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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