Home: Let's start at the very beginning...


...it's a very good place to start, apparently. I wasn't sure I'd ever make this blog post but being honest, my reader numbers are low anyway and one day, in the very distant future, I will be able to look back on this without shuddering, crying, or being overcome with The Rage, and in these troubled times where we are spending money like its going out of fashion and feeling like nothing's changed, its important for me to remember where we came from. Here's our house story. Warning: contains graphic images of a filthy house.

We started looking at houses in November or December 2014.We visited somewhere between 6 and 10 houses in total, I forget. I'll talk a little more about house-hunting another time, as maybe it'll help other first time buyers out there? Anyway. I had seen our house on my stalker-like trips to Zoopla a few times in December and I wanted it as soon as I saw it. It had, according to Zoopla, been on the market for months and the price had been dropped once before - everything I'd learned from property programmes on the telly told me there was a deal to be done. It was bigger than anything we had seen, it had a converted loft room space, it was in an area we'd be happy to live in. And it was shabby. There was no picture of the bathroom, and the kitchen looked like it was pretty tired. This was The One. We struggled to get a viewing, but my moan about Estate Agents (in particular, the national chains) is for another time. It got taken off the market before we could see it as the vendor had changed their mind. I was gutted. We looked at some others, then it was Christmas time. After Christmas, the house came back on the market. I took this as some sort of sign and on a rainy and miserable January day, we went to see it. The vendor didn't want to sell it, but for whatever reason had to, so they hadn't tidied up and there was stuff everywhere. 'That's ok,' I thought, that's just stuff, that stuff leaves when the vendor leaves. The bathroom had bare brick walls. 'That's ok', I thought, 'we can just make do and replace it at some point'. The kitchen had been partially painted over in black gloss. 'That's ok,', I thought, 'I'll change the cupboard doors'. Nothing, at this point, put me off. We went back one evening for a second viewing and the vendor had been told by the estate agents to tidy up, so did. It looked even better with a tidy up. I chatted to the Vendor while Much Beloved went around the house with a checklist, poking things. It has been rented out for a while and was shabby. That was ok! I wanted shabby. I lived in a rented house. It was fine!

We had some to-ing and fro-ing on offers and made a last offer before we intended to walk away when it was accepted. We were SO excited! I took the call from my Much Beloved in a quiet room in my open plan office and could be seen doing a dance of joy. We appointed a solicitor, who is a friend of my Much Beloved but also happened to work for a firm that had been recommended to us by our lovely mortgage broker. The process got horribly messed about by the Estate Agents for weeks (they even inadvertantly put our house back on the market at one point! That was a scary day, god I hated those Estate Agents), then suddenly the vendor announced that they were no longer chain free, they had bought a repossessed property and we needed to complete as soon as possible. This wasn't a problem to us, we did all we could and returned all our documents as quickly as we could. We got our survey done, and it didn't reveal anything we didn't already know. There was only one error at this stage. The surveyor suggested that we withold money until we could have a post exchange inspection to be sure that all belongings were removed. In the end, we didnt do this (I'd prefer not to push blame, but I was quite insistent about doing this, but we didn't do it. You live and learn). On April 2nd, we got the call. The house was ours, yippee! The vendor moved out on that day and it was my birthday and we went into London to have dinner and visit Savage Beauty at the V&A. The vendor didnt finish the moving process until about 6pm, by which time we were on our way into London. She left the keys with a neighbour. 'That's ok', we thought. The vendor said in a text message that they had had to leave one or two things behind. 'No problem', think us. Famous last words.

We picked up the keys the following morning from the neighbour (who is now, of course, our neighbour). She had a worried look on her face. We walked into the house and it became apparent that the vendor hadn't bothered packing till the last minute (our offer was accepted in January. We got the keys in April. No excuses!). There was rubbish and filth everywhere - I mean everywhere. We walked around the whole house, I went into the garden and I cried. This cost tens of thousands of pounds and was supposed to be the greatest day of our lives. I pulled myself together and we went to Wilkos to buy essential cleaning supplies. When I came back, I took photos. Terrible iphone photos that I've hardly shown anyone until now:

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The Wilkos bags and buckets/cleaning materials are ours. The filth is not.
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See the fireplace? No word of a lie, there were HUNDREDS of cigarette butts in it. We had it disconnected and threw it away. Horrible.
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It didn't get any better in the back, either.
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No word of a lie, this is how the kitchen was left. Yes, that's cat food on the floor in a bowl.
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This was a pile of clothes in our loft room
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Mess in the loft room
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The bathroom wasn't actually that bad (because we knew the walls were bare) but look - they actually left behind their dirty laundry in the laundry bin. I just cant even.
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The master bedroom. See the grey stuff on the floor? That's fag ash. I mean, I'm actually a smoker and the whole thing repulsed me.
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Second bedroom. We found cigarette ends in every room but finding them in a room occupied by a small child was really heartbreaking, to be honest. Unfortunately what was also on the floor in here were half melted boiled sweets and the ends of a Barbie's hair who'd had a haircut. I ended up with lovely hairy knees....
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I shouldn't have shared this. I shouldn't have stooped so low, but maybe if any of my friends, family, work colleagues read this they'll understand I haven't been melodramatic about my house. They left us a dirty cat litter tray! I have no faith in humanity.

April 3rd was Good Friday (oh, how ironic!) - this meant we couldn't talk to our solicitor, we couldn't get hold of a cleaning company. All we could do was do it ourselves. So we did. We brought black bag after black bag of rubbish and filth out of the house. The vendor sold us an american style fridge freezer, its an absolute beast. It was full of food. Moudly food. Even though it was switched on and working. There are no words. We could have tried to ask friends and family to help, but let's face it, everyone else was enjoying their Easter, and even if people could have helped, the whole train network shut down over Easter so London-based chums couldn't have helped. To be honest, we felt ashamed. Ashamed that we'd made this huge mistake and were now stuck with this horrible house that we'd probably never manage to clean up and make lovely again. That probably sounds really silly, but if you've ever been there, you'd understand. Part way through the weekend of bleaching everything we realised that cleaning wasn't enough - we'd need to paint it too - cleaning had helped, but not enough. There was a desperate need to make everything almost clinically clean. So we hot footed it to B&Q (its now our favourite place!) and bought a monster pot of Crown Magnolia paint and some rollers and began to paint our blues away, too. It took the entire long weekend to clean 80% of it and paint some of the walls and ceilings.

We took the decision at this point that we wouldn't be able to move into the house, our moving date was planned for the following weekend. We hadn't been able to get it clean enough, the kitchen needed days and days and days of non-stop scrubbing and the bathroom didnt look like something we could deal with using (even though it almost doesn't look that bad in the photo, or am I just immune to the awfulness of my house?!). Much Beloved's fantastic parents offered to take us in. 'It's just temporary', we said 'we just need to do two jobs in the house and then we'll be moving in and living through the rest of the work'. 6 months later, we're still here. You'll find out why as time goes on!

I'll save the after pictures of our massive clean up for another day, just so you can mull over how awful it was. When the Bank Holiday was over we did contact our solicitor and he did try extremely hard to help us, but the vendor refused to accept any responsibility and then told their solicitor that they were no longer representing them and never to get in touch again. I could have taken the vendor to the small claims court but to be honest, I think we would have been last in a long line of people looking for money and it was an added stress neither of us could handle, on top of dealing with the house and our day jobs (sometimes its hard to remember I have a full time, very demanding day job). So, begrudingly, we have  put the whole thing down to a very very bad experience, never to be repeated and something that we must learn from if we ever buy another house. Im a firm believer in karma, and karma will find its way to our vendor in the end.

So, there it is. Our beginning. Its not a very nice beginning, but we still hold out the faintest of hopes that it'll have a happy ending.

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