I wasn’t sure if I should post this given the sad news about the death of the Queen last night. In the end I have decided to leave it here as planned. There is no disrespect intended and it is up to you to read it now or later as you wish.
Something slightly different this week’s Househunter as yes – you guessed it – it’s The Mad House! After 12 years, one extension, a loft conversion, countless room changes and the acquisition of a cat, we are moving on and this seemed like a good place to document that. This, by the way, is the news I promised you earlier in the week. We had hoped to exchange at the end of July. Then before the end of August. It finally happened yesterday.
Now first up we sold privately so I don’t have any estate details to show you (more on that later) but I have rustled up a few before and afters:
Like this for example.
So where to start? Why? Well, as regular readers will know, our sons are now 21 and 19. They are embarking on their own house journeys and while we will always want a place for them at home, we both felt that it would be miserable to be constantly walking past empty rooms shimmering with the ghosts of childhoods past. We wanted – as The Mad Husband said – A Third Act. And the dream has always been to buy a house in Italy with a small place in London, too. This, we thought, would happen over the next five years when both boys had graduated and we were ready for a small flat.
Then one Saturday night a text landed from our architect: “Are you moving to Italy? My friends want to buy your house.” And so it began. We found a small house that we love and will do up. It has four bedrooms (we both work from home and the elder son is back while he studies for a Masters) but is around 1000sq ft smaller than were we are now. I will share details of that next week.
To recap on this one – when we bought it, it was arranged as two rental flats. A one-bedroom ground floor and a two-bedroom maisonette. We restored it to a single dwelling and extended the kitchen at the back to add a dining space. We didn’t do the loft at the time, as we weren’t sure what we would use it for, but in 2015 we needed more office space and decided it would add value. And, having had a pay-out from a critical illness insurance policy when I was diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland, it seemed good use of a sum of money that wasn’t life-changing but was more than a fancy holiday.
You will see from the pictures how tastes and styles have changed. I wrote my first book (in 2015) Shades of Grey when the whole house was indeed painted in variations of that colour. Now the only grey that remains is in the 21yo’s room and he us currently poring over paint charts for the new place. I may have made a tactical error leaving a book of Yves St Laurent’s Marrakech home on the table outside his bedroom…. he’s going opulent next time round, apparently.
As for selling privately, well, I have a new -ound respect for estate agents. This sale was long and tricky with plenty of twists and turns. Banks are taking months to agree anything. Ours operated on a five-day turnaround for every issue or enquiry, so you ask one question and they promise to answer in five working days. Invariably that leads to another question so it’s another five days and on it goes. We had exacting buyers and instead of their questions (which were many) being filtered through an agent, we had to deal with them ourselves – never quite knowing if what they were asking was standard or extra. Nor how fast we should deal with it. When you’re trying to deal with the mortgage and work full time, it’s a lot. We also agreed two chunky price drops, the second of which amounted to the same as an estate agent’s fee would have been, so while we didn’t lose financially on that front we did give ourselves more stress than we perhaps otherwise might have had. We also never trusted it would happen until everything was signed – and had no-one to reassure us that things were progressing normally (if slowly), so inevitably we worked ourselves into a state of higher stress than was necessary – and an estate agent might have provided calming words and advice.
My takeaway on this is, don’t underestimate what a good estate agent does – we ended up relying on the fantastic team that was selling the house we have bought. Don’t be impatient. Banks are taking ages – after trying to sort our mortgage needs for ourselves – having been told by the bank it was a formality which turned out not to be the case – we enlisted the help of a broker. And give yourself time for delays. If you go into it expecting that everything will go at snail’s pace then you won’t add an extra layer of stress when it does. We began the whole process at the end of March. We assumed it would be done by June. It was, in fact, sealed yesterday – and we move in three weeks. The broker told us that some banks are taking up to six months to sort out new mortgages. In the end ours took four months, and we were porting an existing mortgage that we have had for 20 years – so you’d think that would be easy. That said, we both run our own businesses which complicates matters.
So here we are – a new chapter awaits. We have lots of work to do on the new house and I’m very excited about creating a new look. We are going to work within the existing footprint, so there will be challenges and clever thinking – no more en-suite, no side return to widen the kitchen.
And then we are, hopefully, going to realise that long-held dream of owning somewhere in Italy. Come with me on this journey and, if you’re not already subscribed then do so to make sure you don’t miss out. I have created a fantastically fast Reel over on Instagram if you want to see more pictures flash by your eyes. Perhaps, over the coming weeks, I will revisit this house room by room and its evolution. And, of course, I’ll take you with me to the new one.