Have you ever gone out shopping with something specific in mind, searching for hours without finding it? Then, after looking at everything, you conclude that what you wanted must exist somewhere in the multiverse, just not here, but you still need something similar, so you go back to the first thing you saw or tried on? Often with an exasperated friend, who says 'Why didn't you just buy that in the first place, instead of traipsing around for hours looking at everything?'. Or who has no sympathy whatsoever and unhelpfully informs you that beggars can't be choosers and she can't see why you're making it into such a big deal.
Well, the same thing can happen when shopping for a property. Thankfully, in this case, without the unsympathetic friends, because mine have been lovely, keeping an eye out for properties and helping me with a bit of lateral thinking. Even if they don't quite understand my wish list, they appreciate that this is a bigger deal than trying to find, for example, the right dress.
The property search was starting to get to me. I had set up automatic alerts from a couple of property websites, based on a drawn area and search criteria, and found myself checking my mail several times a day to see if anything had come in. The expected flood of properties onto the market in time for viewings during the Easter holidays was still only a trickle. One of the estate agents confirmed that there had been a lot of valuations, but few were turning into instructions. I went to see a few other properties, which all had more drawbacks than benefits from my point of view. Browsing around, I started to notice price changes; with a couple of properties which had been on the market for a while and had dropped their price suddenly leaping back up to their original listing price. A couple more 3 bed semi properties appeared, outside my budget, and were promptly sold. I got a call about another one which was just coming on the market, and hadn't even had all of the details agreed yet. A 3 bed semi 'with off-road parking for at least 2 cars', in a residential close, with a 'decent sized back garden' with patio, decking and sheds. It was on for £124,950 in Haverfordwest, would I like to go and view?
So I did, but was very disappointed. Built in the 1980s, it looked as though it had not been redecorated since new, and smelled stale. Although it wasn't obvious from the photos, it would have needed completely redecorating, including floor coverings. The seals on the double glazing had broken down, so that would have needed replacing too. It felt too small. Downstairs consisted of a living room and a kitchen/diner. Bedroom 1 was a small double, room for a double bed but not a full set of bedroom furniture. Bedroom 2 was a single, and bedroom 3 was a box room. You could have got a cot or a child's bed in there, but not a full-sized single bed. Outside, the render was crazed and cracked across, showing stains from the rusting angle irons around the window openings. The garden was very wildlife friendly, in a good way (bird feeders, bug boxes and vegetables), but the small pond was full of algae and the decking was rotten. You could have got two cars on the drive, but only if both were small. It would have been a good house for a young family, with the money to do it up, but not what I was looking for and I told the estate agent that I thought it overpriced for what was essentially a fixer-upper. I drove back, feeling thoroughly depressed.
I arrived back to a job rejection letter. I'd struck out on all of my applications. I brooded for a couple of days, then decided it was time to make a decision. Given the lack of work, I should just go for somewhere with good communications links, where I could picture myself at home. Given the trickle of properties and the way in which the sort of thing I was looking for was snapped up, I should make a decision soon. I went back to my shortlist of properties. Every time I scrolled through it, I kept coming back to the first place I'd been to visit. Of my top 5, it was the least overlooked, most central and had the largest garden. I checked the Environment Agency site to look for flood risks, landfill, pollution and so on, then realised the house might be in the old Pembrokeshire coalfield. Fortunately, the Coal Authority has online maps, so I checked and found that the area is (just) outside the coalfield, so no old mine shafts or spoil heaps.
So, here I am, offers made and accepted, solicitors and surveyors instructed (although no-one is going to do any work until after the Easter break) and the first of the packing boxes waiting to be filled and stacked (although I still need to find a removals firm). I've started to think about where to put my furniture, what to grow in the garden and having a house-warming party. And all the other things I'll need, like a new phone and fridge freezer, curtains, lampshades.
It will be so strange to be within easy walking distance of a local shop, post office and pub (I currently live two miles away and the steep hills do not make for easy walking!). I'll have the hassle of changing doctors and pharmacy but they will also be in walking distance, not seven miles away. So strange not to have to drive for miles on country lanes to get to a main road, or have a 40 mile round trip to go to a major supermarket. So strange to have street lighting (thankfully not directly outside the house), to be surrounded by other houses and people. So strange to be surrounded by English place names, as I'll be in south-west Pembrokeshire, the Little England Beyond Wales. It will be flatter, closer to the sea, and I'll have a whole new area to explore and get to know.
Strange, too, for my new neighbours, who will have have this strange person playing belly dance music, calling my cats (who will probably hate being confined, first to the house, then to the back garden), and occasionally lighting up the neighbourhood with a moth trap.
How exciting! And stressful ... but mostly exciting.
While I was writing this post, I did a quick search on 80s interior design, just to see whether others remembered it as a disaster area of black ash furniture, wallpaper borders, octagonal mirrors, swags and flounces, ditsy floral prints, pastels, bright red or green with white and strange colour combinations like dark green and burgundy, or dusky pink, terracotta and sage. I found this blog, by an estate agent out in Arizona, which put my own experiences in perspective. I can recommend it for tips on how not to present your home for sale. I sat with a cup of tea and browsed his 'What were they thinking?' section, and laughed and laughed and laughed.