Saturday, 5 July 2014

Property Buzzword Bingo

I've been a bit quiet on this blog for a couple of weeks because things are changing in my life.  As some may know, it's now five years since my then partner of 20 years found someone else to share his life.  In that time, he and his girlfriend have done most of the structural work on the main farmhouse (which we'd gutted to renovate, pre-split) and I've been living in the farm cottage.  We all get on amicably enough, but it's really time to move on.  The idea is that they buy my share of the farm, which frankly doesn't amount to all that much when it comes to buying a new place.  As a result, I'm looking for somewhere to live in the area west of Carmarthen and south of Cardigan. Unfortunately, most of what's available within my budget is mid-terrace property in the larger towns, in the areas which a policeman friend advised me to avoid. There isn't much available around here, which means I'll have the hassle of changing doctor and vet along with change of email and home addresses. I keep telling myself that things could be worse, but the idea of having to live in a town after over 10 years in the country feels like a backwards step, and it's breaking my heart.

I was initially excited to have a look at the properties on offer, but trawling through them is proving fairly depressing. At one end of the scale, there are the places which need a lot of work, but are too close to my budget limit for me to afford it.  Then there are those which are 'in good order', where the first words to escape my lips on seeing the carpets, tiling or other decor are 'oh, dear'.  There's a horrible fashion for 'feature' walls, such as a large-patterned wallpaper or an intense colour on one wall in a smallish room.  Although I generally like colour, I can feel the claustrophobia start just from looking at the photo.

Then there are some which have been done up so well, it looks as though they've had the attentions of an interior designer. That would be fine if they also had a garden and somewhere to park, but it seems that the combination of all three is impossible. In south-west Wales, public transport is a rare thing and unless you live, work and go out in the same town, having a car and somewhere to park it is essential. Much of the older housing stock, including a lot of ex-council properties from the 1950s or earlier, has nowhere to park.  If you are lucky, there is a garden and you can join the fight for parallel parking space in a narrow street. I'm finding the Google Maps 'street view' very useful, as it can give a more objective view than the estate agent's photo, in which you might not see, for example, that the property fronts directly onto a busy road with double yellow lines. Strangely, even some of the more modern housing has no adjacent, off-road parking, and it's a safe bet that anything modern will not have a garden larger than a shaded, overlooked space just big enough to put a small table and chair and a rotary washing line, possibly not both at the same time.

I've had a little look above my budget too.  When comparing what's offered to what's asked for some properties, I find myself thinking (or exclaiming aloud in some cases) 'You have got to be kidding!'. Way above what I can afford, there are some lovely, spacious properties, so big that I could rattle around like a dried pea in a tin.

I love that I can get the details and photos online, but the websites could use some work on their filters.  I find that I want to filter by exclusion (not flats/apartments, commercial, building plots, holiday homes, mobile homes).  For example, I can filter on houses, but that excludes bungalows and includes mobile homes! Of course, the web filters depend on the accuracy of the data input, which often leaves something to be desired.

As for the descriptions! Poor English is making me wince so often, I almost have a nervous tic. I'm fed up of looking for important things like room sizes, or whether the bathroom actually includes a bath (replacing the bath with a shower has obviously been another trend) and finding instead a paragraph of wonderfully meaningless waffle trying to 'sell' the area. 

I remember playing buzz-word bingo in boring management meetings during the '90s. We used to copy a sheet on which there was a grid with words and phrases such as synergy, leverage (used as a verb), touch base, blue sky and outside the box.  The first one to get a row, column or diagonal won, although it didn't do to shout BINGO!

Here are my suggestions for a property-based buzzword bingo.  I would just leave this as a list and cross them off as you find them.  I promise, it won't take you long; why not have a game over a cuppa?
You get a point for every occurrence of:
  • Any missing or misplaced apostrophe
  • 'Boasting'
  • 'Benefits from'
  • 'Comprises of' (yes, I know it's wrong, but you'll find this one easily)
  • 'Deceptively' (or even, deceivingly)
  • 'Generous'
  • 'Low maintenance'
  • 'Spacious'
  • 'Surprisingly'
  • 'Sympathetic'
  • 'Good size' (double points when this description is applied to e.g. a double bedroom in which you can only just fit a double bed, or a garden in which there is only just room for the clothes line and a seat)
  • 'Immaculately presented' (double points when the decor makes you want to scream/vomit/run away)
  • 'Ideal' (double points when your immediate reaction on viewing is a cynical 'yeah, right')
  • Any incorrect description (such as a semi-detached described as detached, two-storey house described as a bungalow or a building plot labelled as a new home)
  • Any incorrectly applied data filter characteristic; for example, a search for properties with a garden or parking returns properties where there is clearly no garden, or parking.
Well, that was fun, but I didn't see anywhere I could afford that I could picture myself living. Thinking ahead, I should go for a bungalow, as stairs will become a trial as my osteoarthritis worsens, but bungalows are always more expensive and most are out of my budget.  It's all about location and space - some two- or three-bed houses and bungalows are two to three times my budget.  I need to win the lottery!

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