When I left home to come out house-hunting my hubby’s final words were ‘ It’s not going to be a holiday you know’ – and after my experiences over the last couple of days he was spot-on.
It’s fair to say that this trip has been planned like a military operation and so far it has worked as expected – although I am already surprised at how tired I am in the evenings. Pretty much all I’ve been capable of doing when I’ve got back is cooking something simple for supper (truffle cheese is proving to be a very useful & tasty ingredient) – talk over the properties I’ve visited & head for bed. It’s certainly not a relaxing, gentle break, but I suppose it was never meant to be that and if it is then something has gone horribly wrong!
The days are pretty hectic with appointments booked from 9.30 until 6.00, although I’m pleased to say that none have been rushed and I have been able to spend the time I’ve needed at each property to get a real sense of it. I’m also certainly getting a chance to further test my French language skills, chatting to agents in the car about the area, asking detailed questions about the properties (and having to deal with equally detailed answers!)
It’s been really interesting setting each property I’ve seen against the list of what we feel we need (happily not a lengthy list, but critical if we are to find the right house). On the face of it all the houses that I’ve booked to see meet the criteria, but already I’m getting a sense of what it is that we’re really looking for and being able to prioritise the list in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without actually getting my feet on the ground out here. This is still the case even though we have been visiting the area for many years and know it so well that it is already a ‘second home’ for us I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like trying to find a house in a totally unknown area!
When we started the process we had a general idea of what we needed and as long as a house fitted these relatively broad criteria then we felt it was worth looking at. I am a great optimist & enthusiast and can see the positives in almost any property -although I have to admit there have been a couple I have really struggled with so far (mainly due to their locations). It’s been really interesting though trying to be objective and working my way around houses that (on the face of it) seem perfect, but in reality have issues that (once identified) drop them down the list for a second visit.
As I’m seeing so many properties – (19 at the last count) – it’s been really important for me to video each one that I haven’t discounted as soon as I’ve arrived. This has been a great way to share what I’ve seen with my hubby via WhatsApp (although I’ve quickly learnt it will only send the first 3 minutes of video so now take lots of short ones, rather than one long one), but also it has meant that I have not muddled the properties up. I am very aware that if I didn’t do this, that by the end of the day (when I am feeling frazzled) I would be thinking about the kitchen from one house, the bedroom from another & the terrace from the third – in my mind coming up with the perfect house that in reality didn’t exist!. It has also meant that I’ve been able to sit with a glass of wine and review each property against another, really getting to grips with the important detail.
The other thing that I’ve found very useful is to draw a floorplan of each house, whilst I wander from room to room. This has been really valuable with the old properties in hamlets & villages, where it has helped us get a sense of how the property sits against its neighbours, realising where there are flying-freeholds and windows overlooking neighbouring gardens. Some of the houses have seemed to have different rooms in different directions on every level and drawing the plans has helped us get to grips with the actual layout, rather than what we think it may be.
Other things we hadn’t considered until I started looking at the houses is the real need for us to have easy access to good dog-walking, as our Retriever will be coming away with us and she loves her walks (as do we). So although a house within easy reach of the town centre may sound perfect on many levels it’s not a great place to walk a dog, who’s used to Dartmoor, so those places have already been knocked to the bottom of the list.
So far it has been a very tiring process and I think part of the reason for this is just the effort that goes into trying to capture all the information I can about the houses I’m visiting, so that I can chat at length about each one with my family via Skype in the evenings. I know it’s not physically hard work and I’m sure some will say it’s ridiculous to be so tired, but I’m really trying to get the most I can from each visit and so feel almost wrung out by the end of the day.
My tips so far for a concentrated house-search are:
- Come prepared & make sure you have plenty of time to visit each property.
- Understand what is important to you and really focus on these aspects – a house can be changed but a location cannot!
- Take videos of the house if possible – the ability to take a second look is invaluable
- Draw floor-plans to get a sense of how the property sits against others (particularly in hamlet / village houses)
- Spend time reviewing each property in the cold light of day, important for an enthusiast like me who can see the positives in just about anything!
- Take breaks – a coffee or a good lunch (after today’s experience I would suggest finding somewhere that doesn’t give you mild food poisoning!!). This gives you time to reflect & clear your head a little for the next batch of viewings.
- Be prepared to be tired !
- Have a good bottle of wine in the fridge!
So I’ve got more viewings booked for tomorrow & following those will look forward to my hubby & youngest son coming over on Sunday to do second viewings on the houses that really interest us next week & hopefully all this hard work will pay dividends in the long run.