StepLadder's House of Horrors - Halloween Special

When it comes to the home buying process, without guidance, knowledge and expertise things can turn gloomy very quickly, leaving you in a living nightmare. But fear not, there'll be NO nasty surprises on our watch! StepLadder’s Jerri, Helen and Osei share real tales that occurred during their FTB experience. We don’t want to scare anyone, this is simply to ensure you get your fairytale ending! 

Jerri’s Nightmare in Essex - Swap those rose tinted glasses for realistic rims. 

It was a gloomy October night, with two pathways to choose from, pitch black woods to the left or a street with no lights to the right, all because this first-time buyer was clueless during their purchasing journey. I'm here to make sure you're not in the dark about the little things you NEED to know about! So where do I start? Let's talk about new builds.

First in, means one thing: you are the guinea pig. Fresh carpets, Smeg hobs, sucked in by the white gloss there was no way of knowing what was behind the walls, but it wasn't long before cracks started to show (literally). From a burst main that flooded 8 floors, a toilet installed with holes in, window frames that let in rain, to walls so thin you might as well be sitting on your neighbours lap. What seemed like perfection on the first show round was all an illusion. But how could this have possibly been avoided? DO YOUR RESEARCH into the property company, speak to neighbours for a real insight into what it’s really like!

Research the area and surrounding land, this might obvious but with Japanese knotweed lurking in corners (who even knew what that was before their first survey), cladding and developers suddenly building a new seven story complex on your car park (I kid you not) if I had guidance prior to my search I would have known to delve into public information about future planning decisions - because no one working on a commission basis is going to tell, unfortunately. You’re doing a deal with the devil, but luckily this angel is here to keep you safe - - you’re welcome. 

Visit during the day and night, on different days to get a real sense of the type of people you are investing your £10k deposit in. From CCTV, street lights to reading the local newspaper, you need to swap rose tinted glasses for realistic rims. 

Energy bills - when you move in, your service provider has automatically been chosen, and of course it’s the most expensive on the market, you need to switch asap! Research which company has the best deal and contact Uswitch. If you really want to be savvy use and get money back, free bills!

Whether it’s one person of expertise or a community of people in the same process, just a nod you’re doing the right thing in what can seem like a sea of confusion will give you the confidence boost you need.  

Helen and the dastardly DIYers - find the ghosts in the attic before you pop the champagne

On the first viewing of my flat I walked through the front door and fell in love immediately. It had all the character I was after and the current owners had renovated to sell. Yes it was an attic flat in an old Georgian building so absolutely primed for haunted corners..... but it had great floors, art deco wall and woodwork treatments, even the light switches and plug sockets were fancy. All I would need to do was change the paint colour to my taste. Easy, and a great beginner's project.

Fast forward 4 months to move in day, and I walked through the front door, sat on the stairs and cried. In the cold light of day, the furniture-less and cold vacated flat faced me, and revealed the true horror of what terrible DIYers can create. The obvious question hadn’t occurred to me on my first, second or even third viewing - what’s the catch?

The fancy plug sockets were all wired incorrectly. The dimmable light switches didn’t dim. The ‘modern’ skirting boards covered up gaping holes to the outside world and the flat below (and whilst there are no ghosts, the lady downstairs could definitely be mistaken for a witch). The kitchen plumbing was leaking into every available cupboard. 

Renovation - it’s a big and impressive word when you want to sell a house. But don’t be fooled. In my experience there’s a big difference between professional renovation and enthusiastic but hopeless DIYers.

What began as a painting party turned into months of repair projects and actual renovation far beyond my 5-piece starter toolbox!

So my best and top piece of advice - make sure you dig deeper in your explorations and be ‘that person’! Turn on all the taps. Look behind the sofas for cracks. Test all the fancy light switches. There might be many names for that sort of person, and I will happily be called them all if only not to walk into another house of horrors with my next home.

Osei’s ghastly ghouls - don’t let commission creeping agents force you against your instincts

As some of you will know from my recent pivot, I’m in the full swing of buying my first property with my wife. I’ve worked my whole career in the home buying space and my actual job is fuelled by relationship building. But despite all this, let me tell you, Estate Agents have a bad rep for a reason……… and no amount of my smooth moves gave me the patience for some of their antics. 

Some agents (and it’s important to say some, not all) were really aggressively fighting for me to use their in-house mortgage broker, even though we had one already. If you need one, great, but remember, it's a way for them to make extra commission so they might not have your best interests at heart here.

One in particular called me to find out about our broker, then called my wife separately to say that they had not heard from me and that he will not let us view any properties unless we agree to use theirs. 

It got even worse when we booked in 3 viewings with a particular agent. We live 1.5 hours away from our desired location and we were halfway there on a precious day off. The agent called us to say that he is not going to show up to the viewing if we don't use their broker, after previously agreeing that it is fine. 

Is this illegal, no. Is it morally questionable, yes. The pressure to find the house that you love is on, especially at the moment, but don’t feel bullied into using a provider you’re unfamiliar with just to get a viewing - there will be other houses, and other great agents out there.

We swiftly walked away from this particular agent, and found some great agents at Haart. I might have fully lost hope otherwise!

So don’t worry, you’re not alone. If this can happen to me and I’m ‘in the know’, it can happen to anyone. 

The moral to all our horror stories………..FTB land is not a place to explore on your own. Seek the help and support of the wise owls you’re surrounded by……..whether that be friends, family, or StepLadder (wink wink).


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First Time Buyers Moving House

Jerri Howlett

Jerri is the Marketing Manager at StepLadder. Here to prove that injecting personality can still be 'professional'. Keeping her finger pulse she'll give you the lowdown on the hottest topics, creating killer content to keep you motivated on your home buying journey!

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