A Tale of Two Houses… Part 1

This morning I’m excited to be introducing another regular feature… Real Renovations. For this one, we’ve got a new home owner who is renovating an older property. That real home owner is my best friend, Jessica 🙂

I will still be sharing my own home don’t worry, but it’s largely done and in need of a decor face lift here and there. Whilst not completely ridiculous, Jess’s house has some general building repair work and a complete cosmetic overhaul to be done, alongside some sympathetic restoration of it’s period charm and I think you’re all going to love seeing the developments.

So I hope you’ll all give a very warm welcome to Jess and share your trials, tribulations and tips with her as she embarks on this journey with her beloved.

Over to Jess…

Hello Readers!

So you dream of buying a house, and making it in to a home, but dreaming is the easy bit. When my partner and I started looking for a house I knew what I wanted, and I thought I knew what he was looking for too. Perhaps more importantly, I thought they would be the same thing…

My dream was of a period home with original features, big rooms and dramatic high ceilings. But of course these kind of things come at a price, and as many of you will know from your own experiences, a compromise has to be made somewhere along the line.

The dilemma was deciding between the house with the potential for all of the above, but in need of decoration and some renovation (or as I preferred to call it, ‘love’), or the slightly smaller house that had only some of these features but was pretty much the finished article. Our decision was made even harder by the fact that these two houses were on the same road, virtually opposite each other, so if we ever regretted our decision, we would have to look across the road to ‘the house we should’ve bought’. To be honest though, I always knew which one was for me, but convincing the DIY-shy other half was a challenge. He even made his screen saver on his laptop a picture of the other house! For him, the proposition of a ready made home was a very tempting one and although I could see his point, my heart just wasn’t in it. So we submitted an offer on the house that needed some work (…the girls usually win on these kind of decisions!) After a bit of negotiating on price and fending off another potential buyer with our good ‘position to proceed’, our offer was accepted, and we were pretty pleased with ourselves. For the following few days or weeks (its all a bit of a blur now), I thought the house was ours and I started imagining what it would be like living there. I was so naive…!

The next step was to get a survey, and with it being an old house, we knew that getting a full structural survey was a must. After a week or so the survey report arrived and I remember the nervous feeling I had as I read through it, hoping that it wouldn’t turn up anything major. In fact, the survey confirmed a lot of what we knew, but just quantified to what extent the house was needing repairs. There were no huge problems, it wasn’t built on a coal mine and wasn’t suffering from an horrendous case of damp. Phew! But it was far from perfect. The original windows that I loved so much (huge wooden box sashes) were rotten and had the same insulating properties as a piece of cling film. The stairs to the cellar were like playing Russian roulette every time they were walked on and needed totally replacing. The roof guttering was cracked and broken and needed an overhaul. And the external brick work needed so much ‘patch’ pointing that the patches seemed to merge to cover the entire exterior surface of the house. It had taken a lot to convince the other half that we should go for this house and not the one across the road that looked immaculate, so I was dreading what he would say about the survey. His reaction… “we need to negotiate again on the price”.

It was at this point that things started to fall apart. Our solicitor discussed the results of the survey with the vendors solicitor, the vendors solicitor spoke to the vendor, the vendor went ballistic at the estate agent because we were asking to renegotiate, the estate agent went ballistic at us…. and I cried! We thought we were genuinely asking if there was any way the price could be altered to reflect the survey results, but it was as if we had declared war. The vendor was adamant that the price wouldn’t change so we had some really tough decisions to make. I knew that I would still pay the original price we had offered, but the other half had never been 100% convinced that the do-er up-er was the way to go, so he was determined to renegotiate the price. At this point we thought we had nothing to lose, either our lower offer would be accepted and if not we would go back to our original offer and get the house. I know this was a hard decision for my partner, because he felt like he was giving in. I knew he was doing this for me, but that just piled on the pressure for it to all work out, for it to really be the house of our dreams. The next day we put that offer forward, no more negotiating. And then the lines of communication between us, the estate agent and the vendor seemed to go dead.

I had signed up to a few property websites during our house search, and lots of them will send you regular emails to tell you what has just been put on the market. I vividly remember a Friday evening checking my emails and I saw one from Rightmove, I opened it, and the latest house for sale was the one we were trying to buy. I check the websites too, yep there it is for sale again. The vendor really had dug his heels in and put the property back on the market. I desperately wanted to phone the estate agents and say “ok, we’ll pay it, we want the house”, but it was a Friday night and maybe we just needed to stand our ground, he wasn’t going to sell it again in one weekend? All I could think about that weekend was the house and what we would do if it all fell through. So on the Sunday, I checked the property websites again, just to check if there was a house out there that we had rejected unnecessarily. But the first thing I saw was a sold banner across the picture of ‘our house’. My heart sank, I had that sick feeling that you get when you’re a kid and you’ve done something really naughty. I knew we had pushed too far, he had sold it to someone else…

Nothing like a cliff-hanger eh? Do they get it? Do they go for the other house? I know what happened and I’m still on the edge of my seat!

Well folks, the story was just too good for one part, and so I’m splitting this first post into two and I hope you’ll join me in coming back tomorrow morning for part deux! In the mean time, I hope you’ll join me in giving Jess a warm welcome to the Florence Finds community (She’s a blog novice!) and share your house buying dramas? I’m pretty sure Jess isn’t the only one to have had a traumatic time buying a house.

Rebecca (& Jessica)


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21 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Houses… Part 1

  1. Me too! I too am an emotional house buyer! Once I had seen our flat, I was determined it should be our home. We put an offer in without Nik having even seen it as he was working in England at the time! It was so amazing that he trusted me that much to buy a flat with me (our first together) having only seen pictures! Although I think he was a little worried, but we couldn’t be happier where we’ve ended up, our downstairs neighbour ended up being one of my bridesmaids along with the woman we bought the flat from!! How random that I should find 2 of my best ever friends just because of the flat we (I) chose! 😀

    Can’t wait to hear what happened next Jess!!

  2. Ooooh I can’t wait to hear what happens next! The house I had originally wanted was on a ‘through road’ to the park and my OH was dead set against buying it. It seemed silly to me when the house was so lovely and it killed me letting it go for something that wasn’t important to me (but was obviously important to him). Things did work out for the best however when a week later, another almost identical house went up on the next street for £10k cheaper (they were desperate to sell) which was on a col-de-sac! It was like the clouds parting and the angels were singing – I knew we’d buy it before we stepped foot in it 😉 xx

    PS. I really am loving this blog – so happy I found you!

  3. This sounds so similar to our experiences a year or so ago! And the house plan looks so much like ours! We ended up buying a do-a-upper and we’re so pleased we did, even though a year later we still haven’t got doors on downstairs and the kitchen has only just been tiled. Cannot wait to see what happens in the second part!

  4. Oh my goodness!!! I need to read more… please tell me we don’t have to wait long for the second installment?! This afternoon would be preferable 😉

    Anything house-y is just up my street. This is my next project post wedding day!! My current problem is… I’ve seen the house of dreams, but we haven’t managed to sell ours yet (so I may do slightly obsessive daily checks to see if the house I am in love with still on the market!!)


  5. Fab first post Jessica! I am looking forward to following your journey. I am currently checking in with Florence rather than clearing the spare room then stripping the fire place and skirting boards! xx

  6. Ooh cant wait for part 2. We bought our house last year and passed up a complete project that was top of our budget. We ended up buying a 30’s semi in need of some reno but not structural! In hindsight we are so glad – the house we have still needs quite a bit of work (much more than we anticipated) and we struggle to find the time (or money) to do it what with full time jobs! We are getting there though – Bought a wall paper stripper thingy this weekend as need to crack on with the bedrooms!
    Love a bit of house action! xxx

  7. Ack! I had literally rolled my chair till my nose was half an inch from the screen (thats how engrossed I had gotten with the story) and you leave it “to be continued”??

    Like Rachie, Martin and I bought a 30’s semi in need of some minor structural stuff but mainly decorating around 3 1/2 years ago. It was a complete arse and we would never do that all again, but it was so worth it. I love our house. Its ours and reflects us a couple. Now if I could just get the kitchen finished, I would be one happy bunny!


  8. my second comment but have just realised (blame my sluggish morning brain) that this series is going to give me a serious case of the greens – we are currently living with my mother in law and after that we’ll be back to renting in London. I know it’s really Veruca Salt of me but ‘I WANT A HOUSE right now!’

  9. Rebecca,

    Stumbled across your website today! SO happy. I first followed you on YAYW and then on RMW and was gutted when you left as I enjoyed your writing the most – (plus I am now a married and it was a bit weird still reading it!

    As a doctor myself, I am loving the variety of light-hearted and more meaningful posts and have finally found the perfect blog for in between clinic patients!

    Bookmarked with joy. Am also doing up my 1920 house for which the floor plan is identical!


  10. This story has just arrived at the right time as I would love to buy a house but in no position to do so…so now I can live vicariously through Jess.

    I can’t wait for the second instalment!

  11. Hi everyone!

    We had a similar story when we bought our house, involving some hard negotiations and then the day we were due to exchange the vendor came back asking for more money. We held our ground and luckily didn’t have to give any more! All along my Mum was advising us in the background (she and my Dad moved a lot when I was younger) and then when I was in that position advising Jess I could see both sides of the story… how easy it is to tell somebody to hold their ground and be prepared to walk away, but the gut wrenching effort it takes to do it when you’ve found your ‘home’.

    So glad you’re enjoying this story… I think it’s going to be a great series! 🙂


  12. Jessica you are so gutsy! One for going for a hosue that needs a lot of work (kudos), two for digging your heels in and sticking to your convictions despite your partner thinking otherwise – I know how easy it is to give in. You have some serious vision. I hope this is a happy ending for you…

  13. Looking forward to reading more about this too! Husband and I bought a very a 1930’s house before Easter this year, with a very similar floorplan and it needs heaps of work but it gorgeous and pretty much the dream house we’d spent the last 3 years looking for (I know, a long time – another story…) .

    We’ve stripped most of the wallpaper off (up to 6 layers of it in some places), rewired the house (before it burnt down, it was that bad) and are now slowly decorating it. Rachie – I completely identify with your situation, time and money are the limiting factors.

    There is upcoming major structural work required – guttering, a roof, knocking through the kitchen/dining room wall, replacing the conservatory – but we love the house. It has the internal and external space we love and lots of character, including the original 30’s Bakelite door fittings and keys on all the internal doors. It makes it all worthwhile!

  14. I will be looking forward to reading the rest of this story. A great read so far Jessica!

    We love our rented house and luckily our landlady has recently offered to sell it to us! We thought the serious saving was over now we’ve had our wedding, but it looks like it’s just begun… xx

  15. Oh goodness me, in suspenders here!

    I bought a flat at 23, which I rent out now, and while it was a home for a while, I definately see it now as an investment property.

    I would LOVE to get an old house in the countryside and make it our own – unfortunately Mr BW is a new-build man. Meh.

    One day…

  16. Hi all, thanks so much for all your comments. I’m really pleased you are enjoying reading my story and I can’t wait to share the rest of it with you tomorrow. It’s also reassuring to hear that I am not the only one to get so emotional about trying to buy a house, and that there are some happy endings out there!

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