Emma and I both owned our own flats when we met. Neither flat, however, was big enough for us to move in to. We ended up selling both flats and rented a place together. We were becoming experts in the House Move.
Three or four years later, we were all living in a three bedroom rented flat. It was late 2013, so Jenny was just one and a bit, Eve was a couple of months old. Then we got a massive shock.
Emma was looking over some properties on various estate agent websites and saw that the flat we were renting was up for sale. We were floored. Nobody had told us that the landlord was selling. We had instantly been transported from the relative security of a lease agreement to finding out that we had to move house.
After a little house-hunting, Emma spotted a modern, mid-terraced three bedroom house for sale. From the pictures, I wasn’t sure. Nevertheless, I agreed to see it.
We arrived. The front gate was missing and the garden was full of horrible red chip stones with weeds pointing through. The front door was filthy. I knocked on the dirty door.
When the door opened, the smell of dog was overpowering. I mean, horrendously so. A strong waft of old dog smell. In the hall, you could see that the carpet on the stairs was thick with dog hair.
Now, I’ve had a dog before. I know that a house with a dog can have a slightly different aroma. This was not the same. This was a house that had obviously not been properly cleaned in a long, long time. The walls were a bizarre pink and brown combination. As first impressions go, it was dreadful.
Now, it’s unfair to form an opinion on a property based on the décor and fittings. They are, after all, not what you’re really buying. They are easily changed. In this case, though, the massive amount of mess, horrible metal shelves, the garish colour scheme and the mess on the floors was overwhelming. I couldn’t see past it.
Fortunately, Emma could. She could see the potential much clearer than I. Once away from the house, I began to imagine what it could be like. The living room was large, the bedrooms were a decent size and the kitchen / dining room was also spacious.
We went back again with Emma’s parents for a fresh perspective. They too could see the potential. The house was being sold at a reduced price due to being on the market for a while, plus the owners had separated. I think they just wanted rid of it.
We put in a cheeky offer which was accepted, albeit with a 10 week entry date. Everything went at a snail’s pace because the sellers had two sets of lawyers to run everything by. It was painstakingly slow.
Two days before we were due to get the keys, the lawyer phoned to say there was a problem. It turned out that the seller had made structural changes to the house that hadn’t been picked up by our lawyer. The sale might not go ahead as planned. He’d knocked down the wall between the kitchen and dining rooms and installed French windows but hadn’t applied for planning permission from the Council.
They made a proposal. We keep back £2000 of the money for the house, reserved by the lawyer. The seller has two months after we buy the house to arrange the council to come out, do the survey, and he fixes up anything that needs done. We reluctantly agreed and, two days later, got the keys to the house.
When we went in, the house was a dire mess. The living room had a bin bags full of rubbish in it. Every cupboard was full – and I mean brimming – with junk. Furniture had been abandoned. It took me hours to get it all to the tip. Amongst the mess were loads of scrap paper, old school jotters and condoms. I had to work my tush off to get the place cleared.
I ripped out the carpets which were caked in dog hair. We scrubbed and scrubbed the house – the floors, the walls, the doors. Then we painted and painted everything. It didn’t matter that it was an icy November, the windows were always open to get the smell out. Soon, there were new carpets put in. I was at work during the day and painting at night. Emma painted almost all the kitchen in one evening. My father in law glossed like a colossus. Back-breaking stuff.
Emma had picked the colours. The choice was warm, cosy and welcoming. Everything you’d want in a home. Perfect. Eventually, it looked like a different house. The dog stench had almost all gone.
We moved in. The council came around. The removal of the wall between the kitchen and the dining room wasn’t a problem. There were two small issues. No ventilation in the kitchen, and the back step was too short. The previous owner was given his timescales to fix the problems. The time came and went and he did nothing. The lawyer duly released the £2000 to us. We also got £50 compensation for the state he left the house in.
We’ve been in the house for over two years now. It’s our home. We still encounter horrendous bits of DIY that the previous owner botched up (bad shower wiring, a dodgy repair on a bathroom floor, an awful homemade cupboard). We’ll probably still find some more nonsense in the future but we’ll deal with it.
It feels like we rescued this house. It’s our house now. It’s our home.
And it no longer smells of dog.