House hunting, part 1: A tale of three houses

We view three properties with an estate agent for the first time, here’s how it went.

As I mentioned last week, we lined up a few viewings last Friday.  We were looking within a town about half an hour drive from my husband’s family.  We quite like this town as it has all the amenities that you need but the town centre still looks delightfully traditional and isn’t too busy to walk around (as much as I love London, the sheer amount of people can occasionally be overwhelming).  My father-in-law came along too for moral and practical support.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for a day out. We viewed three properties that all cost the same, but were vastly different from each other.

House One

This property had been owned by a couple for nearly 50 years until the husband had passed away and the wife had moved into a care home.  As soon as you walked in, you could tell it had been a cherished family home.

The carpet and wallpaper in every room was dated but in good condition.  There were still a few mementos left behind such as the decorative plates lining the walls and the hand cross-stitched wedding scene hanging proudly as you first walked in.

The downstairs was segmented into a living room, then through a doorway to the dining room, then another door to the kitchen.  Unusually, there was also a large utility room where the washing machine and dryer were kept. The bedrooms were upstairs and all were a good size.  You had to walk through one bedroom in order to get through to the other which felt a bit unusual but was apparently common for properties of the time.

Already fairly impressed with the size of the interior, we were blown away by the garden.  It seemed to stretch on endlessly (well, 150 feet) and was in pretty good condition. The couple had maintained various beds of vegetables however all that was left was a neatly manicured lawn.  There was also a shed and a single garage.

My FIL noticed the neighbour working on the roof of the house next door and shouted out to him.  He gave us a bit more information about the area and how he had extended his own property (which was the same design originally). It was a helpful conversation although I’m not sure if our estate agent approved!

House Two

The next place was further down on the same road and boasted four bedrooms and a huge garden.  It was questionably decorated in the advertised photographs but as I’ve said, we don’t mind spending a few weeks decorating if it means that we get a beautiful home for a good price.

Oh how wrong we were.

We walked in.  The black, glittery, mismatched wallpaper peeling from the walls greeted us. In the living room, glittery decorations, perhaps from a final house party from the outgoing tenants, hung sellotaped to the ceiling.  The light switch was screwed in sideways.  My husband liked that, “It reminds me of when I was at uni”.  The downstairs toilet hadn’t been cleaned in months and that was apparent without lifting the lid.

The house had a huge kitchen (decorated with glittery butterfly wallpaper this time) however there were gaping holes from where the whiteware had been ripped out.  There were more holes in the ceiling, this time from leaks that had gone unchecked for too long.  The sink area, at first appearing tiled, was actually tile wallpaper.

The garden was one of the highlights of the property and although had a lot of rubbish to be cleared, was in reasonable condition.  I stepped in something and my foot couldn’t move.  I asked the estate agent what it was, he just shrugged and laughed.

Upstairs, there were four good sized bedrooms and a bathroom.  There was nothing much to say about them aside from needing redecorating.  There was also a good-sized loft.  The estate agent invited us to go up and look, we declined.

All in all, this place would have been perfect for someone who had money put aside and the expertise to restore the home to a liveable standard.  We however, weren’t in that position so it was a hard no from us.

House Three

We took a break and had lunch at a local pub on the river before going to view the third and final property for the day.  The town is really lovely and I do enjoy spending time here, especially when the weather is so nice.

The third house was in a housing estate built in 2004 so a fairly new build.  The previous owners had owned it since new and were upsizing to a larger property.

The place was really well presented and in great condition.  It had three bedrooms and the master bedroom had it’s own ensuite.

The garden was a bit small but in tidy condition.

There was nothing wrong with this place yet my husband and I weren’t excited about it.  I guess it was just too perfect? My FIL said “This would suit your sister in law perfectly but, and I say this with love, you two are weirdos and are looking for something a bit different.”

His explanation was perfect, we were looking for something a bit different and we would have had no idea that that was what we wanted until we had viewed these properties.  We now have a much better idea of what to look for when viewing listings and organising further viewings.

 

 

Where to live? Our predicament

*ugh, this post took far longer to write than I ever intended. Sometimes life just gets in the way!*

Earlier this afternoon we signed a contract with our new childminder who will be looking after our son three days a week starting in May when we both return to work full time.  I will be applying for childcare vouchers and my husband has drafted his application for flexible working to send to his manager tomorrow.

One of our dilemmas with our house hunt has been where we want to eventually settle.  We currently live in Zone 3 London however my husband’s family live about 90 minutes out of the city.

Stay in London

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Oh to live this close to the centre of London!

We love London. It’s where we met.  It’s the only part of the U.K. that I’ve ever lived in.  I love that you can go out any night of the week and you’ll find something to do.  We’ve lived at our current home for nearly four years and have built our lives and our interests around the area so in that respect it would be rather difficult to start again.

However, we couldn’t afford to stay where we are.  Living 25 minutes from the city centre is a great perk but when we sat down and thought about it, we rarely go into the city, we much prefer to stay around our local area so is it really worth paying the premium?

London outskirts

By this I mean staying within the M25 or Zone 6.  Places are a bit cheaper out here and we’ll still be able to commute into London for work and play.  We also have our car so we can get around fairly easily and we’ll both be able to keep the same jobs.

We would have to get used to living in a new area and building up new community links and it is still expensive but this could definitely be an option.

Move closer to family

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Not their actual town, imagine a town just like it

We have a great relationship with my husband’s parents.  They are amazing with our son and have not kept it secret that they would like us to move closer to them.  Having just paid the deposit for our childminder, not having that huge expense over our heads would be tempting.  Properties around here are a lot cheaper and we would be more likely to get a 3 bedroom property under the stamp duty limit for first time buyers.

My husband grew up in the area and many of his childhood friends who he grew up with are still in the area.  They have welcomed me into the group with open arms and they are great people but I haven’t got a network of my own in the area.  Also more likely than not I would need to find a new job as the distance isn’t easily commutable.  This would be the option most like starting again.

It feels like a really tricky decision to make, especially since buying will tie us in for several years.  What would you do in our situation?

Thanks for reading!