It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 26

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We had a breakthrough this week.

If you’ve been following this blog you will know we have been renting for over 13 years, since the first day we moved south from Bedford. We were also renting for the last 3 years we lived in Bedford, although for different reasons, so strictly speaking we’ve been living in someone else’s house paying their mortgage/into their pension for over 16 years. That is virtually all of my oldest son’s life and all of my youngest who has never known what it’s like to have his own home.

For the past 7 years we have been renting because we had no choice due to the changes in lending rules; despite paying out well over £100,000 in rent we were apparently a bad risk.

But not anymore; as I said there has been a breakthrough that has only recently happened.

Two weeks ago the mortgage broker received our company accounts; I was banking on those to prove we met the criteria. My role at work had also changed from zero hours to a part-time job which I felt sure would help.

I couldn’t help but notice he was less than positive about the news, but he still asked  more questions and for a copy wage slip.

However, when I moved from part-time to full-time he told me it was a game-changer and suddenly the questions became more meaty and searching. Suddenly we were eminently more desirable to lenders.

  • Middle names
  • NI numbers
  • Previous addresses in last three years, etc

He has told me we should be able to get a mortgage for around £200,000 + the deposit we now have and my new salary meant we had moved from 1 bed flat territory to a 3 bed semi. Okay, not the house I expected to be living in by this time in my life, but who cares? It will be our house, no one else’s. No more letting agents making us feel like second class citizens, no more 3-monthly inspections, no more danger of being asked to move out because the landlord wants to sell.

More choice of décor, more choice of bathroom fittings, more choice of floor coverings instead of making do with threadbare off-cuts that have no underlay, more time to think about what we want to do with our home.

After I read and re-read his email confirming we would be able to get a mortgage, I sat staring at the words and smiled a very big smile.

I wanted to tell my sons straight away but they have the impatience of youth and wouldn’t understand that we now have to go through a lengthy process of actually getting the mortgage offer in writing. If I told them my youngest son would already be planning what puppy he would get and where he’d put the chicken run.

But for me, eversince I read that email I have had a very warm feeling inside I haven’t felt in a very long time.

It’s probably that light at the end of the tunnel that has suddenly become so much brighter.

Of course we are not out of the mire yet and I know there are going to be many more questions we have to answer, but I have allowed myself the luxury of looking at the property pages without thinking what’s the point?

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 22-25

starThe weeks have flown by haven’t they. I cannot believe we are over the half way point for 2017. By now I had expected to not only have sorted out a mortgage but be well on the way to finding a property that matched our lending limit. I nagged my husband to get the company accounts emailed to our accountant the moment 5 April arrived and I similarly tallied up my earnings for the year, which given the fact I held down five different part-time jobs was no easy task.

But by the second week of April everything was emailed. Now for the waiting.

I had dropped a few hints to the accountant that would hopefully get things moving, things like: ‘look forward to hearing from you very soon’ and ‘fingers crossed you will have some good news for our mortgage broker’ and ‘I am so desperate to get a mortgage, please hurry up’.

But the weeks passed, just a bit too quickly and each week I hoped to hear the sound of a heavy A4 sized enveloped falling with a thud in the porch. But no thud came.

Two weeks ago I emailed him enquiring how things were going, then a phone call, another email and finally a pleading begging email.

The accounts finally came through last week, the first week of July; three months later than I had hoped.

But all was forgiven and I quickly despatched them to our mortgage broker who replied by return…with more questions that required reverting to the accountant:

  • What was my salary for last two financial years
  • What dividend had I been paid for last two financial years
  • Could he see proof of a pension fund
  • Could he see a wage slip
  • What was my current salary
  • Ditto my husband

I groaned in despair.

But instead of another three months, it was less than a day before the reply came back.

I felt elated and the closest I have felt for several years to securing a mortgage. The company accounts looked good, we had a small deposit and all debts paid off, what better risk could any mortgage company have than that?

Then the slow deflation began; he thinks it best to talk over the phone.

After the months of agonising waiting for the end of the financial year, after months of waiting to secure a small deposit, after years and years of living in rented houses, the light at the end of the tunnel has started to dim just a little.

I’m working full-time now so a phone call during the day is not so easy, that means an evening call which will be subject to the usual evening chaos. I’m hopeful he will give me some good news but fear he may not.

I was hoping to book a very short family holiday this summer, I’m thinking that if the broker says the only mortgage we can get is too small to buy a postage stamp so you may as well forget it, I may well blow caution to the wind and book an amazing full-blown bells and whistles kind of holiday and resign myself to many more months financing someone else’s pension.

But maybe he has some good news, I guess I’ll have to wait some more. I just hope it won’t be another half year before I hear anything.

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 21

theatre

I’ve been feeling quite upbeat this week, partly because of my job; I am working full-time at the moment and hopefully this will continue long into the future, and whilst I love my work, it is also the fact I am in a full-time occupation that will surely help when it comes to applying for a mortgage.

Since I gave up work to look after my two sons, we have been a one-income family and as anyone will tell you, this is not helpful when it comes to mortgages. So what with my newfound employment combined with our very small lifeline that was thrown to us in January, I am hopeful this will go someway towards achieving my end goal of a positive reply from the mortgage broker.

We are still awaiting our company accounts which of course may put the spanner in the works, but I remain hopeful the increase in turnover during the last 12 months will give a healthy financial picture.

Another reason why I’m feeling upbeat is because of a conversation I had with my son. Now as many an adult will tell you, children are remarkably clever creatures, it is of course a great pity the wisdom we all possess is eventually diluted when we grow up, but my eldest son has fortunately not yet reached that stage. Anyway, I discussed the possibility of getting a mortgage and that it was unlikely we would get the size of mortgage I wanted in order to buy the house I would like; it was more likely we would have to look at something along the lines of a flat or maisonette. My long held belief of living in a four-bed detached house with garage and garden by this time in our lives has gone.

But rather than being angry or disappointed in me, of which he has every right, he said he wouldn’t mind living in a flat and just so long as he had a bedroom big enough for his bed, cupboard and chest of drawers, he’d be fine.

This came as a surprise to me because I well remember the many times I moved house when I was growing up and the many times I told my father I hated him. I remember one time in particular when we were moving from Nottingham to Bedford and it was my 13th birthday on the Monday but we had to drive down to Bedford on the Sunday night ready for me to go to school. I desperately wanted to stay at home for my birthday but wasn’t allowed.

I remember that car journey and I remember telling him I hated him.

Now after years of dragging my sons from rented house to rented house, I don’t blame them for occasionally resenting me and I have sometimes been subject to their temper when it comes to owning a pet or putting posters on bedroom walls. So it made a big difference for my son to tell me he was fine with living in a flat.

Of course it may come to nothing and we may not even get a big enough mortgage for a dolls house let along a flat because on top of everything else our age is against us.

But it’s nice to know my son doesn’t hate me, but then I didn’t really hate my father and I realise now how hurtful that must have been for him…perhaps some of that wisdom does stay with us when we grow up, I hope so.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 19 & 20

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I’ve been busy, very busy over the past couple of weeks and my blogging has had to take second place but during that time I’ve been harking back to the good ol’ days just lately; actually that’s a nonsense because I’m not sure they were any better than today, just different. However, the one good BC (before children) thing was having a mortgage and owning the house I lived in which is why I’ve been thinking about those days.

There are two reasons for these reminiscent moments, first of all it was dead easy to get a mortgage back in the 90s, you could approach virtually any lender with a small deposit and after the first few questions had been answered, it was a done deal. We used a mortgage broker who was keen to let everyone know he was a ‘Wing Commander’ in a previous life. His business cards bore the letters Wg Cdr and when we first met him and he gave us a brief resume, he put great emphasis on his past life. It always amused me but it must him given him the necessary gravitas to broker the deal.

That’s not to say he didn’t occasionally mould the facts to fit the form and money for a garden makeover was soon embedded in ‘essential home improvements’, but then no one doubted the integrity of our Top Gun adviser.

But on the other hand we were a child free, double income couple and the consequences of the greed of the big banks hadn’t yet emerged, so a new or an increase in mortgage was never a problem.

My other reason for looking back is the mortgage multiplier. Back then it was a simple 3⅓ x your annual salary and if that was enough to cover the loan you wanted then you were guaranteed a mortgage.

I worked for a London based credit insurance company, I had worked my way up the corporate leader and reached ‘middle management’. My salary was in the region of £28k and with London weighting, travel allowance and mortgage relief it soon went over the £32k mark. The mortgage I wanted was £90k; it was agreed within hours.

That was then and now is now.

I now have two children and up until recently, was on a zero hour contract. The fact that we have been paying a monthly rent that is bigger than most mortgage repayments is neither here n’or there. As far as the financial houses are concerned I am too big a risk.

On top of that they use far more complicated calculations and having dependents increases our risk factors. Add to that my current salary and the lenders run scared.

So that is why I’ve been harking back to the old days, but do you know what? I have two wonderful sons who I couldn’t love more than I do and who knows, now that I’m in full-time employment, maybe, just maybe there’s another Top Gun expert out there who can make thigs happen.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 18

I’ve been thinking outside of the box this week and trying to avoid reading the news.

Nothing to do with the local elections; I carried out my civic right and duty and put my ‘x’ in the box and it’s simply not possible to avoid seeing or hearing some sort of political party prattle.

No, the box I’m referring to is the one most people slot themselves into and shut the lid; that is most people who are sensible and weigh up the odds of things going wrong, those people who safeguard what they have and don’t risk it for a ‘maybe’.  The box that I was in and decided to jump out with my aspirations of owning my dream house in less than 10 years.

Not so much a Jack in the Box as a jack-ass for making the wrong decision.

But that was then and now is now and I’ve been looking at alternatives to the conventional brick built, ready made, with garden & drive kind of house. I have also been thinking about the environment, which has always been on my mind eversince my dear old dad brought home the first ever recycled loo roll in the 1970s; it was rather like wiping your posterior with newspaper, but we all showed willing. But it has also been headline news; diesel cars being the latest villain and I needn’t tell you what sort of car I drive.

So I’ve been wondering about cheaper environmentally friendly alternatives to the two-up-two-down.

Apparently earth houses are making a come back and what could be more eco friendly than living in a mud house? There’s cob, rammed earth and due to technological advances, earthbags. The images I have seen of earthbags are reminiscent of scenes from Dad’s Army with sandbags piled up outside houses, but apparently it’s hard wearing and of course very cheap.

Or there are wooden houses but you need to be careful about sourcing the wood and make sure it comes from sustainable tree farms. I quite like this idea and have visions of Little House on the Prairie with me on the wooden decking surrounded by fields of buttercups and children happily romping around with our pet dog. But dreaming aside, there is a wooden boarded house being built just down the road from us. It’s a two storey property with plenty of roofing that would be perfect for solar PV.  They seem to be taking forever to build it but that’s probably due to some planning hitch.

Then there are house boats; apparently they are becoming increasingly popular in London but the cold cramped conditions during our long winters doesn’t inspire me.

So having had my heart set and my aim fixed on a five bed detached with garden and drive, I’m no longer averse to the idea of something other than bricks and mortar and with this revelation, all I now need to do is find a plot and have enough money to buy said plot outright with enough left over to actually build my mud hut/house of sticks.

But as with all my ideas, something happened to change them all. I received a random email from a local estate agent attaching details of an ex-council house that was on the market for a very reasonable sum. It looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades, but that’s no problem to us.

So whilst I think about living like two of the three little pigs, I may just take a look at the bricks and mortar kind of house, it may not be earthbags but it’s more my bag.

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 17

allium

I’ve been thinking of flowers and fence panels this week.

When you’re waiting for your accountant to sign off your latest accounts, its useful to have something else with which to occupy your mind. He’s had the paperwork for a few days now so I’m hopeful he will be returning his findings very soon. It’s a bit like going to the doctor for a blood test; you go in, let them draw the blood, sometimes feel a little light-headed afterwards and then wait. They usually say they will phone you with the results but after a couple of days of hearing nothing, you wonder about phoning them don’t you?

I won’t be phoning our accountant though because I know from past experience he is pretty quick, so I expect to see something soon after the Bank Holiday Monday. I remain focussed on the end of May being decision time.

Anyway, going back to my flower and fence panels. One of the many drawbacks of renting a house is the garden; if it’s in pristine condition with borders that need weeding and rose bushes that need pruning, then you will almost certainly find a clause that states you must keep the garden neat and tidy and carry out all necessary pruning etc. From the landlord’s point of view this clause is quite right and proper, after all if they have invested time and money creating a beautiful garden, they will naturally expect their tenant to take care of it and maintain it accordingly.

But from the tenant’s point of view, they are unlikely to want to invest much of their time or money in someone else’s garden, after all, why should they if they are unlikely to benefit from it.

I think it’s fair to say most tenants are likely to only do what they are obliged to keep within the terms of their tenancy and most landlords know that is the case, so they are unlikely to provide a garden that has much more than a lawn and possibly some trees.

This has always been a disappointment to me because whilst I am certainly no Alan Titchmarsh, I do quite like a spot of gardening, nothing extravagant, a few flowers, some rose bushes and maybe a couple of shrubs. Gardening has been proven to be therapeutic and when we did have our own home and garden, I quite enjoyed rooting out the weeds and seeing the flowers emerging in the spring.

But at every house over the past 12 years I have cut the grass when I have to and weeded only when it was essential.

The house we are in at the moment has a front and back garden. The back garden is never used; the grass has to be cut with an industrial sized strimmer because of the stones and other debris covering the uneven patch of land. It’s not a place to enjoy, although the local deer seem to like it; there is evidently a plant there that they are quite partial to and we also have some chickens that occasionally stray into the area from who knows where.

However, the front lawn is not quite as bad; it’s possible to run my lawnmower over the surface without breaking the blade and a few weeks ago I noticed some leaves emerging along the border with the wall.

I knew they weren’t weeds because they had clearly been planted specifically in a row and anyway, I thought I recognised the leaves – tulips or similar.

So I have been carefully snipping the grass around their base and avoided slicing them into bits with the mower.

And this week something finally appeared at the top of the very long thin stems. It wasn’t what I was expecting, it definitely wasn’t a tulip, it was the size of a very fat grape, just as round and just as smooth. Most of these ball shapes were the same shade of green as the leaves, but one of them had a purple splash. Then one day, one of the little spheres burst open to reveal dozens of little stalks with dots on the end.

Not having a clue, I went to my online fountain of knowledge aka Twitter and asked one of my virtual flower buddies who told me within minutes that they were one of my all time favourite flowers, alliums

I don’t yet know what colours they are going to be but after saving them from decapitation and reinforcing their rather shallow planting with extra soil, I am looking forward to seeing them bloom. I’m also happy to nurture them so the next tenant can enjoy them.

Oh, then there’s the fence panel I mentioned. We don’t have one, or rather, we don’t have three. I think the fence belongs to our neighbour but I’m guessing they are also renting judging by the state of their garden, so it’s unlikely they will be interested in replacing the panels.

We are thinking of buying replacement panels and fitting them ourselves so it feels slightly less like a dump and when we sit outside on our recently tidied patio area, we won’t have to look at bits of rotten wood and the neighbour’s untidy garden.

But it’s not quite so easy as not decapitating flowers is it?

 

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It’s your move, or more likely mine. Week 16

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Only time will tell

~Time~

All things come to those who wait…so said Violet Fane in 1892; anything worth having is worth waiting for and if it was meant to be it will be…so said my mother on a regular basis.

If this past week is anything to go by then all of those quotes ring true.

Working on this premise, not only should we definitely have our own home before much longer, but when we do get it (and I am planning to make it happen this year), it will be worth its weight in gold.

~Life~

Life is made up of a myriad of different elements; it’s a kaleidoscope of experiences and targets that creates the diverse nature of our character and it is the (usually) brief moments of euphoria and happiness that help us to continue despite all the rubbish we have to deal with at the same time.

Take the lack of our own home for instance; if you’ve been following this blog you will know how much I detest renting and the guilt I suffer when it comes to not being able to give my sons a home we can call our own and everything that goes with that (having a pet, being able to hang pictures on the wall, changing a horrible colour scheme, etc), goes far deeper than you can imagine.

~Hard Work Pays Off

Anyway, this past week I have (as usual) enjoyed a great week at work and not for the first time I was reminded that determination to keep going and hard work really does pay off in the end. It may not happen overnight, but it will eventually.

I was also presented with an unusual opportunity I could never have foreseen when I first worked on a particular project several years ago. It harks back to a Parnham House article I wrote for Dorset Life Magazine in 2009 or to be more specific, the photos I took to accompany the article.

Following the terrible fire on Easter Saturday that destroyed this magnificent mansion, which I coincidentally used as a reference in my last post, I was contacted by one of the tabloids who asked if my photos were available for syndication.

It was one of those wow! moments when you get so excited you can’t stop smiling and you desperately want to tell someone about it asap.

Of course as with all euphoric moments, it was brief and soon faded, although I did reach an agreement with them and I am still extremely chuffed.

But the point I am making is all of this has taken time and/or effort to bear fruit and has made me feel buoyed and positive and dare I say, successful, briefly forgetting about our lack of a home we can call our own.

There was also another important event that happened last week, the completion of our 2016/17 company accounts, itself no easy task. We have sent them to the accountant for him to crunch the numbers. It’s now going to be a nail-biting wait to see what he calculates and the moment we get that document back, waiting is the one thing I will not do. The envelope won’t even have a chance to hit the doormat before I forward it onto the mortgage broker for him to re-crunch the numbers.

That really will be a testing time as we wait to hear the results and prepare to be either very disappointed or euphoric.

I am holding onto Violet and my mother’s sayings and hoping the long wait is now over and since we’ve been waiting for ever, it will all come to us; the difference with this euphoria is that it will last a whole lot longer than 24 hours!

 

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