Buyers Beware! : 5 Pitfalls I overlooked in my Home buying Process

The housing landscape is a right minefield. Amidst the housing crisis, the rising median age of the average home buyer, the constant battle of affordability, putting aside a deposit with rising costs, and stagnant earnings, getting a house might feel harder, more like a herculean task these days. Yet it was something I always wanted to do.

I had a growing family. I wanted a home for my girls to make memories. I was tired of dealing with rogue landlords who were quick to collect rent but would take 3 months to fix a broken shower. I had also had it with estate agents stringing me along only to drop me at the very last minute for someone they felt was a more “suitable” tenant ( No digs at landlords there, they are right to have their preference on tenant choice).

I ditched my quest to find a “better” landlord and decided to buckle down on coming up with my deposit money.

The plan was to get something modest. A modest house for me is a not too large, not too small house in a decent area because of my young people and school catchment which is a thing here in the UK.

I had carefully gone through the checklist of:

  • Guarding my credit like my life depended on it
  • Working out my affordability
  • Getting an agreement in principle
  • Narrowing down on the location of choice
  • And most importantly ensuring my deposit money was all complete and ready to drop

So here is how it all went down with my house purchase decision.

After endless calls, endless cancellations, endless viewings with estate agents, and a couple of rejections and disappointments I finally found the one (house hunting did feel like my dating days)

It was not my dream home, but it’ll do for now. I consoled myself that it was at the very least a step away from all the housing drama I had encountered prior and a step closer to the base of the housing ladder.

Now estate agents are smooth-talking, sweet-talking professionals who managed to coo and convince me that it was all going to be a seamless journey from here on. If I had an inkling of what was to come I would have vetted more, paused more, and ignored their nudges and subtle pressure for a swift completion during the whole process.

These were the pitfalls I fell right into:

1. Not hiring a solicitor that worked for me

Finding the right partner in the solicitor or conveyancer is the first step towards making a house purchase as hassle-free as possible. They run the legal bits of a house purchase process, do the searches, raise queries, handle the contracts, and transfer monies on completion.

I naively dismissed all the advice on the internet on going with recommendations, doing my independent searches, and going along with the solicitor recommended by the estate agents marketing the home I was about to purchase.

After all, I didn’t have any, no harm in using theirs. The estate agents claimed they had a lead on the solicitors, had worked with them on several occasions, and that it would make my completion quicker than the average completion time of 14 weeks! (Thinking about it retrospectively, what was the hurry about to beat the UK average completion time? There was no pot of gold or prize at the end)

What truly happened was the opposite of what I was sold, a process far from seamless.

 I must mention that my gut felt uneasy on my first call with the solicitors. As soon as the lady on the other end of the phone started reading out terms to me stating that the estate agents earn a commission from the transaction, I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

I still stupidly went along. What was the worst that could happen?

Well, a lack of communication happened.

There were weeks of silence. There were rude, unprofessional, unhelpful emails and attitudes to deal with. I was constantly chasing, following up, clarifying, reconfirming. Doing all manner of sorts felt like I ended up doing most of the solicitor’s work for them. It was an unpleasant experience that left me worn out throughout the home-buying process.

I had no choice but to soldier on. If things were to fall apart, I had more to lose in the solicitor’s fees I had paid upfront and a considerable percentage of their balance which they charge irrespective of the deal not falling through.

2. Being desperate

Here is where the phrase “keep calm and carry view on” would have served me very well.


Now I was purchasing a home with my heart and not my head. That made me a tad little desperate. A house purchase is too much of a major purchase to not carefully weigh out logically.

Once estate agents get the tiniest sense that you like a property, they would play games.

Games like pitching you against another prospective buyer or coercing you into using their mortgage broker (by the way they earn a commission on this as well)!

It sounds counterintuitive especially when you live in a low-stock, high-demand area. My preferred location had a high demand and under-supply of housing within a certain price range. And even though it was not necessarily a seller’s market, finding a house within budget was HARD!

Awkward house viewings with at least ten other families like mine vying to buy the same house. Viewings with other buyers sizing each other up, looking over our shoulders without enough privacy to fully take in a property in.

So you can imagine my relief when I came across the house I ended up buying.

3. Not doing enough independent vetting and due diligence

Although, I got an independent survey report done. I should have been wiser to have the gas and electricity independently checked. Instead, I relied on the gas and electric certificate provided by the vendor. They were well within the completion date and looked to be done by a registered professional so I assumed it was all good.

This was another big pitfall, the costliest of all. To my biggest surprise on moving in, the boiler was broken and did not work, not even for a single day!

Picture how cold and freezing the house must have been in late December right at the peak of winter. I had to pay out of pocket to get a new boiler installed. It was a substantial unplanned expense right after all the other attendant expenses that come with buying a house.

It would have cost me around £100 to have the gas and electricity checked independently by a professional of my choice. Perhaps I would have been in a better place by fully knowing what I was getting myself into or better still I could have negotiated a discount on the house price.

And you guessed it right. The solicitors, estate agents, and everyone involved in the process absolved themselves!

4. Not paying attention to owed debts on the property address

This might seem trivial in the bigger picture of things. It’s also hard to tell that there is an outstanding debt on a property as you only spot this when you have access to the property.

Solicitors would usually check for charges (financial claim), or any encumbrances on property. However, things like utilities could have been left unpaid for months or service completely cut off on the property.

In my case, it was another surprise I had once I moved in. A couple of days later demand letters on overdue gas and electricity arrived like clockwork. All addressed to the “Owner/ Occupier”.

This shouldn’t be a big deal to sort out right? It can be a bother when you are dealing with a difficult supplier. After many attempts to open a new account, several calls and emails to customer service, and the request to update their systems all seem to fall on deaf ears.

 As I write this post, months later, there isn’t still a full resolution on things. Only time will tell how things play out.

The mistake of working with the wrong partners came out to haunt me again; the solicitors didn’t do much to chase the seller’s side on settling the debt.

5. Taking the property location at face value

I had read in several articles that you should view a property on different days and times of the day to get a good feel for the area.

Well, I didn’t follow this advice too. I viewed the property thrice – at the weekend, and an evening on a weekday. That was it, I noticed the school was just a two minute walk away but didn’t think it would be too much of an issue for me.

This can be a good and a bad thing. A good thing if you have children attending the school, they are right at your doorstep and mornings needn’t be chaotic. A bad thing if you are trying to get out at the same time as drop off and pick up times of 8:20 am and 3:20 pm.

In my driving life, I had never experienced the combination of crazy driving, crazy parking, and impatient drivers momentarily losing the knowledge it took to pass their driving test!

I am lucky not to have to deal with this daily as my work affords me to luxury of not going out around this time.  

On the positive, the sound of children chattering away and the playground noises warms me. It reminds me of the innocence and carefree world our childhood affords – a precious, precious time of our lives.

My list could probably extend to ten things; but let’s keep it to my favorite five.

You can also check out this guide from the Times on buying property in the UK.

Comment and let me know how your home purchase experience went.

Was it blissful and dreamy? Or was it a stressful, worse experience than mine?

Share what you’ll do differently. Let us learn a thing or two from you.

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