I bought a flat about 6 months ago now. The process was LONG AF. When they say house purchasing is stressful it is – I did so much research and online forum asking on MoneySavingExpert that I felt like a FTB guru. I managed to apply for Help To Buy and get approved, applied for my mortgage 3 times, had 3 properties get to the survey stage, lost about £1000 in fees and witnessed the curse of all the property red flags in ONE property: New Build, Studio flat under 30SQM that was above a shop – next to a strip club. Could it get any worse? I do not know but I was definitely stressed out for 6 consecutive months.
How I bought my Studio flat in London on low salary/wage.
I didn’t think I could ever afford a flat on my own as my pay for the first 2 years of my career wasn’t that much at around £20,000 then I decided to quit my job and go travelling and blew most of my savings – oopsy! But when I returned I went back home, found a new job and forced myself to put away £1000 every month. I also stopped fashion shopping for a year which I think helped saved hundreds. I spent about £200-300 a month on food, going out and essentials. I was saving a penny here and a penny there but it all added up.
I spent several months looking at 2-8 flats on my own each weekend, mostly studios. I was absolutely exhausted travelling left right and centre around suburban London; from Croydon, Norwood/Selhurt to East Ham to Erith areas. I had to draft up multiple spreadsheets so I wouldn’t forget which one was which when they called up. It was hard because I didn’t know what I was looking for, I felt somewhat alone, there were BARELY any properties in my low budget and most of them had issues with them. I was starting to lose hope but I would get motivated by my friend Miriam who had found one within her solo buyer budget and was ready to buy her flat too.
After looking at over 40-50 flats, going to all the corners of suburban London, making outbidded offers on at least 10 flat, having 3 get to survey stage and failing, I felt so lucky to have managed to find this very tiny studio flat. Some would say I was desperate but all I was thinking was “if you don’t look you don’t find”. Most people would not even bother to look past zone 3 but I grew up in the ends and this flat was not only 35min walking distance from my mum’s it was 15 minutes walk to the new Crossrail station opening up this year 🙂 There is a huge ass regeneration plan around the surrounding areas which meant a possibility it could increase in value over the years or increase demand in renting because of the better transport. Instead of looking at what already existed in the area I found a budget property in a place with plenty of opportunity for growth.
I was giving anything a chance. People on MoneySavingExpert told me to *save up and buy a bigger flat* something that would be worth my return on investment. Yes it would have been ideal to buy a 1 bedroom or 2 bedroom but I was on low salary and would need at least 5 years to get up to the standard of a normal human salary. By the time I was earning enough the property market would have been out of my reach completely especially as a single occupant. My mum’s friends told me to wait until I got a boyfriend and purchase together which was an insult to my independence. I just wanted to move out, have my own place and not have to throw my money away on rent. I would be the ideal renter for this type of flat except I’m now paying less for my mortgage than I would be if I was to rent this flat just because I saved up a deposit. The math was working out. Even though property prices are falling/stagnated at the moment my property is in the market range where there aren’t many up for sale.
It is 1/4th of the size of what any normal person would live in it’s 30sqm and in a suburban area of London in zone 4. I’m happy because it’s mine and proud of myself for managing to save up over the years but I’m unsure if anyone else would be willing to live in such a small space but for me it’s perfect. I’m near home, where I grew up and all of my best friends are within walking distance away 🙂
The Flat Refurb
When I had gone to the viewing it was proper messy, dirty and gross I doubt anyone else owuld have succumbed to this level of grim LOL but I saw potential in it. I had a second viewing on my own again. I had seen a property down the road several months earlier that was exactly the same but completely clean, vacant and for a lot cheaper price. Unfortunately, I got outbid last minute by a cash buyer but I managed to use that property as a price comparison to show the Estate agent where I got my offer price from 🙂 He googled the one I told him about and it came up and he used it to speak with the Vendor to haggle the price down and then she accepted my offer a week later which was £25,000 less than the initial asking price.
This is how jank it was at viewing: The kitchen had no top cabinets, everything in the bathroom was broken and the walls were MUSTARD!
I decided to buy it and get someone to renovate it. The builder was called Alan and it was just him doing everything! He was a friend of my mum’s. He would do the plumbing, replastering, painting, sort out all the fixtures and design and source all the materials for everything. So the only things I needed to do was pick tiles, colours, show him designs I liked etc. The process of buying the flat took another 3 months and by then I had been travelling around in Vietnam and forgot about my flat. When I returned they were done I was ready to exchange. I was a bit shook. I cried on completion day from relief and then Alan got to work a month later!
One day I went to my new home to have a sneaky peek at the work undergoing and needed an emergency poo. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the toilet had been disconnected and my poo popped out the other end. *MORTIFIED* I grabbed an empty pot noodle and scooped in the poo with a broken tile. Now I’m forever scarred 🙁 The toilet had water in it which was so misleading!!!!!
Alan, the builder, had removed the kitchen completely and taken down all the tiles in the bathroom and put boards up.
I freaked out big time about the cost of refurb. I’ve calmed down a bit now and trying to think of the positives – I have a cosy apartment exactly how I want but I still owe a lot of money which I’m struggling to scrape together. I have no idea WHY an earth I keep booking mini holidays it’s like an addiction and I’m ignoring my most important responsibility – my mortgage.
Alan also sent over the kitchen plans before he started work which is pretty much exactly how I envisioned it. I had sent him 2 A3 mood boards of a mash up of loads of images I had been collecting on my pinterest over the past year. I was 101% ready to flex my Pins! It looked a bit boxy but I knew the excessive storage would come in handy. I wanted the modern, clean and ‘classic’ look rather than go for straight up modern so I went with a wooden work top. My kitchen was from IKEA kitchen.
He has also removed the existing floorboards, sanded, painted all the doors and given them new silver stainless steel door handles. As well as filling in holes in the walls and sanding them down and re-plastering a bit around the window and repainted the ceiling.
I got oak floorboards installed so that they last a long time and durable enough for when I want to rent out my flat in the future!
I bought 2 ceiling lights and I wanted them longer as low hanging lights but he cut them too short . Everything I wanted the builder kind of did 70% of what I wanted but not always exactly lol. Progress of the kitchen:
He also added his own finishing touches which I never OK’d which was random like a black mirror, blind and a silver hanging rail above the kitchen sink lmao. Thankfully, they all were tasteful and I liked them. The mustard walls were coated twice in white base coat to cover the vibrant paint and then 2 coats of pale grey/off white that I chose from B&Q. I don’t know whether I should have gone a bit darker grey but I like them as they are for now! The whole refurbish/decorating took 3 months as Alan had to go home for 1 month for family commitments.
Overall the job was done very well but close up there are bits here and there that could be touched up but I’m quite happy! The apartment is tiny so if I was to do this again I would have spent half the budget and gone for middle-low cost/range materials but I guess this was a learning curb. I did think about getting a bigger place when I save/earn more money but I don’t think I need anything more as I want to keep my costs to a minimum. Until I truly need a bigger place not just out of “luxury” this place will do just fine. I absolutely LOVE living alone 🙂