Buying a house Moving house diaries
Buying and selling a house at the same time can be fraught with obstacles. We asked recent home movers what they wish they'd known before starting the process.
The three case studies below feature a mother of two who wanted a bigger house for her growing family, a young couple who used unusual methods to find their dream home, and a retiree who has downsized and relocated from an urban area to the country.
Our interviewees explain the challenges they encountered and how they overcame them, sharing advice so that you can try to avoid the same things happening in your own home move. You can watch our video interviews with them or scroll beneath each video to read written case studies.
Find out more: Buying and selling a property - everything you need to know about moving house
Kelly's story: buying a bigger house to accommodate a growing family
Kelly originally wanted a detached period property but ended up buying a terraced new-build townhouse. She advises those in a similar position to be more open-minded when viewing properties.
Kelly said: 'The property market where we live is so competitive that we weren't able to view any properties until we had an offer on ours, but we managed to sell our house quite quickly and didn't ever officially market it. We were lucky that the people that made the offer on our house were first-time buyers, and they were prepared to wait until we found our perfect home.
'It ended up taking us six months to find the house we wanted to buy. By that time, house prices had increased massively, which meant that we needed more money to be able to buy the house that we wanted.
'Another couple came in and offered more money, so unfortunately we went with them. It was a really difficult decision because we'd become quite emotionally attached to the first couple. My tip would be to try and leave the negotiating and the relationship of the buyers and the sellers to the estate agent, because I think it makes things cleaner in the long run.
'We initially wanted a detached period house with a drive and lots of parking. We ended up buying a terraced house which was a new-build. I wish that we had been more open-minded from the beginning, and looked at houses that didn't fit our strict criteria sooner, because actually the one we found works really well for us as a family.
'Our estate agents were quite high pressure and I didn't feel we were given much time to think about the things they were asking of us. In hindsight I would have taken a step back from every phone call with them and made the decision together with my husband instead of feeling I had to say yes or no straight away.
'The most surprising thing when we moved into the house was the amount of things the sellers had taken with them when they left - things like curtain poles and mirrors that were fitted above the sinks in the bathrooms, which we didn't think to include in the fixtures and fittings forms. The vendors had also verbally agreed to do things like replace a broken key fob and mow the massively overgrown grass, but none of those things happened! So it cost us a lot more than we'd budgeted to put those things right when we moved in.
'This process has definitely been worth it - it was stressful at times and there were days when we didn't think we'd exchange, let alone complete. Although this isn't our dream home, it's definitely a step in the right direction and we're really happy here.'
Find out more: Finding a property to fit your budget - five questions to help you find a suitable home
Sarah's story: downsizing to the country
Sarah took early retirement and downsized to a rural property. She discusses the importance of scoping out a neighbourhood before agreeing a sale, and what she decided to do with the belongings that wouldn't fit in her new, smaller home.
Sarah said: ‘I had the opportunity to take early retirement, and I decided to downsize from my previous property and move to a slightly smaller one. I was living in St Albans and I realised that by moving just three junctions up the M1 I was able to get a £500 reduction on my council tax, so my bills were also going to be reduced by downsizing.
‘I love the location, I've got sheep at the end of the garden, ducks and hens, so it's the rural setting that I wanted. However, after moving in I found that services were actually two miles away, there's no bus and the road outside is too busy to walk along. I hadn't realised that before I moved in.
'When we had the offer made on our property, it was for about £40,000 less than the asking price. My initial reaction was that I didn't want to accept it, but then I found that the property my estate agent had been selling locally didn't ever seem to go for as much as it was being advertised for.
‘I would recommend you think carefully about packing when you're downsizing. I'd been told it doesn't take long, but I allowed four weeks and it wasn't enough time - even on removal day, I was still packing.
‘Emotionally, downsizing is very difficult because for every item you own you have to decide whether to keep it, take it to a charity shop or bin it. It is really tough to do. I used recycling sites like Freegle and Freecycle because then your possessions will have a new life instead of going to landfill. My advice to other downsizers is don't put your things in storage; you'll be paying a bill every year for something you don't need and will never use.'
Find out more: Investigating a neighbourhood - we suggest how to find a great area to live
Amy and James's story: buying a house privately
Amy and James found couldn't find a suitable property listed with an estate agent - so they ended up taking matters into their own hands...
Amy and James said: ‘When we first decided to move, our vision of how the process would proceed would be that we would, within two months, have sold our property, had an offer accepted on where we would like to move to, and things would go very smoothly. But actually, it took us three months to even get an offer, and it was about six months before we'd completed the sale on it.
'Because we were competing with people in a much better position than us (because we still hadn't sold our flat), we decided to concentrate on making ourselves chain-free - so we sold the flat and moved in with our parents. Living with our parents was...interesting! But we were fortunate because we were able to live rent-free for as long as we needed.
'The process of trying to find our dream house was taking longer than we'd anticipated, so we decided to think outside the box and leaflet drop in two streets. It was an ambitious idea, but within the hour we had a reply and we ended up buying that house.
'We got to cut out the estate agent and the process of having to compete with other buyers which was a real plus, and from the vendor's point of view she saved money on the estate agent fees. She also had two kids and didn't have time to decorate and get her house ready to put on the market, so it saved her hassle as well.
‘If you can develop a bit of a relationship or at least have an open conversation with the seller about your position it definitely helps, and if you can get them to like you that's even better - I think that plays a big part of it. People are emotionally attached to their houses, and selling it to someone that they consider nice probably gives them peace of mind.'
Find out more: Estate agent alternatives - how to buy a house without estate agents
- The Which? home-buying quiz - how much do you know about mortgage and home-buying?
- Which? Money Compare mortgage tables – explore mortgage deals with Which? Money Compare
- Moving home: step-by-step guide – who needs to do what, and in what order
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