Six months ago we bought our dream forever home and I’m humble enough to admit that it was a massive jump up the housing ladder for us. When we first started our house hunt two years ago, we never imagined that we’d end up with a home like this (take a look at the empty house tour!). But with a lot of hard work, a bit of a gamble, obliging sellers and some mortgage mastery – we did it! It’s getting increasingly harder to get on and move up the housing ladder and people are having to think outside the box in order to make any progress. I wanted to share our story to give some hope. We achieved something that we could only dream about, but I hope this gives you some inspiration on your journey.
When the architect and I got engaged four years ago, he was on his second home and I was living in my first. We decided to rent out my house and I made the move from Surrey to Hertfordshire with my little boy. One wedding, two babies, a loft conversion, a redundancy and several years later we had well and truly outgrown our tiny end of terrace Victorian cottage! We decided to put both houses up for sale and combine our equity to get a larger family home. Our budget in this part of the UK would have stretched to a 3-4 bed depending on how much work it needed. In the 18 months it took to sell both houses, we actually lost two houses that we were keen on. So after we lost the second, we decided not to look until we had an offer on the table.
At this time, the housing market was really slow. Prices were gradually dropping as people were trying to move things ahead. We started thinking outside the box at this point. Buying a ‘doer upper’ just wasn’t enough for us to get the type of house we wanted. Flipping a house was out of the question with three little ones and considering stamp duty, not financially viable either. So we had the idea to get a bridging loan and buy a larger property and split it into two, sell one and live in the other. We were also considering ‘going in’ with some good friends of ours who were also looking to move and had a similar budget to us. We knew that it would take a particular type of property to make this work and get it through planning. Luckily the husband is an architect and knows a thing or 20 about this sort of thing!
Then the miraculous thing happened… this house came on the market. Actually it had come back on the market after the buyer had pulled out just before exchange of contracts. Only through looking at the floorplan did we realise that the house was originally built as two. A light switched on, suddenly we were excited and inspired… but we had to stop ourselves from dreaming. The dream was very very far away at this stage. We went to view the house and LOVED it. I didn’t want to leave – it was everything we could have wished for and more. BUT it was also waaaay out of our budget – this was the type of house we could realistically get as a third or fourth home.
You’re probably wondering why we wasted their time going to view a house that was out of our reach? Because there was one very important question that would make or break the entire deal. We needed to know whether the title deeds had ever been merged… turns out there were still two title deeds. So on paper, there were two houses… this meant that we could potentially get two mortgages. While our genius mortgage broker was looking into it, we got an offer on our house!!! It felt like all the pieces were slowly coming together, but there was still a huge amount of work to do.
Our plan was to get a standard mortgage on one side of the house for us to live in and a buy-to-let (btl) mortgage on the other side. Even though we wouldn’t have the whole property to ourselves from the offset, we’d have the option in the long-term future to make the house one again if we wanted.
We had to show the mortgage surveyor that they were in fact a pair of semi-detached houses. Luckily there were already separate entrances and still two kitchens. But they also had to be blocked off internally. Our sellers were amazing and allowed us to put stud walls up to partition the houses so that we could get the mortgages granted. We had to jump through a few hoops along the way, such as write a letter of intent and explain why we had chosen one house over the other. Oh yes, and I’ll mention again how I had to go to the bank on my way to hospital in labour to sign the transfer for the house! Baby number 3 arrived just two hours later…
So there you have it, this is how we jumped the housing ladder! There’s still a long way to go on our house renovation (two-house reno!), but it feels like we’ve finally arrived at last.