility that the owner would turn up one day and tell us they wanted to sell the house so we had to get out, or the letting agent turning up every three months to do a property inspection, or having to accept a poorly equipped bathroom and a kitchen that was put together with leftovers from some other property.

But I could start putting all that behind me now, we had seen a house we liked, we had agreed a price, all we needed now was the final mortgage approval and to jump through the hoops of the East Devon District Council under their Section 157 that restricts who can buy ex local authority houses.

Nothing we couldn’t handle.

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