This year myself, my partner and our baby boy moved house. We lived in a one bedroom Victorian conversion flat in London. Shortly after his March arrival we began the hunt for a larger base.
I began enquiring about mortgage borrowing earlier this year in May. Initially my enquiries were met with squinty eyed suspicion from Santander, who I bank with, and Halifax too.
I imagine this was due to my self employed status not having the apparent 'safe bet' appeal of a nice secure employee. I found myself stuttering to explain how my take home shouldn't be compared with pre-tax earnings of full time employed peoples. I think I won them over to some extent but the meeting merely ended in a half committal 'maybe, but come back when you have a property in mind'.
Annoyed by this I sought out a mortgage broker to help. I met a cordial chap from Countrywide who took some financial details and 'sexed them up' so as to appeal to mortgage underwriters. He told me Halifax are an understanding bunch and thought it best to stick with them as they seem more in touch with modern-age, freelancing, skilled professionals. That we did and a mortgage was approved once we found our dream home; we were happy.
Just at the time we were coming to the end of the arduous solicitor phase of property purchase, David Cameron's blue team rushed in the Help to Buy scheme earlier than expected and I couldn't help but notice mortgage rates taking a tumble and the newspapers being flooded with adverts for mortgage products as dreams of home ownership became in reach for a lot of the public.
However, the greatest sign of change that really caught my attention was an unexpected package from Halifax that arrived one month after our move and a few days after my first mortgage repayment. A great big blue box. I expected it to be filled with unnecessary paper documents and leaflets about insurance products all bound in one oversized bright blue binder.
To my surprise Halifax has sent us a gift box filled with wine, chocolates, a tool set, picture frame fittings and a greetings card!
So why the gift box? Does everyone get one? Mortgages over a certain amount? Is this a new thing? Is it for the Christmas season? Who cares? The point is that they didn't have to send me anything and yet they did. That is customer service and I am definitely a fan.
The other thing to take home from this is the amazing transition. Over the course of the year I have witnessed first hand, a change from squinty eyed suspicion to gratitude with gifts.
So I would say to any prospective home owners, now is your time! The Tory flagship "Help to Buy" scheme, the mortgage rates dropping, all the advertising, and maybe even the thank you gifts are all signs that any home ownership dreams have a better chance of becoming a reality now more than recent years. Go get 'em!
Did you get a gift box from Halifax? Did you get something similar from another bank or building society? (Maybe) more importantly, do you plan to buy a new house soon? Would a gift box sweeten the deal? We have a comment box below so please let us know.