Categories
Doing it up

Looking back on 2021

At the end of 2020 I did a round-up of all the DIY we got up to in the year. Despite it turning into more of a novel than a blog post, it’s one of our most viewed bits of content and it was fun to write. It took a while but I’m writing this 2021 version on honeymoon so time is on my side! So here you go – a summary of what we got up to in 2021 that I have genuinely tried to make concise…


January

Y’all will remember that 2021 started pretty grimly with another 3 months of lockdown. The only positive was the huge amount of spare time to crack on with DIY.

Jan was all about finishing off my workshop. Condensation was dripping from the crappy bitumen roof sheets that I used so the first job was to insulate with polystyrene. This did the trick but sawing polystyrene to shape was not a fun job. You know that noise/feeling when you take polystyrene out of a cardboard box? Imagine that but 10 times worse and for a full day. It’s making me squirm just thinking about it.

I then screwed some 9mm chipboard under the purlins for a quick ceiling and used some leftover laminate my Dad had from a job to spruce up the floor.

After sheathing the walls with 6mm ply and adding some french cleats to the wall (a really quick way of adding flexible storage), I made a workbench then moved my gear in. I won’t touch electrics so my Dad very kindly kitted the space out with hundreds of sockets and lighting.

There were a few bits of trim to finish off outside and a ramp to build, but after a lick of black paint (that I applied a few months later), she was complete.

As cold and dingy and dusty as my workshop is, I absolutely love it. And Haz is quite a big fan of it too as she gets the house to herself.

February

As much as I wanted to live in my workshop, next on the agenda was the driveway, and that was a biggie. We were going to leave it until spring so it was warmer but lockdown was the perfect opportunity to crack on. What I hadn’t anticipated was A) how much work it would be and B) how bleak it is to work outside by yourself in the February rain.

The plan was to gravel the 80 square metres of space to the front and down the side of the house as well as adding a small block paver apron between the pavement and driveway. The concrete drive extended all the way down the side of the house. To avoid having to bring this all up, we sat gravel grids on top – all will become clear.

As for the area in front of the house, this was a combo of leftover hardcore that I’d dumped a few months earlier and dense jungle.

I started by knocking pegs into the ground to help work out what levels the hardcore and gravel needed to be at to allow for the 15cm gradient between our front step and the pavement. With those levels set, I removed the jungle and dug out to a depth that would allow for around 12cm of hardcore (we used MOT type 1). I then spread out some membrane to help stop the hardcore mixing with mud.

Next up, we spread out about 10 tonnes of hardcore (I lost count because we had to keep reordering). We hired a whacker for a week which I had a lot of fun with. That baby helped bind the hardcore together, creating a solid base for cars to sit on.

We also hired a breaker to smash up the concrete pad that was sat under the garage before we moved it 5 metres back to allow for the extension. To my delight, I found that there was actually one concrete pad on top of another so we ended up having to break up 15 square metres of concrete at a depth of 25cm – not fun!

Haz did approx 14 seconds of breaking and decided it wasn’t for her but this action shot is too good to leave out.

After breaking up the concrete, we wheelbarrowed it to the road and onto my Dad’s trailer – I think we did something like 8 trailer loads. That was a really tough weekend. The Dominos we had on Sunday night was better than any I’ve tasted before.

Back to the front of the house, I dug a big ol’ hole for where the block paver apron was going.

This got filled with hardcore and I added some concrete edging as haunching to keep the block pavers in place. I found this pretty tricky as there were a few competing angles and levels to deal with but got there in the end.

Using our trusty old cement mixer, we mixed up some grit sand and cement to lay the pavers on top of them, sitting around 2cm proud of the edging as the pavers would be knocked down by the whacker.

I thought that laying the pavers would be stressful but it was actually well fun. It was the first rewarding job of the whole driveway project.

With the pavers all cut and in place, it was time for more whackering. Not sure if professionals use old underlay to protect the pavers when doing this job but it worked for us. As well as bedding the pavers into the sand & cement, this process helps work the silica sand that you spread on top of the pavers into the gaps between them. This forms a really tight and robust set of pavers that can withstand heavy traffic.

That was that for the block pavers.

I cut some sleepers to size and pinned them to the ground to form a raised bed around the edge of the drive.

Knocking dowels down into the sleepers to join them was Haz’s favourite job.

Finally, gravel day arrived. Basil was very confused that between setting out on his morning walk and returning, 6.5 tonnes of gravel had been plopped on our drive.

Just before the gravel arrived, we slotted together some gravel grids to help make the gravel sturdy and to make dragging bins/prams etc. over the gravel easier. Then it was just a case of wheelbarrowing the gravel into place.

This one was a bit of a back breaker, but doing it ourselves must have saved us a few grand and we had nothing better to do at the time so it was well worth it.

March

March was lots of smaller jobs which came as a pleasant relief. Although the first job was to finish off the patio so more strain on the old back. We left a third of the patio undone the previous autumn because there had been a pond there and we wanted to give the earth that we filled it in with time to settle over winter.

As with the driveway, we started by laying down hardcore and whackering it.

We laid a bed of sand & cement before slapping the tiles on top.

With the tiles in place, on went the grout.

To build the step from the bi-fold to patio, I laid some bricks. The dance Haz is doing in the below photo was to celebrate the first day of the year that we were able to open our bi-fold doors. This has become an annual tradition but we’re not weird, promise.

I then cut the tiles for the step to size and in the process aged about 35 years.

I laid these on the bricks and grouted them.

About 6 months after starting the patio, it was finished.

After this I was finally able to spend some quality time in my new workshop ❤

Our 700 year old dining table was starting to look pretty sad in the fresh extension and we like the scaffold board look so decided to make a new table and bench. The first jobs were to sand, cut and glue up the scaffold boards. It was too cold for glue to cure outside so in she came.

We used new scaffold boards and wanted to distress them. After trying loads of techniques, rubbing compost into the surface looked the best.

The last jobs were to slap on a couple of layers of Osmo oil, spray paint the legs that my master welder Dad made, and then fix the legs onto the table top and bench.

March was also the month that I finally got round to adding some fencing at the back of the garden. For the first 18 months of living here, our back garden went straight onto the neighbours!

April

After 3 months of not seeing any other humans, the sun came out and we could start seeing people outside again – hallelujah. This also meant that I returned to my usual routine of doing lots of very random, little jobs in the spare time I had.

The relentless DIY of Jan-March meant everything inside/outside the house had been neglected. Take the garage, which had become dumping ground HQ. I know that tidying a garage isn’t DIY, but I can’t resist a good before and after.

The grass in front of the patio had undergone some serious abuse as part of the workshop build and patio construction.

I dug it over, levelled the ground, sowed some grass seeds and waited…

As we were starting to run out of jobs, I began thinking about what excuses I could use to feed my DIY addiction. I thought that I might be able to make a few bits to sell so I made a wee coffee table but didn’t like it so ended up keeping it which is a pretty twisted logic.

I also started playing around with plywood end grain as I’d seen some really cool stuff that people had made out of it on YouTube. I made a really small key holder that took about a half a day to make. I actually quite liked it so decided to keep that as well! At this point I was thinking that maybe the entrepreneurial life was not for me…

The apple tree at the bottom of our garden was fairly out of hand when we arrived, so by this point (18 months after moving in) it was basically the whomping willow. I spent a day cutting it back and after removing a serious number of branches it barely looked any different. Apparently you’re not supposed to go too hard in one go so I guess this’ll be an annual job.

May

BBQ weather was approaching and we needed a table for the decking. I decided to go a bit rogue and build one that an ice trough for drinks could be slotted into.

I used leftover 2×4 treated timber from our gate to build the frame, leaving a recess in the middle to slot a galvanised trough into.

I used pocket holes in the framework to screw down the top so there’s no screws on show. Then it was just a case of making a lid with a hand slot, adding a tap to the bottom of the trough so it can be easily emptied and then filling it with ice and beer.

For what we thought would be a bit of novelty we actually got loads of use out of it last summer, including for our triumph over Germany in the Euros. That was a good day.

Another scrap wood project was our spare room bedside table/stools. We couldn’t find any bedside tables that we liked online at a decent price and thought stools could look good. I found this plan and nabbed it. This was the first time I’d cut circles in wood with a router which worked surprisingly well with a very basic jig.

The wood had taken a beating from whatever it had been used for in its previous life (I think I took this stuff from a skip!) so it took a while to sand it to an acceptable standard.

With the wood cut and sanded, I drilled pocket holes and assembled with glue before applying a clear varnish.

June

By the end of June we’d finally painted the driveway sleepers, gate, workshop, fence and garage black. If you ever have a massive amount of wood to paint I’d definitely recommend getting a sprayer – it must have saved us a couple of days.

You can see in the below pic that the grass had started growing nicely.

I decided to dip my toe into selling things again and found that the boozy outdoor table was a hit. I sold a massive one for a lady in Cornwall through etsy (packing that up for the courier was not fun) and another for someone local.

I made little tweaks to improve the design. If you’re interested to see the stages involved in making one of these there’s a summary on our Insta highlights.

July

There were a few roasting days in July, so we decided Bas needed a paddling pool. I clobbered one together out of pallet wood and some membrane and he was a very happy pup. I do love making the occasional thing purely for utility where it doesn’t need to look good – it’s so much quicker!

The local lady who bought one of the boozy tables asked if I could make a matching corner bench. I copied a build from YouTube and made a few adjustments. If you fancy dipping a toe into woodwork, this would be a great first project as all you’re doing is measuring, cutting and screwing. Having said that, there was A LOT of cutting and labelling to do.

The benches looked great with the table and I had a very happy customer.

Other than the benches, July was pretty quiet as the world opened up again. I did squeeze in another bit of plywood end grain experimenting.

This time I made a serving board. Like with the key holder, it took aaaages as there’s a lot of cutting, glueing and sanding involved in creating the chevron pattern.

Eventually it was ready for a couple of coats of Osmo oil.

It doesn’t go with anything in our house but oh well, it’s pretty!

August

My stag do was at the start of August which was, as it should be, horrible. After getting over this, I was back in the workshop cracking on with another corner bench commission. This one was for a slightly different style as it was finished with decking boards and featured a wee table in the corner. Although it looked different to previous one I’d made, the framework and process were very similar.

I did actually do some DIY jobs for our own home in August. One I’d been looking forward to was fixing some battens up against the neighbour’s extension to give a slatted look as the bricks were a bit of an eyesore from our patio.

The first job was to ask the neighbours. The next was to fix some uprights to the wall with wall plugs.

I then tacked some black membrane in place so you can’t see the wall through the gaps and started nailing the battens in place. It was hot so I was eating approx. 3 ice lollies per hour.

The wood used was really cheap, treated 38x25mm timber that was rough as hell, had ink printed on one side and was soaking. In hindsight, buying cheap wood for this job was daft as I had to dry it out for quite a few days and I must have spent a day sanding all sixty of the 4.8metre lengths.

I used an air nail gun to fix the battens in place which was well fun and once I got into a rhythm it didn’t take too long.

Luckily, we just about had enough battens leftover to make a planter.

We plopped a climbing rose in it which one day, hopefully, will be humongous.

After that enjoyable job, I was back on grassing duty. To the right of our garden there was a massive flowerbed. It looked lovely when we arrived but we aren’t massive gardeners so weren’t excited about the prospect of weeding it.

Plus, Bas was partial to a sit in it which trampled the flowers and left loads of seeds in his fur.

So Haz and I set about removing all the plants, keeping the ones that we liked for the raised beds at the front of the house, and dumping the rest. We tillered the ground and painstakingly removed all the weeds and roots before raking it over with some grass seed. This was another job that we totally underestimated!

I also made my sis a wee coat rack for her birthday but have zero good photos of it.

September

There was a big ol’ pile of earth and concrete at the back of the garden from where I’d dug out for the workshop. This had become home to one of the most varied selection of weeds in the British Isles and looked horrible. I’d been putting off sorting it for months but finally the time came. My Dad spread weed killer and I waited a couple of weeks for it to do its thing.

Then it was onto the very familiar and horrible job of carting all the earth and concrete to the front of the house and into a trailer. I borrowed a petrol tiller from a neighbour which made breaking up the soil much quicker.

I was reacquainted with a family of frogs while doing this job that I’ve now moved on 3 times as part of different projects in the garden. The poor buggers despise me but I managed to relocate them without squashing any.

If you’ve read this far you know what happens next – I got it level, sowed some grass seed and put up a Basil-proof fence.

By this point, the grass that I’d sown towards the front of the garden was doing great. I’m embarrassed to say that at the tender age of 30 I have become the sort of person who enjoys mowing the grass every week. What am I going to be like when I’m 65??

One of my last outdoor jobs of the year was slapping a couple of coats of oil onto our decking.

Then I moved inside with the intention of laying laminate in our hallway and living room. We’d spent a long time sanding these floorboards when we first arrived but we never liked how they looked and were so soft that they dented at the drop of a feather. The last owner said they’re only about 15 years old so there were no worries about covering up some glorious, original floorboards.

However, my plan to just slap some laminate on top came unstuck when I lifted up a floorboard for a nosey. Even though it was only September, as soon as I lifted the board up there was loads of cold air coming in. I guess this is normal for a suspended timber floor, but what with the old energy price increase and the fact we plan on sticking around in this house for a long while, we decided it’d be wise to insulate.

This was another job where I was blissfully ignorant before starting about how long it’d take or how messy it’d be. I made a start by running my circular saw over the joints to remove the tongue and make the boards easier to pull up.

My multi-tool helped get into awkward areas. This is Basil’s least favourite power tool.

To lever the boards up, I borrowed what my neighbour called his homemade ‘floorboard lifter’. This length of scaffold with angle iron welded on the end saved me hours.

Soon enough the floorboards were up. I enjoyed having a nosey underneath them but was a bit baffled by how wobbly and unlevel some of the joists were. I checked their moisture levels and that was okay at least so a bit of bodging to sure things up and it was onto the insulating.

To suspend the insulation between the joists I tacked some breathable membrane to the bottom of the joists. I then stuffed loft insulation into the gaps and kept repeating this process.

With all the insulation in and floorboards screwed back down, it was onto the job I’d actually planned. I put down the underlayment, set up a workbench outside and started cutting the laminate. Anyone who who’s done this before will know how rewarding it is. Once you get on a roll it’s a really quick job.

However, tricky bits like scribing the laminate to slide under architraves takes a good while. Despite our hallway being small there are 5 doors that come off it so I got A LOT of scribing practice in.

With the help of music, podcasts and 5 Live, I eventually got there. I think we probably went a bit too dark but it looks a hell of a lot better than the yellowy pine floorboards that lay beneath. The jury’s out on whether the insulation has made a difference but I’m going to pretend to myself that it definitely did.

October

I got barely any DIY done in October, although Haz spent a bit of time in the workshop which she seemed pretty delighted about.

We had more important things going on so I thought it’d only be fair to let Haz enjoy a tidy house for a few weeks before the big day.

November

We spent a few days in the Lakes after our wedding which was glorious. Haz was partial to a late afternoon snooze after a day of exploring which was the perfect opportunity for me to plan the next project which I’d been looking forward to more than any other. The spaces at either side of the fireplace by our dining table had been asking for some alcove units which was the perfect excuse for me to crack on with some proper woodwork.

I used SketchUp (awesome free design software) to plan out the build and watched every video on this channel 38 times so that I could follow the methods that proper people use.

Once we were back home, I made a start on the cabinets using 18mm MDF.

Once the cabinets were glued and screwed, I made the doors. Like with the wardrobe build, I used the super simple method of glueing 6mm strips of MDF to a 12mm backer to create the look of a shaker door. This worked fine but I’ve made more doors since using the loose tenon method which is definitely favourable if you’ve got the gear.

I’d noticed that IKEA sell furniture with wireless charging integrated and that sounded too fun not to try. I rebated a wireless charger under the left countertop, leaving just 2mm of MDF above it. It works well, although we decided not to mark the ideal spot on the worktop so it does take a bit of shimmying to get your phone to start charging.

The next stages were to add the countertop, plinth and side profiles. A couple of knobs and a lick of paint and it started to look like a proper thing.

As ever, Haz was chief painter on this job. The finish she got using a foam roller was unbelievably good – the units look as close to spray painted as I think you can get by hand.

Basil, as ever, was a big help throughout this project.

I moved my focus to the top boxes. To make sure the shelves remain sturdy, I rebated them into the back panel and added a lip at the front made of pine which should reduce the chance of sagging.

Lifting them in place was a bit of a struggle with my twig arms but here’s an action shot which doesn’t show the strain on my face.

Testing the voice controlled lights was a joyous moment, although you have to say ‘alcove on’ in a very weird accent for them to work.

Once the top boxes were screwed in place, the last job was to scribe the side profiles and stick them on, as well as the picture rail top profile.

This was without doubt my favourite DIY project yet. I enjoy most of the other stuff we get up to, but woodwork is what I love doing.

December

I managed to squeeze in one last job before 2022. It was a console table for the hall which ended up being a bit of a ‘mare because we couldn’t find a stain that we liked. I wanted to use white oak but wood prices were/are mental so opted for B&Q’s finest quality softwood aka the crappest quality timber in all of the land.

I glued up a couple of boards to make a panel and added drawers.

My Dad and I made the frame out of some square steel tube which we welded together and painted black.

After genuinely around 15 stain samples, we settled on one we didn’t hate. It’s a bit patchy but I’d sanded it back to bare wood so many times that I just wanted to get this one done.

Then it was tools down and time for some chilling featuring Monopoly and pigs in blankets.


Well if you’ve got this far I’m impressed and I hope you enjoyed reading. As with the 2020 post, it’s been great to reflect on all the stuff we got done because at the time it often feels like things are taking forever and that we’re making no progress.

2022 will be a very different year as there’s barely anything left to do in the house but I’m pretty sure I’ll find something to occupy myself with…

Categories
Getting on the ladder Uncategorized

How much should I offer?

Finding a property that you fall in love with is incredibly exciting. However, the feeling is short-lived when you realise the serious business of actually making an offer looms. Working out exactly how much to offer is really tricky, particularly at the moment where factors like the stamp duty holiday and reintroduction of 95% LTV mortgages are fuelling a really frantic market. According to Nationwide, house price growth hit a 17 year high in April 2021 so the market really is very hot.

When you do come across a place that you want to make yours, this post will help you decide how much to offer and increase your chance of being successful.

I’ll caveat that I’m not qualified to advise on financial and mortgage matters, so this post is just a summary of how I’d go about the process of working out how much to offer. When it comes to making mortgage-related decisions, speak to a qualified mortgage adviser or broker.

How much can I borrow?

It’s a really good idea to address this before anything else. Otherwise, the risk is you’ll spend loads of time on Rightmove gushing over dreamy houses, maybe even do some viewings, only to later find out that you can’t get a mortgage anywhere near big enough to buy these homes. Finding out how big a mortgage you can get is incredibly quick and easy.

(In case you don’t feel overly comfortable with what a mortgage is, I did a post summarising the main stuff you should know.)

As a general rule, banks and building societies will offer a mortgage of up to around 4.5 times your gross annual pay. This will vary depending on the lender and your circumstances, but it’s a good indication. So, for example, if you’re earning £30K a year, you’ll probably be able to get a mortgage for around £135K. If you had a £15K deposit, your rough budget would be £150K. Of course, if you’re buying with somebody else who’s in work, these figures quickly multiply out.

While these estimates are helpful, the best thing you can do is get an approval in principle (sometimes called decision in principle or mortgage in principle or AIP or DIP!) This is basically an informal indication of how much a bank is willing to lend you, based on a few quick income & expenditure questions.

While this isn’t a binding agreement to give you a mortgage, it’s usually pretty close to the amount that you could borrow if you went through a full mortgage application. The main differences are that it’s super quick and easy to get an AIP and there’s no hard credit search so your credit rating won’t be impacted.

You can get an AIP by going direct onto a lender’s website or by speaking with a broker. You’ll then normally get the AIP in the form of an email which outlines how much you’ll be able to borrow based on how you’ve answered the questions. It’s a good idea to get multiple AIPs to see if there’s any variance between lenders as criteria and policies vary from bank to bank.

When budgeting, it’s reeeally important to factor in all the extra costs involved in buying a house and the fact that once you’ve moved in, you’ll probably want some cash leftover to make it your own. For this reason, it’s a good idea to set aside some cash and reflect this in the max house price you can afford.

Once you’ve worked out your final budget, you shouldn’t necessarily use this as the max house price figure to use when searching for properties online. That’s because, as in our case, you may be able to nab a house for less than the asking price and so opening up your search for houses that are listed for a few grand over your budget may be wise.

At this point, you should have a really good idea of what the maximum amount you’ll be able able borrow is. By adding this to your deposit, that’s your max house budget. A really important caveat here is that just because you can borrow that amount doesn’t mean you should borrow that amount. If you can fulfil your needs with a property that costs less than your max budget, this may be your best bet but it’s entirely down to personal preference.

What are the risks of paying more for a property than it’s worth?

Objectively working out how much a property is worth is tricky, but crucial. Here’s why.

Let’s imagine you’ve got an AIP and have done a few viewings which have been fine but unexciting. And then, it happens, you come across your dream home in your favourite area and it’s within budget – HALLELUJAH. You’ve fallen in love and the idea of another person setting foot in your home makes you physically sick. I know this feeling.

At this point, it’s tempting to just think that you’re happy to spend up to your max budget to make sure you get it. There are a few reasons why this is rarely a good idea.

Most obviously, the more you buy the house for the more your mortgage payments will be and/or the longer you’ll have a mortgage for. This can be easy to overlook as it’s ultimately ‘future you’ that has to deal with this, but do you really want to saddle yourself with extra debt that may mean working later in life? Is the worry about making ends meet at the end of the month worth it? Not questions I can answer, but certainly things that you should be considering.

Less obvious is the fact that if your offer gets accepted and then at a later date the survey you need to get a mortgage finds it’s not worth what you’re paying, this puts you in all sorts of bother. The mortgage lender is likely to reduce the amount they’re willing to lend to you, and so offering over the odds could screw your chances of getting your name on the deeds.

Another consideration is that if you put down a small deposit eg: 5% and property values slump after you move in, it may be that your home is worth less than the size of your mortgage. This is called ‘negative equity’ and effectively means that you won’t be able to sell your home until values come back up again. This could take years, as we saw after the 2008 financial crash. The market really would have to crash hard for this to happen again, but anything’s possible and the sharp rice in house prices over the last few months makes it more likely.

This has hopefully painted a picture of how important it is that you have a good idea of how much the property you’re considering offering on is worth before making a move.

How can I work out how much a property is worth?

‘Asking’ prices ain’t much use in helping assess how much a house is worth because they’re exactly what they suggest – the price that is being asked for. While estate agents give sellers their view of how much to list their house for, it’s ultimately down to the sellers to set the asking price. For the purpose of objectively valuing a property, you need to ignore this figure and spend some time in Rightmove and Zoopla’s ‘sold prices’ section of the websites.

Alternatively, on Rightmove there’s a ‘Market Information’ section towards the bottom of each listing which shows you various bits of insight, including how much houses nearby have recently sold for which is super helpful. The goal is to work out how much the property you’re interested in is objectively worth, based on how much similar places have recently sold for.

You’re looking for properties as similar as possible to the one you’re assessing ie: same road, number of bedrooms, condition, square footage, garden etc. If you’re in luck, there’ll be multiple very similar houses on the same street that have sold in the last 6 or so months. However, it’s likely that it won’t be as clear cut as this, so you may have to consider nearby streets, slightly different properties (eg: with another bedroom, in worse condition), and looking back a little further in time.

It can seem a little overwhelming at first, but you’ll soon find yourself thinking ‘ahh okay, this one’s got a much bigger garden and so is probably worth around £20K more’. As you’ll have gathered, this isn’t an exact science, but it really is the best way to work out how much a property is worth and therefore the max you should aim to spend on a specific property.

How much should I offer?

By this point, you should know A) how much you can afford (mortgage + deposit) and B) roughly how much the property you’re interested in is actually worth. Simply put, your offer shouldn’t be more than either what you can afford or what it’s worth.

The one caveat I’d add here is that when demand is greater than supply, as we’re seeing at the moment, ‘bidding wars’ are fairly common and can lead to houses going for well over what they’re really worth. If you’re prepared to go down this route then do be aware of the risks I mentioned earlier.

If you’ve ever watched an episode of Location, Location, Location you’ll know that it’s very rare for a first offer to be expected – there’s usually some back and forth. This is why it’s often a good idea to go in with an initial offer that’s slightly below the max that you’d be prepared to pay. Bear in mind that putting in an offer much lower than the asking price is not likely to go down well and so unless you have a solid justification for this (eg: you know there’s significant structural work required), it’s best avoided.

One good tip is to put yourself in the shoes of the seller. If you’d listed your house for £200K and some anonymous human puts forward an offer of £175K, chances are you’re going to pretty miffed at the cheek of them and annoyed that they’re wasting your time. However, if you received this same offer of £175K along with some justification of why it’s £25K lower than the asking price, you’d probably view it in a different light. This approach doesn’t guarantee you getting a steal, but it does set the scene for a negotiation in which the seller is more likely to come down from their asking price.

How do I actually make an offer?

When it comes to making an offer, you’ll go through the estate agent. The simplest and easiest thing to do is to give them a quick call with your offer and see what happens. There’s nothing wrong with this and I’m sure it’s the most common way to make an offer. However, to my mind, there’s a far better way of approaching this that will increase your chances of being successful.

I won’t go into detail on the stuff I’ve written about in a post about how to make your offer irresistible, but it’s all about selling yourself and building rapport. So when you get in touch with the estate agent, make sure to reinforce why you’re a dream buyer eg: first time buyer so no property to sell, already have mortgage AIP in place, flexible date-wise. As mentioned above, if your offer is below the asking price, make sure you justify why this is.

Follow-up the phone call with an email to reiterate the key points of your offer and situation – this serves as a helpful reminder to the estate agent when they pass your offer onto the seller. It also means you’ll come across as a serious buyer which the estate agent will notice.

The only other thing I’d mention is that if you’re able to visit the estate agent in person to make the offer, do it. It may sound a little formal and old-fashioned, but any opportunity to make a good impression should be taken and there’s no substitute to speaking with people face-to-face.

What happens next?

The period of silence after you make an offer can be quite unnerving. It could be minutes, hours or days until you hear back from the estate agent and there’s nothing you can do but wait.

We were very fortunate in that our first offer was accepted. I’m convinced that this was largely down to the tips I mentioned above, especially as we got the house for £20K less than we were prepared to pay and well below the asking price. However, there will have been some luck in there too, and to have a first offer accepted is quite rare.

I’ve never been involved in a negotiation process so I don’t think I’m best-placed to give tips on how to deal with this. What I will say, however, is that you should stick to your guns and not go over either your max budget or how much you think the property is worth.


You may get the first place you offer on, you may get the 20th place you offer on, so there really is a decent chunk of luck involved. Once you do get that incredibly exciting call to say your offer has been accepted, the process of actually buying the house begins. To give you an idea of what this looks like, here’s a post about our house buying journey.

Good luck!

If you found this post helpful, you might enjoy top 10 tips for buying your first home and deciding what your ‘dream home’ looks like.

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Doing it up Uncategorized

Looking back on 2020

Ahh 2020, what a year. Haz and I had expected that our free time would be dominated by the refurb this year, but we didn’t expect to have quite so much free time. Looking back on what we’ve achieved, I’m actually really chuffed and feel very lucky to have had so much stuff to crack on with whilst stuck at home. There’s still a fair amount to get sorted, but we’re 90% of the way there. Here’s what 2020 looked like for project number nine.


January

January was mainly about finishing touches in our bedroom. The fitted wardrobe was finished, floor varnished and walls painted, so it was a case of filling the space. I made a picture ledge to go above the bed and some ‘smart’ hanging bedside lights

The wall where a fireplace once stood looked pretty sad so Haz found a lovely cast iron fireplace surround on Facebook to install. We weren’t bothered about having fire in the bedroom so it was just for show.

After breaking out the wall, I tiled the hearth with some fetching crackle glaze tiles.

Then it was a case of fixing the fireplace up against the wall and voila. Quite an improvement vs the white plastic grate that was sat there before.

By the end of January, our bedroom was finished.

February

February was all about the spare room. The ceiling and walls were in a state so it was a fairly bleak month of stripping, filling and sanding. Here’s Haz demonstrating how such grim jobs can be achieved whilst remaining glamorous.

We had to sand every inch of the walls and ceiling. I do not miss this job.

Looking back on Feb, I’m not sure how we stayed motivated. Another bleak job was stripping the fireplace that took between 12 and 15 coats of stripper to remove the multiple layers of paint.

Once all the prep work was done, we slapped some paint on the walls and that was all we could do until the carpets got fitted, which was supposed to be in April…

February was the month when we finalised our extension plans after much dithering. We also settled on a builder, with a planned start date of June.

With the architect’s drawings in hand, we started kitchen planning. We actually ended up ordering our kitchen and utility units in late February to beat a price increase which was pretty risky given that the measurements were only theoretical… But we were lucky and it all worked out.

March

March begun with more hearth tiling, this time in the spare bedroom.

Haz began painstakingly stripping the stair banister and spindles before sanding and repainting them.

Then it was onto the final bedroom, our box room. This actually felt like a treat as it’s so much smaller than the other rooms. The walls had dents all over them as you can see from the filling that Haz did. They looked like a spotty teenager.

After stripping the ceiling wallpaper, there was a load of adhesive that we couldn’t get off. We ended up sticking some thick lining paper up which worked a treat.

It was just about at this point that we went into lockdown. I picked up some essentials from Wilkos, thinking they’d last until it was all over… I was wrong.

The priorities became getting a couple of home-working set-ups sorted. Haz shotgunned the dining room table, a smart choice.

In my infinite wisdom, I cobbled together a desk for myself from scrap wood. No need for anything special, ey? Unbelievably, this monstrosity of a creation is still going strong.

Warmer weather and later nights meant that I could crack on with outside work. To allow for the extension, the garage had to move back 5 metres so I dug out for a concrete pad to sit it on.

April

April began in the same way as most months: stripping and sanding, this time on the stairs themselves.

And some wallpaper stripping…

And some radiator/windowsill stripping…

I ‘accidentally’ burnt my hand with the heat gun which was good fun. Little did I know that this would pale in comparison to the injury that I would sustain just a month later…

Anyway, this meant Haz became chief garden digger which I wasn’t sad about.

With the area for the garage concrete pad dug out, I laid the sub-base and set out the shuttering in preparation for concreting.

And then the day came – mixing 1.5 cubic metres of concrete in a £110 cement mixer similar in size to a blender. Somewhat inevitably, it ended up taking 2 days.

Our enthusiasm was short-lived.

In hindsight, it’d have been cheaper and 400 times quicker to get ready-mixed concrete delivered but at least we learnt a new skill, I guess…

With one load of digging behind me, I moved onto the next. This time for decking.

I love working with wood so once the digging was done, this was a pretty joyous task.

By the end of April, the decking base was down and ready for me to build the seating.

Look at the state of our drive at this point #neighboursoftheyear.

May

What a month May was. Primarily because of the arrival of this little man, Basil.

Needles to say, the rate of DIY took a hit from this point onwards. How can you bring yourself to sand walls when this little creature is flopping around?

We did get a few bits done. My Pa brought the big boys round to help clear our drive of several tonnes of earth. We must have saved a small fortune by not having to get skips, bless him.

The decking seats started to come along nicely.

With the framework in place, I began fixing the panels.

With some cheeky under-seat storage.

May also saw the start of project ‘dismantle and remantle the garage’, starting with removing the roof.

Before I got chance to take the walls apart, quite a bad thing happened. Long story short, I sat on a steak knife which impaled my left bum cheek up to the handle. In case you think I’m lying, here’s the knife and below it is a photo of my shorts post-knife-sit (WARNING: graphic content).

Yeah so that wasn’t ideal but I’m often reminded how ‘lucky’ I was that the knife didn’t hit an artery or ‘tear me a new bumhole’ – the sympathy was limited. 3 stitches, a large amount of drugs, and 2 weeks later, I was back at it.

June

Sorry for more Basil spam, promise it’s the last one. This is B-dog on Haz’ birthday.

With the little man on the scene, we couldn’t really afford to have an open drive anymore so I made a gate.

This was probably my favourite project of the year, I’d love to make another.

It’s not perfect, but it keeps the pooch in and unscrupulous people out.

With a fully healed buttock, I was able to return my focus to moving the garage. The walls are made out of 2 foot wide reinforced concrete panels so shifting them wasn’t fun. BUT, it was pretty cool to see the space open up ready for the extension.

July

With the ugly ducking garage moved, the time came to clad it.

This took a while as drilling into the panels to fit the battens was a nightmare but we’re chuffed with how it turned out. One day I’ll get round to painting it.

I made a little more progress on the decking in-between other jobs.

It such a nice space to use on a summer evening. Shame that 2020 was the worst year ever for socialising.

July marked the start of the extension build. I won’t lie, it didn’t start great. I’ve always fancied a moat around the house, but one filled with neighbours’ excrement wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

Once this was sorted, we were informed that the concrete foundations had been laid in the wrong place. These things happened within 3 days of the guys starting the work so needless to say, we were not filled with confidence. To be fair, from this point on there were only small mistakes that you’d expect with any building project.

Once the walls started going up, we could get a proper feel for the space.

By the end of July, the roof was on.

August

August was all about trying to minimise stress caused by the building work. Covid meant that we couldn’t stay anywhere during the wall knock through which was pretty bleak. At least it wasn’t winter, that would have been horrendous.

Seeing the space open up was great, although keeping a pup occupied during the disruption was a bit of a ‘mare. I have no idea how people with kids have building work done.

Bi-fold day was an exciting day.

Work started to shift the side door and separate the utility from the kitchen.

The little DIY I did get done in August was a french cleat tool wall for the garage – well fun and such a good way to organise stuff.

September

The transformation in September was awesome. We started with this hideous shell and ended with a fully functioning kitchen.

The plastering took 5 guys two days – ridiculously impressive operation.

Soon after the plastering was done, our kitchen arrived. Haz nattered away with the delivery guys whilst the builders and I lugged all the units round the back of the house.

The race was on to get the extension painted before the kitchen could be fitted.

Haz took a week off work and spent 8 days straight painting… What an effort. Some family support was much appreciated.

Haz painted the fireplace and wall behind it which is such a huge improvement on what it looked like before.

With the kitchen area painted, I made a start on fitting the kitchen. Having not done anything like this before, YouTube was my friend.

Slowly but surely, it started to take shape, despite a couple of meltdowns along the way.

This is the face of somebody who is incredibly excited to clean their island for the first time.

Once the kitchen & utility units were fixed in place, around 32 men slotted the range in place and second fix electrics and plumbing began.

The first ‘proper’ meal we cooked on the range was pizza, potato waffles and peas… What a couple of children.

Whilst we were painting/fitting the kitchen, the builders were working on the under stairs loo. Previously, this was a coal house with a door outside.

I whapped some funky tiles down. Another scenario where initially I wasn’t convinced but Haz was right. Hope she doesn’t read this.

The builders also blocked up what used to be the door to the kitchen.

The guys filled in the old doorway and switched the window out for a door that would lead into the utility.

I managed to spend some more time on the decking, finishing off the seats and adding a slate channel around the edge. There’s still a few more bits to do but let’s just assume I’ve finished it!

October

October was all about the patio. First, of course, more digging.

I hired a whacker for a weekend to compact the sub-base down which was well fun.

With the sub-base compacted, I started laying the porcelain tiles. I was a bit anxious about this job as I probably should have left it to people who knew what they were doing.

It took me bloody ages to lay just these 20 tiles and I’m pretty sure I did myself some long-term back damage in the process. BUT, it went well and saved a few grand by DIYing it. I’m leaving the last third of the patio until spring, by which point the pond that we filled in should hopefully have fully settled.

Whilst I was patio-ing, the builders and co. were checking off a few last bits. Basil was very confused about how a loo appeared out of nowhere.

November

It would probably have been cost-effective to have bought a mini-digger given the amount of earth I’ve shovelled this year. The garage isn’t big enough for storage + space for me making/breaking things so we’re building a small workshop/mancave at the back of the garden. Both Haz and I are delighted as she gets the house and I get my own shed.

I laid a load of flags, built the timber frame, and then fixed ply on top.

This project has been very much a father-son effort. My Dad built all the wall frames and roof trusses on the farm. Lockdown then delayed us as my Dad couldn’t bring the wall frames round.

Moving inside, the carpet fitting we had booked for April was finally rearranged for the end of Nov. Ahead of this, Haz painted the stairs ready for the runner and I spent some time ridding our floorboards of their ridiculous squeaks.

Then the carpet man came to do his thing. This carpet is fitted to 2 bedrooms as well as the landing and stairs.

Downstairs, the floor fitter cracked on with laying the Karndean.

Once the floor was down, I could finish off the last kitchen bits including end panels and plinths. And FINALLY, the extension was done!

And the utility too.

Our new sofa arrived on my bday which was exciting.

December

Wahooo tier 2! My Dad came round with the pre-made walls and trusses for the workshop. After a few hours, the walls and roof structure were up. I tell you, the man’s a genius.

The next day we raced against the clock to get the roof sheets on before it poured down.

After I added a few bits of trim, my Dad and a pal came round to start cladding.

With those two cladding and me cutting & pre-nailing the boards, we had one side done in no time. The fact that more people doing a job leads to it getting done quicker was a revelation for me. If anyone fancies helping out with stuff in 2021 let me know – you’d be paid in the currency of chips/bacon butties.

The outside is now 95% done, just got to add some trim at the top and make a ramp.

Once we’ve sheathed the inside of the walls and put some second-hand laminate flooring down, I’ll be officially moving in.


So there you have it, 12 months of fairly relentless refurbing and DIY. I have no idea what we did with our spare time when we lived in a 2 bed London flat…

There’s no way we’d have done so much if we hadn’t been stuck at home on evenings and weekends. Fingers crossed that 2021 will be a better balance of doing stuff and actually getting the chance to appreciate it.

Thanks to all who have followed our refurb journey this year, I hope you’ve enjoyed it!

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Uncategorized

Extension post # 10 – finito!

Four and a half months later and we’re pretty much there. It feels sooooo good. We’ve still got a few things to buy/do before it’s 100% finished but, for now, we’re just enjoying it!


Pre-extension, the kitchen was our least favourite room in the house, by far. It was tiny, the units were falling apart, and only 1 of the gas hobs worked. We now have the kitchen of our dreams and feel incredibly lucky!

Being the intensely sad people that we are, we’ve been speaking about having a range cooker and kitchen island for a few years. Cooking is now a joyful experience and so we fight over who gets to be chef. We eat sat at the island most nights which is so, so much nicer than being slumped on the living room sofa like we used to be.

One of the jobs still do to is tiling the kitchen wall. We’re going to use these tiles in a herringbone pattern – wish me luck, I’ll need it.

We went for Karndean LVT flooring which was pricey but looks great and is easy to clean. Apparently it lasts forever but this furry fella may have other ideas.

Opposite the kitchen we’ve got a wee seating area. One day I’ll make a coffee table to go here but for now it works well just as a place to flop. Basil loves to chill here whilst barking at cats in the garden and watching his mother cook.

The door at the back of the kitchen leads to a small utility room.

Initially, I wasn’t fussed about having a utility, but I’m glad that Haz pushed for it because it’s so handy to have this space separate from the kitchen. Plus, it’s a great place to leave a muddy dog to dry off.

As part of the work, a loo was sneaked in under the stairs. Whilst cat swinging isn’t an option in here, not having to go upstairs for a wazz is a well nice.

From outside, the extension looks really cosy. I’ll finish the patio in spring once the earth sat in the pond that used to be on the left hand side has had chance to settle over winter. I should probably give the patio a good clean…


We’re so chuffed with how the extension has transformed our home. Although, having said that, I’m hoping that it’ll be many years until we have any more building work done 🙂

Once we’ve finished everything, I’ll do a post on where we got stuff from. I may also do a post about how much everything cost as I’m sure that’ll be helpful for people planning on having similar work done.