I wasn't intending to post a great deal of information about my flat search, but the lovely Kerry commented that it might be interesting to hear details regarding buying in the London property market. So, I thought I'd post an occasional update...
Firstly, do not get excited by the above photo - this is the style of property (2 bed Victorian cottage) that I would like to buy in one of the areas I am searching. Unfortunately, this cottage (and all those like it) are double my available budget. So this first week of viewings has all been about understanding what is in my price range and setting some realistic expectations.
So far I've viewed conversion flats (where an older, larger property is sub-divided into flats), purpose built flats and even a new build property....and after 5 viewings, I'm coming to accept some realities.
1. My flat is very unlikely to have street appeal (as in, it could quite well be ugly). I'm hoping that is not the case, but beggars can't be choosers.
2. I'm trying to work out how small a space I am actually prepared to live in. My budget will generally afford a 1-bed flat - but what is proving depressing is that most are so tiny even all my current London belongings would not fit in (not to mention what is waiting in storage in Australia). My current rental flat is about 50 square metres and I'm trying to find something at least that size. If I tell you I viewed a flat at the top of my budget on Saturday that was only 38 square metres you will understand my dilemma. And yes, my current and future flat are about the size of an Australian/US granny flat...this is the reality of buying in London.
3. London remains in a property bubble - which makes it particularly difficult for first time buyers. There are a lot of buyers in the market at my price range (which is at a level where we are all trying to avoid the stamp duty tax owed on a property rising from 1% to 3% of the purchase price). Consequently, there is a rush of viewings as soon as a property comes on to the market and they generally go under offer within 24 hours (at asking price or over). I did briefly consider waiting a little longer to see if prices dropped again, but if the GFC didn't significantly impact London prices, I think I'd be waiting to no avail.
I am in the fortunate position that I am in no rush - I don't need to vacate my rental flat by a certain date which helps to remove the pressure to choose something that I regret. Because of the competition from other buyers I did start to feel last week that I just needed to buy something before I was priced out of the market entirely. But I viewed a flat this afternoon that I had high hopes for - yet, when I was in the property it was easy to see that the compromise re size was just too great.
So my current plan is to keep looking in my chosen areas for the next 3-4 weeks and just see what becomes available in my price range. If the market remains as it is currently, then I think my preferred compromise is to look slightly further afield and be able to afford a bit more space, even though it will extend my work commute (to over an hour each way).
I'll keep you posted...