22.6.15

A tale of two houses

Howdy! How was your weekend? Mine was pretty lovely – I went home as it’s my Dad’s 60th birthday this Wednesday (can’t quite believe it – it seems like only yesterday we celebrated his 50th) so we went for a meal with family and some of his friends, and then yesterday I got to hang out with my lovely Grigs and have a good old natter. All in all, it was a welcome break from the stresses of house-buying and potential homelessness.

I think I mentioned before that, as well as having a baby, a pretty life-changing event, we've decided to make life easier for ourselves by trying to buy a house too before the baby arrives. Foolish, foolish people. 

It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that buying a house is possibly THE most irritating, stressful and emotional process you can go through (feel free to remind me of that when I’m 7cm dilated). It is hellish.

It started very smoothly - we saw four houses, loved one, had our offer accepted... Then we discovered that half of the garden in the lovely house we are trying to buy was not actually the vendors' to sell. Yup. Cue lots of panic and me ringing estate agents and solicitors, and then six weeks of angst while we waited for the vendors to decide what to do about that. And....nothing. They decided to do nothing about it. Strangely, we didn't want to buy a house that had half a garden and that we might not be able to get a mortgage on due to that fact, so we finally pulled out last weekend. 

And back to the Rightmovey grindstone we went. 

House hunting is SO much fun. That is, when you're looking for other people. Or the first one or two houses you view for yourself. The rest of the time it is incredibly frustrating. 

Some estate agents have taken to marketing properties with an eye-catching headline at the start of the listing. THE PERFECT FAMILY HOME proclaim the ads which, when you click on them, invariably show a plethora of photographs of exposed wiring and peeling 60s wallpaper. The perfect family home...if you hate your family and want them to die horrible electrocution-y deaths. 

LIVE THE DREAM promised the listing for another house we went to see. Just like that, IN CAPITALS. I don't know whose dream they thought was manifest in this property except, perhaps, Stanley Kubrick's. Who dreams of poorly finished kitchens, suspicious wet patches on the walls, stabby-looking neighbours and streets coated in takeaway packets and dog poo? Not me. Though, I suppose LIVE THE NIGHTMARE probably wasn't going to attract as many viewings. 

Once you get past the ridiculous strap lines, you have to face The Open Day. I don't know whether this is just a London phenomenon, as I was always under the impression that you could view a house, mull it over, go back for a second viewing and then offer if you so wished. Not here, amigo. Nope - you've got a ten minute slot to wander around (and about three other couples/families have the same slot), to look at the property but also try to suss out how much the other viewers like it too. I like to try to put people off by saying things like "did you see that damp patch?" and "that'll be a good fifteen grand to fix..."  These open days always happen on a Saturday, no you cannot see the house at any other time, and you have to make any offers by midday Monday. Stressful much? 

Thankfully, after a few bad viewings and a few of these open day 'experiences', we found two houses we did want to offer on and had one of our offers accepted. 

So, second time lucky, we hoped. But it seems that this road is also rather bumpy. We haven’t uncovered any nasty issues of non-ownership (yet!) and things are progressing well at our end, but we are now at the mercy of The Chain. Imagine those words dripping with blood, like in a horror movie poster.

First, we waited for our vendors to find somewhere to buy. Dum de dum, tick tock… then they found somewhere, and now we are waiting for the lady they are buying from to find somewhere else to move to. And waiting. And waiting… She puts offers in, they get rejected, she puts offers in on other houses, they get rejected… of course, no one wants to do the decent thing and move into rented to spare everyone else the agony. And when she does find somewhere, there could be another bajillion links in the chain who also have to find somewhere to go.

So we’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that we won’t be in a home of our own before the baby makes her appearance. I’m now aiming to be in by Christmas. Well, we have to be in by mid-December or we have to go through the whole, torturous mortgage application process again. And that was a headache and a half – literally months of providing more and more and more paperwork to our broker, answering questions pretty much every day and spending a lot of time on the phone and emailing to satisfy our lender’s requirements.

Meanwhile, we’re trying to work out what our contingency plan is. Plan B is to stay where we are, in our rented flat, but we’re waiting to hear whether our landlord will let us continue our current contract beyond August with a two-month notice period. Plan C is a helluva lot less attractive – we stay with friends in London until my maternity leave starts, then Matt stays in London for work and I move in with my parents back in Oxfordshire. I really don’t relish the idea of moving home and hospitals at 38 weeks pregnant, and potentially having our little family split up when it’s only just formed, but hey ho.

So I’m now spending my days crossing everything possible that things work out, but also preparing for the chance that they won’t by having a good de-clutter, ridding the flat of any unwanted furniture and other stuff to make accommodating a baby/putting stuff into storage easier, and generally feeling on edge.

It’s a rollercoaster, folks. One I’d quite like to get off pretty soon.

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