Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The initial foray into house hunting in London

This past weekend, The Irishman and I went for our first house viewing. !!!!

It came about like this:

Once we met with the mortgage broker who told us we could easily obtain (and afford) a mortgage loan in the area of £XXX,XXX (!!!!), we started scouring the internet for listings in our neighborhood and surrounding areas. We were pretty bummed, but not surprised, to learn that N1 is essentially out of our price bracket, especially the lovely Barnsbury Conservation area that I lust after so much (my walk to work is like a stroll through property porn, it really shouldn't be legal). So we started widening our search area and found that Stoke Newington, Islington's edgier, hippier, gayer, crunchier northern cousin, was actually much more affordable while still offering a lot of the amenities we desire – shops, cafes, restaurants, proximity to other cool neighborhoods, parks, and a good vibe. We found an intriguing listing after not much searching and decided, well, hell - no time like the present - and called to arrange a viewing.

Too bad that property was actually taken off the market, scheduled to possibly reappear in March, but the estate agents registered us and immediately started sending us emails of properties that suited our requirements. Those requirements are roughly:
- ideally a house, or a maisonette
- 2.5 or 3 bedrooms (The Irishman works from home most days now, so he needs an office in addition to us needing a spare room)
- 1.5 or 2 bathrooms
- outdoor space mandatory, garden preferred over terrace
- eat-in kitchen or open-plan kitchen/lounge
- ample storage (cupboards, cabinets, closets, etc)
- good light sources (windows)

And low and behold, an interesting property popped up in my inbox mid-way through last week and we got a viewing in the diary. We used it as an excuse to reacquaint ourselves with Stoke Newington overall, and decide whether it was a place we wanted to actually live.

The property itself was lovely, but not for us; we didn't like the layout of the interior and felt that it just wasn't workable for what we wanted. But the road was really pretty, the condition was excellent, and the garden was amazing. Also, the property was definitely owned by one of the former members of the one-hit wonders Cornershop – random! 

So we left the viewing feeling like what we want is definitely achievable in our price range – whee!!! – and in that neighborhood. 

Buoyed by what we saw, we strolled back in the direction of our current home, along Church Street; if you haven't ever been to Stokey, Church Street is the heart of the village full of caf├ęs, shops, restaurants, and street life. It was buzzing on Saturday and full of people and dogs and with the sun shining it really convinced us that this would be a step up in terms of location rather than a compromise to leave Angel.

Next steps for us are to keep seeing properties: an estate agent told us that the national average is viewing 7 properties before putting in a offer. Simultaneously, we need to get back in touch with our mortgage broker to get what's called an AIP (agreement in principle). That basically means we have the confidence, and legal back up, to walk into an estate agent and make an offer on a house and know that we can get a mortgage to pay for it. It doesn't mean we're locked into using that bank or taking that mortgage, but it does give us a piece of paper that backs up our position.

And, I guess, we wait – with fingers crossed – for the right property to come available and the stars to align for us to see it, make an offer, and have it accepted. It sounds so straightforward, but I know it won't be; I know I will see a lot of houses before I find the "right" one and then it will be taken, or my offer won't be accepted, or it will all fall through... Sounds a bit like dating, no? Here's hoping that it doesn't take me as long to find the right house as it did for me to find the right (Irish) man!


  1. so exciting! also, I remember my mother telling me that it's just as important to see properties you DON'T like because it's as informative as seeing properties you do. good luck!

  2. Exactly Betsy - your mom is so right!

  3. Good luck with the house hunting. I have been following you on and off for a while - found you through Londelicious. We are back in the US now but like to keep up on life in London. We lived in Newington Green and worked off Kingsland Rd when we were there - I think there is no better place to live in London!

  4. Thanks Anonymous! I agree, the whole Stokey/Dalston/top of Islington triangle is amazing, with so much stuff. The viewings continue, I hope you'll continue to follow for househunting updates! x

  5. I was feeling bored & depressed yesterday waiting for our expat journey to get a move on. I soothed myself by looking at London flats online. We've been living out of a suitcase for a month now! Ugh!! I hope your search is moving along and I'm sure you will find the perfect place soon. Good Luck!

  6. Hi Selena - thanks for your kind words of support! I hope your search goes well too, and that you get settled pronto! x