Today I’d like to talk about the real cost of a fixer-upper house as a newly married woman.
I understand that’s a pretty niche audience I’m talking to, and it will become apparent why I’m being so specific in a moment…
Let’s start in February 2013 when I wrote a blog post declaring that this would be the year of the kitchen for our house. To put a bit of perspective to such a claim, by that point we were two years into living without one. Sadly, I’m not kidding.
The house came with a downstairs sink but no heating. No gas. No cooking facilities. No cupboards. No kitchen units.
We bought cheap bits to keep us going (an oven saved from the scrapheap for £50) and we brought a fridge-freezer and microwave from the flat we had previously rented. We bought a washing machine with doubled up as a work surface for preparing dinner. See Exhibit A…
It wasn’t ideal – but we got through it.
As our April 2013 wedding approached, family and friends asked us “what do you want as a wedding gift?” – a funny situation really as I do NOT like the idea of asking people for presents. But we made the suggestion of home-type vouchers to put towards a new kitchen.
The trouble is, we still didn’t have one!
Married life for us started as renovators. We knew we would need to restructure and extend, with the plan that we would add any costs onto our mortgage.
This is a common procedure and mortgage agreements actually exist purely for home improvers – a great way for younger people to get on the properly ladder if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty!
There was only one problem, re-mortgaging in this way means a brand new credit check. And what do many women do after they get married? Change their name.
As far as the credit score universe was concerned, my Mrs name existed nowhere. I was an illegal alien to the banks. No national insurance. No residence. No electoral roll. No credit history.
The real picture was quite a different story. I actually have really good credit! I pinky promise!
(And I will say, if you’re looking at doing up a house, prepare for this in advance to keep your costs down. Banks will often give better rates to those with more favourable credit scores. Learn more about improving your credit score here)
It turns out, if you change your name for whatever reason, it can take up to a year to make the link between your previous identity and your new one. Isn’t that a scary thought?
Think about how many young professionals want to get on the property ladder who may also be thinking about getting married within the same period of their life? The two are so closely related and yet, no-one talks about this major factor.
Your credit history could be wiped.
It’s temporary, sure. But as any renovator will tell you, living amongst the dust and the bricks loses its novelty quickly. You want to get a move on. I don’t condone living beyond your means, but there are some things you might just never have the lump sum to put towards – renovating being a classic example.
So if you’re looking to renovate and are planning to borrow/remortgage to do so, here are a few things you should look at:
- Make sure all of your records are up to date. If you’ve just got married, update your name ASAP to reduce any delays in the switchover of your credit history.
- Make sure your new spouse/cohabiting partner is up to scratch too! Once you join in matrimony or share the same address, your credit become adjoined. One affects the other.
- This goes for previous relationships. De-link yourself from any ex-room mates or relationships, as these can stay linked to you for up to 6 years!
- Ensure you pay off as many outstanding debts as possible. Set up direct debits to always pay the minimum to avoid receiving any late payment charges.
- If you really can’t wait to renovate, as we couldn’t – try a loan. NOT ideal as you will likely be offered very high rates if your rating is poor. However, we did this and went specifically for a loan which could be paid off early at no extra charge. Following a year, my name had caught up with my records, and our house had increased in price thanks to the renovations, meaning we were then approved to put the cost onto our mortgage. It’s a workaround, at a temporary high cost. Never borrow beyond your means.
So wow, that was a bit serious wasn’t it?
I don’t normally talk financials but sometimes it’s easy to become mesmerized by transformative Before/After imagery, when in actual fact, the reality of getting it done is not quite so glamorous.
Here is a picture of what it looks like more recently! We still have bits of decorating we want to do, but that’s a post for another day.
How did you finance your renovations? If you have any tips, let me know in the comments! One day, Joe and I are planning to buy another house and do it all again. We must be mad!
*This post was written in collaboration with Credit Score. All words and opinions are my own and of personal experiences. Trust me, it was a hard 2 years without a kitchen!