With only 2 days to go, the moving countdown is really on for us. I thought I’d write a few notes down about how the move has been but between me starting this post and coming back to edit it later, we had a major upset and rethink, so this post ended up being a bit of a story too. I’d love to hear if any of the things that happened or feelings you had about moving at any point took you by surprise.
It doesn’t have to be a stressful as people make it out to be. We have had a lucky run of it, by my own admission, (until last week… see later!) We didn’t have to negotiate on the price we accepted for our house, then our first offer was accepted on the house we’re buying, so it was low stress and we have been incredibly lucky with the other people involved in the chain. Everybody has been keen, prompt and understanding, right down to the sale of furniture too!
Packing is sad. The day we started packing I felt so emotionally displaced, the way the house was so out of kilter and my life was being packed up around me. As Mum and I packed the kitchen, Pete started on the DVD’s and things in the lounge. When I came into the room the pictures were gone from the walls, even the cushions from the couch and it felt like all our hard work was being taken apart piece by piece. It’s also inevitable that you start looking through old things like photo albums and finding cards – Pete and I have had many a reminiscent moment over ticket stubs and love letters. 😉
It’s emotional. I expected to be sad when we leave – The 7 years we have been in this house have been pivotal for us. We both chose our career paths in GP, graduated and joined practices. We got engaged and married, and have had lots of parties and gatherings of friends and family around our dining table. Everything we pack though seems to bring that into acute relief, the end of an era and like we are saying goodbye to that phase of our life.
It’s really hard to know when to pack. We started with some aspects of the kitchen equipment that we use infrequently and were foiled by Francesca wanting to bake. I’m purposefully leaving the bedroom until last so I have a place that feels normal for as long as possible. As soon as the packing started, everything that was neatly hidden in the cupboards is taking up floor space in large boxes.
You shouldn’t sell all your furniture to the people who are buying your house! We have sold a few items from around the house that we didn’t think would fit in the new house (decoratively) or that we would be replacing anyway. Amongst those items are our wardrobes as we didn’t want them for the new house. The downside to that is that we need somewhere/thing to put our clothes on at the other end… hello ebay garment rails.
Organisation is key. Having a system for the boxes helps me feel a lot more organised than we actually are. Having a husband who doesn’t necessarily follow it does not.
You can’t clear out too much. We had already had a few clearing out sessions in anticipation of Francesca moving in, as we had to clear the whole spare room out and other areas to make more room for the things we evacuated. Now I’m determined not to take old paperwork with me so have embarked on a massive filing exercise. More paper has been recycled and shredded than I realised was hidden in there. Whole shelves of filed paperwork have been reduced to single box files. Magazines have been culled, charity donations made. I have at times thought, had I done this earlier, we may not have needed to move!
It’s not over until the fat lady sings (or you exchange contracts…)
We always planned to move on the 27th and exchange contracts (the payment of a ‘deposit’ and contractual agreement that commits you to the move,) a week or two before. We have had a bit of trouble with our solicitor being, shall we say, less efficient than I would expect, so having found out from our vendor that a condition of their onward purchase was them exchanging on the 20th, allowing a week before we completed, we had a rather tense conversation with our solicitor last Monday to ensure everything was in place.
We were assured everything was, with just one hitch – the mortgage paperwork hadn’t come through. We knew it was approved, but he had nothing to prove that. Cue two days of us scrabbling around to get electronic copies for him, only to find on Thursday that we needed to get documents signed and back to him ready for the exchange on Friday. This would have been easier, if not ideal, had Pete been in Manchester, but murphy’s law prevailed and he was actually in the South Lakes on a course. That meant I had to leave work at lunch and drive to to him to get things signed and back into the post that afternoon, before getting back to work – about a 140 mile round trip. I pretty much collapsed into bed that night, thinking how stressful the day had been but at least we had done everything that we could to be ready to exchange the next day. Little did I know.
On Friday morning, I awaited a call from our solicitor to say that he had received the signed paperwork he needed and that we were good to go. I received an email detailing a couple of issues, one of which was that one of the searches had revealed a sewer pipe passing through the back of our property – the vendors couldn’t offer any more info and he trusted we were happy to proceed on that basis. I texted Pete who had patchy service and confirmed he was happy to exchange and he replied ‘go go go!’ I just needed to ask about that sewer.
Once I spoke to our solicitor it became apparent he didn’t have a lot of information about the pipe, other than it’s location right across the back of the house. As I asked him more questions about what kind of pipe it was etc, I eventually asked, ‘what does this mean to us?’ and he said, ‘nothing, unless you wanted to build over it.’
At that moment, my heart sank. You know that feeling when you realise you have made a terrible mistake and feel cold and sick. That’s how I felt, because Pete and I had been planning to extend the back of the house to create a large kitchen diner. It was 1 o’clock on exchange day and I knew I needed to find out more and said I would call him back and for him to hold off exchanging for now. I hoped with a few phone calls I could get some information and clear up what must be a misunderstanding. Surely there was some way around this?
What followed was 3 hours of fraught phonecalls, whilst the clock ticked and Pete being unavailable to discuss it with. I called a local builder, a surveyor, the planning office, buildings regulations office, United Utilites, an architect… everyone I could think of. Pete asked friends of friends, as did my mum and everyone came back with different advice. Eventually the planning office were able to tell me the pipe was huge. 1m wide, 4m underground and still in service. Only United Utilities could tell me if we could build on it. The only problem was that the department that dealt with such enquiries operated on an email applications only basis – there was no phone number. In desperation I rang their usual number and begged to speak to someone. It transpired there was no way we could build on it, or in fact within 6 metres either side of it. Due to the location of the pipe and shape of our houses footprint, it completely ruled out any kind of extension.
To put this into context, I realise it might have sounded silly, to be so fixated on something that doesn’t yet exist, we had decided to buy the house as it was after all? The thing is, I can’t remember when we first decided that we wanted to extend, but it was before we even put an offer in. In the weeks since I had already met an architect. I had spent hours imagining what it would look like and our life in it and now I couldn’t see past the lack of it. All of sudden the money we were spending, the mortgage, the pressure and enormity of the choice I was making was in sharp focus and I panicked. Unable to make a decision it was only my solicitor backing me up that made me feel I could postpone the exchange, to buy some thinking time.
That night Pete and I were devastated. The proposed extension was such an integral part of our plans for the new house that we could only see the whole thing falling through. I felt trapped. Trapped by the thought of letting down the other people in our chain who I knew were as excited about their respective moves as we were, and trapped at the thought of going through with the purchase and realising we had really needed that extra space. I knew I loved the house, but I wanted a big space for us to have a family area where we could cook, eat, keep an eye on any kids we were lucky enough to have and the existing layout didn’t allow for that. We decide we would have to go back again and see if we could make it work as it is.
After a sleepless night, we did go back and we spent 2 and a half hours by ourselves and with the architect, looking at the space available and what we could do to improve it. After brainstorming with my Mum, Pete and Jess, we had decided there were options. I’ll tell you all about them when I take you around the house but for now, I’ll just say, we decided to go ahead and we think we can make it work for us. It felt like a huge weight lifted and we exchanged on Monday without any worries or doubts.
So that’s it. we’re really moving, on Friday in fact and I can’t wait. I’m over packing, living in a tip and waiting. I’m ready. So lets go!