Sunday, 27 February 2011

Property Searching - What's Available on a Budget in SW Scotland?

During the first week of February we were issued with a notice to quit the house we currently rent. This came as a huge shock. Despite all previous verbal agreements and discussions with our landlords, they simply changed their minds and now want their house back. (See 'Counting the Costs of an Unplanned Move'.)

Having put over two years into creating a garden that could produce fruit, veg and our own freerange eggs, it's going to me a massive exercise just thinking about moving house, let alone transferring everything elsewhere. In short, it's a bit of a nightmare.

First and foremost, our next 'home' needs to be located somewhere that allows us to continue keeping pets and poultry. Secondly, it needs a large enough garden that we can start again, creating a microholding that fits nicely with our frugaldom lifestyle. It's a tall order to find all of that, get the relevant paperwork sorted out and then up sticks for the move - all to be completed by 7th April 2011.

I guess that I'm still in some sort of denial, because I haven't given up hope that the landlords will renege on their decision, even if it's just for a few extra weeks to allow us time to find the right property. Being self-employed and keeping livestock of any description doesn't bode well for us in the eyes of many landlords.

For several years, we have been on a mission to live an extremely frugal life in the hope of filling our ISAs and accumulating enough savings to afford to, some day, buy a place of our own. Once again, being self-employed and working from home does not bode well when it comes to mortgages and loans of any description, so we are stuck in a situation that we can only rent or buy property within the range of our income and/or savings.

With Bank of England base rates still bottomed out at 0.5%, it means that the monthly interest payments have plummeted accordingly, paying roughly a quarter of what they did when our savings challenge began - not good! In fact, it's very bad! The reward for being prudent has been more of a punishment and I resent that fact. Our only glimmer of hope is that the property market appears to be on the brink of collapse, meaning it's a buyers' market right now.

Rents are increasing, tenancy agreements are unreliable in the longterm, oil, gas and electricity prices are increasing, food prices are increasing, inflation is rising and our income has remained quite static. Correction, our income has halved over the past 3 months!

Having savings brings its own problems - no entitlement to any form of income support or Government financial help for anything like rent, council tax or unemployment, should the worst happen. But let's be positive about all of this - we do have our savings. So, the decision was taken to sweep all the accounts and come up with a total sum of money that we could realistically afford to invest in property of some description.

The frugaldom property hunt began in ernest, with only 45 days remaining before our 'moving out' date. All three estate agents were contacted (don't laugh, this is a small, rural area) and we enquired about anything at all within our price range. The results were sparse, to say the least. Rental properties mostly seem to be for 6 months, many are on the market for sale, many more couldn't be found on the Landlord Registration through local authorities.

The following are a few of the options we've discussed - no stone has remained unturned - it may be helpful for anyone facing a similar situation while living on a shoe-string budget:
NB: the above links will probably become obselete as the selected properties become unavailable but it'll be interesting to see how long it takes for those that are currently available.

We spotted a steal of a property - three storey 'townhouse' in a Listed building in the Scottish Book Town of Wigtown. Along with the house was a garden out the back stretching some 150m. Beyond that, is a garage. Now if this property had been anywhere near within our price range, we'd have probably jumped at the chance, packed up and headed for Wigtown. It's a lovely little town with a village feel to it. We've been in that house many times, as we knew previous owners from a few years ago. At that point, they were hoping to sell for offers over £120k. If I recall correctly, they paid £95k for it several years previous to that and spent a bit of money rejigging the ground floor lay-out. It's on the market right now, open to offers over £80,000! A cheap property, in current economic climates and a sad reflection of the on-going property collapse. If anyone out there is looking for a bargain, this is certainly worthy of consideration even after it having lain empty for the past two winters.

Google Maps website has been our best friend for the past month! It's an amazing piece of software that can save house hunters a small fortune. As soo as you spot a property anywhere (in the world!) you simply type in the location and Google Maps takes you there! Not only can you see an aerial view to see what sort of garden space there is, you can see a street view! I'm astiunded by this technology. Having viewed the exterior of dozens of properties recently, from the comfort of my livingroom, my brain is now confusing these visits with actual visits to view. Only last week, I found myself telling a friend that we'd been to see a house in the Galloway town of Newton Stewart, only to suddenly remember that we hadn't even left this house - we had 'viewed' the property remotely via Google Maps. It was really weird, all very MK Ultra and a bit spooky. Remote viewing is no longer the dream of agencies like the CIA, it's a virtual reality, when it comes to property, places and Google Maps!

To be continued...


  1. fingers crossed for you in Frugonia.

  2. Think we've found something, everything's crossed for a positive outcome. :)


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