So to Part 2, the blog I had intended to write last week before last week’s blog assumed a momentum all of its own and, instead of a straight forward report on progress on the house, turned into a therapeutic ramble. So let me turn again to the facts of the matter in hand. I’m not sure what the technical definition of renovation or remodelling actually is and, although I bandied them about in the last blog, I suspect neither are accurate in this context. We haven’t ripped out any walls, no new roof or even put in a new kitchen or bathroom. In fact we have tried to do as little as possible and to sell for as much as possible. Nothing original in that, I imagine that is the mantra for any person trying to sell a house whether it be the family home or otherwise. It’s strange though how such a simple guiding principle can become so complicated. You wouldn’t expect anything different though would you? If it can be complex it will be has just about become an underpinning to the whole of our retirement. Never when we sat down to consider what our retirement might look like did we ever utter the words, I know let’s try and make our retirement as complicated and challenging as we possibly can. As I wrote a while ago, some have complexity thrust upon them, better make the best of it. So, trying to do as little to the house for as small amount of money as possible is us trying to make the best of what we have to deal with.
And what we have to deal with is a house that has not, as I wrote last time, sold in its unrestored, completely cluttered state. People did not see past the chaos. Now we’re having to. What we are currently attempting is to a) clear the house and b) do enough to it that people can see the potential and this without ever pretending that it is a house ready to move in to. We’re saying just look, this is a start, you take from here and make us a reasonable offer in the meantime. With this simple principle in mind, there’s that word again – simple – we have done the following. First, we’ve cleaned the house pretty much from top to bottom. My mother was a smoker. If we were foolish enough to point out this was bad for her health she could and did of course, point to the fact that she was in her nineties and pretty healthy until the very end. Her other fall-back position was to tell us it wasn’t unhealthy because she didn’t inhale. All I can say is, having spent several days trying to paint over the walls and ceilings in all their nicotined splendour, it would have been a damn sight better if she had inhaled. Cleaning the rooms would then have been a relative doddle.
So cleaning came after and alongside the emptying and now the painting. We’re pretty much painting everything white (apart from cupboards and doors). It is taking several coats in the rooms we have tackled so far. Note, cheap paint is cheap because it doesn’t actually cover anything. I swear that the first coat on the ceiling with the cheap stuff and you truthfully couldn’t tell you had painted it at all. Disappointing, so buy expensive paint, the type recommended by the paint man in B&Q no less. Better, much more expensive – £35 a tub against £11 a tub, and no miracle paint even so. And even when you’re done with the 28 coats, paint can only cover so many sins. The damp in the walls and above the bay window on the front of the house is a whole other bag of challenges and by no means resolved. Which is partially where the central heating installation comes in. So far our greatest expense, by some distance. In all the years I lived in the house (18 – I couldn’t wait to move into student squalor to be warmer), the house was never warm (maybe one room with the coal fire), until now that it is. Quite strange feels like a completely different house. At a more pragmatic level we are hoping that the heating, which is now on permanently, will go some way towards reducing the damp – maybe. It’s almost a shame that the Scandinavian look I had planned (I painted the floor of my old bedroom white and jolly nice it looked until I left the door open and Archie (one of our dogs) walked across it and then round the rest of the house. Didn’t matter about the rest of the house but I was pissed off that I had to redo the floor, but then mea culpa, mea culpa, shouldn’t have left the door open) seemed to fit better with the cold.
We have ordered a new, cheap but nice, grey tweedy carpet for all of the downstairs. That will be laid when we have finished painting – sometime in the 22nd century. The other thing we are doing is painting cupboards and doors. I had what I thought was a clever idea, I got the joiner, who fortunately lives next door, to cut a tongue and groove effect on the doors, new handles, painted a nice light blue and job’s a good ‘un. We plan to have a new front door fitted* and the outside of the house repainted. This will account for about £6,000. The best offer we had was for £74,000 which incidentally we accepted until the would-be purchaser found out that we were keeping the bottom third of a very long garden, a fact the estate agent had neglected to mention to them. I won’t try and explain about the bottom bit of the garden because it would take this blog way beyond its original remit. Maybe another time. So, would have taken £74K, put in so far £6K, if I can sell the house when it’s done for say £85K then all our efforts will be rewarded. Ah, so simple.
Enter estate agent – again – I asked him to visit to give advice about kitchen and bathroom. He who had valued it at £85K. I showed him what we had done so far and what we were planning to do. Other than the central heating which he thought was money well spent, his constant refrain was – what’s the point? Even, cancel the carpet and lose your deposit, it’s a waste of money, people will just tear it up. I gave up, enthusiasm for our plans lost. So, what’s it worth now, I asked? £80K, he replied. But that hasn’t increased at all I wailed (can a grown man wail?). Oh, that first price was just to see what the market would bear, he said. But I’m trying to move it into a different category, you know, first time buyer with not too much to do rather than bastard speculator group. He made it plain we were not succeeding in this ambition. It should be easier to sell though, he added seeing the thunder clouds gathering across my forehead.
And there I will leave it for now, retirement project No. 1. Not going smoothly and nowhere near completed, so rest assured that, if you continue to read this blog, this aspect of our retirement will feature again in these pages. You know I’ve said it before and doubtless will say it again, this retirement business is not going according to any plan we might have had. We had a day yesterday (actually last Thursday) that was exactly the kind of day we thought we might have when we retired. I wrote a blog and played music, Mrs Summerhouse did some baking and made some art, we took the pups out for their two walks, when we got back we read and napped, all followed by a quiet evening with Michael Portillo and American Pickers on TV. The simple retirement, active but, at the same time, relaxing. There was no plan to renovate property in our projected retirement.
*There’s a whole blog in trying to buy a front door, who’d have thought it could be so difficult?