Thinking about/ decided on a new home? Now is the time to think about…
✔ Is the place the right size?
✔ Have you budgeted for everything ?
✔ It’s a big commitment – know your priorities and responsibilities
Deciding to take the leap and find a new home is an exciting decision. It’s a chance to start over. It’s usually a change for the better but it’s easy to get carried away and see all the good and none of the things that will need sorting out.
“I was so excited when I got my first place,” says Sally, who has just turned 60 but vividly remembers how it felt when she left home. “I was pregnant and very young and it felt like freedom. But soon I had to deal with bills and rent and furnishing a place with very little money – and learning how to cope with a new family. I made lots of mistakes, partly because no-one tells you how to do this stuff and partly because I was headstrong.”
Whether it’s our first home, a move to somewhere nearer the kids’ school, or downsizing after the kids move out, it’s helpful to ask a few key questions.
Can I afford it
Sadly, no matter how much we want or need a place in a certain area or of a certain size, if we can’t pay for it, we have to rule it out. It’s not just about the rent. There are hidden costs that can stack up – although we can overcome that if we’re prepared.
How much will the new place really cost?
Local rents vary from area to area, so get a feel for the options pricewise but remember hidden costs like travel. It may appear way cheaper to live further from where there are jobs or shops, but you’ll have to travel more. How Council Tax is charged varies from one area to the next too and it reflects the property too – how big and where it is.
What money can I be sure I’ll have to pay for things?
For people on low wages, at risk of losing their job, thinking about a family, or already living on benefits, it’s important to know what financial help might be there in future. Welfare has been slashed and no matter how badly we need it, we can’t be sure it will cover our needs in future. Assume the worst and work back from there.
Ask the question: If all else failed would benefits cover the cost of the home we have in mind? If not, maybe we should reconsider.
Watch out for the small print
People already caught up in debt will tell you it’s always when we’re at our lowest that it seems the world is against us. It’s at this point that we realise lenders charge more to people with less money, that there’s a clause in the tenancy that says we have to keep that huge garden in a good state of repair, and that we’ll end up in court for not paying Council Tax.
These things don’t need to be off-putting, just plan ahead to stay on top of them.
It is exciting, thinking about a new home, but it’s no time to ignore the risks. There is precious little safety net when things go wrong.
“I’m starting to think about my retirement,” adds Sally. “I don’t understand what I’ll be entitled to, but I know this three bedroom house with a lovely big garden is a luxury that could become a weight around our neck as we get older. Just thinking about moving to a smaller place is stressful – I know I need to get advice about it and be realistic about our options.”