So the house search recommenced… we soon realised the easy part was actually selling the house, the hard part was finding something! Our criteria was the same as it was four years ago, find the worst house in a great location, a house with lots of potential that required a cash injection and some TLC. The only difference with our search this time was that we were now looking in more far-reaching areas due to Ian’s work (the head office of the company Ian works for is based in Swindon), and we were looking for a detached property. We are open to both houses and bungalows as we liked the idea of taking a run-down bungalow and completely renovating it. Also, bungalows tend to come with decent plots, which gives you a better scope to extend. We saw circa 20 properties (some we showed you in our stories), and there were some which ticked a lot of boxes but had downsides, mainly downsides we couldn’t change, such as the house position( I refer back to that great Edwardian house in Reading that was opposite a car park).
We viewed some amazing properties, but many sat on busy main roads and therefore wasn’t something we were willing to compromise on.
A property came on the market near Newbury, a detached Victorian 4 bedroom house that looked beautiful from the outside but inside.. totally unloved. It was also on a short term marketing position- all offers were asked to be submitted within 4 weeks, so a closed bid process. This, of course, always benefits the seller as no one knows how many people have seen the property or do you know how much people are willing to pay. The house had a guide price, so we knew the owners wouldn’t take anything less than that but then again, how many people will be offering on such a run-down property?! So many factors to consider when you find yourselves in situations like this. Do you bid your maximum budget to give yourself the best chance of winning the property, or do you bid as close to the guide price as possible to try and get a ‘bargain’ – it’s a tricky one.
You know the saying, “when you view something, you will get a feeling, you will just know it’s the one,” and for the first time since the process of viewing houses began in August/September 2020, we had found a house that ticked all our boxes! The only problem was we couldn’t just put in an offer there and then. We would have to wait 3 weeks before deciding what to do. We decided to re-visit the house and take along Ross’ Dad to view it as he had renovated a few properties in his lifetime, so had a good eye – having worked in the trades industry for 40+ years – and would be honest if he felt the property was something to stay clear of. Luckily for us, he agreed and also thought it was a great house. It’s always reassuring when you hear the words “this has got the potential to be a great house”. We took our time and walked around the garden to be 100% sure if this was the property for us. We came away from the house really feeling like this was the one. We would spend the next 2 weeks trying to work out all the different scenarios and how they might play out. We knew we would be in a good position as we had a cash buyer and no chain. We also knew (having spoken to the owner during the second visit) that he was looking for a lot more than the guide price. What do we do? Do we go all in and pay more than we needed to, or do we take a risk and go in low, holding back as much money for the renovation as possible?!
Unfortunately, none of these houses was ticking all those boxes. All of them had great potential, but just didn’t have that ‘feeling’. We also felt we needed a plan b should the Victorian house not come off but deep down, we had already set our hearts on this house. We were also looking at houses that were on for a lot more money then what we were prepared to pay for the Victorian house and yet didn’t have anywhere near the character or charm that the Victorian house had. Viewing houses is an experience in itself and one not for the faint-hearted! We visited all kinds of properties and sometimes came away so disheartened, as the Right Move pictures had helped make the house viewable, but the reality was something completely different!
The market was drying up; in the summer of 2020, there was a least 10-20 houses that were coming on the market in one day alone- everyone was trying to make the most of the stamp duty holiday – but by early November, it was like one or two a week! We had to consider all our options; what would happen if we didn’t get the Victorian House? Would we try and buy the next best thing but not truly be happy with our choice or move into rented accommodation? We also had two cats to consider; not all landlords will allow for pets, reducing our search for rented properties. Also, people had warned us that they had followed a similar pattern and ended up renting for years before finding the right house. Also, it was a pain as, in theory, you were moving twice, so double the costs. This wasn’t a road we wanted to go down even though we would still be in a good position as there would be no chain on our end. My uncle offered us the opportunity to rent one of his flats that were coming back on the market, and he would allow us to have the cats there and rent on a month to month basis. Perfect, one less thing to worry about.
We spoke with several family members, and everyone had different views. The reality is, there is no right or wrong answer; you need to go with your gut. So we did. We went with the riskier option and bid 5k over the guide price, hoping other bidders would offer the guide price. It was what felt right at the time; at least we had the option of renting my uncles flat if it came up short. The day arrived, and the estate agents were calling round to see if people were putting in offers; we didn’t let on; we said we were still thinking about it. We didn’t want to give too much away and give anyone an advantage just in case any information would be passed about. Submissions were due by 12 pm, and at 11.45 am, we submitted our offer. The next few hours would be the longest day of my life! Ian kept messaging, asking if there was any news, as did family members. My reply.. when I know, you will know.. as will Instagram as we had decided to share our journey with everyone. It got to 5 pm, and we still hadn’t heard anything, so I gave the estate agent a call to find out what was going on. He confirmed our worse fears: we weren’t the highest bidder, and we had come second but 21k short. We were devastated; we had tried to play the game and lost. The winners of the bid process went all in and got the house, “it wasn’t meant to be,” I kept repeating over and over again. Although deep down, we were left wondering what could have been. The estate agent told us that the seller agreed that should anything change with the top bidder (who were not in a proceed able position), we would get the first refusal.
It was time to move on and keep looking. Unfortunately for us, we had seen every single house that was still on the market and met our criteria, and they were all still no’s. We even started looking back at properties we had seen on Right Move and tried to put these back into consideration, but the reasons they were no’s for us hadn’t changed. They were still no’s, and no matter how positive we were trying to be, they weren’t for us.
Ian then found a property that had come back onto the market – it had fallen through for some reason; however, it was worth us taking a look. It was not far from where we lived now, a detached property and down a road considered in a ‘sort after road’ although I swear estate agents say that about most roads!
We booked a viewing to see it ASAP; unfortunately, the only date they could do, Ian was working, so I had to view it on my own. We joked that if I liked it, I was allowed to put in an offer for it! It was built in 1950 and had been extended twice already, so most of our budget could go on reconfiguring the house and updating it. We were aware that the house had asbestos in the garage roof and soffits, and any work would require specialists to remove it. It put me off straight away as you hear many horror stories on asbestos and how expensive it can be to get it removed. Even without the asbestos situation, I wasn’t feeling this house. I wanted to, I really did, but it just wasn’t filling me with any excitement when looking around. When I compared it to the Victorian house, there was just no comparison. It wasn’t to be, and it was no. I left feeling quite disheartened and would spend the rest of the afternoon re-scanning Right Move for the millionth time, just in case there was a house I had missed the first time. Unfortunately for us, we had maxed out Right Move and other property apps, and unless we were prepared to further our search, we would have to sit tight and wait for something to come on, although we were getting impatient.
I woke up the day after and having slept on yesterday’s house visit, and it just made me realise how much we wanted the Victorian house. I felt like we hadn’t fought hard enough for it, she was the house for us, and we had let her pass us by. We had hundreds of supportive messages on Instagram after revealing we had lost the house we had wanted. Most agreed with the saying “it is what it is”, but a quote that got sent to us several times, “what is meant for you, won’t pass you by”, stuck with me for days and days after, and I couldn’t get the saying out of my head. All I could think was we were letting this house, this opportunity we had, pass us by. I truly believed it was meant for us, but we would need to show the owner we really wanted it to get it. So without hesitation, I got in the shower and told Ian that we were going to take a drive to the owner’s house and match the current bid and hope that because we were in a proceed-able position that he might consider our offer. Ian looked at me and laughed and said, “really, are you joking?” “No, I mean it, come on, let’s get our Victorian fixer upper!” So with that, we got showered, dressed and made our way to the house we wanted to call home. Ian grilling me on what I was going to say, “don’t you worry, my love, just leave it to me”. As we pulled up to the house, the stomach-churning began, and it suddenly dawned on me what we were about to do. Masks on, we slowly walked up to the owner’s house, and his wife answered the door. “Good morning, sorry to trouble you, but is it possible to speak to your husband please,” I said, smiling behind my mask and trying to be as polite as possible. The owner came to the door, and he looked as surprised as Ian did when I told him what we were going to do “hello gents”, he said, “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon”, He said that he considered our offer, but the offer on the table by the other bidder was too good to turn down. So with that, I asked him, if we were to match their offer, given our position, would he possibly consider our offer? We told him how much we wanted the house and our plans for it; we explained that we didn’t make a habit of turning up at peoples doors and that hopefully, it showed how much we wanted it. He agreed that he would review our offer and get back to us in the next 48 hours.
We had a call from the Estate Agent who confirmed that the owner had agreed to sell us the house!!! I called Ian straight away, and I could hear in his voice how happy he was too! We had made the right decision and secured our Victorian fixer upper! We fully appreciate that there would have been a disappointed buyer in all of this at the other end; to be clear, no money was lost in the process as it was only 4 days after their original offer had been made. Having watched Location, Location, Location on Channel 4 over the years, the property market is ruthless, and if you want something, you have to go for it. The other party had not sold their house and admitted they would be in a long chain; therefore, completely understood the owner’s position on it. I know there will be people that won’t agree with what we did, but sometimes you need to go after the things in life that matter to you.
As some of our followers would say…
Never a truer word said!