Decisions, decisions….

Sometimes you have to make a decision and now is one of those times. While driving around the nice part of our town the other day, on my way from our rather scruffier bit of town to a posher place, I spotted a house for sale. Not that unusual, certainly, but this one caught my eye for no discernable reason and so when I got back to my house I looked it up on the internet. It's going for a whole sackful of cash less than houses usually go for around there and it's not only big but it's on a huge plot with a big garden AND a little one storey, one bedroom flat attached plus the main bedroom has the most amazing view out across the city to the hills beyond. With a prevailing wind, a sympathetic mortgage lender and a HUGE dollop of good fortune we could possibly stretch to buying it. So what is the decision? Well it's this – there's a reason it's going cheap and that reason is that inside it is a complete fucking shambles. The place is a disgrace. It has shoddy wiring, the boiler is older than I am and is living in what looks like a chicken house out the back, the ridiculously huge trees in the front garden are within a few degrees of knocking over the front wall that retains the soil. The flat has damp because the damp course has failed and the flat roof needs patching. Cosmetically it is beyond description (who knew they made wallpaper with psychadelic ferns on and that someone whould actually not only buy a roll but also put in on all 4 walls of the smallest room?), if you washed in the bathroom there is every chance that you'd come out dirtier than you went in. It has mice and probably spiders the size of cats. Ivy is eating the fence posts in the back garden, the front door is knackered and the pipes are the original lead ones which are now illegal. There's damp in the truly hideous 1960s built in wardrobe in the main bedroom which is probably because the chimney hasn't been capped properly and a section of the bathroom is taken up by a fucking huge hot water tank. It's only one bar off being in the most energy inefficient building that it's possible to be (although apparently it does have hte potential to be more efficient) and some of the double glazing is knackered and wants looking at. As opposed to the revolting wood cladding and bizarre safety glass on the stairs which just want a crowbar and a lump hammer taking to them. In short it looks a little bit like the house from the money pit.

But I like it. I really, really like it.

I have a vision of how it could it look, given a bloody scrub, lord knows how much money and a huge amount of work and it could be beautiful. So the question is, do I leave my energy efficient, immaculate, clean, recently decorated and nicely furnished semi to move into a sprawling dirt pit with a view? Do I put all the work into de-cluttering, deep cleaning and stress that goes with getting a house ready for sale and attempting to get a decent price for it in order to move into a building that contains more species of wildlife than my current garden?

If I'm honest the answer is yes, I think I would, because despite the fact that it's a complete shithole, that house has got under my skin and maybe it isn't meant to be, maybe someone else will snap it up before I can get my finances sorted but despite the fact that I am terrified of the cost of heating the place and the sheer scale of the work that's needed, I want it. And I don't suppose that's going to change.

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17 Responses

  1. Many years ago my (ex) husband and I passed up on a house like this. After all these years I still think about that house and wish we had bought it instead of the already done house we did buy. I think there must be a real sense of accomplishment and love that goes into renovating. The only real issues would be whether you can afford what you know needs to be done as well as the unexpected things that will crop up along the way – and whether you can stand to live in it whilst you fix it.

  2. We can probably get together what we need to make it safe and habitable but it'll be a long hard road to get it looking beautiful. I agree with you though, it would be so satisfying to do that work and one day look back on it, thinking "we did that". The plot is huge, they'd put two houses or a small apartment block on a plot that size now.

  3. then do it ,don't think about it for another second get up out of that chair and go claim it,yes right now ….and vicola it seems i'm being accused of being too negatve so i will say that i have enjoyed your post's since the day i first joined vox most of them are very insightful and funny,,so THIS IS GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!! there i said it and it is well meant, now go tell everybody in your neighborhood and mine that i was a very positive old bastard

  4. Another decision requiring debate between the head and the heart. I wish you well in your deliberations. Perhaps I will see you on "Grand Designs" ?? 😉

  5. Vicola, I've done it twice (does that make me a complete fucking idiot?). Yes you get in from work, totally knackered and pissed off, grab a quick butty for supper, start work again banging walls down, mending roofs, rewiring and installing new plumbing before you collapse without even any enthusiasm for a shag.
    It was worth it for me, but check your priorities.
    XX

  6. I certainly will Ken! That was most positive, thank you. And we are currently 'decluttering' the house so we can get a valuation on it. Just in case….

  7. Given our budget it wouldnt so much be a 'Grand Design' as a 'Rather Small Design Done on the Cheap'. And once we'd got all the major work done we'd only have the money to tart it up, not do anything special. But you never know, one day we might come into money and be able to turn it into something amazing!

  8. We don't know enough about technical stuff to do the rewiring or boiler replacement ourselves so we'd get a professional to do that. We'd have all the cosmetic work to do, which is substantial. It's quite terrifying thinking about the amount of work that needs doing, especially coming from an immaculate house now, but I can't help thinking that if we don't give it a go I might spend a lot of time wondering what could have been. And the plot is huge, if we ever wanted to make cash we could flog half of it to developers and make a load. The garden was lovely once but has been neglected so it could be lovely again. We're having a declutter this weekend to get ours valued, just to see if it's do-able…

  9. I sense that you have made the emotional attachment to that house already – go for it!

  10. I agree with the above – that you sound like you're so in love with the place and realistic about exactly what life would be like if you took a project like that on that you will regret it if you never attempted it!

  11. I heard from my 'spies' that someone else has been to view it today. Is it unethical to stand outside waiting for the people to come back then inform them that I think they're really brave going into the 'murder house' and that the stories about the odd goings on at night are probably just an urban myth, besides, a lot of people disappear without a trace and it's probably just coincidence…

  12. if you really want the house and you think you can afford to fix it then take it ,but with houses like this what you don't see is what could make you sit down and cry..i have helped rebuild three old houses one of them a old farm house from the early 1600's the satisfaction of sitting back and looking at a room that you rebuilt from scratch is very heart warming

  13. Well, I am in construction, (amongst other things) and I commend your long-term view which in my experience is almost non-existent in the females of the human species when it comes to houses. So well done on that point you get my spacewoman award.
    On the other hand, it sounds like the stuf wrong with this house is not just cosmetic.
    piping is a shitty thing to redo as it affects all your waterproofing (which sounds bggered already in the flat to begin with). Boilers can be thrown out if you get an electric (or gas) shower/hot water delivery (it is cheaper and if you have to redo the wiring anyway you might as well get rid of the boiler which will also increase your space). But waterproofing and retention wall issues are no joke.
    If you go for it it will be a long and painful process. But if it's the house you must have….it may be worth it in the end.

  14. Sadly, after much deliberating and creative number crunching I have come to a rather sobering conclusion – we can't afford it unless the lottery syndicate comes up trumps with a 5 figure sum. Which is a bit of a long shot and is probably not something I should be relying on. Now we've found a more realistic prospect, one with a tiered garden that I would guess is roughly 40ft long. I've never done any gardening before, here's hoping that it isn't that difficult….otherwise we may end up living in a jungle.

  15. Sounds like you are intent on nest-building.
    My best wishes are with you. It's a process I have studiously avoided by renting instead of buying, my entire life. It may change one day…but only if I ever have enough money to pay cash in one go for what I want.

  16. Such a shame. I'm about to begin retraining as a plumber and gasfitter and would have gladly given my services at cost not only to help you but to fatten out my portfolio! Ah well, if you change your mind…

  17. Ah well if I change my mind or we find another house that needs the services of a gas fitter or a plumber you'll be the first to know!

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