Tag Archives: estate agents

Eee, put th’kekkle on, I’m just back from th’ospikul

My snowy driveway

Day 46 and counting…. Steve’s got the packing bug, now, and there are boxes everywhere. I’m still no nearer to finding a buyer, and despair of ever finding one, on account of I think people these days are trapped in a game of ‘real-life-through-the-keyhole’ and have a good game of a Sunday afternoon by going round other people’s houses, seeing what they can glean about their personality and trying to work out ‘who lives in a house like this?’. I half expect Loyd Grossman to walk in before them and comment on my artwork.

I personally didn’t have the time for this when I went looking in France. I met up with a couple of lovely estate agents, including the wonderful Thibaud, looked at 7 houses which were 90% like I’d asked for. I had a clear view of what we wanted, such as land size, bedrooms, outbuildings, state of repair and budget (most important!) and I told the estate agents, both of whom found me things that mostly looked like what I wanted. I didn’t care about where, as long as it was a small village in some space, and had some connections to amenities, and whilst every one of the seven houses was lovely, and I could see myself in any of them, at the same time, none were perfect. One felt right, and that’s the one we’re lucky enough to be buying. Hopefully!

But this breed of British real-life-through-the-keyhole-contestant/tyre kicker don’t even seem to want to buy an actual house. Some want a look. Three of my neighbours had no intention of moving, they just wanted a nosey. Loads more seemed to think that a modern-three-bed-semi-detached should actually be a mansion with three en-suites, a utility room, a conservatory and several drawing rooms/morning rooms and that just over 6 figures is too much for the aforementioned mansion they want. Even in France (even!) you’d get a mansion, but it’d be a ruin needing £200,000 worth of work. With the average UK house price at quarter of a million (yes, people, quarter of a million!) I feel like kicking the viewers in the head several times before beating them repeatedly with several thousand estate agents’ reports.

The family that came yesterday were a fairly typical example. The man knocked on the door, and then everyone decided to get out of the car (mum, kids, grandparents) whilst I’m standing there with a fixed smile on my face as all the heat blows out of my door into the wilds of Bolton’s mid-February air. After five minutes of door-opened, freezing, fixed smiling, the family are all in. All of us in my small front room. I say ‘What are you looking for, exactly’ in the hopes of getting a better picture so I can aim my pitch more accurately, and the woman says ‘just a look around’. I laugh, and explain, thinking she’s got the wrong end of the stick, but in the end, I’m the idiot, because that’s all they did want, not a house at all.

After that, we all cram into my small dining room. They won’t go outside, even though I suggest they should, so they can get an idea of how quiet the neighbourhood is and how secluded it is, and peer at it through the window. She asks a dumb question about why I’ve put double glazing in, and replaced the old, so I explain patiently. One previous visitor got obsessed by the water rates… bizarre. Think he was planning on running a water-bottling business from home. Then we all traipse upstairs. This is where the rudeness really kicks up a notch. Not one, not two, but ten of the viewers have felt it necessary to open my wardrobes and cupboards in my bedroom. When did this become de rigeur??! Whilst they’re all lovely and ordered, it’s still a bit much, especially if you’re only on a lookie-loo. And then they can’t be bothered to go into the bathrooms, bedrooms etc. It’s soooooo rude. They basically want to march in, root around and then vacate. I feel like I’m in a surreal version of The Life of Brian, where the Roman soldiers all march in, root a bit and then all march out again. Next time, I’m going to gauge them from the window, and if I don’t like the look of them, I’m going to shout obscenities from the bedroom window, until they go away. Or I might rig up the door handle so that it gives them an electric shock. I would love to know exactly what proportion of them go on to buy an actual house. Maybe they get tea and cake in some, and it’s a bit like those people who go to wakes just to get fed. I can’t think of a single real reason why anyone would want to spend their time looking round anyone else’s house, especially if the owner is there. You feel uncomfortable and a bit awkward, especially if you don’t like it, and you feel (well, I do!) like you should make soothing noises about how lovely it is, risking them getting excited about a future offer, so you don’t come across as rude. But not these vultures. They don’t care how rude they are, not one bit.

The worst thing is that it is starting to make me rude. I just feel like saying ‘what is this? a fucking freebie freak-show?’ I know families used to go to mental institutions in centuries gone by, to pass the time after church. Zoos have become a bit too saintly and ecological, without the chained animals and the rocking polar bears, Jeremy Kyle isn’t on, and I’m sure they just want a good gawp at someone losing their sanity.

Not only that, even if one of these bemoiled rudesbies actually made an offer, I’d feel inclined to reject it simply because I like my neighbours and I wouldn’t want to leave behind terror in my wake. I’d feel cruel.

Not that it will come to that. The woman (and family) yesterday were quite put out that the house had stairs. How very dare it. Stairs, indeed, in a house! Turned out it was for her elderly parents, and really they need a bungalow or flat, or assisted living, but I think the daughter thought it would be nice for them to spend the day getting cross at house owners for having stairs, which, according to many of my viewers, are in the wrong place. Or they’re too big, or they’re in a funny place. I’m guessing this is in that they go from downstairs to upstairs. How bizarre! Not only that, but my house is too small. I’m not sure, dearest Bastard Thieves woman, how I’m supposed to do anything about that, but thanks for the feedback anyway. That was a waste of two minutes of my life, and an added stress.

Whilst I write, the family I’m waiting for haven’t turned up. How rude! At least it saves me from swearing at them through the letterbox and saying ‘no tyre-kickers today, thank you!’

At least no-one told me it would be easy!!

le compromis, notaires, agences d’immoblier…

Well, as it transpires, things are never that easy.

We’d hoped to buy Chez Blanchard, my father’s ‘spare’ property, and set up a visit at half term to arrange stuff. But, we were pipped to the post. A young couple put in a bid, got it and my father had to sell, despite having mentioned protestations from ‘la belle-mere’ (really, a daughter, desperate to buy)

However, I’m not convinced it’s all bad. The front wall was coming down and the floors were rotten. There were no windows. It was huge. Absolutely huge. The kind of huge that’s horrifying and amazing at the same time. The barn could seriously hold a 1,000 strong rock concert. You could have built three houses inside it and not felt crammed. There were five gargantuan bedrooms and five massive rooms, two other houses…. the barn. Oh my word, the barn. I’ve never seen Steve look awestruck until that moment. Walnut trees, apple and pear trees, in the countryside. Perfect.

But not ours.

It transpires later that there were ways my father could have got out of it, simply by saying he had another buyer who’d made the asking price, and decided to accept that offer. But it wasn’t to be. I’m a fate-believer, so I kind of hope for the best, but Steve looked crushed.

I spent the rest of the week searching for estate agents, spending 20 euros on cheese (really 25, but don’t tell Steve. I did get a free saucisson, but I still think he was horrified. The saucisson made no difference whatsoever….) and being taken about by lovely lovely estate agents.

I did the recce trips, on account of Steve feeling obliged to look after Jake (really being too phobic of the whole process)… saw some marvellous places. Some too expensive (why do estate agents think your upper limit is negotiable??!) some too much work, some with not enough land… I saw one I’d fallen in love with in Brettes, but really the house was too small and it was attached to neighbours… not quite what we wanted!

Then it was off to La Rochefoucauld.

I LOVE La Roche…. the castle is immaculate, totally French Chateau, perching on top of the hill (La Roche, I’m guessing), overlooking the sleepy Tardoire river, teeming with fish, with its converted watermill ice cream shop, row of beautiful boutiques and its delightfully French town feel. It’s a little traffic-busy, needing a by-pass to Limoges, but beautiful nonetheless. Thibaud was a friend-of-a-friend, and he was delightful.

First house: a ruin. Totally ‘a renover’, no barn and no land, really. I’m sure he showed me that to make me think I wanted the next one more….

Second house: an endearing little patch of houses cobbled together, inhabited by an old lady of 86, with her ferocious dog in his ‘chateau’ (cage!) It was beautiful. Stream at the bottom of the garden, trees, back roads, in the middle of the Foret de Braconne. Four bedrooms, five other rooms, two workshops, several stores, a barn and a hangar. And a cabin at the bottom of the garden. Amazing. I wanted it. She keeps chickens, makes soup, called me ‘courageous’…. I loved everything about her. Bless her.

Third house, two minutes from La Roche, but more derelict. More converting. Maybe if Steve would have looked he would have said ‘oui’, but my heart was with the less-renovating, more-refreshing mode of purchase.

And so it was that we came to see the place for us.

Now, it’s crossed fingers and toes to ensure we get it.

How to make a grown woman cry

So it’s started… solicitors, estate agents, HIPS, conveyancing…. nightmare!

The whole process has been a bit chaotic. From the over-priced storage, which was a saga in itself, to the estate agent who made me cry… it’s not all been good.

I’d packed everything into the wine boxes and it was good to go. I had my storage sorted with a lovely man who’d arranged some kind of special deal and I was good to go. Seemed a good day when Steve took the day off and we could do the moving. We managed all the boxes (an ideal shape for 4 deep 3 wide, which I think impressed Steve no end. He likes orderly things!). We got down to the storage facilities, which cannot do other than remind me of Silence of the Lambs, and started unloading. Then it got to paying. £17.85 a month for insurance. I coughed. I believed it was to be £2.00. £17.85 is more than my contents and building insurance combined. For a half-sized garage. I put my foot down. We negotiated it back down to the starting point.

Then I looked at the direct debit mandate. £141.00 a month. Not the previously agreed £80.00. A bit of a difference. This is more than my mortgage. Don’t weep if you have a big mortgage, you’ll soon realise my house is worthless. I took a deep breath and started arguing it back down. The mealy-mouthed scouser woman was unhappy. We haggled. Steve came in looking ‘Steveish’ and I knew then that this silly price was more than his Steptoe-frugality would cope with, even at £80.00. As they say in the News of the World, I made my excuses and left.

We’ve managed to get some of it into the bedroom at his house. It’s not good. It was bad enough already and now it’s even more cluttered. No Feng Shui or minimalism here. Plus, there’s still a lot here that needs doing.

Next, it was the garden. I could have paid an extortionate amount to get it done, or even got the lovely Charlie Brown from over the road to do it, but it’d still cost, so I called on The Mother and The Step-father. The Mother is a formidable woman, unable to say exactly what she thinks, but able to wither you with one sentence. She’s also a champion pruner/hacker/chopper/savage and she’s cheap. Come Sunday, she came round to chop back all my overgrown shrubs and mow my lawn, which still gains comments from small children about not having been mowed (In my defence, as much to do with the British weather and the broken lawn mower as it is to do with laziness…) With one phrase, she put me right in my place.

“Oh my goodness!”

It was enough. I just said: “Why don’t you say ‘Emma, your garden is a shit-tip. Sort it out!’ instead of anything more subtle?”

She laughed. Luckily. She’s used to my brutal approach with language and/or truth.

So, it was pretty much ready for the estate agents. I’d called on three. I’ve got it on good authority (Sarah Beaney) that three is a good number. The first was lovely. Looked a bit of an estate agent, to be fair, what with his slip-on shoes and streaked hair, but he saw exactly what I did in the property originally. It might be in the middle of Daubhill in Bolton, but it might as well be in a 1950s time zone. I’ve got the most amazing neighbours. I’m truly blessed. It doesn’t get luckier. Pete, Joanne, the Musas, Nancy – we’ve all been here for ages. Even Claire and Ian over the road, whilst they are very private, are totally lovely. It’s a good little house, close to town, but in a little oasis of calm. And he saw all of this.

Not so Mr. Bigshot ‘Company Director’. I’d only asked them because they share a surname with a friend of mine, which is serendipity. I believe in Kismet and serendipity, so I go with it. However, in this case, I was proved wrong. He was some old estate-agent type, with his big Rover and his grey suit. As soon as he was in, he was critical. He didn’t measure up. He didn’t seem bothered with anything I had to say. He told me I’d be lucky to get £85,000 for it, and they’d got one in Farnworth that was going for that, except it wasn’t selling…. blah blah blah. Basically, he seemed to be implying that if I put it on for £60,000 or so, I might get lucky and get a sale. Bad markets, etc. Everything he said rubbished my little castle. He said it was in a bad area, that there were untidy houses on the street detracting from the value (not counting the 20 or 30 or so at the bottom where it’s lovely…) that the markets were bad, that even on a good day, it’s not a good property. There are loads of others on for cheaper and better and bigger. It needed work (it’s 13 years old!) It needed a new kitchen (?!) The double glazing. soffits etc don’t count. My newly pruned garden was a ‘wilderness’, despite the fact there’s an awful lot of fantastic plants in there.

I cried after he went, and went to bed. I didn’t even wake up feeling better.

However, rightmove put me on the right track. They have fewer houses for sale, and none in this area. They do sell cheap, but don’t seem to be getting the sales. The ‘big three’ seem to have more houses in the area and from the guy who came to see me, I’d guess they’re a whole lot more pleasant and less pushy. If they can’t see the positives, how would they ever sell the property??

So… it’s with trepidation that I go with the highest sum on offer. I’m quietly confident that someone will see the good in it. And if not…. we’ve got a long wait.