That Time We… Bought A House
As I pop (and spill) the champagne, the smell of greasy fish and chips from the local hangs in the air. The lights are dimmed but the evening is still fairly light outside. The dining table is about as clear from mess as it ever gets and we ‘clink’ glasses to mark our first full year in the house.
It’s the 28th September 2016 and exactly a year ago, this is how we celebrated moving in to our very own house together. Over the following year we’ll have lots to celebrate and our collection of corks looks live we’ve been celebrating for a decade!
We’ve seen our first Christmas together (properly), we’ve hosted dinner parties and BBQ’s, we’ve marked Kate’s 30th, we’ve had friends and family from all around the world stay, we’ve had messy parties and so much more – it’s been a great year. This post is to preserve the memory of those first few days…
By Autumn 2014 we (read: Kate) were putting some serious effort into finding houses for sale in the Stevenage area. Given the ludicrous house prices in Hertford (where I was currently based) and the commuting costs from Kettering where Kate was living, Stevenage was looking like the front-runner, compounded by the fact that it was on the London commuting line.
We’d booked in a number of viewings and found one we really liked and put in an offer around 10 grand under the asking price which was ultimately rejected. We upped the offer within hours but sadly someone else had beaten us to it. This was a typical scenario – not just for us but for friends that also have been trying to buy houses recently. Things move so quickly and houses are off the market before they even make it on the website!
Understandably, Kate was getting upset and frustrated; although we’ve been together a decade at this point we’ve only briefly lived together for two of those years – a year in a rented flat and another year with her parents – so our own house together was a big deal.
One evening after work we pulled up to another house in the Great Ashby area of Stevenage and parked up in a thin street – unbeknownst at the time that my car would feature permanently in this street for years to come.
We we’re welcomed in by the estate agent and were immediately blown away by how this seemingly cute and tiny house opened up like the Tardis. The open plan kitchen-dining-room/living-room combo was huge! Helped by the fact they’d converted their garage into a living space. Tick in the box.
We we’re then drawn to the conservatory which backed out onto a patio and raised garden with artificial grass (I really hate artificial grass). Immediately I am subconsciously planning the summer parties but before I can figure out where I’ll put the BBQ, we’re taken upstairs (and upstairs again – three floors!) Tick.
The bedrooms are all nicely decorated – white laminate wood flooring on the middle floor, granite wood upstairs and the walls predominantly in a clean white. The brain juices are in full flow at this point as I start planning my office, and I’m sure Kate is thinking the same about the master bedroom. As the estate agent leaves to make some calls we’re allowed some time to talk to ourselves and in each other, we can see excitement and a decision made.
The asking price is WAAAAY above what we’d planned but we eventually knock £5000 off and justify the rest by the fact that we don’t need to make any immediate changes or redecorate (a year later, the house looks almost the same as it did before we bought it, and we’ve even brought in similar furniture) – not that we don’t have any imagination ourselves but more from the fact it was pretty perfect to begin with!
We put in the offer there and then. To put that in perspective, we’re signing away almost 300 grand after 30mins! Not a bad earner for the estate agent I’m sure! It will be an agonising 8 months or more before we actually move in as the current owners have problems with the house they bought but it turns out to be a blessing in disguise as we have time to save up for furniture to be delivered the day we move in and all the while, house prices all around are rising almost daily.
Fast forward to Sunday 27th September 2015 and our world looks something like this:
It’s moving day and we’ve just spent an exhausting weekend packing up my flat and Kate’s belongings and picking up various items from friends’ houses where we’ve stored them. It is a bright, warm day – perfect for moving and I think everyone is excited! When we arrive, were greeted by the previous owners who are having a mini-crises; their cat has run off in all the commotion! We head round the shop to grab some sandwiches and give them a little time to calm down and make their final preparations for leaving.
Bless them, they leave us a card and some flowers to welcome us but there is little time to take stock as the time limit on the van rental is counting down. All hands on deck to unload everything into the living room which quickly goes from this…
How we unpacked the van as quick as we did I’ll never know. I’ll put it down to the adrenaline of finally owning the set of walls and ceilings we’ve been talking about for years. Before everyone leaves to let us savour our first night in our pad we build beds, stock cupboards, clean kitchens, lug boxes up way many, many stairs and generally make the place our own. We’ll be sleeping in the spare room tonight as our second bed frame got damaged in storage/transit, but before that, priorities. There’s champagne to be opened!
When I return from work the next day, it is evident Kate has been busy on her day off. There is furniture for one thing. Everywhere! We spend the next couple of days trying to find homes for the constituents of “the pile of shit” that’s taken over the living room and conservatory and building furniture, bump into the new neighbours from time to time and make friends with the cats prowling the street at night.
After that it’s on to the infinitely more fun task of designing my home office! I’ve already picked out the paint (teal and rain-grey) and with some furniture en route from Ikea the last thing to do it to hang up my pride and joys…
Of course we have the obligatory house-warming party (“Rock n Cocktails” theme) of which the house remains (relatively) unscathed although Kate and I are on high alert with cleaning utensils in hand for spillages, ash from the firepit and other signs of “too much fun”.
Oh, and guess what? After many a lovely summer evening out in the garden and exactly zero evenings taken up cutting the grass, turns out I really like artificial grass!