Thursday, 20 December 2007

Properties In Our Life (Part 2)

Continuing our story, started yesterday.

Property 2: Buying our first place

The Met was strapped for cash as usual to pay their pensioners and so they started on a (disastrous!) programme of realising their assets - that is, selling all their accommodation blocks to developers.

We were offered a deal - if we agreed to move out of our Police flat, they would cover all removal costs and pay towards carpets, etc in a new place up to a few thousand pounds.

It seemed the right time to buy our first place. I was due to finish University within the year and expected to work in the financial centre of London. So we needed to be within good public transport links to London for me, whilst Richard was required to be within 10 miles of Charing Cross.

With both our parents based in Hampshire, we knew we wanted to go south rather than north - so after lots of research and looking at different 'new builds', we settled on Epsom in Surrey.

Decided that it was better to buy a little place in a good location, rather than a mansion by a railway, etc.....and this was before all those property programmes started telling you to do just that!!

A new two-up, two-down terrace house with a little garden and two parking places. Ideal!

We presented ourselves to the sales staff and were a bit stumped when they told us the deposit needed. We did not have any savings to speak of!

We were obviously seen as a good bet though because they sighed and asked us what exactly DID we have in the bank (we mumbled £300) and they said: That will do! We became the proud owners of a 10 foot wide, 18 foot long house for £40,000 - and an empty bank account. It seemed so expensive for something so small!

Only trouble? How do you fit enough quality furniture to fill a three-bedroomed house, into a small box? We had three full dining room suites for goodness sake!

The back garden was in reality a builders' tip - but we enjoyed ourselves turning it into an oasis - suitable for late night drinking under the stars!

We grew a lawn from seed and Richard laid a patio of Welsh stone - every block had to be carried through the house since we were a terrace. And a pond.....
Then we decided that since we 'owned' our first house - it needed a dog. Our first Sussex Spaniel moved in - a chocolate ball of fluff! Our first Christmas and New Year.What else do I remember about living in Epsom?

I remember drinking champagne late at night in bed and waking up the next morning to find my glass missing from where I had put it on the window ledge (the bedroom was so small I could reach the window without moving!). The postman had got a shock that morning - it had fallen out the front window and smashed at his feet!!

And I am afraid to say it was not the only champagne glass we lost this way!

I remember Richard getting up for an early turn and setting off on his motorbike. An hour later he phoned and told me not to bother getting out of bed to go to work. He was the only Officer to make it in because of the havoc caused by a hurricane across the south of England. He only managed to get past all the fallen trees because he drove a trials bike - and he was on duty in the CAD Room for 18 straight hours that day.

House prices started to rocket. It gradually dawned on us that we could afford a larger place (if we went further south into the countryside) and it coincided with the restriction on Richard being increased to 'within 25 miles of Charing Cross'.

Putting our little place on the market, we resisted the Estate Agent's valuation of £63,000 and insisted it was put on for £76,000 - we did not want to move quickly - we had not found a new place yet!

24 hours later, it was sold - and we had to get a move on. But what an investment! It had nearly doubled its value in 18 months!

During these boom years, people were paying ridiculous prices. We moved on before the peak (thank God!) - 6 months later our little Epsom house was sold again for £99,000!!!! 6 months after that - the crash happened and it was repossessed.


Lesley said...

I remeber being very impressed with the patio and pond. It was lovely. We had more children by then, and we went on to Epsom Downs on one visit, and it was SO cold but the kids enjoyed the snow. Kelly was a lovely addition to you household too!!

Jacqui U said...

Yes! Knee deep in snow on the Downs with the children in snow suits!

And the dog trying to leap over the snow drifts and disappearing into them instead!