On our 10 year anniversary, we bought a house.
(Well, sort of, it’s in that stage before exchange where it could all balls up, but let’s just pretend that it’s going to be straightforward.)
A house move has been on the cards since forever. Our current house is too small to be our permanent family home, we always knew that, it was just a matter of being ready in the bank’s eyes. What with Sam earning most of his salary in commission, and me being self-employed, it hasn’t been the easiest road to getting approved for a mortgage, despite being more than able to meet the monthly repayments.
Things changed once I reached three years of tax returns (this is a biggie for most lenders) and Sam had a REALLY good three months, commission-wise, suddenly the possibility of moving house wasn’t just an idea any more, it was something we could definitely do, if we wanted.
When we bought our current house, we didn’t give any thought to schools, location or whether we wanted to base ourselves in the area long-term. All those things people think about when starting a family. We had our measly figure that the mortgage lenders we willing to give (£157000 to be exact), and we bought in the only area we could afford that would keep us close-ish to our family and friends. Having an unexpected pregnancy and then having to move away from that support system would have just been a step too far for me.
I know a lot of people think it’s madness to try to make it work in London when affordability is so hard, especially for young families, but this is where Sam and I both grew up. This is where our family live. That, and even most leafier towns outside of London on the commuter belt, popular with migrating London families, are actually less affordable than some of the ‘edgier’ parts of greater London. Or so we’ve found.
For this next move, we had a chance to finally think about those decisions. Do we want to move a little bit out of London? Where would we like to live? Where would we like to raise our family?
For a while, we did some serious thinking about moving out of London.
Where we live the streets are rows and rows of small terraced houses. The dream family home – big family garden, off street parking, perhaps a garage on the side that lends good two storey extension possibilities – isn’t really there.
Every search on potential towns came up with a Mumsnet thread (Why always Mumsnet??) instructing on the ‘good’ side of town and the not-so-good, and the fact that you won’t stand a chance of getting your child into the local school unless you move before reception year. Where we live there aren’t (yet) oversubscribed schools and crazy demand for houses in the ‘nice’ part of town. The thought of running that gauntlet of ‘life goals’ was enough to make me want to run away from it.
As we’ve found out, once your child starts school, all life decisions become based around that fact – how easy or difficult it is to move them and when is the best time to do it? On one hand, it’s frustrating that we weren’t in a position to think about where we wanted to live before Arlo started school. On the other hand, we really like some aspects of where we live now, and it was a toss-up of whether to stay or go anyway.
For the past six months or so, my head has been churning over the same few questions – Do we leave London now for the dream family home, position ourselves now near to a secondary school that we like, rather than have to do it all in a rush before applications in six years time? Do we go with a five-year plan in our next house then use that time to figure out ‘where we want to live when we grow up’? Or do we stay in London forever?
We made things really complicated with all this overthinking, the stress of feeling like our whole life plan boiled down to this one next decision was just too much. We went round in circles, and in the end, went back to basics and followed our gut instinct. Which was that we just aren’t done with London yet.
Over recent months we’ve been really annoying all the local estate agents with our complete commitment to remaining uncommitted to every house we viewed. (The problem with moving in the town you already live in is that you tend to have a very exact idea of what you want in the next house) When a house came up that ticked nearly all of our very picky boxes and was in my favourite neighbourhood, we both new it was ‘the one’ straight away.
So, we are moving. Round the corner. To a house that could be the five-year plan house but would also work if we decide we want to stay forever. A house that means Arlo can still walk to school and live in the same neighbourhood as his friends.
We are moving from a two bed to a two bed and a box room, so the upsize isn’t huge, but each room is a lot bigger than our current rooms so the extra space will feel MASSIVE. We can convert the loft, we will be able to stay in this house forever if that’s what we want to do.
This house gives us options. We don’t have to have the life plan all figured out RIGHT NOW.
In the new house we will be able to knock through the kitchen and dining room to create the family space I’ve always wanted. A space where we can all be together – cooking, playing, doing homework. A space where we can have a big table, turned lengthways across the room and extended when we are hosting big occasions. A big table for a big happy family. This is my dream.
We will have a generous hallway. Somewhere where the pushchairs can live instead of having to constantly fold and unfold them for storage in the car. Space to hang up our coats, and space for a shoe rack. No more need for all the rainwater and mud to follow us through to our main living area – our current house opens straight into the main reception room, something that’s always been really tricky to manage with crawling babies.
We will have a south-facing house to maximise the sun in the garden and the main areas of the house with be filled with light. I know this is a really nit-picky factor, but I live for light and just couldn’t live in a gloomy house. I can’t wait to get in there with my camera and experience the difference our new big bay windows will make to my photos.
The house needs a cosmetic overhaul in every single room. New flooring, new bathroom, new kitchen, new everything. On top of that, we are also going to be removing chimney breasts and load-bearing walls to create the space we have wanted for so long. It wasn’t exactly our plan to go for a house that needed so much work. At times, I know it will get stressful, especially trying to do it all around young children and Sam’s work schedule. But it’s a nice stress to have, and I am really excited about being able to put our mark on it – something we never really did in our current house, initially due to finances and later the fact that after a certain number of years it became pointless as we knew we would move in the not-so-distant future.
If all is well, we might be in our new home to see in the new year, maybe even before Christmas. 2014 and 2015 have been relatively unchanging years for us. In some ways this has been lovely and stress-free, and in other ways I have been frustrated about things I wanted to change but couldn’t. Suddenly the pace has picked up and I’m feeling motivated once more.
2016 is the year we shake things up.