After an emotional roller coaster ride lasting five months, on Wednesday we exchanged contracts on our flat and house. The UK property market has certainly tested our will and patience, and sapped our emotional and financial resources, since we accepted an offer on our flat back in July. In August we spent many days researching a completely different part of London, being priced out of where we are now, before offering on a house in West Norwood ("West Dulwich borders" according to the estate agent...sounds posher!). There weren't that many options, and we thought it was the best option all things considering ("all things considering" namely being that I was newly pregnant, not to mention that we've been desperate for some outside space for Blake for months now). On holiday in Scotland, we stressed because our mortgage was taking forever to be processed and we worried that we would lose our offer. That was back in September and pretty much seems another lifetime ago. In the end, the mortgage was approved and we then just had to wait the 2.5 months for the tenants of the house to move out. Fortunately the buyer on our flat was willing to stick around during that wait. [nb: American readers may be confused by the way buying and selling works here; I found this article which offer some nice comparisons to the US market: http://kingfriday.co.uk/overview-of-buying-property-in-the-uk); The section The general stages of purchasing a specific property is the interesting part, suffice to say that in the UK the process seems infinitely more stressful compared to the US!]
In November, we received survey results back that showed that the house was directly above a trunk sewer - I panicked wondering had I not noticed that it smelled? Evidently this sewer is many many feet below the ground, but the main problem with its existence underneath our property is that doing any work or extensions, which we hope to do, will require extra permission - and potentially extra cost. We debated whether it was worth the hassle, and in the end decided that our options at that point were not great: call off the whole thing or go ahead with it were the two, and going ahead won out.
In the last couple of weeks, we've dealt with our scatty legal advisor, stubborness by our buyer about an extension to a lease, the threat by our house owner to put the house back on the market if we couldn't wrap it all up by the end of the year (effectively meaning that we would be back at square one), and general stress and complications that have made me want to never ever have to buy another property again.
This past Wednesday, with Christmas looming, we exchanged contracts, which meant it should all be going ahead - and on Tuesday we move. I booked movers who will come on Monday to pack us up, and on Monday we'll say goodbye to the people at Blake's nursery who have looked after him so well since January.
Whether it was pregnancy hormones or relief at the fact that everything had reached a conclusion, or fear at what lies ahead, I cried myself to sleep on Wednesday as I thought about the wonderful 4 years we have spent in this flat. When we spent our first night here on New Year's Eve 2005, I don't think we could have imagined all the happy times which lay ahead. Of course there were hard times here, and I am going to very soon be reminded of why I don't like DIY or "home improvement", but when I think about this being the home that we returned to as newlyweds in September 2006, or the home we brought our beautiful baby Blake to from the hospital on Mothers' Day 2008, I can't help but well up at such happy memories.
I am going to miss so many things about our flat: being walking distance to Chris and Anna who have been our wonderful neighbours for so long now (not to mention Will and Raina's flat, which although not occupied by them right now, could one day be again), Becks over on Tubbs Road (although she has become a part-time Londoner and we don't see her as often as we'd like to), the Italian deli 3 minutes away, the arthouse cinema at the end of the road, Queen's Park where I made so many truly wonderful friends through the Pushy Mothers class, being a stone's throw - near enough - from trendy Notting Hill, and the brightness of our living room on a sunny afternoon are the things that come to mind. I am sure that we'll grow to love the new place and the new area; a reassuring email from my Mom included this: Blake is used to staying in different rooms and spaces; as long as you are there, he'll be happy!
And so, in the end, we will be in by Christmas. We'll be surrounded by boxes and the daunting reminders of the work we need to do to make the house our home, but it will be exciting. Matt has been such an amazing partner in this process, and he has constantly reminded us both that as long as the three of us are together, that is what matters most. As Emily Dickinson put it, Where thou art - that - is Home. At the very least it is the start of a new chapter for us, and hopefully the place of many more happy memories which are still to be created. Wish us luck, and come visit!