Tag Archives: house hunting

Bridge over (un-troubled) water

I’m sure if you know the local area, you can place this. Or, is it just me being paranoid. Whatever the reality, this is a really bad photo of the bridge over the stream in front of our new house. I hope that given this was taken in December that the water level will never rise to flooding levels.

I have always loved places where streams and rivers run through the village and where houses are accessed only over bridges. Thorverton in Devon, near to where we held our wedding reception, is one. Polperro in Cornwall, near to where we went yurting on our honeymoon, is another.

We managed to speak to the estate agent today. We can move either the 23rd or the following weekend. Someone wants to come and look round our house tomorrow. Things are starting to get real. Very quickly.

I just have to make 1 decision: is it better to move on the 23rd and spend the whole week on my own as Husband still has to work a full week in London before starting the new job on the 1st. Or move on the 30th and have 1 day with Husband, start new job and then spend until Thursday on my own.

That and get over my fear of driving.

New year, new house

And so, finally, to the one we did choose. In the interests of not inviting everyone who reads this to know where I live I am not posting the photos of the outside. And the ones of the inside were sent to me by the agent who we didn’t go with* (presumably via the Landlord) and I don’t want to start my new life in the countryside by pissing either of them off. So, photos to come in a few weeks when have moved in and I can photograph the details without giving away the location too much.

What I will say is that it is much smaller than any of the other properties. Much cosier. A holiday cottage which is now on a long term let. On two floors, accessed by a wooden staircase built down the side of the sitting room wall. It is in a small hamlet, attached to a village, on a bus route into the main town where I will be working. 2 miles from the beach. It is an end of terrace cottage, with Rayburn and woodburner and 2 bedrooms and a BATH. It has a little terraced garden with a table and chairs and a bird box. And space for our wedding pots. And a stream, with a bridge.

Now we just have to wait for the estate agent to unthaw from all the snow and get back to her office and we might be able to sort a moving date. I am trying not to stress about this. In 3 weeks I start my job. In 2 weeks we lose our London flat. And still we do not have a move-in date.

Someone told me that the biggest change for me would be pace of life. I.e. things move in Somerset time, not London. I am starting to see what she meant. At the time I thought she meant going for walks on a Sunday afternoon and the banks closing at mid-day on Saturday. I didn’t realise that she meant something which would happen in one day here would still be outstanding 3 weeks later. Even allowing for Christmas, New Year and really bad weather, that’s still pretty slow.

But I am trying to learn to not mind, to sit back and let things take their own time. I’ll let you know how I get on…

{House 5 – the one we hope to live in}

* Did I tell you about the story of the 2 agents and the one house and the one set of keys and people not working on Saturdays but then getting really cross when you decide to give the business to the one that was prepared to do the work. And the shouting, which confirmed which one we were not using? No, well, maybe I should, or perhaps I’ll wait until we’ve moved in…

Welcome, new year.

We touched down in London yesterday afternoon, in one of the few gaps that Stansted was open, for perhaps the last time. Bristol or Exeter will be our nearest airports come February, unless we are travelling long haul. London seemed warm despite the heavy snow, for it was minus 19C in Stockholm.

In 4 weeks London will not be our home. For the first time since I was offered this job, I have started to feel a little sad about leaving London. But our week together in Sweden confirmed that I am really ready for new challenges and plenty of weekends with only my Husband.

Our London flat is full of boxes ready to be packed. The day that we were here between Christmas and flying to Stockholm was filled with procuring boxes: our hallway is stacked waist high in flat packed removal boxes and the sitting room is stockpiled with all sorts of really useful boxes in differing sizes. The only challenge now is where to start with the loading of them.

Actually, our first challenge is to ascertain *when* we are actually moving. Our estate agent was supposed to start work again on the 4th so I am hoping we will have more concrete information soon. Then we can work out whether or not we will be homeless for the last week in January and on which date we should book a van…

Happy 2010. Here’s to new starts and new houses and an inspirational year.

Sold from under our feet

House number 4 is another that I don’t have any photos of, mainly because by the time we got there to view it there was a message on our answering machine telling us that we were unable to view it because it had been sold.

Indeed, when we got there and parked the car and gone to the front of the house we noticed that the ‘to let’ board was lying down on the floor and in it’s place a board marked sold. I was quite disappointed for a couple of moments, as this one, on paper, had sounded the most interesting. Belfast sink, boot room, 3 bedrooms. But standing outside the front door I realised that it was too noisy to think straight: it was right on the A39 and even on a quiet December morning the passing traffic was enough to drive me to distraction. I am told that the A39 in the summer can be nose to tail with holiday makers. The double glazing might provide quietness inside but in the garden? Also, surely a good part of the reason to live in the countryside is peace¬† and quiet not traffic noises right outside the front door. And getting to work in the summer would surely be a problem too.

{House 4 – the one that had already been sold}

A room with a view?

The third house was the one that we never got to see the inside of. We had been waiting all week for the agent to confirm the viewing and then, as we drove to Somerset for our first appointment at 9.30am, we got the call saying they could confirm it after all. Only we had already arranged another viewing at the same time elsewhere. So they gave us the address and we went to see the outside to see it had potential.

Well, the view was wonderful but there was nowhere really to park our car and the garden is that itty-bitty piece of land which you can see between the house and Husband’s head. The house was also quite large but didn’t look very cosy and was on the side of a very steep hill which I really didn’t fancy driving up and down in any kind of inclement weather. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but a quick peek through the windows revealed that it looked in need of updating and, from the outside at least, not somewhere I would ever feel was home.

And so, as we drove off and headed to see house number 4, we decided it wasn’t worth a second visit.

{House 3 – the one that had a view but not much else}

Photos by me and of the view over towards Withypool.

Exhibit 2

The second house is one that I don’t have any photos of. The agent was all tweed breekes and green woolly knee socks and thought we were rather London with our black Saab and questions about broadband and mobile phone signal and I was embarrassed to be seen taking photos on my BlackBerry.

In any event I am not sure *what* exactly I would have taken the photos of as none of them would have done it any justice. As with all country houses we went in the back door. In fact, he didn’t even show us the front door, although we could see the conservatory style porch from an upstairs window (disguised by a brown velvet door curtain in the downstairs hallway). In through the back door which was accessed through a back garden off a concrete standing area up a dirt track behind a petrol station, which was on the A39. Through a really nasty kitchen¬† and into what could only be described as “layout which must be seen to be believed”. All the rooms led round in a circle. And the carpet. If the breeke wearing estate agent had told me it used to be a pub I wouldn’t have been surprised. You could almost see the darts players.

Funnily enough, upstairs was a lot nicer. A bit big but with plenty of cupboards and even an airing cupboard. (You don’t really get those in London, so I always find them rather a novelty). The best bit about the whole house though was that you could sit on the loo and look at the brown cows in the field behind the house. I know because I checked. That’s my top tip for house hunting: always attempt to test the facilities. If the loo won’t flush or there is only a trickle of water out of the tap when you wash your hands, odds on you will have problems with the bathroom.

On the plus side it did have 3 very decent sized bedrooms, a larder (handily situated well away from the kitchen) and a downstairs cloakroom as well as the upstairs bathroom. Sadly, none of that outweighed the rundown feeling, the bizarre layout and the nasty kitchen. Another big fat no.

{House 2 – the one that felt like it should have been a pub}

The house search begins

In London we rent a 1 bedroom flat in Islington. It’s Victorian and all high ceilings, fireplaces & floorboards. It’s the bottom flat of a semi-detached house with a shared garden. Our sitting room & bedroom are divided by folding doors which don’t shut. Our kitchen is nice if rather small and we don’t have a bath. It’s palatial compared to our Primrose Hill flat but it has no storage. And by no storage I mean no broom cupboard, no shelves, no wardrobe, no coat cupboard. Nothing. Nada. Our clothes hang on hanging rails. Our books live in wine crates. Most of our tables are really trunks, full of clothes or bedding or pillows. All our furniture is a family hand-me-down or picked up on freecycle/the street.

House hunting in London and the process is relatively simple. Pick area. Pick maximum price. Consult gumtree & moveflat.com. Raise maximum price. Visit flat. Consider whether it is suitable/affordable/just about in area of choice or at the very least near a tube station or bus stop. Make offer and hope you can afford it.

Start looking for a house or flat outside of London (or outside a large city) and there is no moveflat.com or gumtree (as far as I can tell, although admittedly, I haven’t spent *that* much time searching, yet). There are however a lot of overpriced estate agents with rather out of date websites. Still, at least the vast majority e-mailed me back. And the houses. Some of them are gorgeous. For 25% less per month we can have the following additions:

. one/two more bedrooms (a guest bedroom is high on my list as that is the only way friends will be able to come & see us)

. a bath (extremely important)

. a garden

. one to two more rooms for living in (i.e. dining room, office, conservatory etc)

. a view which is not of next doors house or the Arsenal stadium. (some of the views are even of countryside. the novelty!)

. a car parking space for the car we do not yet own.

We have cancelled all plans for one Saturday this month and have started making arrangements to view. But it is hard to decide where to live when we really don’t know the area at all. It would be helpful to be near to a bus route but that is rather limiting. We need to be able to drive to the nearest railway station for Husband to get to London. But that leaves rather a lot of Somerset to choose from. Although I would like to be rural. If we’re not going to be in London I would not like to live in a town. I guess we will just have to do what I did when we came to London all those years ago. Pick one that we like, see how we go & if necessary move. After all, we’re not buying it.