Category: Moving House

Continental Breakfast

I cherish my intercontinental friendships
We talk it over continental breakfast
In a hotel in East Bumble-wherever
Somewhere on the sphere, around here

Happy new year!

If I ever make noises about voluntarily moving house again, please stop me. As long-time readers will know, we moved into a new home in September 2010. As time has gone on, we’ve outgrown the place; while it was fine for a first house our family has grown and it was starting to feel a little bit cramped. So in January we decided to sell up and move to somewhere a little bigger. This is a rough timeline of how things went:


Spend the weekends fixing up a few little niggles with the house (repainting, plastering, etc).


Engage a number of local estate agents to evaluate the place for a sale. I have an idea of price in mind, having checked out the local market.

Estate Agent 1: Quotes about 7% over what I’m expecting for the house. Also quotes the lowest agency fee.

Estate Agent 2: Quotes about 3% less than I’m expecting. Offers me a fee that’s bang on what I’d expected to pay

Estate Agent 3 (Who sold us the house in the first place): Quotes about what I’d expected, but with a much higher fee.

After some deliberation, we go with the second agent, Paul Graham Estate Agents, but set an initial price of what Estate Agent 3 had suggested, on the basis that we’ll drop it if we get no interest after 4 weeks.


House is launched onto the market, with about 10 viewings in the first weekend. We go out and view a half-dozen houses in the local area that fit our budget. One of them stands out as being somewhere we want to call home, and we intend to make an offer on it as soon as possible. Unfortunately none of the initially interested viewers want to buy our place. We drop the price to what was suggested originally. Immediately Estate Agent 3 gets on our case suggesting our chosen agent isn’t getting people through the door. Nope, that’s not the case, it’s more that the house isn’t easy to sell, in part because it’s set back from the street and people want houses with driveways at the front, and in part because it needs redecoration (really hard with young children around).


After watching it for months, the house we fell in love with sells. And the day after? At last, an offer, after more than 30 viewings on the house, and for slightly more than we’d have accepted as our bottom price! Unfortunately our buyers haven’t sold their flat yet so we don’t have a complete chain, but the estate agents don’t think it’ll take long to sell. We start looking at houses again and settle for a different one. We’re split between two of similar ages, one of which is newly refurbished, and the other which isn’t, but is also significantly cheaper. While we’re deliberating, the cheaper one sells. So that’s our decision made. I chase to find if the chain is complete yet and it is, so we put in an offer which is accepted. Hooray, we’ll be moved soon!


The lawyers take over. We appoint a solicitor with a local, but large South-East England firm of solicitors, MW Solicitors. Our sellers appoint a different local firm. Our buyers appoint an online conveyancing company who seem to be very cheap. A deadline of 15th September is set for completion by our sellers who want to get their daughter into a specific school in September 2018.


All the searches and surveys come back to my satisfaction, so I transfer the balance of the 10% purchase price to our solicitor ready to get exchange going. There have been no further enquiries from our buyers’ solicitors, so she thinks they’ll be ready to complete soon too. Time to get quotes from removal companies. I’m most impressed by Arnold & Self, so when the time comes they’ll get my business.


Our buyers aren’t ready to complete after all – their solicitors have been sitting on paperwork for months! We reply to their enquiries same-day and, at the end of the month, find out that everyone else in the chain is ready to move, and so long as there are no more delays from slow solicitors, we’ll be exchanging soon.


Bad news. Terrible news. The buyer at the bottom of the chain drops out, placing the entire chain in jeopardy. We’re pretty distraught, as are our sellers who are now in danger of missing the deadline for school applications. We agree to give it a week to find a new buyer, and one is found in only three days. We still need to wait for all the legal work to be done again, but the new buyer is aware of the tight time frames (mortgage offers expiring and school places vanishing) and agrees to work to it.


At last, everyone is ready to exchange! Except that they aren’t. There’s a missing deed of covenant for the ex-local authority flat at the bottom of the chain, and because it’s been paid for by cheque (hello once more, useless online conveyancing firm), it can’t be released until the cheque clears. After a fraught few days in which I threaten to turn up to the council’s office with the money in cash, just to get things moving, I’m relieved to find out that fortunately this won’t be necessary and we’re finally ready to exchange everywhere.

Exchange Day

It’s a fairly long chain, so we need everyone in it to agree exchange quickly to get it done by close of business. Unfortunately, there’s a snag. Everyone agrees to exchange on a deposit of 10%. Then at the last minute, we find out the buyer at the bottom can only transfer 5%, the remainder of their purchase money being mortgage funded, will we agree to that instead? Er, yes, we suppose so. But getting everyone to agree by close of business is impossible, so…

Exchange Day, take 2

This time we’re done and dusted and exchange takes place by lunchtime. We’re finally, really moving house, in only eight days. About bloody time! I call the removals company and, miraculously, they have availability for us to move on the following Friday. We call in to see the soon-to-be-ex owners of our new home to take some measurements, then go out curtain shopping. Cut to…

December: Completion Day

The house is all packed up, in a combination of a Transit van, a Luton and a great big removals truck. Half the furniture was taken away the day before, ready to be delivered in the afternoon once we have keys. After a brief look around our home, we head to the estate agent and hand over the keys, then go to Dotty’s Teahouse for lunch.

Our solicitor phones to let me know our sale has completed. “So I’m technically homeless right now?” I joke with her, and she agrees, yes, I’m homeless, and I’ll have to live in my car for the next twenty minutes or so.

An hour later: We still haven’t completed on our purchase. After wandering around the area for a while, we drop into the estate agent on the off-chance they’ve heard something. They haven’t, and neither have the sellers’ solicitors, even though ours are clear they’ve sent the money, so they can’t release the keys to us.

Two hours later: Still no sign of the purchase money. This is getting pretty worrying now. Our solicitor’s accounts department is on the phone with their bank trying to find out where my money is. Suddenly the jokes about being homeless really aren’t funny. Eventually the money re-appears, back with our solicitor at around 4:15, but it’s way too late to transfer it again the same day. We genuinely have no home to go to. We’re told to find a hotel, and that our expenses will be covered. Still not ideal, but at least we’re not on the hook for the rest of the chain’s costs. I head to the house and tell the removal men to go home, taking my possessions with them. We’ll have another go at moving in on Monday…

Completion Day, take 2

A weekend in a hotel and finding things to do with the kids aside, it could have been worse. I drop Sleeper Jr. off at school and explain to his head teacher that he’s not had a restful few days due to the issues we’ve had moving house. On the way back to the hotel, I get confirmation that the money has been sent, again, and an hour later, there are a set of keys in my hand. A few hours after that, the first truckload of furniture has arrived, so we can start moving in.

The next day the rest of the furniture arrives. We’re finally well and truly moved in, living in Boxworld. Later, I find out that we completed on the last possible day for our sellers to get their daughter into the school they’d wanted. I’m very glad I didn’t know that ahead of time, it could only have added to the stress.

Until, of course, on the Sunday evening, a loud noise alerts me to something terrifying in the house, and we have to get everyone out as quickly as possible. But that’s another story, about the kindness of strangers…

Assume the Perpendicular

We’ll walk the grounds by Capability Brown,
Get lost for days inside the manicured maze.
We’ll bump our heads jumping on a four-post bed.
And we’ll ride for free
On the ladders round the walls of the circular library!

I can’t abide a horizontal life –
It’s time to rise, assume the perpendicular.
Jump up and down, make wild ecstatic sounds,
And talk about nothing in particular.

It’s been a week since we moved in. Seems like no time at all, and while I’ve managed to get a couple of things done, like putting up curtains in our bedroom and fixing a leaky tap in the bathroom, there’s still so much more to do – much of the time after moving in before going back to work was spent cleaning the old flat. Off the top of my head:

  • Curtains / blinds for my office and the lounge
  • Shampoo carpet in the lounge
  • Dismantle the wardrobe in the dining room. No joke, it wouldn’t fit up the stairs!
  • Finish unpacking boxes. Mostly the stuff left is DVDs and odd bits and pieces. There’s half-empty boxes everywhere.

That’s not including any of the bigger stuff to do, like redecorating most of the house, sorting out the garden. We have no interwebs yet, relying on a 3G USB modem (which made for an… interesting day working from home recently) but mostly it’s all good. Just need a few more years and we’ll be unpacked.

Waiting for the Miracle

Baby, I’ve been waiting,
I’ve been waiting night and day.
I didn’t see the time,
I waited half my life away.
There were lots of invitations –
I know you sent me some,
but I was waiting for the miracle,
for the miracle to come.

It’s Thursday morning. A couple of days ago I phoned the solicitor, to mke sure that everything was in place ready for completion, which happens today. Apparently the keys will be released around lunchtime. I’ve got up and I’ve got nothing to do – won’t be going back to work for a week while we move house. The clock ticks on ever more slowly and eventually at quarter to two, I get a phone call from the estate agent telling me I can pick the keys up, followed shortly after by one from the solicitor telling me the same.

Half an hour’s drive later, and after a quick stop-off to get the keys, and we’re there. And it’s mostly as I remembered everything. Without any furniture in it some of the decor looks a little… underwhelming, and whoever wallpapered several of the rooms really has no idea how to line up wallpaper properly (there’s anything up to a half inch overlap!). There’s a certain sadness about empty houses, and this one’s no different, just echoes of the former occupants. Soon, though, the building will be full of our stuff and it’ll feel like home.

So, having taken some measurements for curtains, etc, pictures taken of the place it’s time to leave it alone for now. Plans for redecoration, renovation of the kitchen and the bathroom and so on can wait – initially there’ll be a couple of licks of paint, maybe, while we decide on the rest of the decor.

For now we’ve had trips to buy a fridge and a washing machine and are now trying to decide on curtains.

Pictures of the place, for the interminably curious, are at

Four Seasons in One Day

Four seasons in one day,
Lying in the depths of your imagination.
Worlds above and worlds below…
The sun shines on the black clouds
Hanging over the domain.
Even when you’re feeling warm,
The temperature could drop away
Like four seasons in one day.

Nine days to go. The removal van is booked, and the only thing left is for the insurance certificate to turn up.

On the day we exchanged, I phoned the insurance company and explained that I’d just agreed to buy a house and needed to insure it. I repeated the fact that I didn’t want the paperwork sent to the new house, as I didn’t own it yet. They said that that would be no problem and repeated my current address back to me, reassuring me they’d send the certificate to the right address.

They didn’t. I phoned a week later and was told it went to the new house. No problem, they said, we’ll send you new copies. Have they turned up yet? The hell they haven’t. Fortunately I managed to get hold of the current owners of the house and they’re forwarding me any letters that do turn up at their address.

And then there’s removals companies. I’ve contacted three, two local companies and one big name, well-known firm. The results?

  • Local firm #1 Booked an appointment for Tuesday evening, which they rescheduled for Thursday after other issues. He failed to find our current address for looking over our stuff but otherwise seemed OK, and promised a quote within a couple of days.
  • Local firm #2 Turned up on Saturday morning as booked. Looked around, had done their homework (the estimator already knew our new house is set back from the road with a green in front of it) and promised a quote within a few days.
  • National firm – Couldn’t get a survey done for at least two weeks, and would only do it within office hours. Then decided they couldn’t do a survey at all and sent me a questionnaire to fill in which would get me an accurate quotation. Failed to send said questionnaire to me for a couple of days.

And the results? Local firm #2 won. The fact that they’d been the most reliable and accessible of all the firms contributed, always calling back straight away, getting things done as and when I asked. The price was good too. The national firm just didn’t seem to want our business, and local firm #1 lost out just through being slightly less well organised.

I like the way this is going

I like to watch TV with you –
There’s really nothing that I would rather do.
Then maybe we can go to bed,
Get up and do it all again.

I like the way your pants fit,
And how you stand and how you sit.
Whatever seeds that you’re sowing,
I like the way this is going.

It’s been a long time coming, but today we finally exchange contracts and agreed to buy a house in a South London suburb. I’ve got onto the insurance policy to take out coverage for the future Sleeper Towers, and that’s sorted. Completion date? Three weeks’ time. In a spectacular display of karma, the idiot at the top of the chain who’s held things back for so long has been ejected – their buyers are going to rent instead, leaving everything in place. I’ll not go into the stress that was involved in getting our mortgage extended thanks to that particular fool again, but at least it’s out of the way now.

Cue the next couple of weeks – a mad ring around of removal companies, sorting out white goods, packing, throwing out stuff we don’t want / need any more.

The ordeal is nearly over? Hell, no. It’s only just begun.

Evil, number two

The need to have something,
Becomes the seed to have anything.
Lonely tears have dried up,
And the brain cells start to fry.
My heart cries out for new things –
Turns to anything will do things.
My left side’s like a train crash
From all the things I tried.

I was so scared, I was lonely.
I got mixed up, Now I’m only…
Evil, evil number two.

We remain in mortgage limbo. After the bank said no to extending the current mortgage, they said “maybe” to another deal (on a slightly lower interest rate!). We’re waiting for them to make their minds up about it now, but I don’t really expect any problems.

No, the problems this week have arisen from other things. On Monday, we got home from work to find the front door smashed in. It’s utterly bizarre what goes through your head in these situations – my first thought was that the landlord must have done it – he has no keys, and must have needed access in an emergency. Or that J had lost her keys and had needed to break the door in. She’d got home first, about twenty minutes before me. The police were on their way, and I called the landlord to let him know what had happened. He wasn’t far behind the police, and after he’d had a few words with them, left again to get something to secure the door with.

It seems that when the door was originally installed, the space for the locks was badly cut, leaving a weakness. One that meant the door splintered, leaving the frame completely intact and the locks falling to the floor. The intruders, equipped with gloves, came in, started rifling through a desk, and then must have heard something that caused them to flee. All that was missing was a single piece of jewellery.

The damage has been done though – we now have a new door, but neither of us has slept well this last week, and every time I come home I have my heart in my mouth wondering if they’ve come back, dreading the sight of the door in pieces once again, wondering if they’ll be coming back with a shopping list of things to steal.

I thought this was a nice neighbourhood, and I’ve very much enjoyed living here, up to now. Now the move can’t come soon enough.


Now it’s gone too deep
You wake me in my sleep
My dreams become nightmares
‘Cause you’re ringing in my ears

And it’s all your fault
I screen my phone calls
No matter who calls
I gotta screen my phone calls

The man from Santander, he say no. After chasing the solicitor this morning I got a phone call from the mortgage broker in the afternoon. The deadline can’t be extended unfortunately – the mortgage deal in question was closed for applications on June 1st,  so we’re a bit stuck. Current thinking is that we’ll see what other deals they have available as they already have a good idea about the house and our ability to repay.

If that doesn’t work then we’ll have to find some other company. Yay more survey fees, solicitors’ fees, etcetera. More waiting. Ho-hum. Hopefully some time soon we’ll have an idea of what’s going on. Until then, at least beer exists…

The Rollercoaster Song

I had a friend who treated love like a luxury
development on the other side of town.

And one day his girl got up
And left and slammed the door
And his fine walls came falling down

But don’t be blue he built a fairground there
For you and I to ride –
Together we belong, you and I.

I’ll admit I’ve had some occasions in the homebuying process when I’ve wondered exacty what the solicitor’s doing for her cash. But then yesterday afternoon after getting no luck in trying to get me to buckle under and agree to shoulder the risk, the seller’s estate agent gave her a call. From what I’ve been told, the call went something like this:

“Hello, is that Ms. Jones?”


“It’s Mr. Smith here, from Brand X Estate Agency. I’d like to talk to you about the sale of the house at No.1 Address Street. I spoke with your client, Mr. Sleeper, this afternoon. He was most uncooperative, and I wondered if you could perhaps speak to him and advise him that we really do need to exchange before the completion date?”

“I don’t think so, Mr. Smith. He’s protecting his own interests under my advice. Good-bye.”


Test Match Special

Give me the sun, and the BBC.
Give me a chair positioned beautifully.
Give me a Test Match Special
Set me free.

I’d quite like to have a set of estate agents and house buyers that aren’t completely useless too. I had two phone calls from the estate agent this week.

The first told me that the chain was complete, everything was in place and we could expect to move at the beginning of August. Excellent news.

The second was rather less happy tidings, and by the end of the phone call to say I was utterly fuming would be an understatement. Apparently one of the buyers up the chain had neglected to mention that they were financing their purchase by cashing in bonds. Said bonds would not be liquidated until September 30th.

My mortgage offer expires on September 30th. Major alarm bills started ringing. In addition, the estate agent started pressuring us to exchange. Excuse me? You’ve just told me that I might not have a valid mortgage offer come completion and you want me to accept responsibility if the mortgage falls through or there is any delay? I don’t think so matey.

Pending solicitor’s advice now. Will not be impressed if we have to drop out now.


I can’t run no more with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
And they’re going to hear from me.

It seems that buying a house is in some respects like a war – long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. We’re in one such period of boredom right now, waiting for someone further up the chain to sort themselves out. In the meantime, plenty of mind space to start thinking of other things.

And the thing that I’ve been mostly thinking about, quite unexpectedly, is a prequel to The Logic Bomb. In that story, I covered the history of one man and the devices he worked with, which inadvertently brought down the economy. This time I’m going to be concentrating more on the actions of the Prime Minister who left office in scandal and brought with him the need for certain safeguards, implemented in TLB.

I’m going for as little of the fantastic as possible. It’ll be an interesting project and I hope I can pull it off.