My Obsession with the Housing Market

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Dream House in Dartmouth Devon as seen from garden

So today I thought I’d share with you a bit of a personal post about my guilty secret, namely my obsession with the housing market and visiting property portals like Rightmove, Zoopla and Purple Bricks. Browsing these websites has been something that I’ve done on a very regular basis (probably weekly) for as long as I can remember. I’ve always dreamed of having my own home and even as a student I kept my eye on property prices back home, always on the lookout for the perfect property.

Of course I knew I had no chance of getting on the property ladder at this point, but looking at houses for sale became kind of a hobby for me. I’d look at all the super expensive properties and imagine what it would be like to live there, creating a fantasy in my mind. I’d also look at the cheaper more run down properties and imagine how I could transform them with a renovation project. Actually owning a property always seemed out of reach though.

Dream House in Dartmouth Devon as seen from the front

Then my husband convinced me to go see the bank manager and enquire about mortgages. It turned out we could get one after all, but living in such an expensive part of the country and knowing exactly how much properties cost in this area, I knew we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere halfway decent in budget.

As soon as I left the meeting with the bank manager I was straight on Rightmove and lo and behold I found us a lovely little flat, that was in a great area, was in good condition, with a lovely south facing garden and was within budget. We didn’t look at any other properties, we just put in an offer straight away! You may think that was a crazy thing to do, but having monitored these websites and the local housing market so closely for years, I knew that this was the perfect little gem for us to start family life in.

Dream House in Dartmouth Devon family room

And we still absolutely love living here. Especially as we’ve been working through our list of minor renovation projects. We put in a completely new bathroom, we did a kitchen makeover, we updated the living room and we started to get the garden in order. Slowly but surely it’s all coming together. There’s still lots to do. We’re hoping to create a utility room, do a bedroom makeover, build a bespoke cupboard in the hallway, lay new flooring throughout and get some proper flooring put down in the loft.

We were pregnant with our first daughter when we moved in and we’ve since had another daughter so if I’m honest, the flat is getting a bit too small for us now and we could do with a four bedroom house instead of a two bedroom flat. I’ve been to see the bank manager again to find out what we could afford. I’ve kept my eye on this nifty tool that allows you to see if your home has gone up in value and by how much. I’ve had an estate agent come round for a refined valuation, and I’ve been obsessively monitoring the market. It saddens me to say that our budget just won’t stretch very far in this area.

Dream House in Dartmouth Devon open plan kitchen diner

Most properties are way over budget. Any that come close are either too small, or awful and would need a hell of a lot of work. Only problem being we’d max ourselves out getting the mortgage so we’d have no funds left to pay for renovations or even to save up for them. I can honestly say in all the years I’ve been monitoring the local housing market on the various property websites, I’ve seen about five places I’d happily move into and wouldn’t want to change too much. And they have all been way over budget!

The images that you can see in this post are of a house that went on the market recently with Purple Bricks. It has been renovated by a local property developer that I know. Every project that she takes on results in properties that are beautiful, well thought out and just perfect, really. I would have bought this property in an instant had we been able to afford it. It was on for over half a million pounds though, which is way over budget. But it offers exceptional value for money in these parts. An offer has been accepted on it recently so it’s no longer on the market sadly. But I think you’ll agree, it will make someone a gorgeous home!

Dream House in Dartmouth Devon master bedroom

We, on the other hand, are left with a serious dilemma. Do we continue to do all the projects in our flat that will make it exactly how we want it and more suited for our situation, so we can stay here long term? In doing this we would risk spending too much money on it and never be able to recoup that money if we do ever sell. Or do we hold off on doing too much work and keep the ceiling price in mind, just on the off chance we one day sell up and move? This would mean potentially spending years living in a flat that doesn’t meet our needs or make us happy.

The big thing we have considered doing is a loft conversion. We are very fortunate in that our flat benefits from quite a large loft space that could easily be turned into the extra room that we so desperately need. We’d have to spend £20-30k on this project and the estate agent who came to value our flat told us that this would be utter madness and a waste of money. But would it? If it means that we could stay here long term and have the flat work for our family can you call that wasted money?

Dream House in Dartmouth Devon garden

How much would it cost to move again? Removal costs, estate agent fees, stamp duty? Isn’t that even more of a waste of money? If we buy a bigger house, we’d also have a bigger mortgage and our monthly repayments would be a lot higher. So we’d have less disposable income to spend on doing things as a family, days out, holidays, generally making memories and saving for the future. Is that worth it?

I’m really not so sure. What do you guys think? Have you ever been in our situation? Are you obsessed with property websites too? What is the housing market like where you live?

Images c/o Purple Bricks used with permission.

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  • I am obsessed with property websites too! I see what you mean and I’d make the most of your current home. Otherwise your life will pass as you keep waiting to go up the property ladder. And with the loft, surely any work you do will increase the value of your home?

  • If by making your home larger, it makes it more suitable for your family AND you then intend to stay there for the next, say 10 years, then I believe it makes perfect sense to do that. The value will be in what is added to your lives. The alternative of moving to somewhere else where you’d have all the things you want doesn’t seem to be an option but do keep looking (preferably in person) at other properties too. It also sounds as though you have considered other factors too: the upheaval and expense of a move, a bigger mortgage and the fact that your parents help with childcare so you need to be near them. From that information, I’d say it sounds like the right thing for you! It only doesn’t make sense if you’re doing it to add value to your property. Do it for what you need, not what someone says who has an ulterior motive, I know it’s not really comparable but I remember reading about midwives telling you to push, not because it was the right time for you but because it fitted in better with their shifts.

    • Thanks Diane, that’s very sound advice. I’ve been mulling it over a lot since I wrote this post and the more I think about it the more I want to stay put! That’s awful if midwives really do that!

  • We were in the exact same dilemma a few years ago and did a DIY loft conversion (granted we had the skills in the family). We only paid for materials, a plumber and electrician. It took us 5 weekends however as everyone was chipping in in their spare time. There are a lot of tradespeople who will work privately at weekends – perhaps you can get some recommendations. A much cheaper alternative!

    • Thanks for the advice Natalia. It is so hard to get any kind of trades people to come out at any time here in Dartmouth. It’s a nightmare. It would be a dream come true to have friends and family with the skills to help out. To get it done in five weekends would be amazing!

  • I think when estate agents say things like this what they are really trying to say is you’ll be the most expensive “flat” on your street or area. That they have a pipeline of candidates who want a property at a certain price. If doing a loft extension is going to make your home more livable then I think it’s worth considering. Moving costs would probably be at least £15k depending on the value of your property. So why not invest it in your home if you love it and the area instead?

    • Thanks Mary. Reading all these lovely comments has really helped. After the estate agent said it would be madness I really started to believe him. But I love where we live. I love the area, the road, the views, the garden and the flat. We just need more room. I think the loft conversion is the perfect solution!

  • If you love your home and know you would spend many more years living there, I don’t think its a waste of money in doing the loft extension. Who can predict the future of 10/15years from now. What is crazy now may be normal down the line. However it seems you could use the professional opinion of a financial expert who could review your situation and the current market as wellas analyse trends for you and come up with a recommendation. I think jts a service which cost about 100/200£. I havent used it myself but he was recommended by a friend in his 50s who has a few properties. Good luck! I love a zoopla search but currently i dont go on it as property prices have declined and it makes me so depressed my house on paper isnt valued more. 🙄

    • That’s such a good idea Marlene. I never knew such a service existed. I’ll have to research into that. Could end up helping us make a more sound investment. Thanks for the tip. And don;t be down hearted about the value of your home. Like you say, who knows what will happen in 10-15 years.

  • Totally understand your dilemma, we are fast out growing a home I thought was vast when we moved in 5 years ago. Think I need to be brave and consider a loft conversion like all my neighbours!

    • At least if all your neighbours have done it you know you’ll be in good company. Plus you could always pop round and ask if you can have a look at what they’ve done. Then take the best ideas from theirs to make a success of yours!

  • We had a loft conversion many years ago because we couldn’t afford to move to a bigger house. It made a huge difference to our home and is the most used room in the house. I have never met anyone who regrets getting a loft conversion, I think they are well worth it.

    • I really think you’re right Pati. I’m going to really struggle to find somewhere nicer when it comes to location and views. And I really don’t want to do a massive renovation on a new home.

  • It’s so hard isn’t it. We are maxed out too but I can’t step away from Rightmove! I’m always on the look out for a surprise bargain……never happens!!! If your staying put and everything else is perfect with your house then in the long term your money should be safe. Such a hard decision

    • The good thing about being obsessed with Rightmove is that you know when a gem come up. Only in this area the gems cost upward of a million pounds. We just need that one extra room and a loft conversion would give us that.

  • I would definitely do the loft conversion. Surely you’re bound to at least get your money back, if not make more money on top? And you would be happier there, as it seems like the perfect location for you…

    • It really is Tamsin. I grew up in the next street. My mum and dad even lived in this exact flat as young newly weds. It felt like fate when we bought it. And every time we even mention the possibility of moving our four year old daughter begs us not to.

  • Even after purchasing our home we keep going back to check 1) prices as they go up and 2) what’s new.. We just want to stay informed. Looking regularly means that you are ahead of the pack when something new is on the market. Even if you don’t have a mortgage shorted, I’d highly recommend seeing a few properties in the area you like to get used to seeing properties (new questions come up in your head the more properties you see) as well as to get away from the emotional stress of “seeing the one” and missing it out. I hear that a lot. But frankly there’s no ONE property that will tick all your boxes, but several. Even if you miss out getting the one you absolutely LOVED, I promise, a better one will come along. They always do.

    • Jenny, are you giving me permission to take my Rightmove obsession to the next level and actually go and look at houses? I’d love that. We went to see one round the corner that looked absolutely perfect for us and was o my slightly over budget. However, once we got in there we were totally underwhelmed. The photos made it look huge and bright and airy, when in reality it was no bigger than our flat and the downstairs was like a cave. Amazing what a wide angled lens and a bit of Photoshop can do.

  • I love browsing property websites, my favourite is The Modern House, such gorgeous homes there, I could spend hours browsing! x

    • Uh-oh. It didn’t occur to me that in writing this post I would find new property websites to browse. I’ve never come across The Modern House before but sounds like I could be spending a fair bit of time hanging out there from now on!

  • I also enjoy a little browse of the property sites! I’m currently in my third (owned) property and I’ve decided to stay here. When I was younger I wanted the biggest property I could afford, and now in my 40’s, I’d rather have a smaller mortgage, less home maintenance and more freedom. Although I’ll never stop looking…. !

    • That is the mindset I’m starting to have too. I once read something that said “buy the house you need, not the house you can afford” and I thing that is such wise advice. Society is always telling us that bigger is better and we should spend spend spend, but this just makes us slaves to our debts. I’d rather live within our means and travel more or spend more on fun hobbies. We can still have a lovely home even if it is smaller.

  • I don’t think it’s a waste of money at all to create a space you can live in and love for years to come! I think so many people get wrapped up in the idea of how much a house is worth financially and don’t consider the emotional value of their space and how much that can add to your wellbeing and enjoyment of life.

    • Thank you Kate. I honestly can’t imagine spending another 10 years in a home and not making it fully work for us as a family. It may not make sound business sense to do a loft conversion, but it would improve our living conditions so much! And as you say it would greatly enhance our wellbeing! Thank you so much for your comment!

  • Oh, this is the dilemma facing so many people, isn’t it? It’s incredibly hard! Could you move just slightly out of the area, so you still get all the benefits but a bigger space?

    • We could Susie, but we’d have to move across the river to Torbay where we’d definitely get more for our money. But it would mean changing my daughters school and moving away from my parents who help with childcare while I’m at work. I would be that annoying woman on Location, Location, Location who tells Phil and Kirsty that we have an extremely small search area covering just a few roads! I’d be a nightmare on that show! I might consider moving away when the girls go to secondary school though as they won’t go to school here!