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  • Writer's pictureHOTHR

Taking The Plunge

We are first time renovators. I must stress that before you know anything more about our project. The most we had done before buying 'House on the High Road' is a bit of an extension and remodelling a couple of bathrooms in our (significantly) smaller 20 year old house, in which we have spent our entire adult lives. As we were the second owners ever to live here, the problems we faced were the usual; kids scuffing the paintwork, ripping out the old fitted wardrobes to make way for a cot and eventually extending the kitchen into one of the garages to accomodate the growing needs of our ever expanding family. We knew however that our house was never going to be the size we needed for a family of 5 and once baby number 3 was born and covid restrictions were lifted, the search for pastures new began.

After viewing countless properties, being constantly priced out or just missing the boat, we finally came across HOTHR in all its Georgian, high ceilinged, fanlighted glory and knew instantly that it had to be ours.

Of course, as we know, love just ain't enough sometimes. We had the usual hurdles to consider, could we afford it? Could we keep up with the upkeep? Did we have the energy for such a task with kids/work/life to balance around it? We decided that the effort would be worth it, and our offer was accepted within a few weeks of that first viewing. As the process moved forward however, it would turn out that taking the plunge was the easy part.

We soon learned, as most people do with old houses, that there were far more problems with this property than we first realised. Don't get me wrong, we knew it was a fixer upper. The wide angle lens and sunny photo filter estate agents use for the listing can only take you so far. Stepping over the threshold and into reality was a dark, dingy, unkempt mess of a place. There were stains on the walls and ceiling from past leaks. The basement was in a foot of water and the rats had clearly taken up residence in the kitchen. "All fixable though" we thought.

It went on and on. Buckets under the leaking roof, cracks in the ceilings and a rickety staircase are to name a few red flags.Then the red flag went and smacked us in the faces when we were informed that there was an ongoing insurance claim against the property. One of the trees in the garden had taken root and damaged a drain beneath the house causing subsidence. What's more was that the tree in question was protected by the council with a TPO (Tree Preservation Order), so the previous owners had to appeal in order to fell it and prevent further damage. Turns out it had, in fact, previously sold about 3 times and kept falling through. We'd simply assumed it was down to the buyers bad luck, though it was becoming clearer by the day that buyers were scared off or that their lenders were deeming the house un-mortgageable. "Still" we thought, "Their insurance will sort that out. Wont be our problem!" We did the sensible thing and made sure the policy could be transferred to us once we owned the house in case of any further issues.

The final blow was about 9 months after our offer was accepted. The owners wife passed away rather unexpectedly after years of battling an illness which they thought was under control. It was a tremendous loss for her husband, they were clearly very much in love and had spent their life together. He was in a state of hopeless grief. We did all we could to relieve him of the burden of the purchase. We dealt with the insurance company about the subsidence (which had lapsed in the midst of his wifes passing - trying to find someone to insure you on a house that was basically falling down...that was fun!) liaising with the contractors about the repairs, going between solicitors and estate agents and generally trying to shoulder the weight so that he could look after himself and be with his family. At this point he was desperate to leave the house which served only as a constant reminder of his wifes absence.

It took another 6 months to wade through the quagmire of paperwork and legalities but on Christmas morning my husband surprised me with a set of keys to HOTHR, having painstakingly removed me from email threads and correspondence AND listen to me relentlessly moan about said lack of emails and correspondence. HOTHR was finally ours.

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