Month: March 2010

HIPs don’t lie

You know my HIPs don’t lie
And I’m starting to feel it’s right
All the attraction, the tension
Don’t you see baby, this is perfection

Ahem. Not my usual choice of accompaniment but the pun was too delicious to resist. The ongoing saga goes on, and I’m beginning to wonder what some estate agents do for their cash.

Saturday, Appointment 1

A house. Seriously the most nondescript house that I’ve seen so far. Good-sized kitchen  and big combined lounge / dining room, reasonable sized rooms upstairs. Apple trees in the garden and a garage. If houses were foodstuffs, I’d probably describe this one as the equivalent of a boiled potato. Sure, it’ll keep you alive, it’s got some stuff in it that’s good for you, but by about the first three days you’ll be desperate for something with a little more flavour to it.

Saturday, Appointment 2

A house. There’s been some mix-up at the estate agent, and he can’t meet us, so he calls us to give us directions. I don’t even have a house number for the place, so we have to walk along the road until we find the house from the photograph I have in front of me. It’s a decent house, mid-terrace, good size, and the current owners are decently friendly. Garage at the back, loft conversion – the place is certainly big enough, and well-looked after. The problem? It’s £20k over our top budget. The estate agent thinks the vendors will budge. I’m not so sure.

Conversations with the damned

So, feedback for all those who we went to look at houses with. I set up two second viewings for next week, and give the rest of the people I’ve viewed with a polite “thanks, but no”. The agent for the second house on saturday repeats his beliefs that the vendor will shift on price. I say I’ll think about it but won’t promise anything. I ask for a cop of the HIP for both the houses I want to see again (HIPs, I’ll grant, are mostly a waste of time, but the land registry and future planning bits are kind of useful, which is why I’m getting hold of them.) The first agent sends it there and then. The second says he will, then doesn’t bother.

When I phone him up the next day to chase, he apologises and tells me the house was taken off the market this morning, and he’s going to have to cancel my second viewing. Nice of him to be proactive and tell me. Funnily enough, this is the same agent that tried to get me to take out a mortgage with him too. Any more houses, I’m going to go out of my way to avoid dealing with him.

On a cheerful note, the estate agent from Saturday has come through – he’s texted me to say the vendor’s knocked £15k off their asking price. Still over our limit, but maybe there’s some maneuvering room here now. Hmmm. Needs more thought.

The Old Apartment

Broke into the old apartment
Forty-two steps from the street
Crooked landing, crooked landlord.
Narrow laneway filled with crooks
This is where we used to live.

Seconds out, round two.  Four more houses down, some good, some not so good. So without further ado:

Day 2, Appointment 1.

A victorian semi. Looks good from the outside, though the front garden’s a bit overgrown. The estate agent’s a local independent and he turns up on time. Inside, the hallway immediately reminds me again of old houses full of students, though in this case besides the chipboard wallpaper, there’s little actually in common. The current owner is apparently a widow – an impression I’d already got from the pictures in the particulars. The front room is lovely, as is the dining room. Kitchen is a little messy but in decent nick. Downstairs bathroom needs refurbishing but not urgently, there’s no window that opens so there’s a little damp where water has splashed from the sink. Nothing too bad. Upstairs, the two smaller bedrooms are fine. One is only single glazed but the frame looks to be in a decent shape. The shower room’s been more recently updated, and again looks fine.

The problems? The master bedroom, where the current owner’s stripped off the old wallpaper and not got around to replacing it (helpfully showing a patch of water-damaged plaster, which I’m told was due to a burst pipe which is fixed). The other issue is location – it’s on a Red Route, meaning parking is in a side street a couple of minutes’ walk away.

Appointment 2

Unexpected super bonus appointment! The agent from appointment 1 has another house he thinks I’d like. It’s 2 bedrooms, terraced, but pristine. I meet him after lunch, and he’s not kidding, it’s very nice inside and had been well looked after. It’s a bit further from the station but who cares? The only real issue is the size – 2 bedrooms is a bit on the small side, but it’s otherwise excellent. Needs more thought. But after the unexpected super bonus appointment, we have:

Unwanted Interlude

I met the next estate agent in their offices in Sutton. They were going to show me two houses – they very nearly didn’t show me any, and it was only because neither of them were available with other agents that I didn’t walk out there and then. Apparently they really, really, want me to ditch my current mortgage broker and go with their in-house one, simply because he’d advised us to hold back on getting an AiP until absolutely necessary. Fat chance. I spend twenty minutes getting the hard sell on why the mortgage I’m considering is the wrong one (it’s quite obvious they get higher commission on certain mortgages) listening disinterestedly to the absolute wanker behind the desk who doesn’t seem to want me to get a word in edgeways, much less listen to what I have to say. Eventually he loses interest (half an hour later!) and releases me to his colleague who’s going to show me the houses. He looks barely out of school, and doesn’t exactly scream competence or experience to me. However, he takes me to:

Appointment 3

A repossessed house. It’s a lot bigger than anything we’ve seen so far – 3 bedrooms, loft conversion, “sun room” at the back, and much bigger than I was expecting. And there’s damp. Lots and lots and lots of damp. Rough reckoning tells me it’d be about £3k to fix the damp alone. The roof on the sun room needs replacing too, as does the bathroom interior in its entirety. It’s a definite “nope”, even more than the place we saw last Saturday.

Appointment 4

Another (smaller) victorian semi. Bloody well looked after, period features, nothing to do. It’s a really nice house but there’s not much to differentiate it from every other nice house I’ve seen. Might well go back for a second viewing, was that kind of place. The Astroturfed back garden was a bit strange, though, makes me wonder why it wasn’t real grass.

So – six down, three more tomorrow. If I had a favourite, it’d be the first one I saw today, I think. Not perfect but then anything that’s too perfect makes me suspicious.

Rule the world (with Love)

It didn’t happen to us overnight.
Just ’cause it happened doesn’t mean it’s right –
To our embarrassment we lost the fight
To rule the world with love.

As some may be aware, we’ve finally managed to scrape together enough money to finally get a mortgage and buy somewhere of our own. No mean feat in London – the flat just below ours went recently for a cool £335k. A third of a million pounds! for a flat that has a single double bedroom, a tiny box for a second bedroom and a kitchen barely big enough to swing a cat in!

No, we’re looking somewhere a little less pricy. Somewhere we can get a 3-bedroom house given the kind of deposit we’ve got saved up. So far we’ve had appointments to view three houses, on a rainy Saturday.

Appointment 1:

About an hour before

*ring ring* “Hello there, it’s the estate agent for <address> here. I’m dreadfully sorry but the vendor’s having to cancel your viewing; her children are sick”.

Fair enough, a bit more notice might have been fine, but  understandable. Skip ahead to:

Appointment 2:

Setting off in the car with an hour to get there (should be a 30-minute drive) we eventually find the place and are 5 minutes late. From the outside, the house looks OK. I ring the bell. After no reply for several minutes, I knock instead. The vendor answers, and immediately I’m taken aback. He’s still wearing his threadbare dressing gown, in the mid-afternoon, and even in that he looks scruffy. I’m here to look at the house, I remind myself. Unfortunately the house isn’t any more impressive than its current owner. It’s a victorian semi-detached, and while on the outside looks to be in good nick, the inside is a different story. The place doesn’t seem to have been decorated in years, and even when it had been, it’s paint that’s been thrown over the old wallpaper. At the joins with the ceiling, the paper’s coming away, probably caused by damp. The extension at the back, containing a kitchen and a bathroom, shows signs of a leaking roof, and the way it’s been built means the dining room gets no light.

Upstairs is pretty much the same. More signs of peeling wallpaper, I can’t even get in the third bedroom to take a decent look at it, there’s so much stuff been shoved in there, but from what I can see there’s little to convince me the place is worth the cash. It reminds me of the sorts of houses we used to rent back when we were students and couldn’t afford any better. The vendor tells me he’s had it on the market for “a couple of months”. Google disagrees, and I now understand why. Maybe if he dropped the price by 20% he might, just might, stand a chance.  A few notes in the notebook, to the effect of “no chance” (a shame because on paper it looked excellent) and we make our merry way to:

Appointment 3:

Is a couple of miles from appointment 2, so we end up arriving 30 minutes early. Not a problem, though, the vendor is out and we’re meeting the estate agent. We park up and given we’re so early, take a walk around the neighbourhood. It seems OK, mixture of older terraces and a few newer builds, people looking after their gardens. And then the heavens open, and so, soaked to the bone, we sit in the car, shivering, waiting for the estate agent to turn up. In some bizarre act of karma, he’s late this time – though when he turns up, having phoned ahead, he apologises and shows us the house.

It’s the same asking price as the last one, but what a huge difference. Well looked-after, no obvious signs of anything problematic. It’s a house we can imagine ourselves living in, so I’ll be asking for further details from his office on Monday (though I didn’t say so at the time). The only two problems – it’s near a busy road (though even at the end of the garden the noise wasn’t too bad) and the train will take about 45 minutes to get to central London. I can live with those.

Come Friday, I’m going to see some more. And I’m sure I’ll have more tales of the weird to share…