For the second time in recent memory Dawnise and I found ourselves reflecting on the length of Purple Rain’s outro while surrounded by the sturm und drang of moving.
We hadn’t planned to move, but life – as the saying goes – is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.
What happened? The short(ish) version of the long story goes something like this:
Two and a half years ago, in the depth of the pandemic, the flat that we’d lived in since arriving in the UK sprung a leak. Not the sort of small leak that’s easily and quickly fixed, mind you. The sort of leak that involves “water cascading down the inside of doors and dripping out of light fixtures” and requires major roofing works that can’t get underway for months.
We conducted a frantic search for a flat and were lucky enough to find one in the same neighborhood that had just been put up for rent. The owners of the flat had moved abroad and had been looking to sell it, but the market hadn’t cooperated so they ended up falling back to putting it up for rent. It ticked all our boxes, we made an offer to rent it, they accepted, and we hired movers as quickly as we could get keys.
By the time our two year lease was ending last October we had developed a pretty good relationship with the owners, and we mutually agreed to renew the lease for another two years.
So why, you might ask, did we move?
A number of times over our tenancy the owners asked us to let the flat be shown to a potentially interested buyer. We’d cooperate, ’cause that’s just how we are, and for a while there’d be a looming cloud of uncertainty and instability that drove us a bit nuts.
The owners asked again near the beginning of the year, kicking off renewed uncertainty, and Dawnise and I decided enough was enough.
We discussed our options and found only three: we could move into something owned by a commercial landlord, who’d be less likely to sell out from under us. We could try to buy the place we were in, or we could try to buy something else. Renting from someone else didn’t feel like a solution, just kicking the can down the road, so we decided to focus on the other two.
We had seen the sales listing for the flat while we were flat hunting, so had some idea about what the owners were after – at least a couple years ago, so I started watching the “central-ish” London real estate market. In March we started doing occasional “real-life” viewings. Everyone had told us that a real-estate transaction here would take on average 6 months, so it didn’t feel like we were starting all that early if we wanted to align with October.
When we’d found two candidate properties we had a candid conversation with our landlords. I shared why we’d started looking – that the recurring churn of a potential sale was the primary motivator – shared the listings for the couple of the properties we were considering, and basically said “we don’t particularly want to move – we like the flat, you want to sell it, here’s our best offer.”
They went away and thought about it, and came back with a minimum that was higher than our maximum. No zone of possible agreement.
So, not really expecting much to come of it, we made an offer on our first choice. We’d been told there were several other offers on the table, and we went in at the asking price. Like I said, we didn’t think anything would come of it.
We didn’t fully appreciate how much leverage we had being “chain free.”
Chains? Like Marley’s Chains? No. Well… maybe.
In American English we’d say that Dawnise and I had no contingencies. We weren’t trying to sell a property to finance this purchase – and that made our offer more compelling than the others on the table. So a bit to our surprise the sellers verbally accepted.
(I should note that the purchase process in the UK is markedly different from in the US, and I could spill a bunch of ink here – but for the moment imagine it’s the same, it doesn’t really matter that much. If you’re curious, drop me a note, I’ll write a separate post if there’s sufficient interest.)
Suddenly we were buying a house – and because the house was owned by a developer who’d renovated it (more later) they wanted the transaction to “complete” (close) quickly. We’d been candid from the outset that we were looking toward August or September, they wanted as soon as technically possible, and we came to a mutual agreement.
Fortunately, our landlords were very reasonable when we asked to exit our lease early. They’re taking this opportunity to do some small renovations before they take next steps.
In mid-May we collected keys.
The house was built somewhere around the 1850’s and was a pretty classic example of a Victorian “terraced house” but remodeled and renovated. The ground floor has a small WC, living room, dining room and modern kitchen. The first floor has two bedrooms and a “family bathroom,” and the loft has been converted into a bedroom with office nook and ensuite shower room. The renovation mixes classic features – like sash windows, plaster cornices and the retained chimney breasts – and modern features, especially in the kitchen and converted loft.
What it doesn’t have – and is often missing “over here” – are built in wardrobes. So once we had keys we got quotes for made-to-measure wardrobes in the main and loft bedrooms. Between fitting in around the fireplace stack in the main bedroom and the a-frame ceiling in the loft, we couldn’t find a good free-standing answer.
It’s reasonably energy efficient for a building of its age. The original single-pane sash windows aren’t helping much, but it turns out (says our surveyor) in a building of this age you can’t assume there are lintels over the windows – so replacing them without the wall falling down could be tricky (and not cheap).
It’s a couple miles north and slightly west of the flat we were in – the title of this post are its what three words coordinates. We’re along the same tube line, very close to the tube station and bus links, and have equal or improved access to central London compared to the flat.
At any rate, we moved in last week and spent the weekend attacking boxes. Dawnise continued to make progress when I went back to work (in the loft/office) on Monday, and I wrapped up at the flat and surrendered the keys on Tuesday. We’re working through a short list of snags with the developer, who’s so far been good to deal with.
The wardrobes are scheduled be fitted the last week of July – until then our clothes are in the moving boxes. Not optimal, but livable.
If you’re reading this from “this side of the pond” there will be a housewarming in the hopefully near future.