Thursday, August 27, 2009

Possessed by House Freak?

Last night we managed to spend quite a lot of the evening not talking about houses – which, let me tell you, is no mean feat.

It’s all we’ve talked about for the past six weeks. Sometimes, when we’re in bed ... you know ... I close my eyes and see shaker kitchen cabinets and disastrous carpets and floor plans. It’s disturbing to say the least – having just read Chocky*, I’m more than a little concerned that perhaps some house-mad alien has infiltrated my head and emptied it of all useful items, such as how to cook Bolognese so that it tastes of something other than pan and how to concentrate at work for longer than three seconds without compulsively refreshing . Must. Look.At.Houses. Gah! Even now, mid-sentence, I’m thinking – perhaps we SHOULD go see the Canon Street property, and I just sent Robbie a rather bland looking townhouse in Shawford. My Chocky needs therapy.


We had a little row about the usual stuff which I felt bad about afterwards because I think it’s my uncertainty at buying the house. I’m worried that it’s too much work for us and we’ll end up completely broke. I found it hard to get to sleep last night thinking those thoughts. Who can when they’re looking at having no money for the foreseeable future and a desperate need for a top which is almost a dress but not quite and can be worn with the almost skinny jeans. Oh, and the £2.5k I need to pay for my MA this year.

So, I checked with my mortgage broker this morning and have completely terrified myself (and Rob) with potential repayment options. I won’t bore you with the details, but monthly repayments on a £280k mortgage are eye-opening. I remember my sister telling me how much her mortgage was and me saying solemnly to myself – I will never pay that much. I think it was about £400.

I wonder how much our children will end up paying ...

To lighter things:

Books I’ve read this week

Savage Grace by Natalie Robins and Steven M. L. Aronson – absolutely fascinating, impressively researched but incredibly depressing. The perfect of example of what happens when you’re very bright but you don’t have to work. It was a relief when it was all over, but I still want to shake Brooks Baekeland for being such a self-absorbed nob.

*Chocky by John Wyndham – short and, as such, after the 450 pages of Savage Grace, a good read, if only for the wonderfully dated language. Really beautiful relationship between father and son. And nothing like what I remember of the children’s tv series – no pulsating triangles anywhere. Or was that just me?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Art of Compromise

Last night, Rob and I had a very subdued celebration about having our offer accepted on Stockbridge Road with two bottles of Bulmers Pear Cider and a half-hearted row (we were tired) about how he's negative about things which makes it difficult for me to get excited: he was looking at all the bad points of Stockwell Road and I wanted to be pleased that we'd had an offer (and a good one too) on a home in Winchester.

The big problem between us in this whole affair is that he sees a house as a financial investment to make as much money from as possible, whereas I see it as a home. It's Heart vs. Head.

We fight about this constantly: we see a house together and, even if I hate it because, for example, it has bedroom ceilings billowing towards the floor with age, if it has development potential, he'll never ever discount it. But if I see something that I like but he doesn't - usually because it's been finished really well and the most he could possibly do is put up a shower curtain or a mug hook - he won't discuss it. Not in the slightest: I loved this converted chapel. He hated it. End of. He loved this thatched cottage with the most disgusting carbuncle of a 70s extension sticklebricked onto its side; I said Absolutely Not, and yet he STILL brings it up - even though the old lady who lives there won't take less than our top, top budget which would mean living there in sour-milk hell until we either inherited a fortune or I went back on the game ... I caught him with the plans up on the laptop only the other day. Seriously? I said. But ... he said.

I complain (very well), but, in Rob's defence, he helps balance out the romantic in me who'll buy a house because it has nice wallpaper/lampshades/sofas/cat asleep on the bunkbeds. And we've come up with an excellent plan for opening up the downstairs of Stockbridge Road which we can do because he's a structural engineer and knows these things, so I guess his practicality isn't as bad as I make out - although it does make compromising and liking him at the same time rather tricky.

In other new, we've decided not to see Canon Street as Rob has stated: I hate it. And because I always like to make out I'm super nice and the best person in the relationship, I've said okay, we won't see it - but honestly, I didn't want to either: I think I'm slowly falling for Stockwell Road ...

I have a viewing at my flat today. Fingers crossed ...


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Is buying a house the third most stressful thing in the world?

About two months ago, Robbie and I decided to buy a house in Winchester.

This may seem like a smart move – buying a home together where we can raise our cats and indulge our desire for arguing over everything. And Winchester has recently been voted one of the best places to live in the whole of the UK. I know – far better than West Norwood where we’re currently trying to keep the cats from mixing with the wrong crowd.

Anyway, it seemed like a pretty straight forward thing: we’d sign up with estate agents, roll into town with all our London lolly and pick up something huge, Victorian and sprawling in which we get lost on a regular basis, before filling the whole thing with organic products and going to listen to a lunchtime recital at the Cathedral.

But, of course, God has a thing about pretentious wankers, and so we have been thwarted in our attempt to achieve middle-class hideousness and have realised that when we decided to buy a house in Winchester, so did half of London. Because, surprise surprise, calling somewhere the best place to live in the UK, makes it somewhat attractive to those, like us, seeking a break from the concrete grey days of London town. Even the fact that Robbie grew up there and his parents live in one of the nicest areas holds very little sway when a 3-bed Victorian terrace is going for £400k.

So we have searched and searched – 19 houses so far. And Oh! what joys we’ve seen – a house with barely a bedroom on at £360k, a terrace with an overgrown quarry face an inch from the back windows and a bedroom only accessible by going out the front door, down some stairs and then in again for £325k, a house that may as well have been in the middle of the A3 in terms of car noise for £399k, and one that came with the sense that something very bad happened in the back bedroom for £340k. We have wasted so much money and time careering over Hampshire only to find the delightful period cottage is actually a campervan on blocks. For £400k.

And Rob and I have nearly killed each other and ourselves – although, that’s usually me trying to hurl myself from the moving car mid-row as some kind of dramatic statement .

BUT – today we put an offer in on a nice little place on Stockbridge Road in Winchester. It’s not perfect – parking and a busy road may be an issue – but it will give Rob the opportunity to wield his hammer, or at least show someone where to wield theirs, it’s right by the station so we can get to London very easily and our London friends can get to us without complaining too much, and it ticks the big box marked: IN WINCHESTER. And it’s pretty. Or at least it could be. Our offer’s been accepted and so it could very soonly be ours ...

But there’s another BUT – Rob’s mum went to see a little 2 bed terrace on Canon Street which is in the old quarter and right by the cathedral this morning. She loved it and really wants us to see it before we make any final decisions - location is apparently perfect - so we’re going to go and see that one on Saturday, as well as a second viewing on Stockbridge Road.

I’m guessing the tale is not yet finished.