Today marks 1 year since Phil and I got the keys to our very first home. It was such a surreal experience letting ourselves in to a completely empty house on that first day, eating our KFC on the floor and letting it sink in that we were actually homeowners. It was such a fab feeling, especially after years of renting where you have a million and one rules of what you can and can’t do, not to mention all the restrictions of how your home looks. It’s so great to know that we have full control over the way we decorate and that, whatever we do when decorating, we aren’t paying out for, ultimately, someone else’s house to look good. Plus we weren’t allowed a dog in our rented houses and that just wasn’t ok with us anymore – less than a month after moving our last boxes in and we already had our new fur baby with us which was just the icing on the cake!
However, as amazing as buying a house is, there are a few things that people don’t tell you when buying a new build house…
1) Dust. Oh, the dust!
Building houses creates A LOT of dust. Actually a ridiculous amount. This dust then floats around the local area and makes it’s way in to your open windows/doors/air vents and settles around your home. And this will last until the development is finished (condolences if you’re one of the first waves of houses on a large development – I feel for you!). It’s a bit of a nightmare really and something I wish I had been prepared for when we moved in. So be prepared for every-other-day cleaning of windowsills and surfaces as you’ll learn very quickly that even a once a week clean means you’re wiping a layer of black dust off of every surface. It’s a nightmare.
2) You’ll need to learn to love Magnolia
New build developers paint every wall in the house in a light magnolia, breathable paint that helps the walls to dry out with minimal cracking – so you better get used to it as it takes around 9-12 months for your house to fully dry and, if you’re smart, you’ll wait until that time is up before you get out the rollers and start painting walls. Some cracking is inevitable, as the house drops a little and the walls contract as they dry, but if you follow the rules the developers give you then you can keep this to a minimum. But, realistically, who wants to paint a wall that’s going to crack anyway? We have friends who have painted quite quickly after moving in to their new build and then when the walls cracked they had to fill them in and then repaint which just strikes me as a bit of a waste of time and money. To me, it’s best to wait until the walls are dry which means putting up with the magnolia until they are.
3. The snag list
When you do your final viewing there will inevitably be some things that you notice that make the house a little less than perfect – a crack in the wall, a scratch on the oven handle, a mark on a banister etc. These all go on what your developer will call your “snag list”. These should all be fixed before you get the keys. Be prepared for them not to be and be prepared for that snag list to double or even triple over the next few months as you find more and more little things that you didn’t spot on that viewing day. You also need to be prepared for it to take some time to get these things fixed – we’re a year in and STILL waiting for a replacement banister because the one we have has marks down it. I don’t know a single developer that is perfect and doesn’t have some customers out there that haven’t had the best customer service experience. Redrow (our developer) as a whole were pretty good to us, bar some delays with our completion date, however they have been miles from great since we have completed and it’s like trying to move mountains just to get a reply from them. From the ton of other new build purchasers that I have spoken to this seems to be a running theme so be prepared to be a class-A nag if you want to get your issues resolved.
4) You’ll spend MONTHS with no curtains or blinds
A year in and we still have sheets up in many of our windows (and nothing in some of them, we’re not exhibitionists I swear!). The reason for this is, as you can’t really decorate for ages (see earlier point), we didn’t see the point in wasting money on curtains and blinds that we didn’t actually want. So until we start deciding on colour schemes and decorating styles for each room then we’ve just left the windows empty rather than putting unnecessary holes in the walls and spending money on things we’ll just throw away in the end.
5) You need a lot more than just your deposit money
Flooring, turf, garden gates, outside taps, garage electricity, dishwashers, certain tiles and any other “extras” aren’t included in the purchase cost. So, unlike when you buy a second hand house, you’ll be moving in to a house with cement floors, mud in the garden, basic electronics and no gates rather than one that’s ready to go. You can get your developer to put this stuff in for you, and if you’re super lucky they may even throw some of it in for free as an incentive to buy, however in most cases it’s miles cheaper to source an outside supplier to do this for you or even do it yourself if you’re confident in your abilities. Your developer will have a limited variety and will charge A BOMB for the pleasure so make sure you shop around to get a good deal.
There are also some things nobody tells you that just relate to first time buyers…
6) You’ll rearrange your furniture 50 thousand times
Unless you’re an interior design wizard or just really know what you want, you’ll end up moving things around and rearranging whole rooms about a million times before you settle on what you actually want. This is usually down to plans not being as practical in real life, realising you need more space than you thought, sometimes it’s just so you can fit in a certain item. I ordered a desk/console table for the hallway and, in my excitement/error, didn’t measure it properly first. Rookie error. Won’t be making it again. However, I fell in love with it so much that I was determined to find a place to fit it just so I could keep the desk of my dreams. I’d like to point out I have no use for a home desk (other than, y’no, it looking good) as I use my laptop on just that, my lap. Usually in front of the tv with a mug of tea precariously balancing next to me. I digress, I loved the desk. So I spent a whole day moving furniture around the house, determined to find somewhere for it to live. Anywhere for it to live. The living room is now completely different to how we had always planned it. But I have my desk. And it looks pretty. Unused, but pretty none-the-less.
7) Stamp duty is your worst enemy
Stamp duty is something that every homeowner has to pay – it’s basically a tax to buy a house. And you have to pay it every single time you buy a house. Joy. It’s calculated based on the cost of your property so the more your house is worth then the more you pay. It’s a pretty standard thing but just make sure it’s something you’ve calculated for, along with legal fees, your deposit (for a new build) and any other charges for local searches. I know quite a few first time buyers that weren’t aware of stamp duty and it put a plug in their buying plans as they didn’t have the cash to cover it – ours was nearly £4k!
This isn’t meant to put a downer on buying a house, or buying a new build, as it’s definitely one of the best feelings in the world! But these are just a few of the things I didn’t know before buying a house that I wish somebody had told me so that I had been prepared for them.
Our house is definitely still a work in progress, but it’s ours and we have the rest of our lives (or until we decide to move) to make it the home we want it to be.
Was there anything that surprised you when you were buying your first house?