So, at the beginning of the year when I started my blog, my husband and I were planning on being in our new house by this time now. Unfortunately, that never happened. After far too many delays and being hugely messed around, the possibility of our new house disappeared. Back in February, I mentioned very briefly that there had been a major cock-up with the house plans, but since then, I haven’t really said anything else about it. That’s mainly been for two reasons. The first that it’s a long ass, complicated tale, and the second is that it’s been too difficult to talk about. However, today, I’ve decided to confront it head on talk about it once and for all. So, I’ve poured myself a large gin and tonic, and once this post is live I’ll have a link to it bookmarked in my phone to send anyone who asks “so what’s going on with the house?”
This time last year, after being signed up to the Help to Buy scheme, we were offered a new build house in Bath. However, it wasn’t just any new build. It almost looked too good to be true. Which, surprisingly, it was in the end. Spoiler alert. Anyway, it was a new development just a few minutes walk from the city centre, and the houses were being designed to an incredibly high spec. Overall, the property was expected to be valued at around £500,000. When we were contacted, there was one property left, and we didn’t have long to make a decision.
Ultimately, we decided that a chance as good as this may not pass us again, so we accepted the offer. Within a few weeks we had signed paperwork, paid a reservation fee, and hired a solicitor. It was official.
We took great satisfaction in telling our family and friends the news, and we were given an estimated completion date of October. In the meantime, I had been offered a new job in Bath, so after 5 years I handed in my notice at my current job. It truly felt as though we were about to get a fresh start.
Unfortunately, the fresh start wasn’t so fresh. I had a week’s holiday after quitting my old job, and the plan was simple. We’d have a week to move in to our new place, and that following week I could start my new job. If only. A couple of days before I left my job, we had the news that things were delayed, and that the estimated completion date was moved to December. This didn’t do well for my anxiety, because I couldn’t think of anything worse than moving on top of Christmas.
I started my new job and we soon got into a routine of commuting the 40 minute journey into Bath everyday. The traffic most mornings was horrific, but the knowledge that we had something at the end of it made things more bearable.
We weren’t sure what was going on when December first came around, but we agreed that if the completion date was any later than the second week of the month, we wouldn’t move until the new year. Thankfully, that wasn’t an issue, because it was delayed again. This time, until March. We were both incredibly disappointed, but I was secretly relieved because it meant we could enjoy one last Christmas in our rented house.
New year, new start right? Well, not really. We still hadn’t been given an exact completion date, other than just March, so my husband got in touch to try and get a little more information. It was then we were given an inventory of what was going to be included, and upon reading through, we read that the specifications weren’t quite as high as what we were initially promised. My husband got in touch with the housing association, who told us that even though they were using a lower spec than what we had been told, they were confident it was still going to be done to a high standard. They still however, wouldn’t give us a completion date.
February came around and suddenly it felt like things were making progress. We were given the opportunity to go and view our house. It would be our first chance to see exactly what we were getting. So, during our lunch break one day, we headed over to the site and two housing association ladies showed us around. While the area itself looked pretty nice (even though it was still a building site), the house itself was a letdown.
This sounds very first world problems, but I’d like to reiterate that this was a house that had been valued at £500,000. The spec was absolutely in no way high. The kitchen fittings looked cheap, the bathroom suite was basic, and the general finish of the place clearly hadn’t been done to the high standard we were promised. What got me was that it clearly had been rushed, but even then, it was almost 6 months later and it still hadn’t been finished. I was lost for words, because this perfect house we’d been offered was not perfect at all. When I was 15, my Mum and I moved into a new build council house, and the spec of that was so much better than this house. Of course if we were planning to rent for a few months, it would be acceptable, but this was a house we were buying and expecting to be our forever home.
We were both feeling incredibly let down and misled by this point, and by the time March came around, we still didn’t have a completion date. After doing a little research, my husband found one of the houses in the development on Zoopla. This was one that was up for private sale. Delving a little further, we found that the spec of this particular house was exactly what we had been promised in the first place. It soon became clear that the help to buy properties were done to a much lower standard than those up for private sale. At no point were we told this would be the case.
My husband got in touch with the housing association expressing our concerns and that we felt we had been greatly misled, and as though we were being penalised for using the help to buy scheme. He asked if there was any way we would be given some sort of compensation, like an upgrade on the kitchen or the bathroom suite, or even a reduction on the cost of the property, but this was wishful thinking. After a good few weeks of thinking things through, we made the decision to withdraw. Unfortunately though, we had by this point mounted up over £1000 in legal fees from the solicitors.
While we lost our reservation fee, thankfully we were able to get our deposit back because there had been no contracts exchanged, so it could have been a lot worse. After taking the issue further with the housing association, they agreed to pay back a fraction of our legal fees as ‘goodwill.’ It was not a large fraction, but it was better than nothing.
So, as it stands, we’re back at square one and currently looking to find somewhere else, but that’s easier said than done. Six months on, it’s at the point where I can just about laugh when someone asks “how’s the house going?” Before that, I just wanted to punch them. I know people meant well, but it felt like yet another reminder that things were going tits up. It’s not something we’ll forget in a hurry, and personally it still hurts a little bit every time I drive past a new housing estate being built or I see friends on Facebook moving into their new houses.
I’m trying to focus on the positives, mainly being that we never gave notice to our landlord for our current house. Had we done that, the situation would have been a hell of a lot worse. A couple of people have also said that clearly, if it all went to shit, it wasn’t meant to be, and I think that’s definitely a perspective I need to hold on to. I’m not expecting us to have moved by Christmas this year, for sure, but maybe this time next year is a better goal. I’m just eager to break out our new plates and the Cath Kidston salt and pepper shakers I treated myself to…