Have you ever moved house in the middle of a global pandemic with a pregnant wife, a furloughed removal team and a 4-year-old? I hadn’t until a couple of weeks back!
We managed to push our house move through and I am glad we did as four days later the government allowed all moves to go ahead regardless.
Ever since we finished renovating our property we had the bug to do ‘another’. We changed everything in the last house and although it came with stress it was also incredibly rewarding; especially when family and friends came to visit.
Although the house was great we were always itching for another project. We looked at 10-15 houses but nothing felt quite right. Our daughter was settled with friends and we had applied for her school so we only wanted to stay in the specific area. It’s a beautiful, leafy area and is a ‘commuter’ area so comes at a price.
We loved our house so it was going to take something nice for us to move but we were going round in circles. Spending hours on Rightmove, driving around looking at different streets and house types. It was clear this ‘feeling’ wasn’t going to go away.
Selling part of the business fast-forwarded our decision process. It was January at this point and we both then made the decision that we were treading water and for us to do this and be ready to grab the right house we need to sell ours; irrespective as to whether we have somewhere to go. We decided we would list it as soon as possible.
My rationale was that there was a level of prosperity in the air. The election was over and people knew we were indefinitely leaving the EU so the property market seemed to have life again. It felt like a good time to put the house on the market.
Meanwhile the next morning I checked Rightmove and a new property to potentially buy had appeared. It was on a beautiful leafy street, south-facing garden and matched the price point of what we wanted to pay for another renovation project. Could this be the one?
Valuation & Viewings:
We’d previously had an agent value the house in October so we quickly called her and had her come again; this time with her camera. She took the photos of the property and said it would be a 48-hour turnaround for listing.
Waiting for our listing to be ready we had arranged a viewing for the property. As the agent showed us around my heart sank a little as he mentioned there had already been 11 viewings, 3 offers and more that weekend. The house was quite unique in that it was the smallest house on a very nice street. Most had been extended over the years so were out of the range we wanted to pay however this had the potential to extend and was well within the comfort zone of what we had available.
The huge draw for me was the garden. Although not large it extended around all sides of the house and was incredibly mature and private. The house was unique in that it only had neighbours to one side so it’s complete peace and privacy while still retaining a social feel by being in an established, family area.
Offers, more offers & even more offers:
The agent delivered her promise and the listing was ready to launch Thursday morning. We were confident our house would have interest however given the extension work it was the highest-priced house on the street by a stretch. That was always a worry for me.
Within 10 minutes we had a viewing request, then another and another. We ended the day on three viewings for the following day.
The first viewing arrived and went. They seemed to like it but weren’t overly enthused. I wrote this one-off. An hour later a full asking price offer arrived. What do I know?
The second viewing arrived and although he wanted the house he wasn’t in the position to proceed.
At this point we rang the agents of the house we wanted and informed them we had received an asking price offer so would be in a position to offer on the house. Given the interest and offers already we put forward a full asking price offer. The agent informed us there were another 5 viewings of the property that weekend and the vendor wanted to honour them.
Work was naturally taking a backseat to my life as a property mogul :D. It was a sunny afternoon so we decided to go for a short walk past the house we wanted to buy. While walking past 100 yards further up the street was a man washing his car. Beth said we should ask him what the street is like to get an idea given we had made an offer.
Beth asked the guy what things were like around here given we had just made an offer on the house 100 yards away. The man replied ‘I am selling that house’.
The man explained that when his father passed he persuaded his Mum to move closer to him and his family. It was her old house and she had sadly passed away. We continued the conversation and at the end, we said ‘Oh, by the way, we are the Gibson’s’.
Back at the house:
Meanwhile back at our house, The third viewing arrived and their family (Grandparents) lived 200 yards away. Another full asking price offer. At this point, we had received several more viewing requests which I was managing personally as we chose an online agent.
Another family came on Saturday morning and offered full asking price an hour later.
We then had to dash to our nieces birthday party. In the middle of soft play, I received another message on the Yopa portal from an interested party from London. He mentioned coming next weekend as they were desperate for a fully renovated property in the area and our house looked perfect. He had no chain and was ready to roll. I informed him that we had already had three asking price offers so it would need to be sooner.
I gave him my phone number and we spoke on the phone. I told him the situation and that if he wanted to view the property it would need to be the following day (Sunday). There was however one other caveat. It was Matilda’s birthday (Our daughter) and following her party with friends we had the whole family coming back for further fun.
Given the time-sensitive nature of the situation the interested parties Wife decided she would make the drive from London on the Sunday (Family close by which was one reason for the move). She’d be having a house viewing in the middle of a kids party!
Sunday arrived and the day was busy. 30 kids running around soft play followed by Pizza’s and party food back at the house for the family. The interested party arrived that afternoon, looked around with her parents and loved the property.
The next day they submitted a very good offer for the house but we hadn’t yet secured the property we wanted. The area we live in is fast-paced when it comes to property and reasonably priced ‘project’ houses tend to go quickly.
It was Matilda’s actual birthday on the Monday so we were enjoying the day although at the back of our mind we were thinking about the house. We hadn’t yet accepted any offers on our house but we were ok with moving into rented if needed.
Finally, we got a call from the estate agent to tell us we had been successful and the seller had chosen us out of 6 offers he received on the property. We had a quick chat and decided to proceed with the offer from the London based family. We believed their desire to move to the area, lack of chain and commitment meant they were strong buyers.
Having spoke with the seller since he said the conversation we had ‘sealed’ the house for us. His Mum would have loved to see a nice family in the house.
This should have been the most straight forward move you can imagine. Our buyers were moving to the area from London and the house we were moving to had been unoccupied (but beautifully looked after) for three years. Unfortunately, the combination of Coronavirus, lockdowns & awful solicitors made it a little more challenging. All parties, however, were keen to push the move forwards.
Friction from solicitors
Once we went into lockdown the solicitors took a strange stance to the moving. The government set out clear guidelines as to when it’s reasonable to move. We met these guidelines.
– Unoccupied property: The property we were buying had been unoccupied for three years as the lady had been in a nursing home before passing.
– Move deemed essential: Our buyers wanted to move to the area to partly look after elderly relatives.
– Cleaning & safety: My family run a commercial cleaning company. We arranged and put in writing a clear cleaning process of BOTH properties.
– Staggered moving dates: We agreed to move on Thursday and the buyers of our property would move in on Monday. In between was a clear cleaning process.
My solicitors took a strange stance and still made Beth and I sign a disclaimer stating they advised us against moving. Despite admitting on a phone call the disclaimer wasn’t valid for us they still wanted us to sign it. Legal protection gone mad.
The move was delayed slightly as the courts shut and probate for the estate of the house we were buying hadn’t been granted. We thought this was a huge spanner in the works and our buyer was getting concerned by the delay but then probate arrived!!
Neither parties employment had been impacted financially by the Pandemic so mortgages were very much in place. We arranged a date for exchange and completion.
The Moving Day:
Prior to the moving day, my removals company had furloughed all their staff so they were unable to complete the move. There will still plenty of companies operating however many were hiking prices due to the pandemic. We decided to rent a van and do it ourselves for a fraction of the price.
Beth’s brother and my stepdad agreed to help and we followed the social distancing steps far greater than anyone would in a supermarket.
By this point, I had struck up a bond with the seller of the house and he agreed to let me have the garage key a week prior to exchange/completion and move things in. I moved what I could in the week preceding the completion.
As you can imagine the moving day was tough. Keeping a 4-year old away from her Grandparent, moving all of our belongings and also making sure the move completes in time. Beth was an absolute trooper and managed to keep Matilda entertained!
We didn’t actually complete on our purchase until 4:30 pm however the seller had allowed me the key prior to this. Without his generosity and everyone working together this wouldn’t have been possible. We managed to move 90% of our belongings on Thursday but the buyer agreed we could grab any further items on the Friday/Saturday. We cleaned the property Sunday.
Despite the pandemic, the potential drop in property prices and plenty of uncertainty all parties were keen to push on. From our perspective, we see the house as a long term project and we still see the house price as reasonable; irrespective of drops in value. It almost doesn’t matter for us as we see this as a house which we will stay in for 15 years.
We also received a realistic price for our property given the work we had completed. I believe if we had waited this may not have been possible. That price point enabled us to have the funds to push ahead with the plans we have for the new house.
From our buyers perspective, they were able to achieve their dream of moving out of London without friction. It’s unlikely they would have been able to arrange another mortgage within the next 6-12 months (at least) and the pool of available houses is much smaller. Furthermore, they have a fully renovated house for the fraction of their rent in London.
The move happened because the right decisions were made at the right times and each and every party showed determination to complete.
We’ve been here for three weeks at this point but it feels like forever (in a good way). As a family, we have never felt as settled. The house is dated but well looked after; we’ve already made it homely and are already plotting our plans to renovate.
But we are excited about the future. Although I don’t have my fancy mezzanine office my new office overlooks the garden which is beautiful, mature and peaceful. My gym is now a garage surrounded by boxes but I’m entering my mid 30’s so a garage is cool right?
But the house feels right. We have already had an architect over to measure up and plan the extension. There will be no rushing, however. I plan to document the home renovations fully this time but with a baby due in October and a little person starting school we will be taking our time.