So I know I promised that I’d put more content up but... well, life! Life happened! Forgive me. I honestly try to blog more. I have about 30 draft posts which await finalising, including all my travels from Japan to my EU tour but kids have kind of taken over my time but let’s not dwell on what could be. I have an update on life. I’m back at work full time after 13 months away on maternity leave and whilst adjustment to being a corporate 8 - 5 woman has not taken long, I have, of course, started to realise that my lifestyle can no longer stay the same. We are retreating to a pretty little cottage on a pretty little lane in a pretty little village with other pretty little thatched cottages surrounding us with our huge meadow garden and summer house at the back.
Photos courtesy of Rightmove
As long as I can remember, I have always had a keen interest in unusual buildings or historical buildings. Thatched cottages, barn houses, old school caretaker buildings offer more than most people know. They appear to be too small but nowadays, because of the land at the back, a lot of people extend them to modernise them. I always used to drive down windy village lanes and wonder who owns and lives in those charming houses. Well, I can wonder no more because with thanks to whoever is looking out for me (my ancestors or God), I am now a proud co-owner of one of those houses. After searching for more than 2 years, watching the property market get worse since the Brexit referendum, I thought now would be the perfect time to take advantage of the market. Tip to first time buyers: start watching the market of the area that you intend to move into because now is the time to take advantage. Houses prices will go down more and more until May 2020. My prediction is that April 2020’s budget will ensure economic injection to avoid any repercussions from coming out of the EU, whether through no deal or negotiation. First time buyers, this is your time.
I watched the market for 2 years and decided to wait until August holidays to ramp up our house viewing. This is because kids go back to school in September so there are less people looking to move during that time as their kids settle into school. Less people, less competition. The houses that come on the market during this time are usually owned by retirees with beautifully well maintained gardens and a lot of scope to modernise if you like a bit of DIY, which means you can usually bargain with them for the cost of re-flooring, new paint and new kitchen/bathroom.
We looked at several houses. New build houses come with brand new kitchens and bathrooms with a 10 year warranty but the gardens are far too small for our family. We loved the configuration of new build houses as they offer open plan living. We also loved that new build houses still offer ways to increase the value of your house as the loft/roof spaces are big enough to create additional rooms and the garage can also be converted. Another tip to first time buyers, house builders want you! Out of every demographic of house buyers, first time buyers are great for marketing and for government incentives as house builders get to showcase that they’re helping improve the country’s housing market so need more land and easier planning permission. Also house builders usually don’t require a deposit or, at the most, they will request a 5% deposit with the “help to buy” government scheme. Negotiate negotiate negotiate! It is you whom they’re trying to attract into their houses.
Photos courtesy of Bloor Homes, Taylor Wimpey Homes and Kier Living
We also looked at older houses ranging from 1930s to the Georgian era. On my check list for a house was being near my family, big garden, rated outstanding schools, near a train station, potential to extend and modernise, space to work from home, a forever home. Initially we settled on a detached house built in 1924 with a privacy screen and a driveway fit for 3 cars plus a garage. I loved it from the moment I set foot into it. It is one street away from family which meant help with picking up and dropping off kids to school. I offered a reasonable price for it but the sellers were intent on getting £50,000 more on it, despite the house being on the market for 4 months. It was too close to budget and I expressed that the market was buoyant and the house had work to do on it as the floor levels were uneven, the kitchen was outdated and the family bathroom was very small. The sellers refused. Suffice to say, the house is still on the market and it’s now been 6 months. I can only shrug.
I now believe in speaking things into existence because when that house sale failed, a few weeks later, a cottage came on the market for half our budget!!! It is an old Post Office built in 1853 that was converted into a residence in the 1980s. It ticked the boxes for being near enough to family to help out, rated outstanding schools from primary to sixth form, it is 5 minutes drive to a train station or 15 minutes cycle. It has a driveway for at least one car and a garage, which I plan to convert. The original cottage has an entrance hallway, a lounge, 2 double bed sized bedrooms, one nursery sized bedroom and a shower room. It has an extension with a small kitchen, conservatory, small utility room adjoining a family bathroom and 2 interlinked bedrooms. The garden is immaculate. It needs a lot of work to maintain it. The floor levels are uneven. I have grand plans for this house. I want to bring back some of the original features. For example, the windows are currently uPVC casement windows. I did some research and found an old photo of a post office in a nearby area and then I looked at some thatched houses in the area, which are actually listed buildings and I would like to emulate those houses.
The EPC rating is very low, which we used as a way to negotiate further on the price of the house. This means that it is a cold house and uses a lot of energy to warm it up, which is bad for the environment and the wallet. There are ways of increasing the EPC rating on a house very easily but it costs money. We also noticed mould on the windows, which is an indication of damp walls and a lack of insulation within the walls. On the second viewing, I requested to look into the loft space and that is when I noticed that the roof is not insulated at all. You can see straight through to the roof tiles from inside the loft, which would explain the EPC rating. There is a gas fireplace in the living room, which increases energy consumption. I will go through in another blog post how I plan to increase the EPC rating and draw up how much it will cost for each item, such as roof insulation, including using government grants for insulation. The house needed a thorough survey based on the age of the house and it was quite obvious looking at the house that the roof tiles were very old.... and I mean never been changed. The chimney stacks will need some re-pointing but that will require a scaffold. This had to be taken into account when negotiating the price of the house.
I will update more about the house and my plans as we go ahead. I would love for the family to come round for Christmas dinner this year so my priority will be on insulating the house to a comfortable level for all. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peak of what I am planning to do with the house.