House search: the final instalment (or how to live with disappointment)

Ok, ok. I know my blogging has been a bit hit and miss (or would it be miss and miss?) which is why I decided I will be blogging everyday for the next 30 days. I will be a challenge, but I am in need of challenge at the moment, so here we go! 😀

I will start from where I left off: the house search. On the last post, we were just about to go and see for a second viewing of house #2, which we had already pretty much bought in our heads, knocked down walls and built imaginary bathrooms. I don’t know what it was but we just didn’t like it. I mean, I would still have bought it, but husband just couldn’t. So that was out.

And then there was house #5. I really really wanted to hate it, the rooms were too small, the price was too big. But I couldn’t. I loved it. I loved it so much I wouldn’t stop going on about it. Mike was less convinced and still wanted house #4, which was a resounding no from me.

So, with nos flying all around and us with no house to buy any more, I suggested we went to see another new build in a neighbouring seaside village. Husband fell in love with the house. I had promised myself I would never live in a new build again. I lost.

And this is basically the story of how, on Easter Monday, we paid a deposit and got ourselves a brand new house. To be fair to the house, it is quite big, the room sizes are great, the garden is pretty decent for a new build and we do have (partial) sea views. But I had this dream of stripping floor boards and choosing new bathroom suites which has pretty much been crushed by this house. Oh well, it was meant to be, I suppose. I will have to content myself with decorating and styling what we got – and start a savings account ready for me to rip off the flipping carpets and putting down underfloor heating.

Now the good – and highly stressful! – thing is that they want to complete on the 27th April. As in, next week. So we have been trying to arrange a mortgage and do all the paper work in three weeks, which is partly the reason I haven’t been here!

I have already started designing for the house and will share a bit of my design process here and, hopefully, the execution once we are in. Wish us luck! <3

House search ~ another update!

So, last time, things were not going great. A few days after I wrote that, I decided that enough was enough and I was going to start viewing anything and everything within budget and location. Then, a few days after that, another house came on the market in the village – brilliant, I thought. At this point, there were 4 houses for sale in the village within our budget (and one that is the lottery win buy), but 2 are cottagey and not really my cup of architectural tea.

So, I booked the other two: the one I mentioned in the other post and the recently posted one. The latter (house #1) had the most wonderful garden with sea views (I didn’t even know you could see the sea from the village! I have since noticed you can see it from the road too, I hadn’t noticed before because I was always driving and obviously had eyes on the road), but because of all the land it came with, it was at the top top top of our budget if we stretched it a little bit (you get the idea!) and the house it came with was not that great. I was mentally extending and knocking down walls as I walked through it and, unfortunately, we wouldn’t have the money to buy the house and improve it. So that was a no.

The other one (house #2) was a different matter: we really really liked the space. The photos on the website don’t do it justice at all, it’s very spacious and bright – though it could do with being reconfigured. But the price! We are sort of ok with the price but, like I said, it has been on the market for a long time with no price changes. I am not sure what to think, really.

We also viewed a bungalow (house #3) just by the sea a couple of villages down the road – but it needs too much work – and the David Wilson new build (house #4) I mentioned on the previous post. To eat my words a little bit, husband really likes it as a space but everyone loves show homes, don’t they? They are made to be loved. They are warm, they are bright, they smell nice. We then visited one of their other type of houses on site and, to be honest, I felt a bit sorry for the neighbour on the back, who (potentially) paid £500k for their house only to have their garden and kitchen massively overlooked. I hope they got a nice discount. The one husband likes have views to open fields to the front and is apparently very nice, so who know, we might be visiting again.

We are viewing house #2 again tomorrow and had pretty much decided it was a toss up between 2 and 4 when, yesterday, another house (#5) came on the market. It is literally 5 doors down from us and every time I go past I think “what a gorgeous house!” but (and it’s a big but!) they bought it last year, haven’t done anything to it which I know because I have been stalking the house market in this area since 2014 and are now trying to sell it for £40k more than they bought it for. It is, again, at the top top top of our budget and I could certainly live with it as it is, but I would be itching to rip carpets out (I hate carpets) and knock down walls, so I don’t know. We are viewing it on Monday, if only to rule it out (or possibly replace #4 as possible contender).

So, basically, this is the situation now: choosing between what is available. I have to confess I have already mentally moved to house #2 – if you follow me on Instagram you probably have seen all the floor samples I have got for a house that isn’t mine (and I haven’t even made an offer on yet!). I promise I am not crazy! 😀

Watch this space next week to see what happens in the next chapter!

The house search ~ update #1

We have now been in Wales for two months. We still haven’t viewed a single house. Why?, you ask. Well, I think it is well known that the market sort of die around Christmas times and slowly picks up again towards Easter. There is not much on the market at the moment, there are two houses in the village that I like but are a bit more than I would like to pay for them – one of them has been on the market since May which I think, after our previous experience, means that they are not willing to accept lower offers. They haven’t dropped the price either. I still think we should go and view them at some point.

In the neighbouring villages, there are only new builds, some of them with crazy prices, as in, I might as well have stayed in Berkshire if I wanted to pay or even had 3/4 of a million pounds for a 4 bed. And I am seriously unwilling to pay £375k for a Barratt David Wilson home, I mean, that is what we used to live in and the quality leaves a lot to be desired, if I am honest.

So this is where we stand at the moment. I wish our landlords would decide to sell their house, I would be so grateful not to have to move again!

When things go pear-shaped

So. How do I even begin to write this post? Oh well. In house selling and house buying, it seems that things rarely go the way it’s planned – or at least these are the stories the internet tells you. I thought we would be different and everything would go nice and smoothly. After all, there was no chain to speak of – our buyers were renting their old place out, our sellers weren’t looking to buy anything. But, boy, were we wrong!

It all started two weeks or so after we accepted the offer on our house. We came to Wales to look at our first shortlist and apart from one house – which was a bit too small for us -, nothing was right. One house was gorgeous, but had views to a demolition site. Another had loads of space and potential, but also a sewage station in the front garden. The one we did like went under offer on the next Monday, before we could even think about it. So we made a second shortlist. And off to Wales we went.

This time, there were three. One was a bit over what we would have liked to spend, and it really needed doing up. Second one was ugly, so so ugly, but inside it was bright, the garden was massive and it was really cheap. Third one was slightly more than number two, but one of the three bedrooms was really small and we weren’t sure we would fit. In the end, it was a toss up between 2 and 3, and 2 won. It was in a lovely village, just next to the school, a 5 minute drive from husband’s work. It all seemed perfect. Until we started dealing with the seller.

In the immortal words of Janice, OH MY GOD. Everything was a chore. Getting insurance? Nope. Checking the boiler? Nope. Japanese knotweed? No idea. But we really liked it and we really wanted it, so we let it go. At one point, about two weeks after our offer was accepted – another chore, by the way -, I actually told husband that I thought the seller actually didn’t want to sell.

For some reason, they decided they wanted to complete on the 2nd November. I really didn’t want to move on the 2nd November. That is my birthday, for starts. I wanted to spend my birthday having fun, not moving house. But the estate agent insisted that the seller needed 10 weeks from offer to complete. Fine. We really wanted the house, so we went along with that. Then the date started moving. And they needed two weeks between exchange and completion for some. And  then our buyer solicitor, who had been quiet for a very long time, started asking questions and wouldn’t accept the answers for them.

The seller, then, decided on a date, and said that if we didn’t exchange by said date, she would pull out. On the date, everything ready to go, our solicitor ring the buyer solicitor and, ta da, he’s gone home at 2 and wouldn’t be back until Monday. FML. On Monday, everyone ready, seller sticks to her word and says she’s not selling any more. She went and renewed her mortgage over the weekend and didn’t want to pay the early leaving fee. We offered to pay the fee for her. She says no. On exchange day, we are homeless. The market had been really bad in our old area and, to be honest, the house full of boxes to the brim, we couldn’t afford to lose our buyers as there was not a chance I could have made it viewings-ready again without renting an industrial sized unit somewhere. So we went ahead with the sale, the buyers agreed to wait for us to find somewhere to rent.

So, the next weekend, we booked a few viewings, found a house in the same village we were buying, they accepted us and here we are. We ended up moving a week before the completion date, which meant frantic packing, abandoned Brownies pack 🙁 , retrieving child’s school place (we had already told headteacher the sale had fallen through) and transporting desperate cats, child and stuff in a Fiat Panda across the country – originally we would go in two tiny cars, but husband and I both had to sign the rental agreement so we just drove in one car and he went back on the train to deal with the movers and cleaning the old house.

So, here we are. In Wales. Finally. But we haven’t found a house yet – very little on the market at the moment, hopefully it will pick up for Easter. We – finally! – have internet in the house now, so there is no excuse for me not writing now. Child is going back to school on Monday, and we are enjoying the down time, the flipping wind the beach, the community spirit. Let’s see what 2018 brings us!

How to sell a house…

According to me 😀

Ok, so I am not going to pretend to be an expert in selling houses. But I am going to try and tell you what we have done – and what we haven’t – to make our house more sellable. Includes some tips from our estate agent too.

Declutter. I know this is the most repeated common sense advice that you will find in every single blog and website and forum on the internet, but we found that it’s true. It makes rooms look bigger. We took the play kitchen, excessive amount of computers my husband owns, his massive desk and a couple of office chairs to storage, everything smaller than that was stored in the loft. Toys, clothes, my guitar and my sewing machine, winter bedding, all in the loft. We used our cupboard under the stairs too, which was filled to the brim thanks to a broken microwave that husband insists he’s getting fixed at some point (and didn’t seem to put anyone off). The only thing that was out of place in the whole thing was my iMac, which is in a box on the corner of my bedroom – we didn’t want to put it in storage because it would make the insurance go up, and it didn’t fit through the hatch. Again, because the bedroom was mostly bare, it doesn’t seem to have put people off. We had agreed that we would put it in storage if the house hadn’t sold in a month though. So my advice is: one box – if you have to -, neatly tucked into a corner of a big enough room is fine, anything more than that, just put it away. Top tip: the car boot is fine for everything that you can’t find a place for. 😀

Décor: neutral colours throughout. The odd feature wall is fine, but don’t go crazy on wallpaper and strong colours. If you already have them, you can give it a go without completely redecorating, but the advice from the estate agent was that neutral colours sell. And not necessarily magnolia. Whites, greys, browns and pastels are all fine. In my house, the kitchen is green (Dulux willow tree), the hallway is brown (Dulux cookie dough), the lounge is grey (Dulux pebble shore and gentle fawn – is this grey or brown?) with a purple feature wall (Dulux mulberry burst), the bedrooms are lilac (Dulux violet white), soft yellow (Dulux orchid white) and a cool  greyish white (Dulux white mist – I used the same colours in the bathrooms too). So all neutral, not too out there colours (and to prove I don’t work for Dulux, I will say that my front door is Farrow and Ball manor house gray 😀 )

Wall art always help. Being creative with furniture does as well: I used a ladder shelf as a side table because I bought it for my bathroom but it didn’t fit – the website had measurements but not which measurement was which, so what I thought was depth was actually width. You live, you learn, you adapt. (Map is from Future mapping co., shelving is from Matalan – I had loads of people asking on Instagram!)

Use loads of natural plants. And some fake ones, if they’re good quality. You can get cheap cut flowers from the supermarket and arrange them yourself – I like buying from M&S because their cheap roses are nice, big ones and last very well, but Asda ones are not bad either. Also, nice light fittings.

Clean, clean, clean. I hired one of those Rug Doctor machines from B&Q – shop around for the shampoo thing that you need to use in it, I bought mine from Argos which was about 30% cheaper than everywhere else – and made a cleaning schedule:

  • daily hoovering (I have indoor cats, so daily was best for us) and downstairs + bathroom mopping – we have tiled kitchen and laminate everywhere else on our ground floor;
  • loo and sink cleaning every time I went in there – viakal or similar on the sink makes all the metal shiny and looking as new;
  • putting the dishes and dish drying rack away when we finished washing up;
  • windows cleaning once a week.

That helped me keep on top of it – even though I still did a major clean and tidy every time we had a viewing booked. Those would normally take a couple of hours.

Now, I am not saying that is the schedule everyone should be following – I know most people wouldn’t have the time and, actually, had we stayed on the market for a bit (or a lot!) longer, I don’t think it was sustainable for me either. I was constantly exhausted. I was a bit panicked and just overdid it. So, my advice really is keep you house as clean as you possibly can. Maybe just do one big clean just before going on the market and try to keep on top of it. Whatever fits your routine, really, but make sure it is clean.

Take pets and children away – if you can. We did view houses with pets in them and it honestly didn’t affect our judgement of the house, but some people might be different. In our case, we specifically chose a estate agent that would do all the viewings for us, so I would just pack the litter trays and put the cats in the car. When we had weekend viewings, husband would take cats, I would take child – or vice-versa. Once the cats and trays were packed in the car, I would spray the house with Febreze pet – when I walked back into the house, the lovely smell would hit me, so I think the viewers would get it too. Which leads me to…

Make the house smell nice! As well as the pet odour eliminator, I have a diffuser in my bedroom – one of those you put water with with essential oils inside and it makes the room smell lovely, and I also sprayed the mattresses, curtains and the sofa with one of those Febreze-type (the cheapo one from Wilko) fabric refresher sprays. I also used method spray and mop for wooden floors and it smells absolute wonderful.

Make your garden look nice. One of the things we noticed about the other houses for sale around us is that not much effort was put into the garden. I designed something fairly simple and easy to execute and husband did most of it himself (I laid the turf, ha). Our soil is mostly clay and rubble left behind by Barratt, so we used pots and planters, a few ornaments, an outdoor rug to hide the patio stones that I tried but didn’t manage to clean very well (don’t recommend Jeyes fluid, if anyone is wondering) and some beanbags.

The turf only cost about £50 from B&Q and made a massive difference in how it looked. July is definitely not the best time of the year to be laying turf but we bought a sprinkler and we were fairly lucky with the rain, we have already mowed it twice and it needs doing again. Just a word of warning for fellow clay soil owners: keep an eye on the sprinkler because you don’t want to get it clogged up.

The famous curb appeal. Our house is only a terrace with a very very small front garden (more a strip of land, really) so we didn’t have much scope for improving how it looks. I painted the door last year and this year I just washed it with sugar soap and cleaned the metal bits with Mr Sheen furniture spray polish (which is great at keeping dust off shiny furniture, I will tell you!), painted the fence and trimmed the bushes. We also have a small hanging basket at the front, I replanted it to make it look nice. The bins were put around the back by our garden gate. I also bought a new mat. And that is it. Luckily our neighbours have nicely kept houses too and, apart from their bins in front, everything looks quite nice.

So, that was it! I think it worked quite well and I am not sure what I would have done differently. I would love to hear more tips if anyone has them – not that I am planning on buying another house ever any time soon! 😀

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