In early September 2021 I shared that I was buying and selling a house. I currently live in commuter belt Knebworth (but yet don’t work in London much) in Hertfordshire and am moving to a beautiful town called Royston, still in Hertfordshire but much closer to Cambridge. I thought it would be useful to share my house journey with process and costs to demonstrate how complex/simple the process is in real time. I’ll be sharing posts every couple of weeks, or when big things happen along the buying and selling a house journey. This post was published on 10th Sept 2021.
This decision has been on my mind for around a year. In 2021 everything slotted into place head and heart wise. I wrote a big pros and cons list for moving, with the pros list being far longer. The decision was made I needed a fresh start and moving house was on the cards.
Getting divorced and living in the same village (also where your ex still lives) you have lived in for the past 15 years is tricky. Everyone knows everybody’s business and I don’t like it. Plus how do you date, a drink at the local pub is a risk as someone you know is bound to be there!
A fresh start is very appealing. Financially moving house will make a big difference to my monthly outgoings. I will reduce my mortgage by at least £100k. This will make a HUGE difference to my monthly payments and will mean I can work towards my goal of financial independence more quickly by paying off my mortgage quicker.
There are practical considerations, but where I lose with one hand, I gain with the other. I will be driving my children to school, as these won’t be changing. This will be a 30 minute drive, but I will be saving 30 minutes with the drive to football. I spend as much time per week driving to football in Cambridge/Newmarket/St. Neots as I do dropping off to school! The train links to Royston are good, its on the Thames link so has fast trains into London and the stations in between.
There is a welcoming feeling and charm to Royston. I knew the first time I ever went there that I liked it. The people are friendly, there are nice restaurants and pubs. And there are the Royston Caves seeped in history with the best shop ever selling everything that I love. There is a ley line that runs from my home, Mounts Bay & St. Michael’s Mount through Glastonbury through Royston to Bury St. Edmonds.
Many reasons of practical and heart variety. I am doing this, I am moving.
My House Goes on the Market
My estate agent of choice is Darren of Mather Marshalls. He has done a lot for the village of Knebworth, running community events like the Christmas Lights switch on and also giving a lot of donations to the primary school where all my children have all gone. Plus he already had pictures of my house from a previous time when the house was for sale.
He came to the house to redo the valuation and to discuss selling fees. I got a deal. Always, always negotiate with an estate agent, their fee of 0.75% (this is around normal in Hertfordshire, but I have seen higher) is not set in stone. The valuation price was good, as expected. £475k and considerably more than the valuation in the divorce just over one year ago. House prices have gone up so much in the past year! I signed the contract and the house went on the market on Saturday 28th August.
We walked the house and wrote a snagging list of all things that needed a fix before the viewing day which we agreed was to be an ‘open house’ type event on the following weekend. This gave me one week to get tons of things done. Most things my eldest son and I did ourselves, jet washing the patio/driveway, weeding, tidying garden, de-cluttering house, light bulbs and lighting replacement, de-moulding, painting bathroom and bedroom ceilings. I stripped, refilled, sanded and painted the bathroom ceiling, it took forever, but I was very proud of my work and it saved me £150. I got a handy man, (my neighbours partner!) to fix the roof tiles, take down Christmas lights and do some carpentry.
My total spend on repairs was £196, made up of £110 to handy man, £45 on painting bits, the rest on lightbulbs and lampshades.
A viewing day
All of the viewings were arranged for Saturday 4th Sept, there were tenish. I was away for the weekend so left the estate agents to it. On Monday 6th Sept I received an asking price offer from a family. We waited 24 hours to see if any other viewings resulted in an offer, they didn’t, so I accepted the asking price offer on Tuesday 7th Sept. I DID NOT expect my house to sell so quickly!
Now I have accepted an offer on my house I can Buy
This coming Saturday 11th Sept I have booked viewings at every house in my price range in Royston, 6 houses at the last count. I just have to hope that we like a couple of them, we make an offer and it is accepted.
What is the Process and The Costs
I understand the process, but I cannot comment on timings. I have spoken to several people who have bought and sold recently and things are taking much longer than usual times, and chains are often breaking. But I have a good feeling, I think everything is going to work out on my house sale and purchase.
I have instructed my solicitor to act on my behalf who has given me a list of all their costs.
These include the fee agreed to pay to the estate agent. Normally around 0.75% of sale price but be prepared to negotiate. I got a good deal. You may consider going with an online agency, but from previous experience I would avoid that, its so impersonal and you will end up less viewings and maybe lower offers on your property. I think its worth the extra money for a trusted estate agent who knows the area you are selling in.
I have been quoted £950 plus VAT for this. My solicitors, Ross Williams in Hitchin, have worked on behalf of me for several years now and I wouldn’t go anywhere else to save a few hundred pounds. I know them well and trust them, and I know they wont hold up any processes. I also have to pay a bank transfer fee of £42 and land registry fees of £15.
My selling costs come to around £5k.
There are more costs involved in buying. Alot more. I have show some worked examples based on my estimated purchase price of £350k.
Stamp duty is a slightly complex beast to work out (government page here with the rules and %s), and the rules change after the 30th September. I am going to assume that I won’t complete until after the end of September! There is no stamp duty on purchase prices between £0 and £125k. There is 2% to pay between £125k and £250k and there is 5% to pay on £250k up to £925k. It gets higher, but lets not go there for £1m houses.
In my circumstances of buying a house for £350k I pay 2% on £125k so £2,500. Then 5% on the remainder £100k taking me from £250k to £350k. A total fee of £7,500, on tax, great. You can see why there was a huge rush to buy and sell when this tax was abolished during covid times for lower prices houses.
Again there is £950 + VAT fee to pay here, the same solicitor works on behalf of the purchase and the sale. Plus searches of between £300 and £350, a Bank transfer fee of £42 and a Land Registry fee of £135. The costs are racking up here.
Your mortgage company, once they have confirmed they will offer you the money to buy the house will send a surveyor out to verify that the house is worth the price you are paying. You can choose varying levels of survey, the more expensive versions giving you more information about issues with the house. The basic level surveys are around £500, the more advanced are more like £1000. I’de say get a builder mate to have a look and tell you what you need to watch out for. These issues can then be used to reduce the eventual purchase price closer to exchange date.
There might be redemption penalty fees. My mortgage with Santander can be ported over to the new house, but I will have to pay a redemption penalty on the difference in lending. My redemption fee is 3%, although I am going to try to negotiate this down. The mortgage will be reducing by £100k so I am expecting to pay a 3% redemption penalty. My current mortgage term is until April 2022. Fixed term mortgage always result in redemption penalties when they are ended early.
Also the new mortgage that you agree may have fees in place to take out the product. These can be anything from £500 to £1500. A higher fee mortgage will often be a slighter lower interest rate. Do your maths and this fee can be added onto your mortgage if you prefer.
If you need a new mortgage, or need to re-mortgage I recommend an independent firm of brokers, I used Trussle in 2020 who were very quick and helpful throughout the whole process. If you do use Trussle we both get £150 in Amazon vouchers as a referral thank you.
I’m torn on this one. Do I get in packers and removal people, or do I do the packing myself? I’m going to get quote for both but I’m told that packing and removal costs would be around £2,500.
A little easier to read list of the buying costs, based on a house purchase of £350k
Stamp Duty £7,500
Solicitor Costs £1,667
Redemption Penalty £3,000
Survey Costs £500
Moving Costs £2,500
New Mortgage Fee £500
This lot of buying costs comes to just shy of £16k. So the total cost of moving from a £475k to a £350k house is £21k. Ouch.
The Process from now onwards
I can’t do much at the moment until I have found a house and had an offer accepted. I am prioritising chain free houses to give this transaction the best chance of happening and happening before Christmas. This is what my buyers would like to happen.
Once my offer on a house to buy is accepted I can do the following. Agree my new mortgage amount required with Santander, who once agreed can go ahead and request the survey. Also the searches can be commenced by my solicitor. And all of this need to happen with everyone else in the chain as well.
Wish me all the luck and powers of the universe that this all runs smoothly. I will be back with another update in a couple of weeks, once I have hopefully had an offer accepted on the house.