Daniel and Alice

Mar 29, 2021 | Homeowner stories

Age 30 and 27

Location Orpington

Instagram @thesignedhouse

As if getting onto the ladder wasn’t hard enough, this couple took on the challenge of buying their home in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and renovating it to their own satisfaction.

1. What made you choose the area you currently reside in?

It’s a funny one. We are both Londoners and probably wouldn’t have been caught dead near Kent if you would have asked us a few years back, but value for money seems like it’s definitely better outside of London. We lived in a 2 bed flat in Catford, south east London and we managed to get a 3 bedroom house with a lovely garden. We really can’t complain. It’s also close to shops, restaurants and a few of our friends and family aren’t too far away.

2. Do you believe an area guide would have been beneficial in helping you choose a neighbourhood to live in? If yes, why? 

Yes, we do. Any time we look at Rightmove and places we wanted to go to, we’d search out the area and any blogs people had. So if there was a central place with the same things on it (blogs and experiences), it would be really helpful. Obviously nothing biased but it would be great to have a general view of things.

3. Did you purchase a freehold or a leasehold? And why?

Freehold all the way! We had a leasehold before and unfortunately we didn’t have one of those really nice chilled leasehold situations where the ground rent and service charge was minimal. We had to pay a fortune for everything and in the end it was too tedious to continue. We will always be freehold in the future and even if we have to go somewhere else like abroad and maybe rent for a bit we will always keep our freehold place.

4. Did you go through a mortgage broker or a direct lender? And why?  

No, we didn’t have a mortgage broker; we went directly to Barclays. The main reason why is because Barclays have been great to us and know our circumstances well. In addition to that, Daniel is a payroll manager, so number crunching is his thing. We didn’t need a mortgage broker to fill that gap.

5. What challenges did you encounter whilst renovating this property?

None really! We renovated our flat too and made a lot of profit on it so we knew what to expect and we had all sorts of challenges there. Here has been good so far especially as we knew the property was older and would need some TLC so we budgeted fairly and taking it one step at a time. Upstairs first, downstairs and next step kitchen… who knows what we might encounter when doing that but so far so good.

6. What was your budget for your renovation and did you over/underspend? 

We budgeted £30k for the entire house excluding kitchen. We didn’t overspend either. £30k does vanish though. Electrics, windows, new boiler, new bathroom and complete plaster/skim was needed which the £30k went into happily. All the other stuff we’ve just been saving monthly and spending on things we need. The kitchen downstairs will be a bigger project. It’ll need an extension and we will develop some more into it to add value, so our budget for that will be about £40k for everything. Altogether, we’re hoping to spend circa £70-80k in renovation costs. Come back to us in a couple of years and it’ll probably be a different story!

7. What have you loved the most about designing your home?

We love designing everything together. Alice is the artistic one. She paints and has that eye for design. Daniel is more of the project manager and do-er type so everything comes together. We actually love just seeing transformations happen. From a pretty standard sad looking room, we’ve made into a beautiful master. Our favourite room, our living room has been turned from needing TLC to a bit of an eclectic dream! So those are the bits we love to see.

8. What do you love the most about your home?

Daniel would say it’s because it’s double fronted! But ultimately no noisy neighbours above our heads. Alice would say it’s well situated between countryside and town living. It’s a best of both worlds. One minute, we could be chilling in a restaurant on the high street and 5 minutes later, we are on country lanes and seeing beautiful walks and woods.

9. What advice would you give to people who are trying to design their dream home?

Budget well, and plan everything! We use things like PlanUp for floor plan designs, masking tape is amazing too. We use it to plan out what things may look like in the room before we buy it. In addition to that, TV programmes about renovations are very helpful. Sarah Beeney is a property genius; we watch a lot of programmes with her and see what people do with theirs. It gives us a great idea with what to do with our own.

10. What advice would you give people who are trying to get onto the property ladder?

Do it while you can! We were so happy to get on the ladder with our flat and it gave us the platform to now have something like our home. Best decision we made back then and a great decision we have made now! Count the cost, but also make that cost count!

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