From apartment living to buying my forever home

I've been pondering starting a diary either here or in Deft Free Wannabe for a few months but I don't really quite fit into either circumstance atm. I'm actually starting this journey to home ownership from the position of being Mortgage Free on my flat thanks to a very generous inheritance. And, as a result of that inheritance, I am also basically debt-neutral. But, in the next year or so, I really want to purchase a house as I am desperate for a garden. So I'm going to be saving as much as I can in the next year in order to increase my deposit and cover all the costs associated with moving. 

As a bit of background, I am 36 years old and am a very single lady with 2 tiny cats. I've lived in Yorkshire since I moved up from the South for uni aged 18 and never left! I have a good career as an academic - I have to work far too hard for not a brilliant salary given the level of qualifications required(!) but the job is pretty secure, my colleagues are fantastic, the work is interesting, challenging and varied, and makes me feel like I'm making a difference in my own small way, the students are (mostly) fantastic despite the challenges they face, and even though I could potentially earn quite a lot more money if I went into industry, I think I'm probably a lifer in the world of academia.

My housing situation is very, very fortunate and is largely thanks to having a mother who has been extremely savvy with her money over the years! To cut a long story short, in Sept 2009, my mother purchased a BTL flat for 160k which I then rented from her while I was doing my PhD. After my nan passed away in January this year, the mortgage was paid off on the flat and it was transferred into my name in September, so I now own the property outright. So, I am starting my MFW journey from an enviable position of actually being mortgage free!

The flat is lovely, and has served me very well for the past 12 years. But I'm at a point in my life now where I want to put down more permanent roots with a garden! I got an allotment in Feb 2020 (which was an *absolute* life saver during the pandemic living alone in a 3rd floor flat with no outside space!) but I desperately want to be able to have friends over for a bbq, and to be able to sit outside with a book in the sunshine. In the flat, my 2nd bedroom is a guest room/home office, which is sort of okay but does make it a bit tricky to have visitors as the office is now dominant with the move to working from home as I no longer have an office on campus. So, I'd really like a dedicated office with enough bookshelves for all my texts, as well as a dedicated guest room because outside the pandemic I do like to have friends and family visit fairly often. I'd also really love to be a parent one day, and given my perma-single status I am considering adopting a child/teenager who needs a loving home within the next 5 years, so a bedroom for them is a high priority as well. Putting this all together, this means I'm looking for a 4 bedroom house with a garden, which sounds ridiculous for just 1 person, but perhaps it won't always be just me. I also hate change, and hate moving, so if I do buy a house, I intend to never move again (unless it's to Canada, Australia, or New Zealand) so we're talking forever home ideals here.

I know that 2 identical flats to mine in my development have recently accepted over asking price offers of 215k within 2 weeks of being on the market. So, that should provide me with a very healthy deposit. Houses in my city are expensive (by Northern standards), so I'm looking to move outside of my city to a town about 10 miles away, where atm you can purchase 4 bed detached houses for 300k - 420k. Obviously, I would prefer something closer to the lower end of that bracket, but having spoken with a mortgage broker, I'm confident I can manage up to 400k fairly comfortably, if I need to, which would mean a mortgage at approx £850 a month. There's recent talk of this town having it's station and train line resurrected (a feasibility study for this has been funded in the recent budget) so long term looks to be a potentially good area for investment. It's also a lovely town in it's own right, and the commute would be pretty reasonable as I wouldn't have to travel across the city to campus, and it's definitely worth living outside the city for the extra space and doorstep countryside. The pandemic has shown me that I don't need to be within walking distance of my city anymore, as long as I am within walking distance of a small town, I should be content.

To summarise my current financial position:

Credit cards: 
MBNA - 3558.65 @ 0% until it is paid off (interest was frozen as balance accrued was determined to be in persistent debt). Currently paying £40 a month at slightly over minimum amount. No real motivation to pay this earlier, as it's 0% interest until gone.
C1 - 1277.74 @ 0% until January. Currently paying £40 a month. I am considering paying this off in full, but will wait to see if I get any 0% 0 fee BT offers before it runs out. I have been offered 0% with 2.99% fee, but that fee is more than I'd be earning in interest. So, will wait and see what comes up, if anything. If not, I'll pay this one off too.

Total CC debt: £4836.39 

Nationwide Start to Save - £200 (1% interest, plus opportunity to win some extra cash). Adding £100 a month to this.
Nationwide Current Account - £1500 (2% interest up to £1500). Not adding anything to this apart from moving £1000 through per month for terms of account, as no interest above £1500.
Marcus - £1500 (0.60% interest). Adding £500 a month to this.
Premium bonds - £1000. Adding £500 a month to this. Mostly for fun more than actually expecting any returns on this small holding.
Skipton eISA - £500 (0.40% interest). Adding £25 a month to this. I consider this my emergency fund, but would obv dip into other savings if needed. 

Total Savings: £4700

Virgin Current Account - £1100 (2% interest up to £1000). This is essentially my 'annual expenses fund'. I plan to add £100 to this next month, and then top up as needed. I won't need to spend any of this until Sept, as that's when most of my annual expenses fall in Sept (car insurance etc.) but this also covers Christmas.

I should probably acknowledge that much of these 'savings' also came from my nan's inheritance last month when I got a lump sum that I used to pay off a balance of £9k on a debt consolidation loan and other interest bearing credit cards. I'm pretty disgusted with myself that I had a large cash gift and the net result is that I'm basically debt neutral, rather than having money in savings, and I'm determined not to get back into that position again. Fortunately, I had my light bulb moment *before* I knew I was going to receive a cash lump sum when I realised that I could potentially buy a house in the next 18 months if I sorted my life out! So, for the first time in my life, I started tracking all spending, and set budget pots, and had plans to pay off all my debt quickly. But, having been able to pay it off the loan and a lot of the credit cards first, I am now transferring most of the debt repayment allocation into savings. My housing costs have reduced to just the management fee of £140 a month now, so by being careful and not having to pay rent, I am going to be saving at least £1125 a month.

I may post an SOA later, but I do have some fairly expensive ongoing non-negotiable medical costs (£50 a week for therapy, and £50 every 2 months for osteopathy) plus with living alone my 'entertainment' and 'socialising' expenses are probably higher than they would be if I wasn't alone (e.g. £25 a month cinema membership). As someone with a very poor history of mental illness as recently as 2 months ago, it's really extra important for me to maintain activities and socialising as that sort of thing (along with medication...) as frankly this is what keeps me alive!

In an ideal world, I would be looking to reserve a house in December 2022 (am looking at new builds for complex reasons I'll get into in another post) and move in Summer 2023. My spreadsheet forecasts that if I'm working to that deadline, I will have 30k available in savings (including an emergency fund) before completion, though some of that will have been spent on solicitor fees, moving costs etc. If the perfect house comes up earlier, the plan may change, because I am nervous of interest rate increases and general house price increases. But, as I'm new to budgeting and financial management, I want a year of living to a budget to show that I *can* do that before making the biggest purchase of my life!

If you've read this far, well done and thank you! Can you tell I write for a living? Ha!


  • South_coast
    South_coast Forumite Posts: 4,523
    1,000 Posts Third Anniversary Name Dropper Photogenic
    Welcome! Your plans sound wonderful, will be following along to see how they go 😀 

    Try not to beat yourself up about the inheritance "only" making you debt neutral. You could have blown the lot on stuff and nonsense and still had the debt to deal with afterwards. From what you've said, I can't see you falling into the debt trap again, so praise yourself for having learned a valuable lesson instead! 

    Have you thought about opening a LISA for your new home savings? You're capped at the amount you can put in, but the Govt will top up anything you save with an extra 25% bonus. You'd need to check whether you'd be eligible as you're already a homeowner, but as it's your first time buying a property I think it would still be OK. 

    Good luck 🍀!
    Mortgage start: £65,495 (March 2016)
    Cleared 🧚‍♀️🧚‍♀️🧚‍♀️!!! In 5 years, 1 month and 29 days
    Total amount repaid: £72,307.03. £1.10 repaid for every £1.00 borrowed

    Finally earning interest instead of paying it!!!
  • felicityBD15
    felicityBD15 Forumite Posts: 107
    10 Posts First Anniversary Name Dropper
    Thanks for commenting south_coast. You’re right, I could easily have spent that money on much more fun things. Haven’t been on holiday in 4 years…. so a blow out was really tempting! But, decided to be sensible instead. 

    I still def have a natural spending rather than saving mindset, but that’s why I wanted to start this diary to keep me accountable while balancing the need to enjoy life and also save money on 1 income. I’m at the top of my salary band now too, and it’s going to be at least 3 years til I have a chance of applying for promotion, so with the sector’s history of measley pay rises that are less than inflation (0% last year, 1.5% this year) I’m looking at real terms pay cut each year until that happens so need to be conscious of that too.

    I did look into the LISA thing, but as I’m a home owner, I wouldn’t be able to withdraw anything to buy a house without penalty. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never bought a house as seems to be dependent on whether you have ever owned one instead. It’s a bit of a shame, but nm.

    I’m still working through retirement planning ideas, but at some point will prob open a LISA for that as still have a few years to do so. My pension situation is okay atm, but they’re messing with the USS scheme (strikes are imminent…) in ways that will reduce my predicted annual pension by huge amount so it’s something I need to explore more fully, and LISA seems sensible for that purpose. 
  • Chiglepig
    Chiglepig Forumite Posts: 611
    500 Posts Second Anniversary Photogenic Name Dropper
    Good luck, @felicityBD15 from a fellow academic. You have a really good point from which to move on, don't beat yourself up!
    2014 starting mortgage £165,000
    2015 second charge £20,000 - Jan 2021 paid off in full
    Current outstanding balance - £115,856

  • VelvetFreak
    VelvetFreak Forumite Posts: 573
    500 Posts Fourth Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited 14 November 2021 at 9:36AM
    Good luck with everything! I have subscribed to your diary :smile:
    I'm single too and desperately want a house. I understand what you mean re. wanting/needing a 4-bed house. It seems a bit ridiculous at first, but if you think about what you actually need it totally makes sense. I hate the sentiment that single people seemingly aren't worthy of a full-sized house or garden or whatever just because you are single. A former coworker used to give me hell about stuff like that and would constantly say things like "oh you mustn't need to buy that many groceries or ever cook, it's *just* you on your own" and "you should just buy a small townhouse, you don't need much room" etc etc. Even my own mother says this to me yet its ok for her to have a 4 bedroom house even though she's technically single 🙄. Single people deserve nice things too! And yes, we still need to cook and eat proper food, have space and exist just like any other human being. Sorry - a bit of a sore spot for me 😂
  • felicityBD15
    felicityBD15 Forumite Posts: 107
    10 Posts First Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited 14 November 2021 at 1:13PM
    Thanks @Chiglepig, trying hard not to and seeing this as a fresh start.

    I hate that sentiment too, @VelvetFreak! I'm guilty of agreeing with it when it's about me (i.e. I don't feel I deserve a big house and nice things) but would never feel that way about other single people.

    In my case, many of my close friends are 2 income families with at least 2.4 kids living in the London commuter belt, so I find myself looking at their houses which are lovely but typically not detached, nor 4 bedrooms and still cost far more than 600k! There's a definite sense of guilt that I may end up with a bigger house than them, for *just* me. But, although I could manage with a smaller property, I'm wondering why I should have to? If I can afford the 4 bed and it suits what I want, then why shouldn't I? I was comparing the prices of some of the new build styles in my chosen town to the prices in developments near where I grew up, and they are at least 300k more for the same house type. 

    I don't understand your colleague suggesting you don't ever need to cook... single people eat too! And, we have to plan, shop, cook and clean up all by ourselves without any help from anyone. Surely that's more work? Ah well.
  • felicityBD15
    felicityBD15 Forumite Posts: 107
    10 Posts First Anniversary Name Dropper
    I think it's going to be 2 NSDs this weekend. I've not been feeling too great, so had a pyjama day yesterday and binge watched some TV and worked on a really fiendish jigsaw that I'm about half way through now.

    I was supposed to go to the cinema on Friday evening, but felt rubbish so phoned up to exchange my ticket. Phone line claimed it would be 13p a minute which I figured was annoying but not too horrendous. Ended up on the phone for 11 minutes, but that call cost £9! And, I couldn't even exchange it to a date I'm available, because they hadn't listed next weekends times yet, so I need to call them back this week. The cinema will be getting a strongly worded email from me about that because it's ridiculous. I'd have been better off just losing the ticket as it was a 'free' one with my membership. Grr.

    Anyways, having lived in this flat for 12 years now, I've accumulated a huge amount of unnecessary stuff, and I don't want to drag it all with me to a new property. So, in the last week or so I've started the process of having a big clear out. So far, 5 bags of clothes and shoes going to the charity shop, and last night I scanned in 100ish CDs which will be off to Ziffit and MusicMagpie - I don't even own a CD player anymore, so def don't need to keep them. It was really interesting seeing which CDs are worth 1p, and which are worth a whopping 35p! I expect lots will end up not accepted, because that's how these companies work, but in total it looks like it'll be around £20. If I get more than £15 back once they're all processed, I'll see that as a win. Not a lot really, in the grand scheme of things, but it all helps! And gets them out of my flat :-)

    Also I used to have a bit of a make up addiction - I still do tbh, but I've got enough blushers and eyeshadows to last a lifetime, so only buy replacement items when I run out now - and I sorted through my enormous collection the other day and chucked out a huge pile of stuff that had dried out, or that I was unlikely to wear ever again. That was quite cathartic! Though, I didn't feel ready to attack the draw of eyeshadow palettes or lipsticks. Not sure why, but I think I have a bit more of an emotional connection to them. In the clear out process though, I remembered that I used to buy multiples of some limited edition products with the aim of selling them on in future, but never actually did for many of them. So, I've got a couple of new in box, rare, limited edition lipsticks and eyeshadow palettes that might fetch me a pretty penny. Once I've worked out what the postage costs to both UK and the US would be, I'll get these listed on a reddit make up selling group I used to be part of, and if they don't sell there I'll try ebay. I'd estimate I've got about £200 worth - 5 lipsticks that are probably £30, and a palette that could be at least £50 poss more. I've also got some duplicates of more standard items that I'll try to sell, and perhaps some used items too. 

    When I'm feeling a bit more energetic, I need to go through my 'fancy' dress stash and list those on ebay too. Most of them don't even fit me anymore, but I bought most of them for friend's weddings and I find it really hard to get rid of items I felt pretty in! Part of me still thinks I'll lose weight and wear them again one day. But, seems unlikely tbh, so while I'm in a decluttering mindset, I should really get rid of them.

    Next week is looking really hectic at work, with 2 busy days on campus, and a lot of Zoom sessions on the others. So, I've just sorted out a meal plan from what I've got in, so I don't resort to takeaways or toast when I finish work too exhausted to figure out what I want to cook. 

    Anyways, that's enough from me for now. The laundry won't do itself, unfortunately! 
  • chicker
    chicker Forumite Posts: 142
    Fourth Anniversary 100 Posts Name Dropper
    Hello and welcome  :) I've subscribed and look forward to following your journey! Good luck!

    I love having a clear out, especially when it makes you some money. 
    MFW diary Adventures and Overpayments

    Mortgage start: £240,945 Aug 2020
    Mortgage now: 
    2021 OP total: 
    £605.85   1 month off approx

    MFW 2022 #39  £135.68/£1200
  • VelvetFreak
    VelvetFreak Forumite Posts: 573
    500 Posts Fourth Anniversary Name Dropper
    Well done on the clear out and getting rid of CDs. I did that a long time ago and kind of wish I'd kept some just for the nostalgia factor :( But oh well, it's not like I'd ever listen to them and can always look the covers up on google images lol
  • felicityBD15
    felicityBD15 Forumite Posts: 107
    10 Posts First Anniversary Name Dropper
    @VelvetFreak agh, you’re making me question myself now! With my dvd/blu-ray collection I’ve taken an approach to refine it over the years to only things I’ll watch again. But, I literallly don’t have any device capable of playing CDs now, and I’d ripped all the mp3s from the CDs years ago… maybe I’ll get some posters of the album covers of some of my faves. Or get a record player and start collecting Vinyl!

    I did keep one CD for sentimental reasons - a signed Radiohead album back from when I was a 10 year old who was cool enough to have a connection to the band! 

    Well, the NSD today didn’t exactly go according to plan. It’s my mum’s fault though… we had our weekly catch up and she suggested that it might be nice for the family to get together in London in December and we could go to some museums, the London eye and have lunch together. And, she offered to pay for a hotel for me if I came down from Yorkshire. 

    She’s not wrong, it would be nice. I’ll be seeing my mum a few times in next few weeks (she and step dad are visiting next week, and then I’m hosting them both on Xmas day) but I wasn’t sure when I’d get to see my dad, siblings and nieces who all also live down south either near London or Brighton. It’s tricky because I can’t easily drive down there atm as my OCD can’t handle motorway driving alone, and my dad doesn’t feel comfortable doing long drives himself as he’s getting on a bit (bless him) and probably needs cataract surgery. So, in the end I spent £65 on train tickets and booked a hotel (though, I’ll get that money back from mum). But, it’ll be really nice to see them all, even though I hadn’t planned on a weekend away.

    I’ve taken a look at how this extra cost affects this month’s flexi-spends budget - I allow myself a generous £800 a month on unplanned spending, which is separated into sub-categories - and although this takes me over my travel allocation this month and I need to put petrol in the car, it looks like I am going to have some quite large underspending in a few categories, so that train ticket shouldn’t push me over the max I’m allowed to spend this month. Does that make sense?

    And then I decided to buy some Christmassy bits, but again it’s all within the allocated budget so I’m not concerned. And, the robot tree decoration I bought is super cute and totally 100% worth it.

    Tomo will definitely be a no spend day though. Will be working from home as I’ve got 5 hours of Zoom things booked in with various meetings and webinars. Hoping to be able to keep my camera off for a lot of it, so I can hide in a snuggly hoody with cats on my lap, rather than having the heating on! But, we’ll see how that goes…
  • VelvetFreak
    VelvetFreak Forumite Posts: 573
    500 Posts Fourth Anniversary Name Dropper
    Haha! Don't let me stop you! I just get a bit of a funny pang of sadness when I see someone who has a box of their childhood/teenage things that they can go through and talk about the associated memories and I get a bit jealous because I don't have anything like that (thanks to parents divorcing and me leaving a lot of my things at my dad's house that I'll never see again). It's no big deal in the grand scheme of things. I was always late on bandwagons as well, and because we lived in the middle of nowhere I never got anything cool :persevere:

    I see you also suffer the curse of divorced parents lol. I fully understand not being able to drive on your own on the motorway! Same feeling here. Sometimes I persevere, but mostly avoid it altogether.
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