Pulling Together

Moving troubles

Anyone who has a home in this country wil be familiar with the upheaval involved when that place of abode has to change. Whether you rent or own you first have to find the right place and then you have to arrange the formalities to get yourself into it. As a property owner I am beginning the sale/purchase version of the process. I really wish I weren’t, especially in our current uncertain times, but life has to move on.

I moved into my current house in 2014. I like my current house and although I haven’t done much decorating I have invested in it in other ways, mainly by installing solar panels, and I looked forward to growing old here. The only thing is; I don’t want to grow old alone and I verimuch hope I won’t.

I have met my fiancée and we plan to get married. She has a disabled son who benefits from free transport to his special school in another town. To retain that benefit he has to continue to live in the same unitary authority area. My house is the wrong side of a river. It is about half a mile too far South. Therefore, I have to move. The process of marketing my beloved house and looking for another had begun. We hope that first stage ended yesterday, but nothing can be certain until contracts are exchanged, whenever that will be.

It has not been a smooth process. My first thought was to make the moving easier and more gradual by buying with my retirment funds and then recovering those by selling later. That was complicated as I first had to prove I was entitled to the money I have and it was not the proceeds of crime. Then we needed a property we could extend when the money became available to provide space for facilities to meet the child’s needs.

So we found an affordable 3-bed end terraced house on a corner plot with plenty of room to extend. There was enough land to double the size of the house and that seemed like an excellent opportunity. My solicitor did the searches and when these came back I looked through, queried a couple of points, and then noticed a comment at the end of the EPC. It said the property was of non-standard construction. Alarm bells rang. Was it defective under the Housing Act 1985? No, it wasn’t, but it was still non-standard construction and a detailed structural survey was recommended to check its condition as there could be unseen problems or premature failures not apparent from outside. We asked for a second viewing and I looked more closely. All seemed as well as I could see, but doubts had been sown and were beginning to grow. We could be making a big mistake, and with my retirement funds at stake I couldn’t risk that. Major structural repairs could cost a fortune. Did we really want to move a disabled child onto what would shortly become a building site if all went to plan? How long would a Wimpey no-fines house last long term? They were designed to last 60 years and this was almost certainly 70 or more years old. What would happen if between buying this house and selling my own, prices dropped radically? So I pulled out, leaving me with a solicitor’s bill for nearly £600 and nothing to show for it.

We had a rethink. If I were prepared to spend a certain sum to build an extension, what could I afford if I just went for a bigger house to start with? It would mean I’d have to move on one day, vacating my current property by noon and moving in after noon, but that’s what most people have to do, and it’s only one day of hassle, with perhaps a week before to pack up, rather than six months of living with all the problems of a major extension. Really, it would be far more sensible if we could get a big enough house.

So we spent yesterday planning to view four houses. In the end, we saw only two. One agent cancelled a viewing and another simply failed to turn up! We had looked round the outside of the house and the surrounding area, and were already unsure because the property was near a factory where forklift trucks were operating all day long, their alarms bleeping continuously, However, when a young lady came out and we mentioned we were waiting for the agent she looked astonished. She explained the family were shielding and had suspended all viewings and had been trying to take the property off the market. It was clear the agent had arranged a viewing with me and done nothing further about it. They had not consulted the owners and not instructed any of their staff to attend. If the owners were “trying” to remove the property from the market it seems they were having about as much success with their Manchester-based agent as we. I mention the office is in Manchester because that’s nearly 200 miles away! As it was now 10 minutes after the appointed time we made our apologies and left.

One house we did actually get inside has dry-lined walls. These could be a problem because things need to be securely attached to the structure to provide a safe environment for the disabled boy. However, a £20 stud finder might help us do that even with dry-lined construction. The other house was disappointingly small and cramped feeling. Why do agents employ photographers using wide-angled lenses? All that does is guarantee disappointment when the customer sees the house in reality and discovers the rooms are only half the size they appeared in the brochure. Do they really think that creates a good impression? It’s the converse of using telephoto lenses to capture scenes of people in parks or on beaches during the lockdown, to make them appear more packed together than they really are. Who said the camera could not lie?

Then today I got an e-mail from my fiancée. She had seen a very large house for a snip in the very town where her son’s school is located. We just had to arranged a viewing today, so we did. I warned her there must be a snag and she upbraided me for taking a negative attitude. Then I took a closer look at the pictures and it shouted out to me. At the base of the gable wall, supporting the corner of the eaves, I saw a by-now familiar shaped concrete block. It was identical to the ones on the house we had failed to complete. This too was a Wimpey no-fines. I cancelled the viewing and put in an offer for the one with the dry-lined walls. Apart from that one drawback it fits the bill very well — it’s spacious, it’s in a small gated yard with two other houses, so if the son escapes from the house he can’t leave the premises, and the neighbours can alert us if they're around, it has enough rooms to provide adequate facilities, and it even has a garage with a South-facing roof, ideal for charging an electric car if we ever get one of those. It should provide a good safe home for a child with special needs to grow up in, and room for the two of us to create space for him and ourselves to stay sane in.

So, barring mishaps, that’s the first stage of moving into a new life done. Now, we just have to wait and hope all goes well.

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