After Dave’s graduation as a mature student and our wedding in 2014, and prior to buying our house, we lived in my late grandmother’s house in South West London for just under a year. As he’d also lost his beloved Nanna we found ourselves gifted with a healthy deposit that we’d have never scraped together if it weren’t for these losses (way to start on a high note…promise to get cheerier!).
For a few months, we lived with the hope that we’d be able to buy that house, since despite its location it was in a poor state of repair. When the valuation came we discovered this was far from realistic. We started looking at areas that we could afford, where we could still spent as little as possible on the cost of commuting. Our findings were bleak. The market was fierce, it was very difficult to secure viewings and the properties were just as bleak, yet still selling like hotcakes at well over the asking price.
We’d come back to our hometown of Ashford for a family wedding, and the next day after a restorative fried breakfast (there was much booze), we decided to check out what was on offer in the windows of the local estate agents. Almost instantly we both realised that houses here were a lot more affordable than the areas we’d been looking at. Later, we did some proper maths and realised that whilst yes, the cost of travel would be higher, and our monthly outgoings would be higher initially, that we’d be able to have a much nicer home, much sooner, in an area where our family and (some of) of friends lived. We sent enquiries about 12 properties and were able to arrange to view 9 of them in one day the following weekend.
We found this house on that day. It was lived in and homely, a family with 3 boys lived there and we knew that we could be happy and comfortable there for a long time. We made an offer immediately, which was accepted at below the asking price. 3 months later, after some wrangling with surveyors and waiting for solicitors, we got the keys.
When we walked in to the property, now emptied of the previous owners’ personal effects, we knew we’d have to redecorate. Fine, we knew that already, but it soon became apparent we’d need to rewire the place, and that would need doing straight away. We spent three days ripping away wallpaper and peeling off old paint, layers and layers of the stuff. Seemed that our predecessors were of the ‘bodge-it’ school of thought when it came to DIY, and had just covered up previous indiscretions rather than making them good so we continued to discover further flaws as we went along.
It was just over 2 weeks after the move that we found out I was pregnant, which was big, big news. We’d been ‘trying’ for 3 months but still believing it was going to take months and months of doing so, I’d never expected such a quick result. This meant our project house now had a bit more urgency about it. As soon as the wiring was done, and since our back bedroom was the one that had the fewest boxes stacked in it, and was the smallest, we got cracking with decorating that for the new arrival and ever since we’ve been living in that room, since with fresh walls and new carpet, it’s a lot more inviting than our own large bedroom with its stripped walls, which looks like a scene out of a horror movie – a cluttered one at that.
Still in completion stage is the dining room. It’s been lining-papered and painted, and we’re now waiting to have our Karndean flooring laid, which will lead from the hallway, through to the dining room, which meant that the hallway décor came next, and Dave is working on that as I type.
Next up, sunglasses at the ready….
The living room is our finest work, and we managed to complete the job just before Christmas. It felt so good having another room to exist in, after living in our bedroom for the best part of 4 months.
There’ve been other obstacles on the way and we’ve had to be pretty smart with cash as it’s been sapped away. Our survey showed that we might need to replace the flat roof extension on the bathroom at the back of the house at some point, but we hadn’t banked on that starting to leak within the first couple of months. Ker-ching. We’ve also had some furry visitors which I won’t dwell on, so keeping them away has been a challenge particularly in a house as old and holey as this one.
Some tips and lessons we’ve learnt so far:
- Join B&Q’s club. They send regular offers by email like £3 off when you spent £25. It might not always be the case, we might have just been lucky with the cashier that served us on a larger shop, but she allowed us to split the £100 shop into four transactions and scanned the same voucher for each shop, so show them the email on your smartphone rather than printing it.
- If you have the chance, call in favours from friends, but not to the detriment of getting the job done. Knowing our electrician was helpful, but since he was doing the work over weekends, it took longer than it would have done if we’d found a tradesman elsewhere. Use Rated People or TrustaTrader to find a reputable tradesperson or contractor.
- When visiting B&Q, Wickes and other homeware stores, take a minute to check out any clearance sections they have. We found a perfectly good thermostat in a bargain basket marked down from £20 to £2.50. I’ve also picked up a 3-pack of lightbulbs for £5, then quickly dropped it when I found the same individual lightbulbs in the clearance section for 50p each. Every penny counts.
I can’t wait to be able to show off more as we progress. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go, in a short space of time. More to come as the story develops…