Statistician Simran Sokhi, 33, tells us about buying her first home and the lessons she learned along the way.
I started saving for my first home two years ago. I left the dark, grubby basement studio in Finchley that I was renting for £900 a month, and moved back in with my parents in Buckinghamshire.
Although my commuting costs went up, living at home meant I could start saving up the money I’d previously been spending on rent while still enjoying life.
I was looking at places in Buckinghamshire and Berkshire and Hertfordshire but didn’t know exactly what location I wanted – I just knew it needed to be close to London but also somewhere I could escape from the city. London can be quite intense and I wanted somewhere green.
The highs and lows of house hunting
I did consider shared ownership but I read that selling these properties can be tricky, and you have to pay more and more to try and reach full ownership.
Some shared-ownership properties are stunning and in great areas of London, so I completely understand why people would go for one, but I decided to sacrifice the beauty and proximity to my office for 100% ownership.
I viewed approximately 15 to 20 properties in High Wycombe, Maidenhead and St Albans. I put an offer in on one property but the estate agent was very aggressive, saying I had three days to get all my paperwork in order.
I said I needed a week, and was then gazumped. It dented my confidence for a couple of weeks, but I soon got back on the horse.
- Find out more: first-time buyer schemes
Finding the right property
In September, I decided to try searching slightly over my budget on Rightmove, and that’s how I found the place I ended up buying.
It’s a one-bed flat in a three-storey 1990s building with sandy brickwork. I wouldn’t say I got the ‘feeling’ – I don’t really get emotional about material things so I didn’t walk in and say: ‘Wow! This is the house of my dreams!’ However, I could see a lot of potential and it seemed like a good flat to get on the property ladder with.
There’s a lot of light, there’s parking, it’s close to the train station and it’s in a gated development, which is important to me. It just ticked all my boxes, so I put an offer in.
My first offer was rejected so I went back for a second viewing. I said that the bathroom would need replacing so the price needed to come down, and eventually we met halfway, which felt fair.
- Find out more: house-viewing checklist
Waiting to exchange
The sale took about five months to complete, but I didn’t mind waiting. I know a lot of people don’t enjoy that aspect but for me it was a nice break from the pressure of making such a huge decision.
It gave me time to process how I was feeling about buying a home. As a first-time buyer, every step is new, overwhelming and a little bit scary, so there were definitely moments when I wondered whether I was doing the right thing.
If I have one piece of advice for other first-time buyers, it would be to really think about who your solicitor is. I had so many questions about the management fees, service charges, the lease – it may as well have been written in Russian for all I understood of it, and my solicitor seemed irritated when I asked questions.
On the other hand, I found the mortgage process fairly straightforward. I put in a 20% deposit and took out a two-year fixed-rate mortgage on the advice of Which? Mortgage Advisers, who were really helpful and friendly.
It was great having them on the other end of the phone to help with questions and reassure me.
My little patch
I officially became the owner of my flat on 21 January, but I’m still living with my parents as the flat needs new heating, carpets and redecorating.
I had originally been looking for somewhere I could move straight into. I’m not a very creative person so I find decorating quite anxiety-inducing – there are just too many paint colours!
Even though I haven’t moved in yet, owning my own home gives me a feeling of stability – it’s my little patch. I do feel a sense of accomplishment and it’s a really nice feeling to be able to say: ‘This is my flat.’