The Highs & Lows of Buying a House

Where's the script to follow a failed house purchase? I'm familiar with the one for a failed relationship, a failed job application even, but what's the etiquette for dusting yourself off and moving on after the dream home you'd set your heart on gets torn from you? Having experienced it twice in the past six months, I am struck by how devastating it can feel. It’s bricks and mortar, not flesh and blood, yet it feels like we need time to recover and heal. It’s like the excitement of seeing someone propose, only to witness the crushing blow of the answer 'No'.  It’s like we’ve called off the wedding and now we’re having to call all the suppliers to cancel the cake, the DJ, (instead it’s carpet and Sky home set-up). And then there’s telling everyone. After sharing excited pictures/plans/designs, I feel like Carrie post-jilt in Mexico with a phone full of voicemails I can't face. I’ve transcended from the highs of bar stool shopping, meandering around show kitchens in John Lewis and carrying swatches of carpet in my handbag to feeling tired, deflated and blue. My Pinterest-filled bubble has burst and now I’m left with egg on my face rent... and a solicitor’s bill that, insultingly, still requires paying.

In the beginning, I remember the butterflies of 'playing grown-ups' calling estate agents and booking appointments to view properties. For anyone a touch nosey, it's a dream opportunity to see what's behind closed doors. And for a while, like the honeymoon phase of a relationship, it was fun. It reminded me of playing a fantasy game like the one when I was a child, wanting to dress up in a pinny and pretend to cook a roast dinner in my new EasyBake kitchen with plastic chicken legs and fruit. 

Then the reality sets in when you have to ask serious questions like, 'Is it gas or electric?' 'When was the boiler last serviced?' and questions which, frankly, I don't even know the right answer to hope for. My parents did their best to equip me with basic knowledge in an attempt to conceal the naive girl beneath and avoid a situation where I offer on a property with subsidence and dry rot (I'm still genuinely unclear how to spot the latter...)

Having hopped over those hurdles and talked the talk, thanks mostly to the wisdom of my formally flat-owning husband, we managed to actually find a property we loved. In fact, after eight viewings back to back on one drizzly Saturday in March, I'm not entirely clear if we did love it or were just desperate to end the torture, put up our feet and find our nearest soon-to-be local pub to neck a glass of red. To be fair, this apartment was gorgeous. Beautifully decorated, open-plan (a tick on the wishlist) and who doesn't fall in love with a TV at the end of the bath?! The open hallway made this two-bed flat feel palatial, just one small snag... Of course there has to be when you have a finite budget and wish to live in West London. A compromise is to be expected... Who needs outdoor space, eh? You have Richmond park on your doorstep* (*20 mins away). Who needs a car parking space, eh? Well we don't have a car and we travel by public transport so... yeah we don't need a parking space! (Like we could even afford one on top of the eye-watering mortgage repayments!) Great, well here's a lovely flat just for you... did I mention it's on the south circular? I mean, I can sleep through anything (thanks Mum for hoovering when I was a baby. Best. Gift. Ever.) Pollution, you say? Well it's London after all!

OK, so maybe that one wasn't The One. But the next one surely will be...

Hello, two balconies. Hello, car parking space. Bring on 1000 sq. ft. of space, two spacious bedrooms and two bathrooms. Not to mention a walk-in utility! I was in love. We both were. Having seen this flat separately, Mr A and I both agreed it was worth offering. On the cusp of a bidding war, we offered the asking price with a 24 hours expiry date and HOORAY, it was accepted. Fast forward a few weeks later, mortgage offer in place and it's with the solicitors to conduct searches and get the paperwork in order. I've spent a morning in May with all the parents to show (off) and ensure I had their approval and enjoyed lapping up their oohs and aahs on the south-facing, sunny outlook and far-reaching views over Richmond. Luckily, all parties were chain-free so we were looking at an expedited lead-time of 6 weeks from offer accepted to being handed the keys. We had already mentally moved in to this apartment; I'd already planned my new exercise studios on ClassPass, sussed out our Saturday brunch place, we'd picked out carpet swatches, and designed our new kitchen island we wanted installed. We had even booked time off work for our anticipated move date UNTIL... an unsightly discovery: 400-flat residential development in the plans according to Richmond Council's website to be built directly opposite our flat blocking all views from every window. Disaster, darling.

I can only imagine this discovery is a similar feeling to learning you've been cheated on. You feel a bit sick, a bit teary and then VERY. BLOODY. ANGRY. The only thing that can be done (once you've paid the sodding solicitor's fees) is block every estate agent's number, unsubscribe from every email newsletter and delete the RightMove app. 

Six weeks later, the anger and resentment has sloped to a 3/10, we've had a mini (and cathartic) makeover of our apartment and my energy is redirected to having and planning holidays. 


1 comment

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