As I sit on the loungeroom floor of our brand-new home writing this post, I feel a great sense of accomplishment – we did it! We FINALLY have our first home!
After a frustrating, arduous 12-month house searching process – coupled with a stressful week leading up to Settlement Day (more on that later) – it is so relieving to have the keys, and be able to call our house ‘ours’.
Together with some amazing help from our parents, we were able to move the bulk of our belongings into the house over the course of a single weekend – our couch will be delivered separately in the next few weeks, hence why we’re currently set up on the floor.
It took multiple car trips back and forth from our previous house, but after some careful shuffling of furniture, clothing, and various knick-knacks (moving really does become one huge game of real-life Tetris) we got everything shifted, and celebrated with a couple of well-earned wines.
As I’m sure most first home buyers can sympathise with, not everything has gone to plan (that’s why I created this article, ‘Buying Your First Home: Complete Step By Step Guide‘, to help you avoid the mistakes we did).
It turns out the heating and cooling system that was installed when the brand-new home was built wasn’t done so correctly, as the heating currently isn’t working (and is something we’ll need to chase up ASAP with the homebuilder).
In the meantime, we’ve set up a few bar heaters as, unsurprisingly, a vastly furniture-less home in the middle of winter isn’t the warmest place to be.
If you’re also stuck without heating in your home, never fear! I’ve written another article explaining a few easy ways you can keep warm until your heating is fixed. You can read it HERE.
I’m also currently using my phone’s internet connection to connect to the web as, like all new homes, we’ve yet to get our internet connected.
Something we also didn’t notice during our initial and subsequent inspections of the home, prior to settlement, is that a rainwater tank hasn’t yet been installed.
The South Australian government requires all new builds to have a supplementary water supply, in addition to mains water, connected to the home, so this is another thing we’ll be chasing up with the builder pronto.
Those things aside, we’re really excited to be starting life in our new place.
But, I tell you what, the whole homebuying experience isn’t something we’re eager to repeat any time soon – and if we did, there’s certainly some things we would do differently.
I’ll take you through our experience, and hopefully lend some useful advice about what not to do in the weeks immediately after signing your contract of sale, right up until Settlement Day.
Create your checklist
Buying a house is extremely stressful, and it’s easy to forget things along the way.
To make sure you have all bases covered prior to, and during Settlement Day it’s best to create a checklist that you can tick off as you go.
Real estate website You Mortgage has devised this perfect list that you can follow:
- Confirm the date, time and venue for settlement
- Prepare the money required for settlement
- Approve the settlement statement from your solicitor
- Conduct a final inspection of the property
- Adequately insure the property
- Sign up with gas and electricity providers
Doing these things should hold you in pretty good stead before Settlement Day arrives, and ensure things run smoothly.
Don’t leave the country or go on holiday
Yep, that’s right, this actually happened – and not just to one of us.
My partner was out of the country in the weeks leading up to settlement, while I was interstate during Settlement Day.
Unfortunately, neither could be avoided.
My partner had pre-booked a trip to Fiji with her mum long before we’d even viewed our house for the first time, while I had done the same in locking in an interstate golfing trip with a mate to Geelong (anyone looking for a cheap getaway should definitely consider this).
While this didn’t end up affecting the settlement of our home, it did make things a little harder than necessary.
Because we both planned to be out of the state, out mortgage broker, Linda, had to work really hard to get our loan approved by the bank earlier, and have the documentation in front of us to sign before we left on holidays.
Thankfully, Linda was amazing and got this done for us, which removed a lot of stress that had begun to creep in by that time.
So, a note to our fellow first homebuyers: if possible, avoid committing to any interstate or overseas travel while buying a house.
It will help keep you sane.
Make sure your money is available
After signing our contract of sale, and getting our loan approved and subsequent documentation sorted, we were told by Linda that our conveyancer would contact us with a deposit amount we’d be required to pay in order for the house to settle.
We figured we’d get a final sum, and a bank account from our conveyancer to transfer the funds to well before our Settlement Day.
Two weeks went by and we didn’t really think too much of it.
But with three days remaining until Settlement Day, and no final figure in sight, we began to worry about whether there would be enough time for our funds to clear from our joint BankSA account and land in our conveyancer Helen’s account in order for settlement to be carried out.
You see, my partner is with Commonwealth Bank and I’m with BankSA.
We had the money for our deposit ready to go for weeks and weeks, and were simply waiting to be told when and where to send it, and the exact dollar amount we needed to send.
Three days out from settlement, I contacted Helen who told me she had yet to receive a final sum from the bank and advised us to pool our deposit funds together in our joint BankSA account.
She advised this because she does her banking with BankSA, and transferring funds between the same bank would clear almost instantaneously.
The problem was, my partner being with Commonwealth meant her money took a lot longer to come through.
So much so that on the morning prior to settlement, her money still hadn’t showed up in our joint account, and we began to worry if we’d have the money available in order for the settlement to be completed.
Thankfully, her cash cleared later that day, and settlement was carried out without any problems the next day.
The take home advice I’d give to other first home buyers is: make sure you are clear on where your money needs to go, when it needs to be transferred, and how much needs to be sent, as early as you possibly can.
If you can’t get this information, at least be sure your money is accessible.
Don’t get caught out like we did worrying whether our funds would clear our account in time for settlement – it’s stress you can definitely avoid.
Get help with relocating
I tell you with, had it not been for the help of our parents, my partner and I would’ve likely spent three straight weekends moving our stuff, as opposed to one.
Whether it’s friends or family, try and get help from as many people as possible.
Not only will it make the relocation process a whole lot quicker, it will also be a lot, lot cheaper.
We borrowed my dad’s trailer to transport the larger furniture such as beds and tables, while everything else we crammed into each of our cars and made a few return trips.
The alternative would’ve been hiring removalists, fees for which can often extend into the hundreds of dollars.
After everything is moved in, it’s a matter of finding a place for everything and starting to turn your house into your home, by adding your own personal touches – that’s where the fun begins!