Buying a House During a Pandemic

Moving house is probably not the top of everyone’s to-do list during a global pandemic, but once you’ve spent a month in lockdown, you begin to realise just how tiny your house really is.

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After weeks of screaming about how I swear we had more floor space than this, or has that wall moved closer? I knew it was time to start looking. After some convincing, my partner agreed that maybe we could take a look at a few houses and see how we felt.

We began viewing houses just after the government announced it was safe to do so again at the beginning of June. Now, usually the viewing part of house buying is the fun part, and it was…to an extent.

Some estate agents were great, arranging viewings for us straight away and letting us know exactly the right Covid procedures to follow. Whilst others seemed reluctant to allow us to view some houses at all, questioning if we really needed to see it under the current circumstances and warning us of the bad points of the house. I mean, I’m only trying to buy it from you, but fine, forget it!

For the houses that we did manage to view, the viewings were mostly conducted by the owners themselves. They awkwardly let us in and told us they’d be waiting out in the garden while we snooped around. For most of the houses we looked at (and there was a lot) we realised moments into the viewing that the house just wasn’t for us. We quickly discovered why there were no pictures of the garden on the website, or why the photo of the kitchen had been taken at that angle — once you’re in there’s no hiding it.

So, after 10 minutes of wondering around we would trudge out into the garden to face the owners. I tried to suggest we just sneak out the front and leave a few times, but my partner reminded me that might not put us in the good books with the estate agents. He was right, I suppose.

In the garden, faced with the eager owners and the muffled pleasantries within face masks, they would always ask — so what do you think?

If this was an estate agent, I would just be honest. Not for us I’m afraid, the bedrooms have damp, the kitchen walls are cracked and the garden is non-existent.

But when faced with the owner you can’t tell them that you’d probably give it a better look if their stuff wasn’t lying about everywhere and they’d bothered to put a new lick of paint over their dusty, yellow walls. So instead you say “Yeah, it’s nice. It has… potential”, or something…

You proceed to ask the standard questions: What’s the area like? How much is the council tax? And the big one — so why are you moving?

To our surprise the main answer to this was that the owners were separating. One seller even told us that when they first put the house up for sale they were just downsizing, but now they’re divorcing after lockdown proved too much.

If there’s anything to get you excited for buying your first home with your partner, it’s the thought that everyone else is selling up and divorcing.

After around 2 weeks of searching, we found a house we loved the look of. The only problem being, it was a bit far out from where we wanted to be. We had plans to move closer to the city, with dreams of being in the right area to get Wagamama’s on Deliveroo. Was this house worth sacrificing that for?

When we arrived for the viewing, we knew instantly we wanted to make an offer. The house had so much space and lots of quirky features — not forgetting the two outbuildings we had already planned to turn into a home office and a garden pub. After having one more viewing with my partner’s mum and dad (everyone needs their parents to give it the nod) we put our offer in.

Being the savvy, clued-up first-time buyers we thought we were, we went in 15k lower than the asking price.

This was immediately rejected.

Not wanting to miss out, we went in again just 10k lower, to which we were told another party had offered a similar amount and we should take some time to prepare our final offer. I know at this point you should try not to freak out — but we did.

We had some doubts over whether another offer really was on the table, as we knew this was a classic estate agent tactic to get you to up your offer. Even so, we were at a loss over where to go next. Should we bite the bullet and go in at asking price? Or stick to our guns and offer what we thought the place was really worth?

After much discussion and changing our minds every 5 seconds, we decided to go in with a final offer of 5k lower than asking price. Thankfully, this was accepted!

4 months later after lots of paperwork, crying and passive aggressive emails to solicitors (I won’t go there), we’re only weeks away from getting the keys.

Despite the pandemic, our house buying process has been a fairly good one and we’re so excited to start work on making our new house a home.

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