Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Housing woes

We've been trying to move house since we got back to the UK. As you're no doubt aware, the process of selling and buying a house in England is so painfully arcane, financially inefficient and just generally a pain in the proverbial that on average one ages at least a decade as a consequence. First we put our house up for sale (I say 'we', but Sarah's been running the process with a steady hand. As those of you that know her probably can imagine), and lo and behold, someone put in an offer we decided to run with. 'We' found a nice 3-bed flat in a popular location in town which would shave Sarah's commute down to a 5 minute stroll, and make mine more manageable in terms of the (admittedly woeful) bus connections. The flat looked to be in immaculate repair, and against better judgment we started hearing words like 'new roof', 'developed by company, not cowboys out for a big buck', etc. The only problem was - the bathroom had a bidet. I was about to say 'estate agents are liars', but why state the obvious? We made an offer, including the removal of the bidet, which eventually was accepted.

Now the fun started. Get a solicitor. Get a mortgage. Endless, pointless, costly conveyancing searches. Ok, basement flat, but no record of any damp proofing after a complete refurb? Odd. An acquaintance who lives nearby quips at a Christmas party that something definitely had gone wrong with the flat as several different contractors had been in and out of the flat some six months ago to what appeared to amount to redoing work previously done. Sarah managed to dig out who'd done the work, the mercurial 'Bob'. Yes, the builder really was called Bob. Bob explains that he was called in to tidy up the mess that had been left in the wake of the set of cowboys that had messed up the flat completely with the shoddiest workmanship he'd ever encountered in his professional career. Whatever Bob did he uncovered something serious, including a nail through a gas main. The whole flat had to be rewired. There had been no damp work, just a floating wooden floor with carpet on top. The floor had just rotted away. He'd done his best, but his brief had not included a proper damp course, as this had been deemed too expensive. Instead, he tanked the flat - floors and walls - with asphalt, and dry lined it with plaster board and painted. Now, probably waterproof, but hardly breathable as it were, and not recognised as a proper damp course. He normally gives a life time guarantee on his workmanship, but was not prepared to do so in this case due to the state of the place.

When our survey came to the conclusion that the flat was overvalued to the tune of £20k, we decided to cut our losses and walk away.

So instead, we put a offer in on something completely different, and are now looking forward to restarting the whole procedure.

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