First-time buyer faces £7k bill to fix-up 'bargain' three-bed house – but is it worth it?

GETTING the keys to your first home is supposed to be a relief but for Emma Nairn it's just the beginning of at least £7,000 worth of renovation.

Even though Emma paid for a survey before buying the property, the senior complaints officer from West Yorkshire still faces paying thousands to replace an old boiler, broken toilet and a leaking water tank.

Buyers often pay for a survey of the property before handing over the cash to make sure that it's in a good condition and to avoid any unexpected repair costs when they move in.

Surveys can cost anything from £200 to more than £1,000, but the depth of information you get from the report depends on how much you're willing pay.

Emma, 32, paid £280 for a HomeReport which alerted her to the old boiler. This gave her leverage to negotiate £7,000 off the £100,000 asking price.

In the end, she paid £93,000 for the three-bed mid-terrace house – £10,000 less than the average price of a terrace house in Knottingley, according to Zoopla.

But because the type of survey she opted for didn't include checking the attic, she didn't discover the leaking water tank until after she got the keys.

She was hit with another shock when her utility company told her the boiler was so old that the manufacturer no longer makes the parts.

This means that when it breaks, she faces replacing the whole thing which could end up costing her around £2,000.

Emma, who moved in in June this year, has already sought professional quotes for fixing the issues, and combined with her own estimations, she fears it will cost her another £7,000 to do up the house.

She's confident that the house "won't fall down", so for now she's donning the overalls and learning DIY so that she can do much of the work herself while she continues to save for the repairs.

Even though it's been a bumpy road to home ownership, Emma reckons the sacrifices are worth it. She explains why in this week's My First Home.

Where do you live and how much did you pay?

I bought my three-bed mid-terraced house in Knottingley, West Yorkshire, for £93,000 in June this year, and now live here on my own – with my shih tzu, Teddy.

The place is pretty big – and I think I’ve done quite well in terms of space for the amount I paid.

On the ground floor, there is a decent-sized living room, a kitchen big enough for a dining table, and a utility room which is big enough to house the fridge and washing machine but which is currently cluttered with DIY "to-do" projects.

Upstairs, there is a toilet, separate bathroom with shower and bath, and three bedrooms – two of which are double rooms.

There is a small garden at the front of the house, and a big garden at the back with decking, and then steps down to a grassed area.

When I first moved in, this was totally overgrown, but I’ve worked hard – and got lots of help from friends and family – to clear all this back.

What sort of issues are there with the house?

I love my home, but it is very outdated, and could really do with a major cash splurge.

I need to add more sockets to most of the rooms as I’m currently trying to manage with one socket per room and a load of extension leads.

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I need to replace the lights as they are old and not very environmentally-friendly. I also need to replace the leaky water tank in the loft, and the rotting front door.

Many of these were things I’d not even considered when looking around the property.

On top of that, the whole place is covered in nasty wallpaper and decor which I want to tear down.

I’ve had the odd professional quote and looked up tradesmen prices and have worked out it’s going to cost me at least £7,000 to fix.

It’s an estimate, one I'm worried about looking into too much as it’s likely to be a lot higher.

I’m also dreading the fact that I’m going to have to replace this antiquated boiler at some point – I just can’t afford that expense right now.

Did you know about the problems before you bought it? And was paying for a survey worth it?

Before buying, I’d done my sums really carefully to ensure I could afford all the costs associated with buying and moving – and that I’d also be able to afford all the regular bills and outgoings once I moved in.

But what I hadn’t accounted for was all of these extra expenses I was going to face.

I paid £280 for a HomeReport which threw up a few issues, such as the fact the boiler was old, but I didn’t go for the survey that offered recommendations to fixing it.

I knew it was old, but what did I know about boilers? It worked and I assumed that’s all that matters.

It wasn’t until the utility company came to fit a smart meter that it told me that it no longer makes the parts for that kind of boiler, so if it breaks for whatever reason, I’ll have to pay to replace the whole thing.

What are the different types of home surveys?

The reports are carried out by qualified surveyors and costs vary from company to company. There are also different types of surveys depending on the depth of the report that you want and your budget.

These are the different types of surveys and their typical prices, according to the Homeowners Alliance:

Condition report, £300 or more

This gives a traffic light report to indicate the conditions of various states of the property – green for okay, orange for cause for concern.
The report provides you with a sumary of defects and possible risks but won’t provide any advice or valuations.

HomeBuyers report, £450 or more

On top of everything you get in the condition report, you’ll also get a valuation and an insurance reinstatement value – which is an estimate of how much you’ll receive if the building were to burn down.

Home Condition survey, £400 to £900
These are carried out by the Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA) rather than the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and includes information on broadband speeds, a damp assessment and boundary issues to consider. The price depends on the valuation of the property.

Building survey, £500 or more

These are extensive reports where the surveyor will go into places such as the attic, check behind walls and look between floors and above ceilings. It will also provide advice on repairs, estimated costs and timings, and what will happen if you don’t carry out the repairs. Prices depend on the size of the property.

The survey didn’t pick up the leaking tank either but I didn’t pay for a report that involves them checking in the attic. I only noticed the bucket collecting water when I moved in.

Looking back, I don’t think I need the survey – but that's not suggesting that I'd advise others not to get one.

I’d already had a mortgage valuation survey provided by the lender so for me it wasn't essential for the process, although sometimes it can be.

I did it for the piece of mind. The house wasn't going to fall down but it wasn't as informed as it could of been and it highlighted nothing in particular and seemed more of a valuation.

I’m going to have to work hard – and continue making sacrifices on things such as holidays – so I can pay for all these additional costs.

That said, it’s definitely a sacrifice worth making.

Choose an older house, even after you factor in the extra costs, is well worth it, not to have a new-build house like everybody else's on the street. This house has years of personality.

How much did you pay for it?

The house was on the market for £100,000, but as I was on a very tight budget and there were a few things I’d need to do to the property I initially went in low, and made an offer of £85,000.

The owner rejected this, so I went back with a second offer of £90,000. The owner counter-offered at £93,000 and I agreed.

My offer was accepted at the beginning of April.

Emma’s tips for getting on the property ladder:

  • Open a Help to Buy ISA to help build your deposit.
  • Get thrifty at charity shops and local car boot sales. Remember, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
  • Try selling things you no longer want to help pay for things you need. But if you spot something at a charity shop or car boot sale which is not on your list, don’t splurge. Keep the purse
    strings tightened at all times.
  • Sign up to cashback sites, such as Topcashback and add these to your toolbar for sites such as eBay.
  • Always keep an eye out for discounts, coupons and offers.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how stupid they seem. No-one likes to look as though they don’t know what they are talking about, but if mortgages and surveys and conveyancing aren’t your area of expertise, don’t pretend that they are. I wasted a lot of time on Google trying to find the answer to questions I was too scared to ask the estate agent, mortgage advisor or surveyor.

In the end, I was able to put down a £5,000 deposit and then took out a mortgage for £88,300, as I added some of the mortgage fees to the home loan.

I took out a two-year fixed-rate mortgage with the Post Office at a rate of 3.9 per cent over a term of 22 years.

How did you find the property?

I signed up with Google property alerts and went to see a lot of places before this one.

But this house stood out because of its location – and the fact it was close to the motorways and A-roads meaning I can easily get to work in Leeds and to see family and friends in Doncaster.

When I viewed the property, I felt quite out of my depth, as I’d never been through the house-buying process before, and there were so many things to get my head around.

Fortunately, my sister came with me, and she was really nosey.

This was a great thing, as she insisted on going up the ladder into the attic – although we didn’t spot the leaking water tank – and on asking questions about the ancient boiler.

I knew this house was going to need a lot of work, but I also knew it was the one for me.

I went to see it three times, and then made the decision to make an offer.

How did you afford to buy a home?

When trying to save for a deposit I soon realised that not having to pay rent was going to make the biggest difference, so when my family moved from Doncaster to Leeds in 2012, I made the decision to move back home.

While it was a real help in financial terms – as I only had to pay basic board and bills of around £500 a month – it was pretty tough living at home again in my late 20s and early 30s.

I had to get used to not having much space, and spent a lot of time retreating to my bedroom to get a bit of privacy.

In 2016, I moved in with my partner for around a year. Once again, I paid basic board and bills, but this was still a lot cheaper than paying rent.

In total, I saved hard for around four years, and in that time, I was able to build a deposit of £4,000.

I put my savings into a Help to Buy Isa with Lloyds Bank as I already had my current account with Lloyds.

I then got a Help to Buy Isa £1,000 bonus which really helped me.

What was the hardest part about buying the house?

The hardest thing for me was not knowing if I was doing the right thing. Every step of the way I was scared I was going to get scammed or ripped off.

I didn’t have the money to pay for financial advice, so I felt as though I was taking this massive step without much support or guidance – and essentially I only had Google to help me.

The seller also wanted a quick sale, yet the conveyancing process seemed to take forever, and I didn’t sleep much during those months as I was so worried the purchase would fall through.

How did you feel when you completed?

Once I finally got the keys, I felt as though a massive weight had been lifted.

Buying my first home on my own has definitely been my biggest accomplishment to date.

At the same time, I also felt scared about whether I would be able to make it work – and whether I’d be able to afford all the costs associated with actually owning and running my own place.

How did you afford the furniture?

Having spent all the money I had saved up just buying the property, I didn’t have much left over for furniture, so have relied on hand-me-downs from family, friends and work colleagues.

I’ve got my Dad’s old sofa, Mum’s old dining table and chairs, and my grandparents gave me their old outdoor furniture.

I also spend every Sunday morning getting up at 6am and hunting around the local car boot sales.

What help is out there for first-time buyers?

Help to Buy Isa – It's a tax-free savings account where for every £200 you save, the government will add an extra £50. But there's a maximum limit of £3,000 which is paid to your solicitor when you move.

Help to Buy equity loan – The government will lend you up to 20 per cent of the home's value – or 40 per cent in London – after you've put down a five per cent deposit. The loan is on top of a normal mortgage but it can only be used to buy a new build property.

Lifetime Isa – This is another government scheme that gives anyone aged 18 to 39 the chance to save tax-free and get a bonus of up to £32,000 towards their first home. You can save up to £4,000 a year and the government will add 25 per cent on top.

Shared ownership – Co-owning with a housing association means you can buy a part of the property and pay rent on the remaining amount. You can buy anything from 25 to 75 per cent of the property but you're restricted to specific ones.

"First dibs" in London – London Mayor Sadiq Khan is working on a scheme that will restrict sales of all new-build homes in the capital up to £350,000 to UK buyers for three months before any overseas marketing can take place.

Starter Home Initiative – A government scheme that will see 200,000 new-build homes in England sold to first-time buyers with a 20 per cent discount by 2020. To receive updates on the progress of these homes you can register your interest on the Starter Homes website.

I’ve bought wardrobes and a few sets of chests of drawers for a good price – and one of my best bargains was a Rangemaster cooker for just £80.

In addition, I’ve used Topcashback when paying for insurance and other utility bills, and recently got £110 cashback when I purchased my home insurance and pet cover.

I also use Topcashback when buying things on eBay, and got 5 per cent cashback when buying my washing machine. Every little bit helps keep costs down.

What’s the area like?

My priority when finding a house was to pick the best location I could find in West Yorkshire so I could easily get to both family and friends in Doncaster, and to my job in Leeds.

Knottingley is right in the middle, and has connections to all the major roads I need meaning it only takes about 20 minutes to get to see family – and a similar time to get to work.

The village I’m in is quite small, and my house is tucked away in a cul-de-sac so it’s pretty quiet in terms of traffic.

My neighbours seem really friendly and happy to help with any queries I have. I’ve also been to the local pub, and everyone seems very welcoming.

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