Thoughts and other Miscellany

A new house? Eventually? Maybe?

We’re trying to buy a house.

Earlier in 2017 we had this brilliant/stupid (depending on one’s perspective) plan to convince our landlord to extensive renovate his house, in a way that suited us, and that we would contribute financially to this. We thought this was a win-win – we got the house that we really loved living in, in a brilliant location, re-designed around us and our needs, so that we could then stay in it for another 5-6 years at a guaranteed rate. He got to revamp a slightly tired house at effectively half price and lock in tenants for the next x years at a decent rate.

But, he didn’t get anything arranged, and I got more and more pregnant* and our childcare arrangements changed radically when Supernanny quit to work in an office, and eventually we got fed up of sending him emails and texts asking if there was any progress and gave up. The timetable had got far too tight in terms of getting planning permission and architects and everything fitted around a birth and a 4 month maternity leave. I wanted everything done before I went back to work (because we would have had to move out for 2 months while the work was done). When the landlord FINALLY responded, he was quite understanding and I suspect he will do renovations after we move out.

So… having decided that we weren’t going to renovate, we looked around the London property market and decided (equally brilliantly/foolishly) to buy a 6-bedroom house in the suburbs.

For those of you not familiar with the English-and-some-other-parts-of-the-UK** property market, there is an evil thing here called a chain (I assume it exists in a bunch of other countries too). Basically, a long chain of people arrange themselves to buy and sell houses to one another, and this process can take as long as a year (it can probably take longer, it’s just a year is the longest I’ve heard). You don’t exchange contracts (or pay deposits) until everyone in the chain is ready to do so.

We are not in a chain. We are first time buyers (i.e. we aren’t trying to sell our house to anyone) and our seller is selling their buy-to-let property (so they’re not trying to buy a house to move into). Should all be pretty straight-forward then, right?


We viewed eight houses for the first time at the end of August and shortlisted two. Then we downed tools for 2 1/2 weeks until Spud showed up. (There’s nothing like the fear in an estate agent’s eyes when you clamber out of the car 38 1/2 weeks pregnant). We viewed again in mid September, with 10-day-old Spud. We made an offer that night on a beautiful (well, the inside is beautiful) house that has just had extensive work done, effectively doubling it in size. We haggled for 24 hours and had the offer accepted the next day, and thought we’d be in by Christmas.

Writing this in late November, that looks increasingly impossible. So far we have encountered:

  • mortgage lender not accepting our solicitor (this is crazy, right?), so having to change solicitors at the last minute
  • solicitor taking nearly 2 weeks to accept that we are who we say we are and actually set up our file before they would think about actually doing any work for us
  • our solicitor and the seller’s solicitor taking a month to start talking to each other because the estate agent left the dot out of our solicitor’s email address on their sale memorandum. Apparently the seller’s solicitor only uses email, never phone or post, and our solicitor didn’t think to ring them up or write to them to figure out what was going on. And the agent just rang me twice a week to complain.
  • a brilliant surveyor whom I will recommend to anyone and everyone. Hugely comprehensive report and lots of follow-up advice by phone and email. However – a somewhat unhelpful report because it identified a ton of missing paperwork and also several small but non-trivial discrepancies between the planning permission and the actual house. So…
  • The seller (thankfully off his own back, not after a big fight with us) went to the council to get retrospective permission for the discrepancies. That was submitted in late October, and the council has set a target decision date of… wait for it… Christmas.

Hopefully this is a totally trivial decision for the council inspector and it will get signed off without any problems, and then we can full steam ahead. But it’s so frustrating. A little part of me is saying that the council probably has a KPI about meeting their target decision dates and therefore they would always be conservative and the target date may be beaten, but looking at everything that needs to happen in the next month, I’m not so sure.

I’m hopeful that once the Lawful Development Certificate is received, we can power on to exchange and complete asap, but again – the only hitch of the items above that we expected was that comments on the surveyor’s report that would require some action. So – no chickens are being counted here.

Wish us luck!

*yes I know pregnancy is a binary state. But I put on 30kg with Bookmark and 25kg with Spud (I did lose most of the 30kg in between) and got so massive that no fewer than 5 complete strangers asked me if I was having twins (RUDE), so I’m going to reserve the right to identify as increasingly pregnant.

**In Scotland somehow it’s different, so it’s all much faster, though occasionally people find themselves having sold a house and not yet bought so they’re in a hotel for a bit. I don’t really understand but I wish it were faster in London!