First Time Buyer Story - Emma

One of the most adult things you will ever do in your life is to buy a home.


Question is, are you ready to “Adult”?


I’m not sure if back in 2017 I was quite ready for the journey I was about to embark on.


Considering I had already completed two other fairly adult tasks No.1 being I was already a mammy to two daughters and No.2 I had just gotten married the previous year.


Yet the idea of buying a house ironically seemed far too grown up a decision to make.


In mid-2017 the house we had been renting for 7 years, my husband’s family home was about to be sold so we needed to make a decision whether to continue to rent another house elsewhere or potentially move back home to my parents to save for a home of our own. Although what felt like a huge ask of my mam and dad at the time for us, to them it was an opportunity to help us out on the road to buying our forever home.


So our journey begins...


Moving home at the time felt like I was taking a huge step backwards. I had left home at 20 to go out into the big bad world. I had my independence and I was only answerable to myself so what I thought was going to be a really testing time ended up being one of the best years of my life.


Once you make the decision to move home, the first thing that you need to do is sit down and make a plan. The plan should include roughly how long you want to be there.


Most will say obviously as short a time as possible but you need to be realistic.


You want to be able to save as much as possible in as little time possible while still contributing to the new household.


For us, as well as splitting the utility bills, we were able to transfer money to my parents' account as they were saving for an extension at the time so this was a win/win for everyone plus we would buy them a cheeky takeaway on a Saturday night!


There are tonnes of other questions that you need to ask yourself once you’ve settled on where you’ll be staying in the interim.


Q. Where do we want to buy?

A. For me it has always been the area where I grew up.


It was close to my parents, all of our friends and now more importantly, close to the kid’s school.


Q. Can we afford that area?

A. We knew it would be tough saving as the area was more on the expensive side but I could never envision living anywhere else.


Q. What's the demand for the properties going up for sale in that area?

A. Houses in the area we wanted would very seldom go up for sale, but when they did, one week the “For Sale” sign would be there and by the following week it would be gone or replaced by a “Sale Agreed”.


Q. If I find a house in the area that we love, are we in a position to put an offer in?

A. Sadly at that moment in time if our dream home came up for sale there wasn't a hope we’d be ready to buy it.


These are all very important questions but in real life, there were loads more and a lot we couldn't answer ourselves.


My dad put me in touch with an old friend of his named Enda, a financial advisor who basically helped us in every aspect of our journey and turned out to be our guardian angel.


I booked a meeting with Enda on a Monday evening for 6 pm, for us this was great because like a vast majority of people out there trying to find the time mid-week to make an appointment earlier than 5 pm is impossible. Turns out financial advisors, mortgage brokers, etc. are very flexible with their time and most offer later appointments because they understand people work during the day, they are saving for a mortgage after all!


We arrived at the meeting greeted with a friendly face and a reassuring promise of “We’ll get you there”. Little did we know what it would take to get us there. So we mapped out a plan of action.


This was a six-month plan to get us on the road to hopefully get approved for a mortgage.


We were in a great position to save by moving home, a far cry from the rat race of sky-high renting prices in the city.


We both had good, secure, well-paid jobs, but what was holding us back was our spending. We loved eating out, we wouldn't go out every weekend but when we did we’d go hell for leather. We would go to really pricey cocktail bars, ate at top restaurants where we would order some stupidly expensive bottles of wine with our meal then hit another cocktail bar for drinks after. Coupled with taxis in and out of town it made for a very expensive night out and with that once or twice a month was a good chunk out of the payslip. We loved going to the cinema, we probably went every second week. We ate out with our girls for dinner every Saturday or Sunday or even sometimes both. Top that off with my extremely unhealthy online shopping habit, having a good income was pointless.


This had to change.


A month or so after our meeting with Enda I was in my car pulling up outside my parent's house when I spotted my old neighbour two houses down filling a skip in her front garden.


Having not seen her for donkey’s years I walked up for a chat. The house had been rented by a family for 15 years and her mam had decided that it was finally time to sell up. If ever there was a sign that this was the house for me this was it, so I asked if she fancied a coffee... We chatted for a bit about what had been going on in our lives, how our parents were etc., and then about us moving home to save.


She knew from the get-go that I was interested in the house so she asked where I was in our mortgage application process. I explained that we needed 6 months with the banks to save the rest of the deposit and show our affordability.


I asked straight out if her mam would be in a position to hold off on selling for 6 months, and she agreed that if we could get a letter to show Approval In Principle that her mam would be happy to sell to us.


Like a bat out of hell, I was on to our broker to get the AIP letter, and just like that things started to get real. The letter was enough for the seller to trust that in six months' time we would be in a position to buy their home.


To give you an insight into how much I wanted this house, and believe me this was not my proudest moment and it's only very recently that my husband has forgiven me since witnessing the current house prices in our area.


I without my husband's knowledge put an offer in on the house before he had ever set foot inside it.


I know, I know, It was irresponsible and completely insane but if the was ever there was one thing I was sure of was:


A: These houses go up for sale and the “For Sale” signs turn to “Sale Agreed” as if by magic overnight, almost as if Tinkerbelle came in and sprinkled her fairy dust over them.


And...


B: As much work that this house was going to need I could never picture living in or raising my family in any other house other than this one.


Over the next six months we knuckled down with the savings, we ate out less. By less, I mean that instead of 2 colossal nights out every month, we settled for going out for special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. We’d only go to the cinema if there was a movie we wanted to see instead of just going to see whatever was on at the time. Most importantly we still had our family meal out with the kids on a Sunday.


Enda, our broker, would drop us an email every so often to see how we were doing and if we needed anything which was amazing to know that we could get in touch with him anytime to ask any questions however random or silly they may have been.


At this point, we had engaged the most important yet extremely frustrating part of the operation, our solicitor.


Now if you’ve been in the situation where you’ve previously purchased property or even just know some unfortunate soul who has completed their own house buying journey you will have seen the hours of back and forth conversation. Days of teeth pulling to get information and sleepless nights of wondering what will pop into your email inbox in the morning that will cause undue stress and anxiety, then you’ll be fully aware of how soul-destroying this part of the ride is.


If ever you needed to be reminded of how little control you have in this situation, the biggest financial arrangement of your life, you’ll soon realise it at this point.


For us, we were recommended our solicitor by a friend, so we had to trust in the process. Our friend had used this solicitor as well as their friends and family and turns out so did half of the area we’re from so her reputation was great!


This didn’t deter from the fact that the seller’s solicitor was incredibly slow to reply to our solicitor, that the sellers themselves were extremely relaxed about the whole process and were not entirely in a hurry to complete the sale to our timeline.


Fast forward to our 6-month deadline. We’re sweating, our bosses probably hate us due to the constant mobile phones glued to our palms, our friends would rather stick needles in their eyes than be around us but things were starting to happen.


The phone’s started ringing, the emails were hopping, WE WERE APPROVED!!!!


This was it, it was happening, it was real, all of a sudden things sped up with the solicitor, she was all about the chats!!!


For the first time on this whole journey, the ball was in our court. We chose our closing date and waited for the vendor’s response.


Within two days then sellers were in the house, skip in the garden, and like yo yo’s were in and out clearing the house as per our request, OUR REQUEST!


One week later to the day I had a Whatsapp voice message from my old neighbour to say that she had left all the sets of house keys with my solicitor and that she was looking forward to popping up for a glass of champers when we had settled in.


Just like that, that one voicemail was like a drug that instantly took all the stress and anxiety of the last year away.


I drove to my solicitors to collect the keys, and for one last time, like in the beginning I did so without informing my husband, but this time it was solely just so I could send him a picture of the house keys on the passenger seat of my car.


And that was that the journey that I genuinely at times thought would break me, break us eve, made me happier than I ever imagined possible.


The feeling was up there with giving birth to my children and saying “I do” to my husband.


Would I do it all over again? No! Absolutely never!


Do I have advice for anyone who is where I was at the start of this insane journey? Absolutely!


  • Whether you’re ready now or just thinking about the idea of maybe buying a house, speak with a broker, no one will give you better or more impartial advice. They’re there with your interest in mind, not any bank or financial institution. Ours was amazing, I’ve added his details below.

  • Make changes to your lifestyle that you can stick to.

  • Go out with your partner, friends etc. but keep it simple, not every weekend, but live your life.

  • Buying a house is a long road and you need the little breaks every once in a while to get through it.

  • If you can move home, move home. Your family will want to help in any way they can, let them!

  • Make sure you know what you want when it comes to buying your property, whether it's a stop-gap or your forever home be realistic but don’t settle! If You're not 100% it's what you want then put the breaks on and reassess your needs.

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff, If the process is rolling along, even if it's slow, don’t stress out over it, once it's rolling, roll with it... You’ll get there.

  • Once it's over it's done! When you get those keys in your hands, every worry, fear or anxious thought you’ve had along this hellish journey will melt away.

  • Enjoy your home, you’ve earned it!

Our Mortgage Broker was Enda O'Toole from G & E Mortgages. Enda was interviewed on the Get House Podcast. The episode details can be found here: https://www.gethousesurvey.ie/post/the-get-house-podcast-episode-1-so-you-ve-decided-to-buy


If you're starting your house buying journey the top tip we can give anyone is to engage with a mortgage broker and best of luck on your journey.


- Emma.