Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Game is On ...

... To find myself a new home!

I was amazed to see that it's 6 months since I started haunting RightMove regularly to keep a weather eye on properties and wrote about the Property Buzzword Bingo. At last, I have the money from the property transfer, and six months to get myself sorted and moved out. However, just over a week into the house-hunting in earnest, and I'm already feeling stressed.

The last time I bought somewhere, there was some information online, but a lot was still done by mail and telephone. I thought it would be simpler now, with everything online, digital cameras making the inclusion of photos so much easier, and the ability to have a virtual tour of the area via Google Maps. Whilst the latter is undoubtedly useful, I'm amazed at some of the agents who only include a few photos. Perhaps they omit the shots which they think will be off-putting. The thing which has me tearing my hair out is that some agents have properties which appear to be available when they are already under offer, because of the way their database updates (or more accurately, doesn't update).

If you had told me five years ago that I would be considering a 1930s semi in the suburbs, I may not have believed you. Still, they date from a time when people still had fires, so often still have chimneys, and there were minimum room sizes, so you can get a bed and the furniture into a bedroom. Gardens were still big enough for growing your own veg. Over the years, people have updated them to include central heating,  and, if you're lucky, a utility room where the scullery was and parking for a car in the front garden. So, having found somewhere I could see myself, despite compromises, and eager to view, I was crushed and really quite upset to find I had been pipped to the post. Ditto for my second, third and fourth choices, all suburban 1930s semis. So frustrating!

I was chatting to a friend about the house hunt and learned that she grew up on the estate where I'd found the potential properties. Turns out it's still a nice place to live, and she suspects that someone is buying up similar properties to let.  Out of interest, I looked at the properties to let, and saw one which I'd noticed for sale several months ago. Alternatively, people are buying to 'do up'. I recognised a cottage which I'd passed over because it had no parking (and, despite the estate agent's assurance that the on-street parking is 'unlimited', I know that road. It's a scrum to find a place in the nose-to-tail parallel parking which never seems to have a quiet time.)  With some redecoration, a new kitchen and the bath replaced by a large shower enclosure (the vandals!), the cottage is back on the market for £11,000 more than it was sold for just a few months ago. It still has no off-road parking though.

In the meantime, I've had a wad of brochures from one estate agency, and the whole stack went into the recycling bin within 5 minutes of opening the envelope. They evidently didn't read the brief; Tregaron is not in the area west of Carmarthen and south of Cardigan, a 1 bedroom property does not qualify as 'minimum 2 bedrooms', holidays chalets when I expressly said I wasn't interested in them, and so on, leaving me with the impression that they are ignorant, untrustworthy, lazy.

Another agent told me I would have to compromise. Well, of course, unless location and money are no object, then it can be impossible to find your ideal home, and I consider my brief to be full of compromises already. Still, it made me wonder about other solutions and possibilities. One thing I can't compromise on is broadband availability, and there are many places down here where it is pretty bad, with no planned improvements.

Another friend said how lucky I was, to be able to just go anywhere and start afresh. This made me start to wonder what it would be like to move to another part of the country completely. Prices down here seem comparable to elsewhere in England outside London, the south-east and  home counties, also avoiding the more picturesque parts of the southern counties, Welsh borders, Stratford-upon-Avon and places like that. It would mean moving away from many of my closer friends, so that would probably be a compromise too far, but the grass always looks greener ....

I've also been advised 'not to worry, it's a buyer's market', meaning that an increased number of sellers and fewer buyers turn the housing market in the buyer's favour, allowing plenty of choice and opportunities to haggle on prices. Another agent confessed that there wasn't much choice here at the moment, but another £100, 000 would open up far more opportunity. Impossible for me, short of winning the lottery! Traditionally, sellers tend to put their properties on the market in the spring and summer. Add to this the potential sales resulting from the Murco refinery redundancies, given that there are so few jobs available down here, then maybe there will be more choice in the coming months. I hope so, because it can take 6 weeks or more for a sale to go through. The downside is that if the property market seems a bit stagnant, potential sellers may decide to stay where they are.

In the meantime, I'm spending far too long browsing houses and checking for new arrivals and grateful for my friends' prayers and wishes that the right place will come along soon.

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