Thursday, March 03, 2011

House Renovation - Day Four (about the flood)

Day four - it's quite amazing how little of some parts of our house are left, but I gather it's much quicker to demolish than rebuild.

Some backstory.

We saw this house back in the spring of last year. It was a probate sale; a very old lady had died, and the executors had all the local agents round to value it. At the time, a well-known-national-chain were opening up in our area and offering a 0% fees promotion, to get properties on their books.

Now, this well-known-national-chain already have a reputation for over-valuing, and were pretty clueless about the area anyway, as they had no local knowledge, and this was actually buggering up our property search because (a) loads of people thought they would get 30% more for their house because well-known-national-chain had told them and (b) the 0% deal brought out of the woodwork dozens of not-serious sellers who were having a punt. I cannot tell you about the energy we wasted on a (not as nice house on a main road) because the guy kept saying he was moving to Scotland tomorrow but actually, still lives there and I suspect never intended to sell.

So no surprise that the well-known-national-chain got the property, and promptly put it on the market at 35% more than its true value. A local agent, K, who is honest and lovely, actually called me and told me this was "our house" - he wouldn't get it because of the 0% deal, but we should definitely go and have a look.

We ummed and ahhed, because it was a major project. Round plugs, no kitchen save for a fifties enamel sink, loads of period detail, sure, but way more work than we'd thought we might do. We were in a move-in-and-do-it-up-as-you-go-along mode - and this house you couldn't live in, and certainly not with a two year old, as the electrics sizzled when you turned them on.

But we needed to buy a house, and while it wasn't perfect it was in the totally right place - location, location, location, as they always say - so I talked to a couple of builders, found out quite how much it would cost to get it back to a family home, and we put in an offer reflecting that. Our plan was a sensitive renovation - keeping all the walls bar one (knocking the kitchen into the back kitchen to make one long narrow kitchen rather than two short narrow ones).

I remember the micro-estate-agent who was honestly about seventeen who showed me round the first time. He screeched up in his faux-cool-car and walked up the steps in his shiny shoes, and opened the front door, stood in the hall, expansively waved his hands around and said "I'd just knock down all the walls, and make it into one big room. Very modern, very now. And the light." The house is north facing.

But I humoured him, and we agreed a price after a bit of toing and froing, and we were kinda excited but not totally sure, and then the agent started pushing up the price because a developer was interested, and eventually we had to walk away.

Some months later, it's back on the market. The day before exchange, the develop apparently tried to chip the price by £50k and the whole thing fell apart.

We looked at it again, and this time were slightly more desparate to find a house after nearly three years of looking, and agreed a new (slightly lower) price. We actually had our offer accepted, ironically, the day we moved into our rented house (or as Zaphod calls it, our current house) and somehow, already moving to a rental made it easier to make the decision to take on a mammoth renovation. We were happy. We might even exchange before we got married.

In the end, we exchanged the week after the wedding, with completion scheduled for three weeks later. Exchange was delayed because I was totally anal about the insurance, and carrying on with the same insurer. The agent had mentioned that the water was off (the house had been empty for a year by then, so it should be), but I booked my plumber to come and check and drain the water tank the day we were completing. I mean, it wasn't ours at exchange, so we couldn't do that. Oh, how I wish I'd asked my lawyer to double-check the water was off, but hey, you always know more in hindsight.

AND IF THERE'S ANY LESSON TO THIS - if you're buying an empty house, make sure the water tank is drained before contract exchange.

A week after exchange I got a call from a neighbour who told me she'd heard there'd been a flood in our house. Except, it wasn't quite ours, and it wasn't quite theirs.

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