How to buy a property when you’re flying solo
Newly single? Get those stilettos on lady and make house hunting a doddle with the help of expert buying agent Rachel Johnston of Stacks Property Search.
Nailing down that dream property purchase is never straightforward, but when you’re recently separated and emotionally reeling it can be an absolute minefield. We chatted to Summer Moore (above) who nabbed a home in Northamptonshire for herself and her kids whilst also navigating the choppy waters of divorce, thanks to the expert help of Stacks Property Finder Rachel Johnston.
House hunting is often an emotionally fraught experience, even without a break-up involved. At what point in your property search did you realise that you might need some help, Summer?
I’d viewed 16 properties in the first lockdown before I found one that ticked enough boxes on my wish-list. I viewed it three times, took my mother to see it, brought along a friend with property and building experience to give it a once over and I then offered the asking price. Then seemingly out of nowhere, friends of the buyers wanted to buy it and I lost it. I was so cross and frustrated that I’d lost out on the property; I worried that perhaps I’d “played” it all wrong. After losing that property I was back to square one but knew I didn’t want to go through it again on my own. That’s when I decided to get some external help.
What were the main pitfalls when property hunting as a single person?
My circumstances (being mid-divorce) made me more conscious of making decisions alone – I did feel vulnerable going through the process myself and I wanted to find a home as quickly as possible and seal the deal so I could start my new chapter. Not having a partner to bounce opinions or ideas around with during the initial viewings was hard though over time I honed my ‘second viewing’ radar and I’d quickly know whether a property warranted an unbiased opinion from my mother. I’d never bought a house by myself before and knew tactics were involved but I had no idea how to play the game, I didn’t have the patience and I felt like I wasn’t taken seriously.
When you did look for some help with your search, you chose a property agent. Why?
Ultimately… Rachel from Stacks Property Search was a woman and she related to me immediately. From our initial conversation, she understood how emotive this purchase was for me and how I was feeling a bit broken and needed a guiding hand. It felt like a massive safety net. I had pressures to leave the marital home, find a new home during a crazy-lockdown-buying market and had a very set budget. She was in tune with my needs from the get go. She responded to my initial enquiry within hours and her obvious knowledge and experience was reassuring, even before we’d met.
Did you already have a vision or a list of what you were looking for?
Yes I did. I wanted a home for myself and my children to love and feel secure in. Initially I was looking at larger properties, to accommodate my mother in the future, but I decided to buy something smaller and just for myself. I knew the house would be a stepping stone, not a forever home. I was happy to compromise on some things and was aware my budget wouldn’t allow me to tick all of my wish list boxes. I definitely felt something when approaching the front door of the house I ended up buying. I remember turning to Rachel and saying “This is as good as it gets for me, right?” It ticked ninety percent of my boxes.
How did the home search process work?
Rachel would show me three properties at a time, send me all the details, make comparison charts for each property, and highlight pros and cons for each house. We’d always deliberate over each property after a viewing and I quickly grew to learn what I would compromise on and what I wouldn’t. Her experience and knowledge of finding and buying properties allowed me to sit back and let her do her job, that was the service I was paying for. I could stop scouring property websites and focus on sorting my personal situation. Rachel would explain what was going on, what certain delays were about, what needed to be done ASAP. I always felt I could ask her anything, however small or silly and she always went over and above her job remit. One particularly wet week she drove to the house I wanted to buy to inspect the back fields for flooding, even though we knew it wasn’t on a flood plane – she just wanted to double check.
You were looking to move during lockdown, how did that impact on the overall process?
Initially I waited a few months after the first lockdown happened but then I thought I may as well be constructive with the time I had! At the beginning some estate agents I spoke to said I shouldn’t bother looking unless I was a serious buyer and had the money ready (which I didn’t as divorce negotiations hadn’t even begun then). Other agents were helpful, sympathetic to my situation and would email me videos of the house so I could view on line before scheduling a house visit if desired, but they were all so frantically busy and selling properties incredibly quickly which ended up making feel a bit anxious.
Paying a search agent can be a significant expense at a time when finances are tight. Is it really worth it?
For me the pros outweighed the cons when factoring in the expense of using a buying agent. I was emotionally and physically drained and the process alleviated a lot of stress for me, literally from the first conversation. Buying a house is the largest you make in your life, and I didn’t want to make a mistake or rush into buying anything. I’ve heard of other buying agent experiences that didn’t go as well as mine, so I’m aware I landed on my feet!
Get in touch with Rachel at Stacks Northants or by calling 07502 406688.