Moving Out

This weekend just gone was my last at Pound Cottage. From now on, any time I spend there will be as a guest (though I dearly hope that my mum won’t treat me that way) and not as a resident.

You will already know that Emma and I are moving in together, and in fact I am already ‘living’ with her at the moment (I’m staying with her family while our house purchase goes through).

While I have, therefore, already ‘moved out’, I have really only ever seen it as a temporary move. Pound Cottage was still my home, and 17, Tythe Close is merely somewhere I am staying, like a prolonged sleepover, or a holiday cottage.

The process of moving, of starting out on our own, and the preparations involved in that have taken up much of my time and mental energy recently, and have meant that I have done all of my thinking from a forward-looking point of view. It wasn’t until I started to relax on Saturday night that I realised that I had done almost no looking back on what I was leaving behind. It was a sad moment when it finally hit home that this was to be my last night of living there.

I was struck by how much I had come to see my home as an anchor. My feelings may well be magnified by the fact that this is the only home I have ever known (my room/house at university was a temporary measure, as Emma’s family home is now). This is the house I was in when I learned to walk, read, write, speak. This is the garden in which I played football endlessly, or so it must have seemed to my parents, whose lawn and flower beds bore the brunt of my relentless running and wayward shots. This is the field in which I had the majority of the few riding ‘lessons’ I have ever had. This is the quiet country lane up which I learnt to drive. That’s the garden wall which gave me the scar above my right eyebrow, and somewhere over there, behind the fruit bushes are the final resting places of Brandy, Peg, Robbie, Poppy, Nina, Smokey the rabbit, a couple of my sister’s guinea pigs, a budgie, and whichever chickens escaped the clutches of the fox long enough to die of natural causes. We probably even buried the goldfish somewhere in that garden.

This house has always been the centre of my life, and I think I will always consider it to be my home, probably even after my family no longer live there. It has always been a refuge from the outside world when I have had enough of school, work, people or travelling, and a base of operations when I am in a more outgoing frame of mind, eager to go to new places, see new sights and meet new people. I had personalised my room (many times over), and soon it will be bare, stripped of everything I want to take with me, and only containing a couple of redundant pieces of furniture and some clutter I have either forgotten or rejected as unnecessary.

The hardest thing though, is leaving behind my family.

House buying (part 3)

Having viewed a number of properties, and found one we liked, we decided to make an offer.

We started off with a figure below the asking price of the house we liked, on the basis that this gave us room to manoeuver during negotiations. The vendors then rejected this offer quite rapidly. Then we made our first mistake. We went back with a significantly improved offer almost immediately, and thereby revealed that we had greater funds than our initial approach had suggested (or so hindsight would imply).

The vendors rejected this offer too, and told us that they didn’t want to accept anything less than the asking price. We had already informed them that we wouldn’t be meeting their asking price as we felt that there was a small amount of work to be done on the house and so we would be deducting the estimated cost of the work from the asking price to create a new ‘ceiling’ on our offers. Their response was to give us a fourteen day deadline, after which they would be putting the house on the rental market.

We came to the conclusion that this was a ploy to rush us into raising our offer to something much closer to their asking price, and so we stayed quiet for those two weeks, and on the last day made them a slightly improved offer. As it turned out, they weren’t bluffing, and without even so much as explicitly rejecting our offer simply informed us that the house was being withdrawn from sale and let out.

Following this, we went back to the viewings.

Ten days ago, things took a turn for the better. We had already arranged a viewing for one house in Braintree, and Emma suggested that while we were in the area, we might as well view a couple of other houses. We arranged another viewing on the off-chance, and fell in love with the house. The following day, we made an offer, and this time, even though it was rejected fairly quickly, the vendors suggested that we were very close to an amount they would accept. We raised our offer, and within half an hour it had been accepted.

This was a complete contrast to the original property – rather than taking nearly three weeks to get nowhere, we had gone from initial offer to agreed price within the space of about four hours. Things were looking up.

House buying (part 2)

Having found a few properties that we liked, Emma and I arranged a few viewings. Due to the fact that I live a hundred miles from the area to which we are looking to move, we arranged four viewings in one weekend.

Before I go into great detail, I will say that house viewing is one of the most dispiriting things I have ever done. You view a house that someone is desperate to sell and you find a number of things wrong with it. Some of these are out of the current owner’s control, others aren’t. Then it strikes you that if a buyer as inexperienced as you can see them, then so can everyone else.

Anyway, the first day we viewed two properties, and in each case they were very nice houses in areas that were less attractive. Rather dispirited, we returned to Emma’s house and rescanned Rightmove for inspiration. On there we found another house we liked the look of, and at short notice we arranged a fifth viewing of the weekend and the first we had found in Braintree.

The next day, the Sunday, we viewed the other three properties. We started with the house in Braintree and liked what we saw very much. We then went on to the next two, in Colchester, and really didn’t like them. Both were owned by single men, and with the greatest respect to them, you could tell. Until then, I wasn’t really a believer in such a thing as a ‘woman’s touch’, but these houses were definitely lacking it.

House buying (part 1)

I mentioned in my ‘To-do list’ that I wanted to buy a house and understand what was going on. Well, recently, Emma and I have taken the first steps along the long and winding road to house ownership.

We started off by visiting a solicitor and an independent mortgage advisor. These visits were simply to find out about the process of house-buying, a vague timescale, the cost of the process and an estimate of how much we could afford to spend.

After that, and with some guidelines to help us start looking, we had a browse of Rightmove. This is a pretty handy website (for the tiny minority who have never heard of it) and has formed the foundation of any progress we have made so far. Through this we discovered that we couldn’t find anything within our budget that fitted our criteria in Emma’s hometown of Chelmsford. As a result, and influenced by the worst-case-scenario of me transferring to one of the branches of Waitrose in Essex (better scenarios involve me finding a better paid job in Essex or London – though on the whole Waitrose is a great company to work for), we looked further away from London, along what could probably be described as the ‘A12 corridor’. Most of the places we have found that we like are in either Witham or Braintree. We eliminated a great number, and drew up a shortlist of half a dozen or so.

Next time: read all about the viewings!