Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Game is On ...

... To find myself a new home!

I was amazed to see that it's 6 months since I started haunting RightMove regularly to keep a weather eye on properties and wrote about the Property Buzzword Bingo. At last, I have the money from the property transfer, and six months to get myself sorted and moved out. However, just over a week into the house-hunting in earnest, and I'm already feeling stressed.

The last time I bought somewhere, there was some information online, but a lot was still done by mail and telephone. I thought it would be simpler now, with everything online, digital cameras making the inclusion of photos so much easier, and the ability to have a virtual tour of the area via Google Maps. Whilst the latter is undoubtedly useful, I'm amazed at some of the agents who only include a few photos. Perhaps they omit the shots which they think will be off-putting. The thing which has me tearing my hair out is that some agents have properties which appear to be available when they are already under offer, because of the way their database updates (or more accurately, doesn't update).

If you had told me five years ago that I would be considering a 1930s semi in the suburbs, I may not have believed you. Still, they date from a time when people still had fires, so often still have chimneys, and there were minimum room sizes, so you can get a bed and the furniture into a bedroom. Gardens were still big enough for growing your own veg. Over the years, people have updated them to include central heating,  and, if you're lucky, a utility room where the scullery was and parking for a car in the front garden. So, having found somewhere I could see myself, despite compromises, and eager to view, I was crushed and really quite upset to find I had been pipped to the post. Ditto for my second, third and fourth choices, all suburban 1930s semis. So frustrating!

I was chatting to a friend about the house hunt and learned that she grew up on the estate where I'd found the potential properties. Turns out it's still a nice place to live, and she suspects that someone is buying up similar properties to let.  Out of interest, I looked at the properties to let, and saw one which I'd noticed for sale several months ago. Alternatively, people are buying to 'do up'. I recognised a cottage which I'd passed over because it had no parking (and, despite the estate agent's assurance that the on-street parking is 'unlimited', I know that road. It's a scrum to find a place in the nose-to-tail parallel parking which never seems to have a quiet time.)  With some redecoration, a new kitchen and the bath replaced by a large shower enclosure (the vandals!), the cottage is back on the market for £11,000 more than it was sold for just a few months ago. It still has no off-road parking though.

In the meantime, I've had a wad of brochures from one estate agency, and the whole stack went into the recycling bin within 5 minutes of opening the envelope. They evidently didn't read the brief; Tregaron is not in the area west of Carmarthen and south of Cardigan, a 1 bedroom property does not qualify as 'minimum 2 bedrooms', holidays chalets when I expressly said I wasn't interested in them, and so on, leaving me with the impression that they are ignorant, untrustworthy, lazy.

Another agent told me I would have to compromise. Well, of course, unless location and money are no object, then it can be impossible to find your ideal home, and I consider my brief to be full of compromises already. Still, it made me wonder about other solutions and possibilities. One thing I can't compromise on is broadband availability, and there are many places down here where it is pretty bad, with no planned improvements.

Another friend said how lucky I was, to be able to just go anywhere and start afresh. This made me start to wonder what it would be like to move to another part of the country completely. Prices down here seem comparable to elsewhere in England outside London, the south-east and  home counties, also avoiding the more picturesque parts of the southern counties, Welsh borders, Stratford-upon-Avon and places like that. It would mean moving away from many of my closer friends, so that would probably be a compromise too far, but the grass always looks greener ....

I've also been advised 'not to worry, it's a buyer's market', meaning that an increased number of sellers and fewer buyers turn the housing market in the buyer's favour, allowing plenty of choice and opportunities to haggle on prices. Another agent confessed that there wasn't much choice here at the moment, but another £100, 000 would open up far more opportunity. Impossible for me, short of winning the lottery! Traditionally, sellers tend to put their properties on the market in the spring and summer. Add to this the potential sales resulting from the Murco refinery redundancies, given that there are so few jobs available down here, then maybe there will be more choice in the coming months. I hope so, because it can take 6 weeks or more for a sale to go through. The downside is that if the property market seems a bit stagnant, potential sellers may decide to stay where they are.

In the meantime, I'm spending far too long browsing houses and checking for new arrivals and grateful for my friends' prayers and wishes that the right place will come along soon.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Happy New Year 2015

Here we are again!
I had a very pleasant New Year's Eve, enjoying my own company. One of my presents to myself was a copy of Terry Pratchett's 'A Slip of the Keyboard', so I ran a hot bath, and lay in the overflowing bubbles, laughing at the wonderfully-written, funny anecdotes, until the cooling water reminded me that I had better get out and dressed (in new, snuggly pyjamas and gown). A growling tummy also reminded me that I hadn't had dinner, and couldn't be bothered to make anything much. I eventually settled for a jacket potato, baked beans and a strange salad of lettuce and beetroot, with the remains of a bottle of wine. I watched possibly my favourite Bond film, Goldeneye - the tank chase scene in St Petersburg has me in stitches every time. I cuddled up with the cats on the sofa and tinkered with a few knitted leaves while I enjoyed the London fireworks at midnight. (You get a much better view courtesy of the BBC - if I'd been there, I'd probably have been watching other people's backs and heads most of the time.)

Some may think this is very sad; the lonely, spinsterish existence of a Jilly-no-mates who should have been out partying with friends, scarfing down various little canap├ęs while swigging fizzy wine, and singing Auld Lang Syne while sentimentally sloshed. Then, considering that you can't go anywhere around here without driving, a sleepover, rising late and in urgent need of a hangover cure the next day.
However, there's no need to pity me, as I really didn't feel sad or left out at all. Instead I felt grateful that I could have some quiet fun, had enough in the cupboard to slap a meal together, TV to watch, my cats, house and home and myriad other blessings.

I kept 'More' as my key word for 2014, and looking back, I wondered what I had achieved.
I managed to negotiate my way through a corporate tax return and company closure for the Community Interest Company in which I'd been involved. The dancing and teaching bit was fun; the company accounts and paperwork were not, but I like to think we made a difference in some people's lives - in fact, I know we did.
I applied for a few jobs (but only got one reply, and that was a no. Oh well. Some things aren't meant to be).
I dusted off and refreshed some of my existing knowledge to gain my ECDL and qualifications in text/word processing.
I made foot and knee physiotherapy exercises part of my daily life and started going to yoga classes.
I had my first sale on Zazzle.
I had my hair cut short, after years of wearing it long (the last time I had more than a couple of inches cut off was when I moved to Wales full time, 12 years ago!)
I learned how to knit socks and was astonished to find I had made 11.5 pairs (the half a pair was the frogged 'Origami' sock).
I introduced myself to lace knitting and learned new techniques for knitting and crochet.
I've extended my knowledge of belly dance, created choreographies and performed them. Class members resurrected the performance group for a brilliant performance at the Cardigan Belly Dance Festival.
I found my sewing mojo again, even if I am finding it difficult to hang onto it.

So, what is the word for 2015? Well, it's going to be a year of changes, the first of which is to find a new home! Yes, I have been bought out of the farm, and although all the properties I'd earmarked while waiting for the transfer to go ahead have gone, I feel hopeful that there will be something with capability out there for me.
So the word is 'Change'. Change is scary, demanding, exciting, necessary. Change is transformation. One of my friends bought me a little silver butterfly pendant as a Christmas gift and I am wearing it to remind myself to embrace the changes to come. Who knows, I might even throw a party this year!