What Katy Did - safe as houses

It's a tricky business buying houses, especially when you're not entirely sure what you're looking for.

So far in my columns I've given you fashion shows, steamy saunas, colonic irrigation and chocolate (not all together, I might add) so I apologise for this one being a tad on the dull side in comparison. But right now I'm obsessed with the idea of buying a house and as it's all I can think about, you have the pleasure (or not) of reading my ramblings on the matter.

Yes, I know I'm already on the property ladder but because I part own my flat with my dad, I feel as if I've only got one foot on the rung, rather than both.

Actually, last year I was considering the idea and boy did I wish I had acted then, as prices last summer were at a low (compared to a few years ago). And what has happened as soon as I decide to start looking? Prices are on the rise again. Great.

Also at the heart of this decision is the fact that I am, at times, annoyingly practical and think it makes sense to buy property for the long term investment. Especially considering the fact I am reluctant to put money into a pension as I have seen no good reason to do so (if anyone wants to try and convince me, please be my guest). But I am not so stupid as to think I can just grow old with no retirement plan whatsoever, so houses seem to be a good move (pun intended).

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So why right now? Well, my house price prediction booklet from 2003 has already been proven right by 2004 and 2005's slight drop, so I have no reason to believe it is wrong about next year's hike.

This has meant for the past four weeks I have spent my weekend traipsing round houses. The main problem though, which I identified early on, is that I am somewhat lacking in direction. My mind seems to jump from one minute thinking it would be better to get a relatively cheap buy to let and stay living where I am, to stretching myself mortgage-wise and getting a big house I could then live in with, say, a friend (effectively halving the mortgage anyway).

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So the fact that half my brain is looking purely for an investment and the other half for something I would like to live in, is not helping. Another factor to consider is whether to buy somewhere at the top end of my price range that needs no work, or go for a bottom end bargain that needs a complete overhaul but by doing so would add value. This is quite possible, due to having access to a fairly decent-sized deposit, so that brings even more properties into the equation.

So far I've looked east, west, south, south west, and seen some places I like but because I'm not exactly sure what I am looking for, it's not easy.

Another annoying thing too is that houses in the 'first time buyer' category, i.e below the stamp duty threshold of £120K, all seem to be snapped up in a matter of hours. No sooner have I seen the ad in the paper and called the agent, but some other eager buyer has got in before me. What's even more annoying is when I have seen one, then a few days later call back to ask to see it again and it's already gone. What chance do I have? Be quicker to make a decision you will say, but buying a house is a big thing and as someone close to me keeps saying, 'buy in haste, repent at leisure' (or is that marrying? Guess it applies to both).

I think I'm even starting to dream about houses now. And even when I do do something else, like go to the cinema, out for a meal or to the gym, you can bet the main thing on my mind is the cute two up two down terrace I missed out on, or the mansion-like (for me anyway) three bed Victorian town house that needed a complete makeover but was a snip at £109K.

Perhaps buying a house is much like organising a wedding though. I'm beginning to think it might be a good idea to pay someone to take control of the situation - much like a wedding planner. Someone who I can say to 'this is how much I have, find me this, this and this' and bang, it's done.

I had wanted to go to Australia for a holiday right about now but put it off because I thought an expensive trip down under was perhaps not wise when wanting to buy an even more expensive house. But I'm going to need a break soon or my head will explode.

I guess I just have to look at the long term goal and keep persevering. I may be annoyed now, but I know I'll be even more annoyed if I leave it until next year when prices are even higher.

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