The Forsythe *House* Saga...so far

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ballyholme Beach
So the grand plan for the unveiling of this blog entailed being able to introduce our new home and launch into all our plans for developing and decorating - but life never quite goes as you plan, does it? I was actually putting off launching the blog, hoping that we would secure our house in the near future, but oh my goodness, we have had our dreams crushed so many times that I thought - sod it, why don't I just get on with blogging and bring you guys a long for the ride. I'm sure I'm not the first person who has found buying a house difficult, and I won't be the last!

<< This is a pretty lengthy post, so I won't hold it against you if you don't make it to the end - BUT at least don't forget that my giveaway is still on to win a £20 on-line voucher (or equivalent value in your own currency) from the shop of your choice!! Enter Here! >>

So here is the story so far - the Forsythe House Saga!

I guess our first issue was that we had/have very specific requirements for our next house. Some are my requests, some are my husbands, but most are shared:

  • In Ballyholme (Northern Ireland), or as close to the neighbourhood as possible
  • A Garage
  • Minimum 3 bedrooms (pref with a space that I could use to sew!)
  • A Garden (pref south facing!)
  • Not on a busy road
  • Room to extend and/or a bit of a fixer-upper, something we could put our own stamp on
  • No more than £200,000 absolute MAX!
The main issue is that we discovered pretty quickly that Ballyholme is perhaps one of the most sought after neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland and as soon as a semi-decent house would come on the market it would be snapped up, for far more than the asking price, within the week! We also realised that our budget wouldn't get us very far in the area either so we did extend our search area wider, but were never happy with anything we found. We both decided that we would rather stay in Belfast, than extend our area too far, so we would sit tight until we could find the right place.
'Living the dream' - picnic on Groomsport Beach, around the coast from Ballyholme
Our first shot at the 'right place' was a very run-down semi-detached. It has major damp issues and needed a complete over-haul inside and out. But we could see the potential and even got a builder out to tell us what would need done and how much it would cost. It was going to be quite an undertaking but we thought we could do it. So we put in an offer and the estate agents told us they would inform the vendors (it was a joint owned house) and get back to us. TWO weeks passed and we still hadn't heard anything even though we had asked the agent several times. In the end we got fed up and decided to pull out. It was for the best, the house is actually next door to a restaurant and apparently you can hear the cutlery being set each night, the walls are that thin!
Tall Ship in Bangor Harbour // Enjoy a dip in the sea at Groomsport
Our second house was 'The One' - I got that feeling as soon as I walked in, and I dreamt about it for nights on end and had pretty much decorated the whole house in my mind! A friend of Robin's (my husband) lives in Ballyholme, knew we were looking for a house in the area and mentioned that his neighbours across the road had been thinking about selling. He arranged for us to view the house. The owners were really lovely and we got on really well with them. We agreed that we would buy the house from them through a private sale and agreed a price! We were very excited - it was *almost* exactly what we had been looking for. One big issue was that it didn't have a garage, and Robin wasn't that happy about that, but we worked on ways to build something that would do the job (of storing our kayaks, bikes and the rest of his toys!). Our first job was to get the equity released in our Belfast house as we are planning on renting it out once we move, and we needed the equity for the deposit. This took a loooong time.

*Mini Rant: WHY is the Halifax mortgage call centre only open from 9am - 5pm, Monday to Friday?! Do they not know that the majority of their customers WORK those hours??! To make matters worse, the Belfast house is in my husbands name so only he could call - and as he is a teacher he had no way of taking a break to make the call. I don't know how many times he rushed home and started the call, waited in the queue for 45mins+, got passed from department to department until he finally got to the right person only for them to tell him that sorry they couldn't help because they closed 5 minutes ago!!!! ARGH!*

Anyway, we finally got our equity released - yeay!
The very next day the owners of the house called us and told us they had changed their minds and didn't want to move anymore....
...
I'm not going to lie - I cried, a lot. I was devastated. It had taken us over 2 years of searching to get to this stage and it was heart breaking to have it ripped away from us.
That's when I took my blogging break too, in case you were wondering.
Sailing boats anchored at Groomsport Harbour
We took a bit of a break from look at houses then - we just couldn't bear the thought of going back to square one. Eventually we started looking again and a house that had been on the market awhile caught our attention. It was a complete 'fixer-upper', it needed a total overhaul, and a fair amount of money thrown at it. But is was a beautiful period property, with lovely bay windows, high ceilings, a massive garden and loads of potential (oh and a massive garage!). The asking price was low, due to all the work that was needing done and after some thought we decided to bid for it. This is when we discovered it was a Corporate Sale. This was a new term to us, and to be honest I still don't understand it fully - but basically it was more than likely a repossessed house and now owned by a company. Corporate Sales have very odd, very restricting rules. You can bid, and have your offer accepted, but the house will remain on the market while you get your contract etc sorted! Which leaves you open to someone else outbidding you, even if you have paid out for solicitors and surveys. It seemed crazy to us, but because we saw the potential we decided to take the risk.
Well, the first blow came quite quickly - we got out-bid about 2 weeks after our offer had been accepted! We eventually made a counter-offer and became the highest bidder again, but still ran the risk of being out-bid again. But we carried on with the process of getting a survey organised (we decided to pay for a more comprehensive one) and liaising with the solicitor.
My husband fell hard and fast for this house - he had big plans and would spend a lot of time chatting about how he would do this, or do that to the house. I, on the other hand, tried to keep my emotions out of it - it had been too much of a roller coaster with the last house that I just didn't want to put myself through it again. I had to keep telling Robin to calm down and not get too excited, because anything could happen.
Japanese Knotweed

And it did. Our survey came back, and it was bad. Really bad. The roof was on it's last legs and would need replaced, there was severe damp, wood worm and various other horrors. All this was kind of expected, but perhaps not quite as bad as it really was. However, all of that was nothing compared to what they found in the garden - Japanese Knotweed. We hadn't heard of this plant until this survey so we had a very fast education in it's horrors. It is an incredibly invasive plant which can grow up to 20cm a DAY and it's roots are so strong that they can crumble concrete and ruin building foundations! Our mortgage lender basically said that they would lend us the money, on the condition that we would have to get professionals in (this stuff can't just been pulled out of the ground - it needs major treatment to kill it) to remove it safely and provide a FIVE year guarantee that it would not come back. We chatted to a few people about this and they told us it would cost us thousands and it would be hard to get a guarantee like that at all!
So, with heavy hearts, we walked away...

And I think that's enough House Saga for now, this has been a very long post. There is more to the story, another house, but I shall save that for my next House Saga installment!


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7 comments

  1. Ah, what a saga! I know it's been a roller coaster for you but this was fun to read! Reminds me of Liz of zilredloh.com and her search for a house + subsequent renovations. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your house search, and of course wishing you lots of luck! :)

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    1. Thanks Sue - yes a totally roller coaster but I've got my fingers crossed we are nearly there! Oh yes, I am really loving reading Liz's adventures in renovating her house - it looks like it's going to be amazing when it's done!

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  2. This makes me want to rent for the rest of my life! lol. Still your photos show it'll definitely be worth it in the end, best of luck to you :)

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    1. Aw thanks so much Suzie - keeping our fingers crossed!

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  3. Oh my goodness, what a nightmare!! House-buying is not for the faint-hearted; I have my own horror story, but it's not so bad. I shall be thinking lots of good thoughts for you that you will find the perfect house, and you were definitely right to run away from the knotweed, that stuff is awful.

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    1. Oh thanks Lynne :) We hope that we have found ''the one'' now, but aren't holding our breaths after what we have already been through! Yep, house-buying is pretty stressful isn't it!

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  4. I'm glad that you decided to jump back into blogging and bring us along for the ride - thank you for sharing the 'saga' thus far. I know it's disappointing as heck but I usually try to interpret things like this as 'the perfect thing FOR YOU just needed more time to happen.' Which lol I know, blows like no tomorrow when you wanted it to happen yesterday. So I'm going to excitedly await that day when it gets here - as I KNOW it will!!!

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