Choosing 2008 to move to live in Spain must go down as one of our most badly timed decisions. After years of growth, rising house prices and blossoming work opportunities, the doors were finely closing for those keen to start another life abroad.
Of course, it wasn’t only Spain that suffered during these years. The UK housing market also went into a downward spiral, if not quite as steep as that experienced by Spain. So a double whammy of bad planning. Not only was the move to Spain and the search for a new career path to be fraught with difficulties, but there was precious little chance of selling the house in the UK either.
Or was there? If location is supposed to be the thing, the property we had to sell couldn’t be better positioned. On the commuter belt for Birmingham, semi-rural but close to some of the major Warwickshire towns and with a good postcode. This property was, if nothing else, situated in a very desirable place to live. It was just a case of convincing a few other people too.
The house was large and had been the family home for the last 14 years. Bought from new, it was getting to that stage in its life when a little refurbishment wouldn’t go a miss. Nothing major, but some of the well-used areas were looking the worse for wear.
With three bathrooms and a downstairs toilet, the house could be a godsend for a family with older children each fighting for a bathroom in the morning. However, it wasn’t going to appeal unless those bathrooms were pretty spick and span. Again, fourteen years on, the look was more tarnished than tempting.
The kitchen had been the hub of the family home and the oven had served up a Sunday roast for almost every week we’d occupied the place. It’s one of those sad facts that well-used rooms soon carry the burden of their popularity. Some of the handles to the cupboards were a little rickety and the whole kitchen had a slightly dated feel about it.
You don’t realise at the time but when you buy a new kitchen you aren’t choosing from scratch, no matter how many options there seem to be. You are always choosing a make and model from that year’s fashions. As such, in time, other models take its place and you can soon tell the difference when you visit other brand new properties.
It was decision time. Should we put up the house for sale, warts and all and hope that somebody would see its potential for improvement or, would we help oil their imagination a little by doing some of the work for them.
It’s true that you have people who want to buy a property that needs attention. Perhaps they have skills themselves that they can put to good use and they recognise where a property is not going to be selling at its full potential. However, probably the odds are on most people wanting to be able to move into their property by and large as they want to live there.
There’s also the issue of the ‘pull’ factor. First impressions are important and falling in love with a property, although illogical, is still perhaps the ideal when you’re doing the rounds for your next move. The number of bathrooms was a real strength for our property but it wouldn’t be if all people could visualise was endless trips to B and Q for toilet roll holders.
In the end, we took the decision that we couldn’t go into selling our property half-heartedly. It was all or nothing, like the move itself. So we looked around for someone to do the job. Fortunately we were able to find a local builder who gave us a realistic estimate and had the time to complete the work in the window we’d allowed.
It did seem a little like throwing money away. Here we were doing up four of the main rooms in the house with the intention of hardly ever getting to use them. We thought it might be a little difficult to get motivated when it came to choosing tiles and styles but, we found, that once the project began we were able to suspend any apathy and enjoyed the challenge of making our house the des res it deserved to be.
When the work was done, we also found that showing people round was a great deal more satisfying. Instead of feeling apologetic for the state of things or noting as people clocked that dodgy tap and shabby fittings, we could see their faces light up with appreciation at the fashionable units and immaculate basins.
The outcome was definitely worth it. We might have lost a little of our planned profit but we were able to sell the property before it began to attract those ‘it’s been on the market for ages’ comments. We saw the cycle in some properties for sale on the same road. Forever reducing their price but too long advertised to attract new viewings.
Seven years on and we’re now amused by our terrible sense of timing. But we’re also pretty satisfied with ourselves. There’s a sense of pride that we still managed to carry out our dream at a time when everyone advised you against it. We’ve not looked back, and although I sometimes try and imagine what it would be like to live in a house that size again, there are no regrets as I soon remind myself about all that cleaning!