The House Hunting Architect

Actually buying a home where you can hang a picture or redecorate has been a pipe dream for many years. Added to the architect’s curse of seeing the design potential of every space I was keenly looking forward  embarking on a house hunting mission.

Money

It’s just like ‘Location, Location, Location’ except you’re the idiots you’re normally shouting at. I dread to think how many homes under the hammer or similar I have watched over the years. I love to see the variety of spaces and imagine what I would do with them. Finally, after saving what I consider to be a sizeable deposit, off we went to a mortgage broker to find out if borrowing a whopping amount of money to buy a house was possible.

It turned out that, yes, we are grown up enough to take out the biggest loan of our lives and spend it on a small patch of land and a pile of bricks. A commitment which feels very counter-intuitive after spending our adult lives focused on getting our of our post-uni debts and squirreling money away. However in the UK house ownership is the primary method of investment and long term rental is not as appealing as it is elsewhere due to poor tenants rights and fairly unreasonable landlords. Apologies, I digress.

What were we looking for?

So, the house hunting. Our requirements:-

  • Off road parking for our beloved campervan, preferably with scope for it to be covered.
  • A garden/outdoor space of some sort large enough to grow some veggies and have a compost bin.
  • No ridiculous commutes
  • Number of bedrooms? not even bothered would probably just prefer a big shed.
  • No apartments. Freehold no leasehold. No new builds.

…and with the say so from the mortgage provider we were over the starting line. We moved from saving properties on Rightmove and day dreaming to actually lining up viewings and contacting agents. Lunch breaks involved checking what had been listed in the last 24 hours and then frantically phoning agents to be told that properties listed that day had already had offers accepted. The beginning of each week involved booking viewings only to have them cancelled by the end of the week. We soon came to realise that we are in what is referred to as a ‘hot market. This means that properties are being sold very quickly and its a regular bun fight to secure that house before the person that’s lined up to view it next.

Hot Market

I read many helpful articles explaining that you should try the showers and look at the fuse boxes, go back at different times of the day to monitor the traffic, ask about the refuse collecting. This somehow just seemed like it was written for some other process to the one we experienced. Certainly whether it’s a wheelie bin collection or black bags seems far too trivial to be relevant in the decision to offer on a property or not. If you did that you would simply not move house, for a very, very long time.

We actually did what is considered to be very little viewing- only two weekends worth (plus inordinate hours of internet research beginning about four years ago)- but boy was it exhausting and surprisingly emotional. You know that the choice of any property will involve compromise but which is the right compromise?; parking, location, orientation, size? You are balancing the views of two individuals who inhabit a space and use the environs differently. Comparing properties is like comparing a chicken with a dolphin with an eagle. Your time is eaten up by all things house hunting. Also thrown into the mix is a soupçon of exhaustion and a good dose of disappointment waiting to hear if offers are accepted or rejected while trying to suppress the urge to mentality move into your desired new home.

The house viewing process was really informative. We considered a tiny but centrally located terrace with no off road parking in the centre of Christchurch, an adorable 1930’s wreck which we definitely couldn’t have moved into for a long time. A quirky urine smelling house full of retro charm, a compact urban terrace with a surprise vineyard in the garden, a cottage from the 1800’s complete with open fire and many more conventional homes in varying areas of east Dorset. Each property we looked at helped us to reflect on our lifestyle. What kind of life would we live in that space? where would we walk the dog? where would we share a BBQ with friends?

Is it over?

Jumping forward and after three failed offers we have had an offer accepted on a house. As it’s early days, I won’t elaborate on it for now but I am currently debating whether we’ve progressed far enough with the sale for me to make a 3D model of the house…

 

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