If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we’d committed to selling up and buying a new renovation project. We’d done everything we could to our current house and it was time to move on.
We found a house we were keen on, put in an offer and subsequently entered into a bidding war with a cash buyer. Then lockdown happened. Working from home, home schooling and job insecurity led us to pull out and let the other couple have the house we’d set our hearts on. It felt like a defeat at the time but everything happens for a reason.
As the lockdown restrictions for viewing properties relaxed in early June, I picked up the phone to the estate agent looking after the house. To our delight, the cash buying couple had pulled out as ‘it wasn’t the right time’.
The one that got away
To give it some context, this was a semi-detached house, close to Hove seafront, converted into four flats – all but one deemed uninhabitable. In addition, the front of the house needed underpinning and overall it was a huge amount of work. Not only would we need planning permission to do the work we wanted to do, the first major hurdle was changing the property usage from HMO back to a single dwelling. But before anything – we needed a mortgage – and that’s where things fell down.
Frustratingly, the mortgage hurdle wasn’t due to Covid or our own circumstances. It was due to the mortgage company needing reassurance we weren’t going to buy the house under false pretences and keep it as an HMO (while avoiding the tax). In order to reassure the lender, we needed the owner to sign an option agreement and in doing so, remove three of the four kitchens. Yes, perhaps the lender was more cautious in light of Covid, but with a bit more willingness from the owner, things could have been very different.
With zero cooperation from the seller, we soon realised we were never going to own the property and it was time to let go. It was disheartening and we were let down again. That evening while I was browsing Rightmove, Liam announced he couldn’t look at the app as his heart had been so set on the other house. Meanwhile I sat in the corner of the sofa, nodding, smiling, quietly browsing…
Something much better just around the corner
Wait! What’s this? A house similar to the one we’d lost out on but with a larger garden, retaining lots of its original features and needing far less structural work? I emailed the agent through the app but it was 11pm on a Friday night, so there was no way I’d get a quick response. At 8.30am the next morning I called the agent, and then again at 9am when the office opened. I was told the agent was back to back with viewings on the house that day. My heart sank, I just knew someone would snap it up if we didn’t act fast.
The agent on the phone asked a few questions about our situation. Were we proceedable? I didn’t know what she meant but I didn’t feel like my urgency to see this house was being taken seriously. So we worked out the house number from the images on RightMove and walked round. It was only a five-minutes from our current house.
Not taking ‘no’ for an answer
We knocked on the door, no answer. I guessed the agent was already conducting a viewing. I called the office again and told them we were waiting outside the house to see it. We had masks and hand sanitiser and we were ready to go.
Eventually the agent opened the front door, looking at us like we were slightly mad. He’d had a cancellation and told us we could come back in an hour. Result! We grabbed a coffee and walked around our neighbourhood to pass the time. Much to Molly’s dismay the parks were still closed, there’d be no swings and roundabouts today.
We had ‘the feeling’ the moment we walked through the door
As we walked into the house, we were greeted by a beautiful internal stained-glass door and opening transom window, followed by a grand staircase with chunky carved spindles and balustrade. The ceilings were high and the rooms were big. After months of lockdown, the space in this house made us almost giddy.
As we walked through the ground floor out to the back of the house, the garden came into view. It was much larger than any garden I’d ever owned. There were so many plants growing, established trees, a veg patch and a pond.
Yes the house was tired and needed some major changes for it to work for us, but it was a decent, solid building and was jam-packed with potential. After taking a look in all the rooms, myself and Liam reconvened with the agent in the conservatory. We offered the asking price there and then. We didn’t even discuss it between us, we didn’t need to.
What it means to be ‘proceedable’ when home buying
The agent thanked us for our offer and politely let us know he wouldn’t be able to put it forward to the owners as we weren’t ‘proceedable’. Proceedable meaning being in a position to immediately proceed with the sale. We needed a buyer for our house pronto but our plan was always to put our house on the market with the agent of the house we wanted to buy. With an agent looking after the sales of both, we’d be in a much stronger position.
“Come and put our house on the market then”, were my exact words. To my surprise, the agent said he’d be round the very next day at 2pm to take photos and gather information for the listing. Being the weekend, I’d expected him to suggest Monday at the earliest, but agreed nevertheless, we wanted that house after all!
I’d decided to redecorate the dining room during lockdown but had only got as far as trying out a few tester swatches. That night I stayed up till 4am painting the dining room while Liam deep cleaned the entire house. The next morning, we carried on sprucing and I had just enough time to run to the shop to grab some Pimms, lemonade and fruit to style the kitchen before the agent arrived.
By Monday the listing was live and the viewings started flooding in. We were really doing this!
In my next blog I’ll share our experience of selling up during Covid and why we think the pandemic actually worked in our favour!