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Flat hunting. Or not.

18 June 2009 by superlative

I’ve just realised that I haven’t blogged for nine whole days! Very poor of me, I apologise. It’s not because of been working or anything, don’t be silly, but I’ve been away from a proper computer for a while so haven’t had the chance. We’ve been up at Chris’ Mum’s house for a couple of days because she’s just had a hip replacement, and so like dutiful sons (I’m sort of her son now) we went to help look after her.

Anyway, in a shocking departure from our usual lethargy and inaction, we’ve actually started flat hunting properly and have been to see a couple of places. The first one was on Saturday and was in Hanover, which is a nice part of Brighton about 10 minutes from where we are now. It was a very nice flat, really nicely decorated inside and with a nice modern kitchen and bathroom. You wouldn’t need to change anything inside really. But you could unfortunately only live there if you didn’t own any belongings at all. The living room wasn’t that small, but due to the location of the fireplace and the window and the door to the kitchen, we couldn’t even work out where we’d put our telly. The master bedroom was nice but had no room for a wardrobe, and the second bedroom could just about take a double bed but nothing else. So it would never have worked. It was more of a flat for a single person, who could then put all their stuff in the spare bedroom.

We were meant to see two more flats last night, but due to the ineptitude of the estate agent he’d booked it in wrong and so could only show us one of them. This one was in Kemptown, on a nice road near the sea, but it was HORRIBLE. Really really horrible and shabby. Chris said he wouldn’t rule it out for the right price, but honestly I could never see myself living there. Only the kitchen was nice, and the bathroom was just about bearable if a bit small, but even that didn’t have a window. All the other rooms would need complete redecorating, there was a banister hanging out of the wall, the plug sockets were cracked, and the hot water tank was in a cupboard in the main bedroom. And the bedrooms were too small. And it only had a 75 year lease. And it was just nasty. And they wanted £185,000 for it! So no, I’m not going near it. I don’t think Chris liked me saying a flat “no I don’t like it”, because he probably suspects I’ll never like anything, but in this case I don’t think I could even bear to live there, let alone like it.

So it’s not been going great so far. We’re seeing another one on Friday night which looks much nicer but is a bit more expensive so we’d have to make a low-ish offer for it.

And still I’m thinking should we buy or should we rent or should we not move at all. I could just clear out all our clutter and we’d have a lot more room in the flat, and we could consider buying a nicer sofa bed for guests. I even looked up ways of reducing the noise through our front windows, because that would solve another of the problems with our current flat. It would be nice to have a second bedroom though.

Most people that I ask say “oh you should buy, it’s the best time to buy, prices haven’t been lower in years”. But I get the impression that they don’t actually know what the market is like for first-time buyers with a 10% deposit.

Prices have come down a bit yes, but there’s a shortage of supply as people aren’t putting their houses on the market until prices pick up. So the only ones selling are those who really need to sell. This reduces the choices available, and keeps prices artificially higher than they otherwise would be.

And the mortgage market for 90% mortgages is NOT favourable in my opinion, I’ve looked loads. The base rate is 0.5%, but all the 90% mortgages are offered at 6% or higher, which makes them really quite expensive per month (more than £950, sometimes more than £1,000). We could just about afford that, but if the roof fell in we’d have no spare cash. I’ve been waiting for the mortage market to loosen up a bit as lenders get more confident, but if anything it seems to have got worse this month rather than better. I heard there might be a few better deals around in June, but they didn’t materialise and rates have actually got higher.

So I don’t know. I’m still conflicted, as you can see. And it’s thoroughly boring to be thinking about it all the time, and to be talking about it all the time. I wish we had a nice fat 40% deposit, or even 25%, then it certainly would be a good time to buy. Maybe I’ll buy a lottery ticket on the way home…

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