A few years ago I broached the idea of re-locating to my husband and was immediately met with rolling eyes and a list of a million reasons why it wasn’t a good idea.
My husband and I met whilst backpacking around Australia, more years ago now than I care to remember. I have lived in a fair few locations in my lifetime, including Wales, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, London, Surrey and the deepest darkest Australian outback, so for me the idea of change presents few difficulties, in fact I whole-heartedly welcome it. He, however had lived in Surrey his whole life, and a trip to Australia with friends was an uncharacteristic diversion. This particular corner of the county was what he knew, and he felt settled and happy knowing the route to his nearest Wickes (his favourite DIY store) and of course, the local watering hole!
I can be known to be pretty persuasive however, so before long I’d taken the bull by the horns, and the house was on the market. We were conducting viewings, whilst gallivanting all over Kent, Surrey and Sussex looking for an area we could move to. With my parents living in Wales, my sisters in America and Bali, and his family being near to our home in Surrey, we were (rightly or wrongly) basing our search on how pretty the villages were, how long his commute would be, and how good the schools were. On reflection, I don’t think we ever really fell totally in love with a particular location. We almost made offers on two country houses in two different villages, but I could tell that my husband was resistant, and I sensed I was almost forcing him to move out of a home that actually he was very happy living in.
So, after a couple of months, and no successful bids on our house, we took it off the market. I want to give a word of warning at this point about selling with online agents. We had put our house up for sale with Purple Bricks, and because we withdrew it from the market, we had to pay a substantial penalty fee, which was a real kick in the teeth and almost had my husband reaching for the divorce papers! I was also silently kicking myself for being overly impulsive and not reading the small print as usual!
A couple of years later, we both found ourselves regularly noticing and complaining about small, irritating inconveniences regarding our home. After seven years there, (you’ve heard of the seven year itch, right?) we were finding the road much busier, and pulling out of our drive in the mornings nigh-on impossible. Our children were getting bigger, it was feeling more cramped, we were lacking storage, and our lovely neighbour of 6 years had moved away. Even my husband was starting to daydream about more outdoor space, about not living opposite a busy convenience store, and the possibility of having a garage or workshop to ‘do man things’ in. It was time to put the house back on the market, and make the move to a quiet village location, where we could live out our dream lifestyle.
We put our house up for sale at the end of February and I’d like to say the selling/buying process was a doddle, but I have to admit I had never felt stress like it – even planning our wedding day was plain sailing compared to this! I count myself very lucky that at 35 I don’t have any grey hairs, but I actually plucked three wiry, grey nasties out of my head this week, which all appeared at once following the white-knuckle ride that was the exchange process!
It all started with us viewing a beautiful house on a quiet lane, with a garden as big as a paddock that we immediately envisaged ourselves living in. We had settled on an area of Surrey that we were fairly familiar with, as we have friends there who we visit from time to time for prosecco fuelled Sunday dinners. It’s known for its great schools and an abundance of stunning countryside.
My husband and I talked a lot about what we would do to improve that house, and despite it having some negatives – it was on a hill with an extremely steep driveway, it had a septic tank where the much-sought-after garage should be, and you could hear the distant roar of a motorway, we were hoping to sell our house quickly so we could make an offer. Fast forward a week or so, and we accepted a low offer on our house so we could snap-up the house with the garden big enough for a pony and a pool. It had been on the market for quite a while, and since we had accepted less than we desired for our house, we put in a cheeky (but not unreasonable) offer. It’s a buyer’s market and after-all the house needed everything re-doing from the roof down. I soon got a call from James, the estate agent, breaking the news that sadly, even though there had been no proceedable offers on the property for months, two offers had come in on the same day, and the other was higher. We had lost it.
I was gutted. So gutted that I couldn’t face even the thought of starting the search again. But after a few days wallowing, I picked myself up and started trawling through the online sites again, hoping to see something that would catch my eye. Hubby had the Friday off work that week, so we decided to look at a few places I’d found within our budget – a white painted 1930’s cottage style house, a new build with a garage and a detached bungalow on a generous plot.
First up was the 1930’s house, and as soon we walked through the front gate, I was smitten. Steps made from sleepers and fringed with lavender led up to the front door. The cute cottage style windows smiled out at me. The front garden was almost as big as the back garden of our current house, and the country style porch complete with rain chain looked idyllic. Opening the front door, the agent led us though the small hallway (I have never owned a house with a hallway so this was high on my wish-list) and into the open-plan kitchen, dining room and living room. My husband actually gasped when he found out there was also a tiny utility room with downstairs toilet, and a 7ft square boot room off the kitchen. And when we saw the garden, with its miniature pond, various seating areas (one with a wisteria covered pergola) and garden bedroom, we were sold!
We made an asking price offer the very next day, knowing that the house wouldn’t be on the market for long, and to our delight it was accepted! Then began the process of endless paperwork, packing up of the house (and by now the summer holidays were fast approaching) and negotiations regarding fixtures and fittings.
We found ourselves in a chain of six, and a chain of this size is not for the faint-hearted let me tell you! Below us, the buyers were pushing for a quick exchange and completion and above, there were all sorts of delays due to our seller losing the house she first settled on. We were all for the earliest possible move date, due to needing to apply for schools for our children, and we really wanted to give them a few weeks to settle into a new house, in a new location, before they had to start a new school too. But it was not to be.
We went on a mini (gifted) break to a fabulous cottage at Trallwm Forest Cottages in Wales over the week we were due to exchange and were SO glad to find that there was intermittent Wifi in the cottage we were staying in (the only one with that luxury) as there was absolutely no phone signal anywhere around. A holiday amongst the pine trees, surrounded by nature, would usually be a great opportunity for less screen time, but since I was on tenterhooks, waiting for every update from our solicitors, it was vital that I had a connection to the outside world.
We were meant to exchange on the Monday we arrived, but for various reasons it didn’t happen. I was receiving texts from our buyer, saying it absolutely had to go through by Tuesday or it was likely that she would lose her buyers and I was doing my utmost to make it happen, but obviously these things are largely out of our control. Tuesday AND Wednesday came and went with no news. By Thursday afternoon I felt physically sick. I couldn’t sleep, and I was having a recurring nightmare of losing our dream house. With no progression by Thursday evening, and our buyer’s solicitor announcing that there was now not enough time between exchange and the completion date, I thought that it was all over. I was imagining having to start the whole process again, and ending up with a home that I would never love as much as that 1930’s cottage.
Literally just before end of play on Thursday I had a call from our solicitor saying there was one last thing that had to be done before we could exchange. Our seller had to agree to complete on 30th August. She had been pushing for 2ndSeptember, but that date didn’t work for us at all. We would still draw the short straw of being the only family who had to contend with being ‘homeless’ for 10 days (we had to complete on our sale on 20th August) and rely on our families to put us up for that interim period. And she wasn’t answering her phone.
We left the holiday house at 10am on Friday and drove for 1.5 hours to my parent’s house, still not receiving a call. After lunch the solicitor called and I was hoping she would have news of the exchange. But no, it turned out that because we weren’t completing on our sale and purchase on the same day, we had to pay a large chunk of money to our mortgage company. I was baffled. How could this be happening at the very last moment?
Thankfully, we managed to jump this final hurdle, and a few hours later I had another call. My solicitor (who I was almost on first name terms with by this point) asked “are you sitting down?” and my heart sank. I couldn’t believe another piece of bad news was about to be delivered. I wearily sat on the stairs and then she said those two magic words – “it’s done” and I’ve never whooped and cheered so much in my life! Much wine was consumed that evening!
I am so looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. Coming from a small town in Wales, and having a very outdoor orientated childhood, I’ve always yearned to live in a village, with fields and walks on my doorstep and a pretty garden that my girls and dog can enjoy. I really feel like this house offers us all we could wish for. There’s a lot of work to be done to make it ours, but I’m hoping I can implement all that I have learned over the past couple of years, blogging and working on my Instagram interiors account and make it something really special. The pressure is definitely on!
First, I’ll be concentrating on the downstairs, although I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to live with the blue bathroom! I might give it a temporary makeover, until I can get around to doing it properly, so watch this space.
I’m so happy with the incredibly positive response from all my lovely followers about the move, and I can’t wait to take you on the journey with me as I take ‘Croft Corner’ from house to home.
Until next time,