First of all, if it seems like I haven’t been posting much here at the minute, I apologise. I’ve been moving house with all of the hard work, frustration and stress that brings with it. I also apologise for a lot of “dull” pictures of an empty house. But if you are here, you probably realised what the post was about, right?
The whole story starts back in February this year when, for various reasons, we decided we wanted to upsize and buy a detached house. A simple enough ask you might think. However, one of the joys of the house moving process in the UK is that it is slow, expensive and uncertain – a recipe for high stress and frayed tempers.
You need to factor in the cost of the estate agent (realtor), the solicitor (lawyer) and the punitive taxes you’ll have to pay on a purchase (stamp duty). All in all a recipe to strongly discourage a prudent person from even thinking about moving. Despite this, the market in the UK is buoyant, it seems like “for sale” and “sold” boards are everywhere.
There’s been a history of boom and bust in the UK property market too. I recall friends and family struggling for years in the early 90s when the value of houses collapsed from their peak in the late 80s. So all of that and we still decided to move? Yep.
The first aspect of the joy of all of this is how long it takes. I remember buying our first house and it was such a snap in comparison, because there were only two people (buyer and seller) in the chain. The chain comprises all of the linked house sales and purchases that are conditional upon one another (because the funding of each purchase is conditional upon the completion of the prior sale and purchase). This time around there were five parties in the chain. That means five sets of people all of whom bring something different to the table. If a lower rung of the chain falls away, you have to wait for a new buyer to take their place or let the chain collapse. It’s an interesting game of poker to play, though where it can break down is when people don’t really understand the process and start to throw their weight around unnecessarily.
This leads on to the angst and lack of certainty element. Each time we’ve bought, I tell myself “it’s just a house, don’t get emotionally involved”. However, even if you aren’t mentally remodelling the house to your perfect home, you have an attachment to it. Unfortunately, in England and Wales, a house purchase is not certain at the point of offer and acceptance. It’s conditional upon execution of a written contract which requires due diligence, exchange of questions, searches, surveyors reports, agreement of finer details et cetera… All of this takes weeks if not months and is complicated if new parties join the chain at the top or bottom. All of the latent fear and stress comes to fruition when you get the dreaded message to say “things are proceeding too slowly and we are going back on the market”.
Combine all of that with one set of people who don’t understand the situation (more so than average, let’s say) and you can face some “interesting” moments. I never realised I could string together 5 minutes of non-stop abuse (in response to one particularly fun situation that we faced) on one phone call prior to this transaction. A colleague described it as me releasing my “inner chimp”. I also never realised that I would get so determined to make the purchase happen that I would be putting together an elaborate scheme involving deposit monies until the wee small hours in order to make the deal happen (trust me, if you’ve written two sides of A4 on how to fund the deposits through the chain, it’s elaborate).
You’ve also got the joy of the service providers in the process. Hopefully you’ll have a proactive and honest estate agent (i.e. one that gives genuine feedback and chases) and a good solicitor. However, the chain moves as fast as the slowest people in it. That applies as much to the solicitors and agents as it does to the people involved, if not more so. So, even if you have the best people involved at your stage of the chain, you have to wait for the slowest people involved to get their skates on. Sadly, that wait can prove significant. Also, on occasion, the lack of transparency of the process can mean completely random things occurring such as a garbled version of something you’ve passed down the chain making its way to the top of the chain from the solicitor at the bottom. You can’t control what the other solicitors and agents do, and it will drive any normal person insane!
Finally, once you get to exchange you have some certainty, but then you have the hard work of packing. This is a lot easier than it sounds. After all, you can pay for a full pack, can’t you? Yes you can, but that won’t include sheds, outbuildings or lofts (I’m biased, my old loft seemed to require Houdini like contortion to get into). Inevitably, if you’ve had kids since the last time you moved, you’ll have 8 tons of stuff that you aren’t sure when you acquired and you won’t have had a proper clear out in years. Even if you shift carloads of stuff to the rubbish dump (recycling centre in our case) or charity shop, you’ll still have mountains of the stuff. To come back to my son, if you think packing is easy, try it with a little three year old elf who unpacks things you’ve packed, gets stressed and demands attention himself (poor little chap) and generally orbits you like an electron as you try to work out what it is you need to do next.
Another joy is dealing with pets. With a dog, it’s difficult but not so bad, you just need to get the dog to the new home without too much barking or weeing. With an escapologist cat (see previous post) things can be more difficult. This time around things went to plan (perhaps not having a mighty hang over at the time of catching the cat was the trick here), we kept the cat in overnight and boxed her up for transit to the cattery in the morning. Most of the cuts on my hands and face have started to heal now.
To come back to packing for a second, if you have too much stuff to tackle yourself unfortunately, you have to trust to the removers. Some removers really can be excellent, they realise how stressful it all is and don’t add to it. If they break stuff they come and tell you about it. Other removers turn up hung over, monopolise your loo and spend most of the time they should be packing texting their girlfriend(s). When they’ve finished with their iPhone, they’ll be busy losing fittings for, or otherwise damaging, your furniture and lobbing your pictures into the back of the van without covering them (they look so much better with scuffs on the edges). Oh, and if my power tools ever do turn up, I’d love to have them back…
Then finally, you get into your new house to be confronted with a pile of rubbish, or more accurately, wheelie bins full to brimming with no prospect of you being able to throw away or recycle any of the packaging you’ll have industrial quantities of by this stage…
Then, to pause finally with the bitter tirade for a minute, you look up and realise why you liked the house you have moved into. You wander through the rooms, the garden and are very happy. It’s almost like the months of pain never happened. Then you realise all of the jobs that need doing and the fact you’ll be up to 3am for a month to move your life and possessions out of all of those boxes… But you stop yourself and realise, given everything else, that you’ll get there, it will happen, if you continue to unpack like a demon. You might even get out of the house to explore a bit and grab a meal and a cheeky pint at your new local. Having said that, for me, photography may have to take a back seat for a while… If nothing else I’ve sent my D810 to Nikon for it to have the long exposure/hot pixels-noise fix applied to it.
Taken with my Leica M240 (used for most shots here), 21mm Super-Elmar-M F3.4, Summicron 28mm F2, Summicron 50mm F2, Nikon D810, Zeiss 21mm F2.8 ZF.2 and Sony RX1R