What I Have Learned in One Week of House Hunting

As the old adage goes, it’s better to have the worst house in a good street, than the best house in a bad street.

Your garden might be full of what the council terms “bulky waste,” and your doors may be falling off their hinges, but you’ll have the best schools, the best parks, the best wine bars and the most perfectly spiffing neighbours.

I wonder if this is true.

Is it really better to punch above your weight in the more middle class environs, or should one up sticks to the city limits, to have a better chance at a decent sized house (or a house at all) but take your chances with the local primary and just hope that your child doesn’t make any unsavoury friends?

And can one even voice such concerns legitimately without being shouted down on Mumsnet and accused of sounding like Katie Hopkins?

When it comes to my son’s future friends, I fear that I am rapidly turning into the class equivalent of one of those dire individuals who begins a sentence with phrases like “I’m not a racist/homophobe but….” and ends with an exhortation that political correctness has gone mad before throwing a sexist/racist/homophobic joke in there, just to make their position clear.

But it’s a real worry.  Piglet is now almost two, and with the advancing years comes the fear that he will at some point have to go to school, and what if that school is not a warm, welcoming and fuzzy Ofsted-outstanding hallowed seat of learning, presided over by Miss Honey of Matilda fame, but an inadequate hell-hole in the charge of the Demon Headmaster?  And even is it is the former, we all know that an Ofsted report can only reveal so much, and very little of that information is a breakdown of the character of the students housed therein, and whether they are angelic kale-eating, even-tempered children of virtue, or stone-throwing hoodlums on the fast track to borstal.

And it’s not just schools.  A quick bout of googling revealed that one of the ever-decreasing pools of housing I can *maybe* just about afford is located next to the site of a soon-to-be-built power station and listed in the Top Ten Worst Places to Live in the UK.  It also suffered, two years ago, an outbreak of flies.

FLIES, flying around the cesspit of affordable housing whilst the wealthy and titled of the middle classes with stable jobs and marriages live a life of luxury in their palaces in the more affluent suburbs.  The ones not located next to power stations, recycling depots or sites that were once used for the manufacture of mustard gas.

It is almost enough to make me give up on the idea entirely and accept that my destiny may well lie in living with my mother for eternity.  In the past two nights I have had two dreams* about poor housing choices; one in which I bought a wreck of a house, excitedly intending to refurbish it, only for it to flood, and one in which I inexplicably purchased a flat in the exact same building where my last flat was.  In London, a good 125 miles from where I now live and work.

In the past week I have gone from being completely in denial about anything to do with housing, property, or indeed money in any of its forms, to googling wild conspiracy theories about potential impending house price crashes, and going to the estate agents only to have them actually inspect one of my payslips (as opposed to burying them somewhere where they can never be found, as is my custom) only to discover that it appeared to be riddled with inaccuracies, including an incorrect national insurance number.  So not only can I not afford any houses apart from possibly one in an area renowned for plagues of locusts (or flies, or whatever.  Same thing right?) but I may have been inadvertently paying some random’s national insurance contributions for the past ten months.  People, check your payslips, you may be being defrauded by the state!  Or defrauding the state.  I’m not sure how one should categorise this one.

So, in the spirit of certain blogs with a tendency to synthesise what the writer has learned about blogging in just a few short weeks, usually peppered with very obvious statements which reveal that they actually know startlingly little for someone who appears to be claiming some level of expertise; What Have I Learned In One Week of House Hunting?

1.) There are very few affordable homes for people on a single income who aren’t hedge fund managers or the cast of Made in Chelsea.

2.) It is fairly difficult to predict what the next up and coming areas are likely to be before they have actually acquired any of the traditional markers of gentrification, such as establishments selling cupcakes, or cafes advertising organic Columbian coffee that has been chewed and excreted by monkeys and stored in an airtight bunker beneath the ground for eighteen months to properly develop the flavour, served from atop a penny farthing by a man in a breton top and espadrilles with a lustrous nineteenth century beard.

3.) Outbreaks of flies can have a detrimental effect on house prices for years to come.  Beware the plagues!

4.) It might be useful to know if the ground beneath your feet was ever covered by a factory dedicated to the manufacture of mustard gas.

5.)  And finally, ladies and gents, always check your payslips.  That is my final parting gift to you.  Obvious advice from the mouth of a financial expert.  Just call me Martin Lewis.

A Mum Track Mind
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Two Tiny Hands

54 Comments Add yours

  1. Sarah says:

    Argh do not pity you this. We are hoping to buy next year and the prices in London are just vomit inducing. When I look at the houses you could buy elsewhere for the same money *cries forever* xx

    1. Min says:

      Yep, it’s ridiculous. Let’s all move to Northumberland!

  2. I think you’re opening line needs to stay strong throughout this process – don’t rush it, there is always more time than you think. We’ve moved three times and always been patient for the right house and never jumped in too soon. Keep mulling locations over. I drove and sat in the coffee houses, walked the parks, spoke to the locals every time just to make sure I got a good feel of the place. Good luck lovely #triballove x

    1. Min says:

      Thanks Helen, that’s really good advice. I have had some good conversations with people at work over the past few days about the areas where they live, and that’s been useful. I am definitely going to take my time.

  3. Flies!? Oh my… I love that photo at the top but that’s not helpful. Helen’s advice is far more wise than anything I could stay. I may well be in this house forever because, while scanning right move is addictive, the thought of actually moving is terrifying. And I’m sadly not surprised that your first ‘learning’ point is very true. Good luck with it all, look forward to hearing about it #triballove

    1. Min says:

      Thanks-I will keep you all informed. The photo is Piglet on the day we moved out of our last flat. The removal men were there taking everything out and he was running around, loving it. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Ruth Jayne says:

    I wish I could offer some advice, but I’m definitely going to end up with the nicest house on the worst street. In fact that’s overly optimistic, it’ll be the worst house on the worst street, aha. Good luck with your house search, I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end, flies aside (: x
    #triballove

    1. Min says:

      Thanks. Fingers crossed for no more flies! I am off to look at that particular area next week, so I will be fly-spotting! Thanks for commenting. x

  5. Thanks this was helpful advice! ; ) I have recently checked my payslip and realised that I am on the wrong tax code and owed quite a large sum of money, CHA CHING. I’m not surprised about the lack of affordable housing. In my hood, the teeny tiny house next door is almost worth a mill. This place is bonkers, I think I am eventually going to have to move back to America so I can have more than a one bedroom – okay there is a second bedroom but it is the size of a closet – flat. #triballove

    1. Min says:

      TELL ME ABOUT IT. London is crazy. America much better (although we wouldn’t want to lose you!) There are cheaper places outside London, especially in the North of England. London prices are unbelievable.

  6. Pen says:

    I went for the worst flat in the best area I could afford. The kitchen is a throwback to the 1970s (ever seen avocado skin coloured work tops, coupled with green and yellow tiles and light brown cupboards – it’s a sight to behold!). I have spent the last 9 months grafting on the hall, bedrooms and lounge and have finally got rid of the horrific wallpaper and painted everything white or grey. It’s been hard work but I think it was the right choice. Good luck with your house hunt. It is really stressful but you’ll find the right place. Pen xx

    1. Min says:

      Thanks for the tip Pen. I have got an amazing image of your kitchen! I’m lucky that I cn take my time over it as I am living with my mum at the moment, so that does take some of the stress off. x

  7. I once had to consider a house by a smallish electrical substation because it was in a good school zone and obviously more affordable, so I do feel for you and what you are going through. And yes, I do check my payslip regularly, hoping for some miraculous tax refund that I am owed. I find house hunting simply exhausting. Good luck on your house hunt and the cliche – you’ll know when you know, yes that’s true about finding your home. You’ll just know. #triballove… and no, I did not get that house by the substation.

    1. Min says:

      Thanks-that’s good advice, and I will avoid all substations! Thanks for commenting.

  8. KayBee says:

    wow this is crazy. Makes me super nervous but oddly prepared to buy my first house 🙂

    1. Min says:

      Glad you liked it. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Baby Anon says:

    Very useful tips, especially point 5. I know what you mean about the house hunting in a good area – we are now looking to move out of the town we live in to a village as Mother doesn’t want me going out in town in the evenings. I am but months old x #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. Min says:

      Haha, I bet you would get up to some shenanigans in town though if you did manage to get out there in the evenings! Baby on the loose! Thanks for commenting.

  10. Good luck with house hunting. You will know the right house when you find it, it will be the one you keep going back to in your mind, whether or not you fell in love with it on the first viewing. Great advice about the payslip too – it’s funny how you just trust these things to be right isn’t it.

    1. Min says:

      Thanks, that’s reassuring to hear. I think I’ll just have to go with my gut instinct on this one.

  11. The housing market is a tricky thing to negotiate isn’t it? I think you have to just go with a house that you can turn into a home that you will love in an ok area rather than the best area. Most people do this and make do. Sounds like you are very unsure though – perhaps you could have a go with Kirstie and Phil, I bet they’d sort it out for you! Thanks for sharing on #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. Min says:

      Haha, yes Kirstie and Phil could be the answer to my prayers. I’ve only just started looking, so hopefully things we start to make sense the more places I look at.

  12. jade says:

    I have been chuckling through all of this..currently househunting too…or attempting…Exeter is pricier than heaven so we were like lets move out…into the random little villages where things are thatched…nope apparently thatching is expensive..I found what I thought was affordable houses until I saw they were holiday homes…for people that are rich enough to buy two…FFS. I love this post…I am off to check my payslip and that the houses I have been looking at are not on floodplanes or had recurrent fly problems…#fortheloveofblog

    1. Min says:

      I KNOW. Holiday homes should be banned! I can think of nothing but houses at the moment, it’s like I’ve only got a little bit of room in my head and it’s currently full of houses. I did see a lovely country cottage the other day in my price range, but it was literally miles from anywhere and I don’t drive 🙁

  13. I’m sorry you are having such a difficult time! I know how hard it can be to find something in your price range and in a safe area. We rushed into a decision and aren’t too happy with the area. I hope you find something that makes you happy? #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thanks Sarah. I have found somewhere now. Still not 100% on the area, but there isn’t a lot of choice at the lower end of the prices!

  14. Crummy Mummy says:

    We still haven’t bought a place of our own and unless we win the lottery we won’t for the foreseeable future… would love to house hunt! #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      I was lucky because I had a shared ownership flat in London and managed to get a bit of a deposit from selling that because of the prices going up. Now I just have to hope the prices don’t take a sudden dip or I’m screwed really!

  15. A really thought provoking post. I don’t envy you. The housing situation is crazy. I was born in and still live in London. My dad chose to move us out of East London when we were small as he could see how it was changing at the time. Now the properties are ridiculously priced and everyone wants to live there. It’s hard getting on the property ladder now, surely it has to change. Everyone is stuck where they are it seems. We couldn’t afford to buy our own house and it certainly isn’t worth it’s valuation. I wish you luck, something will come up that is right for you – it always does. Thank you for sharing with #KCACOLS and hope you can come back on Sunday. Nicky x

    1. Min says:

      Thanks, the housing market is just crazy at the moment. x

  16. Bread says:

    If you’ve being paying someone else’s NI contributions that will have bad consequences if you ever need benefits. Just so you know. Good luck with the house hunting. I rent and will be renting for a long time no doubt. #kcacols

    1. Min says:

      I know-luckily it’s in the process of being sorted out now so hopefully all will be OK!

  17. Kerry says:

    We definitely bought the worst house in the best street 3 years ago, and we’re still doing it up now! But we do now have a 4 bed house in a nice village with a large garden, something we would never ever of been able to afford to buy. Hang in their you’ll find your perfect place #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thanks! That sounds lovely, and as you’ve done it all up yourself, it will be that much better! Thanks for commenting.

  18. Yummyblogger says:

    Oh god I feel for you… We’re going to start looking soon but we’re quite lucky with our budget etc. The school thing is what’s stressing me out the most… So difficult to know what to do about catchment areas and stuff 🙁
    Definitely stressful…. Good luck! Xx

    1. Min says:

      Indeed-Piglet won’t be going to school for another 2 years but I’m already worrying about it! Thanks for commenting.

  19. Ky says:

    Buying a house is so stressful, we are currently thinking about moving on from where we currently are. It’s a nightmare, before we only thought about was it close and easy to get to london. Now we need to think about school catchment areas, green areas, is it in a nice area, can we afford it – usually no. Good luck in your search! x #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thanks. London is so expensive, and even thinking about school catchment areas fills me with dread. Best of luck in your search as well!

  20. Good luck with this. I totally get it. The housing prices in Toronto are crazy and the prices make it almost impossible for people to buy homes. We are very lucky that we bought our house a few years ago. I thought the price was ridiculous at the time but it’s now so much worse. I hope you’re able to find the right place for you and your child. #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Thanks. Hopefully we have found somewhere so just hoping it all works out!

  21. Sounds like house hunting is going great then 😉 I an currently renting and suspect I always will be but I am with a local housing authority so it’s perfect for me I look forward to seeing if you go for the house with the flies #kcacols

    1. Min says:

      Haha, I eventually decided it wasn’t worth it. No fly outbreaks please!

  22. Oh gosh this sounds like the stuff nightmares are made of. I really hope you find an affordable place and that it’s just perfect. House hunting can be so hard at the best of times.xx #KCACOLS

    1. Min says:

      Hopefully we have found somewhere now, but I will keep you all posted!

  23. I would find this very stressful. We have a big renovation project with out current house, and sometimes I think we would be better off just selling, but I’m not sure what or where we would find something ‘better’. Good luck #KCACOLS

    Nadia – ScandiMummy x

    1. Min says:

      Ooh renovation projects are exciting though. I would love a project, but with me on my own and working full time, I just wouldn’t be able to do it. Hopefully that’s something I could take on in the future.

  24. Ah househunting really is the most soul destroying experience – I remember when I looked for a flat to rent and it felt like dating. It wasn’t enough that I was willing to shell out a couple of thousand to nab the place, they also wanted to approve my job, know more about my personality…and then there was the rejection if I wasn’t quite the right candidate! Glad you’ve found your house now x #abrandnewday

    1. Min says:

      Urgh, that is just the worst. At least with buying once you have found a place you don’t have to rely on the scrutiny of anyone else as to whether you are cool or nice enough to share their hallowed living space. In fact, just the joy of not having to live with anyone full stop makes it worth the scary financial investment!

  25. Looking at houses I can’t afford on Rightmove used to be one of my favourite pass times- until I had to do it for real minus the fantasy budget!! ( For exactly the same reasons you are moving- kids, schools etc). I see you have hopefully found somewhere? I was going to say be open minded on areas ( we now live in a town I’d never been to before I started house hunting) but fingers crossed you are on the road to your new home already- best of luck x # abrandnewday

    1. Min says:

      I have found somewhere, and I’m sure I will end up writing about it once everything is sorted. I have tried to be open minded about areas-and ended up with something a mile from my mum, so in terms of convenience it’s good. x

  26. Karen says:

    Eeek that’s tough. We moved 30 miles away to a cheaper area to afford a house. I won’t tell you how much our house cost it may make you cry. I love it here though. It’s crazy how unattainable house buying is to most young people, I use the term young lightly too, 31 two years ago we bought our house, now we’re on the “ladder” it must get easier! Good luck… Thanks for linking to #abeandnewday

    1. Min says:

      I know, it’s ridiculous isn’t it? I’m very lucky that I can afford a house at all, especially on one income. It’s good to hear about others’ experiences. It seems that everyone has to make compromises to get on the housing ladder.

  27. Hahaha oh no! What will happen with your payslip? Also I believe my town is on that list too, it provides a great talking point when you meet new people from away!

    #ABrandNewDay

    1. Min says:

      Well, the tax thing should be sorted now. The Inland Revenue were very nice about it. Just need to check the National Insurance situation now!

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