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Should I live in a flat with no mortgage or a house with a mortgage? (long)

(29 Posts)
pileoflaundry Mon 28-Oct-13 17:19:54

This is my first post, but I've been lurking for ages. Sorry this is so long but I didn't want to drip feed.

DH and I are driving ourselves mad trying to make a house move decision. We have DD (1yr), and are TTC. We live in a flat up 2 flights of stairs. The flat has 4 decent sized rooms (3 good bedrooms plus a lounge, kitchen, bathroom), but is a poor layout with little storage, and a tiny kitchen that is too small for 3 people to eat in. The kitchen is away from other rooms, so I can't watch DD whilst cooking, and we rarely eat together because we're too shattered to clear up DD's baby led weaning mess from the lounge whereas in the kitchen we can just close the door and ignore it it's a lot more contained. We would like a bigger kitchen, more storage, a garden for DD to play in, and I can't face the stairs with a toddler and a baby (assuming that the TTC works).

We've looked at houses, schools and commutes, and have two options.

1. Stay where we are. We could use our savings to pay our mortgage, and own the flat outright (I do realise that we are very lucky to be in this position). I have been made redundant in the past, it was horrible, so this option would give financial security. I'm shortly due to return to work after maternity leave, but if something went wrong I could, with a bit of belt tightening, give up work to look after DD (and DC2 if they came along). I'd definitely be able to work part time, and we would be able to go on cheapish days out and holidays without worrying about the cost. But we'd be stuck with the tiny kitchen, stairs, and far too much clutter for the space.

2. Move to a small house nearby. We would be able to afford a small 3-bed, but bedrooms 2 and 3 would be box rooms and we would have a lot less space than in the flat. We'd have a small garden and eat-in kitchen but an even bigger clutter problem. This would require a hefty mortgage. We would both need to work, but one of us could work part time as long as interest rates stayed low. We would struggle, potentially seriously, if either of us lost our jobs.

It's a now or never; at the rate prices are going in my area (and we want to stay here for friends, schools and transport) if we don't move to a house now we'll probably never will.

What would you do? (And thank you if you've got this far!)

Bohemond Mon 28-Oct-13 17:31:54

Have you considered remodelling the flat to suit? Depending on how it is built you may be easily able to move walls. However, I would always favour outside space if at all possible and you could convert the garage to another downstairs room (poss with sofabed for guests).

pileoflaundry Mon 28-Oct-13 17:46:09

There is one wall that we might be able to move to make a couple of much-needed closets. I agree on the external space, it would be great if we could expand into it. It should be theoretically possible to extend the kitchen by a small amount, and to make a porch/closet, but we would need our neighbour's permission and unfortunately they aren't keen. (Plus block's and council's permission).

SantiagoToots Mon 28-Oct-13 17:47:46

Being mortgage-free would be a gift - don't throw that away due to BLW!

Trills Mon 28-Oct-13 17:48:15

Are you sure that you could only afford a small house?

It doesn't quite seem to add up - if you have enough money to be mortgage-free in a flat then you shouldn't need to take out a big mortgage to get a similarly-sized house.

pileoflaundry Mon 28-Oct-13 18:25:28

Good point SantiagoToots!

Trills, we thought this too but have house-hunted and realised we'd need an extra 200-250K (GBP) for a similarly-sized house, ouch. We've looked at less expensive areas, but this would increase our already long commutes plus local primary school is far too good to be true excellent. I've also considered a couple of cheaper houses which needed work, but we wouldn't be able to afford the work and I wouldn't want to spend years with dodgy electrics and a broken boiler!

LBDD Mon 28-Oct-13 18:35:33

I would get an architect to have a look at what you could do to improve layout where you are. A good architect will have loads of ideas that you probably won't think of and would cost a fraction of moving home. Being mortgage free is only a dream for most people and gives you options. Mortgage rates will rise at some point.

IslaValargeone Mon 28-Oct-13 18:42:29

How important is the garden? Do you have easily accessible/pleasant outside space for the kids to go?

BloominNora Mon 28-Oct-13 18:45:49

Could you not compromise and buy a groundfloor flat - you may need a small mortgage but not as big as a house and would get more flexibility.

Maybe pop a note through the door of all of your ground floor neighbours to see if any of them are planning on selling.

VerySmallSqueak Mon 28-Oct-13 18:49:31

For now I would buy the flat if it's a choice between the house and flat.

I would then live with it,as is,and save, looking for every opportunity to relocate to a cheaper area to buy a house.

pileoflaundry Mon 28-Oct-13 18:54:46

Good idea LBDD, I hadn't thought of an architect.

Isla, I'm not sure! In my mind kids need outdoor space, and I remember playing outside a lot when I was little. Nearest park is 20 minutes away, and we go there, or to another a bit further out, almost every day. It would be lovely to have our own little patch of greenery, for DD to play in and me to laze in. But maybe it would just be a lot of mud and work...

RedHelenB Mon 28-Oct-13 19:00:35

Could you not get a 2 bed house with decent size bedrooms?

DoctorTwo Mon 28-Oct-13 19:03:32

As Gidiot and his idiotic Help To Buy scheme is causing a massive bubble my advice is to pay off the mortgage on the flat. Pretty soon the bubble will burst, interest rates will rise and thousands will be unable to afford to pay.

IslaValargeone Mon 28-Oct-13 19:05:25

If you are going to the park nearly every day then perhaps it isn't such an issue? I only ask because for the first 6 years we had dc we had no garden.
Then we moved and got one, it was really great. I have a wonderful memory of the first morning in our new house. It was peeing down with rain and she ran out of bed in her wellies and pyjamas and splashed around in her own garden.
We had 3 lovely years of that before having to move back to the house with no garden.
I would probably do all I could to move and get some outside space, especially as the flat doesn't seem to satisfy your other requirements too?

Preciousbane Mon 28-Oct-13 19:10:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

eightandthreequarters Mon 28-Oct-13 19:21:13

Could you afford to buy a better flat - maybe a similar size but with a better layout? A little closer to a park? Otherwise, I'd stay put. If you plan to use the state education system, you will find yourself sacrificing where you want to live for where you need to live, to be in the catchment for a school.

Eventually the children will move out and you can live wherever you want and use their bedrooms for storage!!

KirstyJC Mon 28-Oct-13 19:31:09

I would definitely go for buying the flat, if a house would still mean you have a space problem. Mortgage free buys a lot more than bricks and mortar! The freedom to choose whether to work and how much, being able to afford treats and holidays.

We moved from a 2 bed with tiny garden to a 4 bed with large garden. I don't regret it as we do have more space indoors as well as out, but the mortgage has tripled and it is frustrating to be coming into our second Xmas where we are not having presents for anyone except the children, and no holiday. If you wouldn't get much of an outside space then it wouldn't be worth it imo - we found our old house had such a small garden we barely used it. If we hadn't found a house with a bigger one then we wouldn't have moved, even though the house is bigger.

I think the previous suggestion of an architect is a really good idea - they will almost certainly come up with a solution you hadn't thought of, especially if the indoor space you have is quite large but badly laid out.

RandomMess Mon 28-Oct-13 19:35:18

I would definately explore options with an architect, I would also look at other flats and 2 bed houses to see what else is out there worth considering.

Also schools could change in the next few years so I wouldn't be in a desperate rush to move now but I do know what you mean about house prices rising.

littlecrystal Mon 28-Oct-13 20:24:07

Would it be possible to buy a 2 bed house with a possibility to extend to the loft at some point in the future?

I think personally could do with a flat BUT I would need a balcony or a terrace. Or a usable communal garden. And I have 2 small boys to consider. We are currently in a 2 bed house with a garden and we never use it - not sure why! we are always out or about, or is it too small?

In fact I am having a similar dilemma. Move to a better area (for secondaries) into 2 bedroom flat and have a tiny mortgage and central town location; or move into 3 bed house, increase my mortgage to the max and be on the outskirts of the town.
I will see what will come up on the market first...

pileoflaundry Mon 28-Oct-13 21:00:50

Thank you for the really good ideas. And good points on the garden, very useful to see different sides. The pyjamas and wellies memory is lovely! Am torn too as to how much a garden would be used, not sure if the novelty would wear off quickly or if we'd be out in it in all weathers, like we are at the park, just with a lot more convenience.

A 2 bedroom house would be more affordable. If DC2 doesn't come along, or if there was a loft to convert, then this would be a good option. And in the meantime we can save, as long as prices don't rocket further <grimly awaiting end of Help to Buy scheme>.

I think that as well as organizing an architect I'll keep an eye out for a better flat. It would still cost a lot to move, but a lot less than a huge mortgage. I think that a garden wouldn't be possible (long story of service charge hassles in smaller blocks) but one with a larger kitchen and a lift (a lift!!) should be.

littlecrystal, just from your 3 lines on your house dilemma, I'd be saying go for the conveniently-located 2 bedroom flat and tiny mortgage!

MortifiedAnyFuckerAdams Mon 28-Oct-13 21:03:39

Could you look for a garden flat? We have a ground floor flat (plus a dd, 2yo), and I love it. Floor space wise its as big as friends three bed new builds, with their third bed being a box. I will never move.

ChippingInNeedsANYFUCKER Mon 28-Oct-13 21:12:13

I would move to a house - in a heart beat. There's no way I'd want to be in a second story flat with 2 small DC if there was a way around it (I know people do - people also eat meat, doesn't mean I want to do it grin).

A garden with toddlers/children - you can't put a price on it. It is lovely to be able to let them toddle in and out all the time and not have to 'go to the park' just to get some fresh air. Padding pools, baby slide, ball - so much easy cheap fun to be had & so little effort. You can put the baby down for a nap next summer and play out with DD.

I'd try really hard to find something where you could convert the loft futher down the line.

RandomMess Mon 28-Oct-13 21:25:43

We have a tiny garden - about 18 ft x 15ft with 4 dc, we had it paved and tbh it did get used an awful lot when they were littlies in all weathers. Plus you get outside storage space for bikes and the like and somewhere to dry your washing at least half of the year.

I would move just to be on the ground floor tbh, stairs are a huge hassle! Even a similar sized flat to what you have but with better layout and on the ground floor with a small yard will make life better and worth the £ of moving.

pileoflaundry Tue 29-Oct-13 10:03:54

Thank you for the advice, it's really helpful to have others' experience and ideas. Sounds like the lack of a garden is what people would miss the most.

I stayed up far too late discussing this with DH. So stressed with it all, especially the prices (a house we saw last week was £25K more expensive by the following day). We've decided to put the move on hold for now, and try harder to loose the green-eyed monster!

littlecrystal Wed 12-Feb-14 10:45:08

I was wondering what OP has decided?

I am selling my 2 bedroom house and buying (fingers crossed!) to a 2 bed maisonette (no garden, just a balcony; virtually detached with no neigbours at all; on the 1st floor with garages below; one of these garages will be mine) in quiet wealthy suburbs, well positioned for schools. There is a potential to add 2nd loo and convert the garage. I will be able to reduce my mortgage if I don't overspend decorating my new palace smile

I did have a chance to stretch my mortgage and buy a 3 bedroom house, but it did not work out and I am hoping it is for the best. It would have been very tight financially. As a potential divorcee with 2 kids I'd rather have that stability and peace.

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