Category Archives: House Sale

I bought an orchard today

The builders did turn up – all six of them. At first it was a bit like the Chuckle Brothers meet Carry On Building, but with some guidance, they managed to get a long way yesterday.

We went from this:

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to this:

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in a day. Pretty good work I think.

Plenty of making good to do, but the amazing amount of extra light that the doors bring to what is actually quite a dark sitting/dining room is really welcome.

Some of them will be back on Monday, to continue to make good, plaster etc. And they will start the repointing of the external walls – the existing pointing is really bad, so it will be good to have that sorted.

Maybe next weekend, I can start the flooring in here…

So, where does the orchard come in?

Here:

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They say that every man (and woman, of course) should plant a tree during their lifetime. Well, there are four lifetime’s worth coming soon.

The two coal bunkers with the metal lids are in the skip and the weeds have been treated with weedkiller. In a couple of weeks, I should be able to rotovate this area, pull up the worst of the roots and turf the whole lot. Again, in “The Plan”, there are some fruit trees in here, and these will be the ones that are now in their containers in the back garden. Have decided that an eating apple (Braeburn), a cooker (Bramley) and a pear (Comice) will all sit happily in this space and provide a nice place to sit out in the summer.

I also bought a damson, to replace the one that had to be taken out of the hedge last autumn. The fruit from that one did make a very nice damson gin…

So, another couple of steps forward…

Once again, the end is near… A different end, this time.

Soon, it will be the beginning of this end.

On Friday, 9 months after moving into the “new” bungalow, the builders will be starting to install the new French doors in the wall of the dining area. As soon as they have completed these works, we will be able to take up the hideous stained carpet left by the previous owner, I will be able to finish the laying of the oak floors (together with the skirtings, coving and architraves) and the room can finally be decorated. The carpet is the last thing in the place that was the old lady’s and it will be good to finally put it in the skip. Replacing it with the floor will make a huge difference, as will the extra light that the French doors will bring.

The builders should have started on Monday, but, well, we know what builders are like…

We have done pretty well with the refurbishment works. The hard work tends to come in fits and starts, with a lot of work being done over a couple of weekends, then nothing for a month or so while we wait for someone else to do something. Despite enjoying doing the work, it will be good when it’s finished and we can get back to doing whatever it was we did before moving.

The only thing that will remain will be the bathroom – we have a fitter that can do the work, so it’s “only” a question of finding the right suite and tiles.

Oh, there’s the garden to do too, although a start has been made on that recently. The area at the front, cleared before Christmas, has now had a serious weed killer treatment, ready for a good rotovation later in the spring. The two old concrete coal bunkers have been broken up and placed in the skip, and things are looking a bit tidier out there already. I think that turfing the area will be the way forward in the first instance, with some fruit trees to be planted in the autumn. Two apples, one cooker and one eater, and a pear, will probably do the trick, although it would be good to replace the damson tree that had to be taken down in the back garden.

The loosely described patio area to the side of the new French doors and kitchen will need lifting and replacing with something more suitable. At the other side of this paved area, there is the hedge to the adjacent field and I am thinking of building a slate wall along that inner boundary to more rigidly define the edge. I have been researching dry-stone walling courses and have found one in the Peak District that might just do the job. We don’t want or need a real dry-stone wall, but learning some of the techniques required will no doubt be useful if I do proceed with the slate wall idea.

The other fairly major thing to worry about in the garden is the pond. A few weeks ago, we were treated to a couple of dozen frogs all getting frisky in this little pond, croaking like it was going out of fashion.

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Two days later they had gone, but the frog-spawn evidence that they have left behind is now developing nicely. We will have to make sure that the water level is topped up for when the tadpoles emerge, as it’s all a bit overgrown at the moment and then decide what to do about it later in the year when they have either hopped off, or been eaten by whatever eats tadpoles. It’s only a small pond, but if it’s to be removed, it ought to be done properly.

So, I have given myself a target of the end of April to have the inside of the place finished (achievable) and maybe my birthday in July for the garden to have been moved forward (also achievable).

When it gets to the first anniversary of the move, in August, I think that we will have to get the fizz out.

Any excuse.

At last… Broadband… Hello again, 21st Century

So. The move went pretty well.

The removal company arrived bang on time on the Wednesday and beavered away all day loading about ¾ of our worldly goods onto the lorry, leaving us with the sofa, a bed and a few bits and pieces. Not that these items constitute the other ¼, but you get the idea. And yes, the kitchen was cleaned to within an inch of its life, so it was one last trip to The Marsh Cat on that Wednesday evening. We were touched by the generosity of two of the waitresses there who bought glasses of Prosecco for us, which was very nice of them indeed.

Thursday brought that situation where the lorries (a second one was required to complete the task) were full and the crews raring to go. But we hadn’t yet completed… After several calls to the solicitor, we were told that the monies were moving up the chain and that we were OK to leave the keys with the agent and head off. I did not look back and surprisingly had neither a tear in my eye nor a lump in my throat as I drove away from the house we called home for 22 years and the lovely village it sits in. Such is life.

At exactly 1 o’clock, while driving to the new house, I received the call in the car that we had all completed and I could now collect the keys.

We had taken the opportunity on the Tuesday before completion to clean the new place as best we could, given the short time available (more of this later). The carpets were vacuumed and the kitchen and bathrooms cleaned, but to see the place without the old lady’s furniture was a bit of a shock. The rooms were smaller and darker than I had remembered them.

I am going to insert a cheeky “Top Tip” in at this juncture. If you are downsizing – do it properly.

Get rid of the things that you think you don’t need. That’s the easy bit. Then get rid of half the stuff you think that you do need. You don’t need it. If you miss out the second step, on trying to fit a 3 ½ bedroom house with two receptions, a big kitchen, a decent sized utility room and a large garage into a smaller 2 ½ bedroom bungalow with a smaller kitchen, no utility and a smaller garage, you will find that your stuff doesn’t fit. It’s bleeding obvious really, but worth repeating.

Our situation is exacerbated to a certain extent because we have been keeping some furniture ready for our daughter who is about to move into an unfurnished house. If only she’d done so LAST month… Still, we should see the wood for the trees by the weekend.

On moving in, and looking more deeply than was possible on the Tuesday, we actually found that the kitchen was in a disgusting state and required the intervention of a far more accomplished cleaner than me, armed with those Brillo pads with the soap in the middle. (It took Ann 4 hours to make it bearable). We daren’t use the oven, which would probably kill us, so the replacement kitchen has become an imperative.

We have been in only 10 days now, but we have achieved quite a lot. The living and dining room are tidy and arranged properly – just need redecorating. It’s amazing how quickly you can turn someone else’s living room into your own when your furniture is in it and your photographs and paintings are on the walls. The main bedroom is currently being redecorated. The old shed has been demolished and a new one ordered. A shelving system is waiting to be installed in the study. A start has been made on the garden, gutters and drains have been cleared. A skip is half full. Work will being on the utility room at the weekend. Quotes are in the process of being obtained for the replacement kitchen and for electrical work that is required. Choosing a new kitchen is pretty good fun, but a bit overwhelming, given the choice of styles and options, but I think that we have settled on a style – will maybe go for a bit of colour in the cabinetry – who knows!? I have been getting some very good advice from those that know about these things at work, so that has made a big difference.

Finding a garden clearance firm that isn’t a joke is proving difficult though.

And finally, today, BT plugged in the broadband. (Hurrah!!!)

They managed to get the phone itself working last week, but it required three visits from “engineers” to work out that a wire needed to be attached to something in the green cabinet at the end of the road. Oh well – phone calls to the Mumbai call-centre into double figures, working through the lies and the falsehoods given by the operators there and staying in while someone didn’t need to gain access to the house at all, finally paid off.

Now, I can finally catch up with The Archers and stop having to buy extra data from EE on the mobile.

Back in the land of the connected.

Oh, and this is the view from the kitchen window…

The next door neighbour

.. and I can be home from the office in less than 40 minutes.

When all the to-do list items are done, this is what it’s really all about.

And now, the end is near…

We are moving home on Thursday and I have got into that “This will be the last time that I…” frame of mind.

This will be the last time that I wake upon a Saturday morning in the house I’ve lived in for 22 years.

This will be the last time that I take Betsy for a walk around the village on a Saturday morning. I told her that next week she would have a new walk to look forward to, but she just ignored me.

This will be the last Saturday that we have supper at The Marsh Cat (although we are booked in on Wednesday night so that all the kitchen can be packed up during the day)

But, on Monday, it will be the last time that I do a round trip of 100 miles to go to work. And that is partly what this past year has been all about.

22 years is a long time. The children have grown up in and moved away from this house. But it’s no longer their home – they have made their own lives. As things get packed away, curtains and poles taken down, pictures and photographs taken off the walls, the house is slowly changing from “our house” into “a house”. It is an interesting experience that I had forgotten since the last time we did this. How your home can un-become so quickly. I have driven past our previous home several times over the years, when I have been in that area, and it is just another ordinary bungalow in an ordinary street. This house will be the same come Friday, I’m sure.

Soon all our stuff will be shoe-horned into the new one and our stuff will make that old lady’s bungalow, ours. Our things probably won’t all fit, but we will manage. We will have to live with a compromised home for a year or so, while everything gets renewed, rebuilt or improved. But as soon as the removal men leave on Thursday evening and the front door gets closed and the bottle of fizz gets opened and the hard work begins, it will be “home” again.

So, this might be the last time that I write something on this blog in this room.

If it is, I will see you on the other side.

Never again. Moving house is just no fun at all.

They say that alongside divorce or the death of a spouse, moving home is one of the most stressful things that you can do, and of the three, it’s often one that is done willingly. Unless you’ve been planning to divorce or kill your husband I suppose…

Never having experienced the other two events, I can concur that moving home is not really a very pleasant experience. Last time, 22 years ago, we “sold” the property four times before actually moving. We had a buyer pull out the day before exchange of contracts. The woman that bought the house gave us an ultimatum to complete, such that we were homeless with two young children for a fortnight (she was a teacher too…). Part of our contents that had been in storage never quite made it to the new house, taken away from the storage in my Granddad’s old wheelbarrow.

This time, however, is on a whole new level of complete nonsense.

The house will have been on the market a year in August. The couple buying it first saw it in November and made an offer in the spring. We viewed the property we are buying at the beginning of April – 4 months ago – after receiving a second offer from our buyers, the first offer only lasting 2 days.

We have only just exchanged contracts.

At the request of the people at the very bottom of the chain, we agreed to a completion and move date in August. I was pushing for a mid-July completion, but others in the chain were not willing to accede to that. We have been in a position to exchange contracts for over three weeks now. It could have been done if the will were there, but we agreed to go with the August date.

It is difficult to describe the stress that this ridiculous situation puts you through. There is absolutely nothing that you can do about it. You have to let the chain move at the pace of the slowest member, even if that appears to be deliberately slowed for reasons that our solicitor cannot understand. He has never known anything like it in nearly 20 years of conveyancing.

We have now put in motion all the necessary arrangements with removal companies, gas people, electricity people etc. and started to put valuable items in boxes. But to have got to a fortnight from completion and actually moving home and only just having the contract in place strikes me as a completely unacceptable situation.

This will be our last move. Next time, I will be the one in the box.

Moving on

The process of selling this house and buying the next moves glacially forwards. It does take an extraordinary amount of time to get through these processes, but slowly we are getting there.

We signed the contracts on Friday morning and our solicitor anticipates an exchange sometime next week. 13th August seems to be the date for completion – a date dictated by the party at the bottom of the chain, to whose tune the rest of us inevitably have to dance. That will be a year and two days from the date the house first went on the market. My only slight concern is that as far as I know, the new property is still full of the old lady’s things, from dining table to tea towels. I have this vision of turning up one Thursday morning, with a Pickford’s lorry in the street, only to be greeted by a bungalow still full of someone else’s stuff.

So, the clearing the junk out of this house continues. I have ventured back into ebay to sell some stuff from the garage, but to be honest, i am not sure the time and effort is worth it for low-value items. Or at least items that don’t generate many bids and sell for £1.04. By the time Paypal have robbed you of 24p, that’s a whopping 80p in my account. This was for a folding camping table to seat four people. The old car topbox, bought about 25 years ago and unused for 15 years, did fetch £36 though, so that was OK. I am also selling some camera stuff, but that’s not drawing much interest either. Maybe a package to ffordes in Scotland is called for again…

We have decided to pay a removal firm to pack the house. The extra cost is about £400 all told, but I think that’s worth it. The thought of putting 4 bedrooms into boxes isn’t one I relish. I will pack up my study myself, though, as printers, scanners, computers and camera stuff needs to be handled by someone who knows what they are doing, rather than by someone who can lift a freezer full of food and carry it down the drive to the lorry. I am just hoping that none of our stuff goes walkabout like it did when we moved up here. While our house was in storage for two weeks, someone used my grandad’s wheelbarrow that I had ridden in as a two year old (as you do) and filled it with my hifi… Goodbye hifi, hello Barclaycard. A long story…

This week, I have also had done something that I have been meaning to have done for nearly 30 years. In the shed at the bottom of my grandad’s garden was a chair. It was hidden under piles of “useful stuff” and surrounded by cans of creosote, rags, old lawnmowers etc. And spiders. Lots of spiders.

Over the years, I have abused it by varnishing it, staining it, stripping the varnish off, waxing it. All the while, the legs and stringers below have been becoming looser and looser, such that it wasn’t really safe to sit on. Well, now it is. All that structure was removed and rebuilt, with a missing stringer replaced. The repair man who did the work reckoned that the chair is probably mid 19th C, which is much older than I thought it would be. As a treat yesterday, on its return from the repairers, I gave it a decent waxing. And I sat in it. Which was nice.

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In a mere 6 weeks, there may be an update from somewhere else. Fingers crossed.

A life. In flames.

Having put the house on the market last August, we are slowly creeping towards actually getting close to maybe exchanging contracts. A move closer to the office may well be in the offing.

So, it has come to pass that the house is being cleared out. Boxes of “useful stuff” have been taken down the tip via at least a dozen trips. Boxes of old clothes have been taken to the charity shops. And boxes of old bank statements, credit card bills, expired insurance documents, student union cards and other detritus of life have to be dealt with.

We are not talking a couple of years here. We are talking about a time before we moved here – 22 years ago. A time before we moved to the previous house – 27 years ago. Indeed a time before the land that time forgot.

There was an Access bill from 1981. That’s 34 years ago (obviously).

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Also obviously all this should have been dealt with years ago. There really is no need to keep credit card statements for £20 of petrol from a generation and a half ago. But what to do with it? The shredder gives up the ghost beyond six sheets of paper and after about fifteen minutes, it needs a rest for half an hour. Then, what do you do with a bloody great bag of shredded paper? The tip won’t take it. The guinea pig will be left 3 feet down at the bottom of the garden if/when we move, so has no need for bedding any longer. So, bring on the garden incinerator…

Paper is actually difficult to burn, in quantity. Outer sheets burn, but a whole load of sheets will only char in the middle, even when the fire is burning fiercely at 451F, which is the temperature at which paper burns. It’s bloody hot. Hot enough to remove the galvanising from the incinerator. This means that paper has to be added gradually, or the fire stirred with a suitable long handled garden implement – wooden handles don’t take kindly to 451F by the way.

However, after an hour or so on Saturday evening, 34 years of life in papers had gone up in smoke.

Cathartic isn’t a sufficiently good word for it. It was extremely satisfying, but edifying seeing the ebb and flow state of the family finances over the years disappear. Mostly flow, let’s face it.

Even if the whole moving transaction goes TU before exchange and completion (definitely not getting excited about it yet), the house, and especially the loft, will never be the same again.

And that has to be a good thing.

Thoughts on putting the house on the market …

So, after umming and ahing for probably years, we have finally done it. The house is on the market as of this week. It has been tidied within an inch of its life, the photos have been taken by the agent and the details are on his website, as well as RightMove, Zoopla and PrimeLocation. Anyone who knows where I live can see the details for yourselves, if you fancy having a look into my utility room…

Having made this step, it’s an interesting and slightly un-nerving position to be in. I’d forgotten what it’s like, as it’s over 21 years since we moved into this house. Last time, of course, there was no internet, so anyone wanting to buy a house had a much more difficult task obtaining details. Nowadays, the on-line details are more comprehensive than the printed ones as well as easier to get.

The prompt for finally biting the bullet was the sale of a very similar house next door. The owner had told us that he wasn’t in any particular hurry to move and would hold out for his asking price. Although I don’t know what he actually got for it, I can only assume that he was doing just that. Our house, which is arguably a better layout than theirs should therefore be worth at least a similar amount of money. But there is a snag – Stamp Duty.

The threshold for the change from 1% Stamp Duty to 3% is £250,000. No one in their right mind pays £251,000 for a house, or even £255,000. The Stamp Duty would be 3x on the whole sale (it’s not only charged on the marginal amount). This means that if there is a gentle rise in the housing market, properties stop rising at £249,999. There is a large gap between there and when it is actually worth pricing above the £250,000 threshold (about £280,000 seems to be it). Consequently, there is no option for benefiting from rising prices (if there ever is one) until the inflation has been long enough to add that extra £30,000. That could easily be a year or two in this part of the country.

Ours is on the market at £249,950 and for that you get quite a lot for your money.

So, where to move to?

We seem to have settled on two options. Firstly, an area of South Lancashire around the village of Croston, which is a few miles west of the M6 Junction 27. This is a nice part of the county that is very quiet and not on any major through routes etc. and about 32 miles from the office.

Secondly, Cheshire, south of the M56 Junction 10/11. This is closer at around 26 miles, and a nice area, provided you steer clear of the salt mines and the chemical works on the Weaver. The advantage of this location is that we would not need to sacrifice one of our salaries.

In both locations we can find what look like decent, two bed cottages for substantially less than our house might fetch and the idea of downsizing, getting closer to the office and reducing the mortgage all at the same time could be realised. Let’s get ours sold first and then we can see what’s available at that time. Will give it 6 months and then think about whether to carry on.

The question has to be asked as to how I feel about selling this house.

Having spent about 40% of my entire life in this house, it will be odd not living here any more. We like the village, despite the weekend crowds eating their ice cream and it was very handy for working in Liverpool. But now the children have both been gone for years. It’s been 12 years since I started working in Manchester and I have done getting on for half a million miles in the car in that time. Previous posts have worked out how much I might save in just cash terms if I were to move 20 miles closer to the office (which both of the above options do). And last night, I took a short detour off at J10 to drive past one of the candidates, and as I got back on the motorway for that last half hour drive to home, that is when it struck me that there would be benefits in other ways too.

I am sure it will be an emotional day if we do manage to move, but this does make a lot of sense in so many ways that I am sure this is the right thing to do.

And Wednesday brings another four-monthly check up at The Christies. I don’t think anything has changed since April, but let’s see what the man says and see if he still wants to do another CT at Christmas.