As many of you will know, on 2nd February, we were served notice to remove ourselves from this rented farm cottage. I was away visiting family when I received the news, so it kind of put the dampeners on the visit, to say the least. To be honest, it dropped like a bombshell and took me a couple of weeks for the news to finally sink in - we'd had no real reason for being asked to move.
Househunting is hard, especially when you have livestock, a tight budget and a deadline to meet, so we started our search. Unfortunately, that same week, the car broke down - cylinderhead - and was deemed to be a non-economical repair, thus scrapped. That left us partially stranded, as son works fulltime and needs his car for getting about the place. We're off the beaten track, so no such thing as buses passing nearby - cows and sheep, yes, but not buses.
On the 8th February, we managed to get a lift from a neighbour and went to view a small flat that we thought might be suitable as a stop gap.
Moving swiftly on... least said, soonest mended. We soon found ourselves pouring over rental agents' websites at anything within a 15 mile radius of son's workplace. Location isn't a problem for H or me, as we both work from home, but petrol prices dictate that son needs to be within an affordable travelling distance of work - it's not on a bus route, either.
A full two weeks passed, phoning agents, phoning private landlords, phoning anyone we could think of who might have a suitable property to rent. Then, on Wednesday 16th February we spotted a listing in the 'for sale' section. It was one of those moments where everyone just looks at one another and each knows what the other is thinking... we could maybe afford to buy that!
Thursday 17th February, still without any transport, we found ourselves hitching a lift from the neighbour again to do a 30 mile round trip to view the cottage. It was pouring rain, it was miles of single track road, it didn't bode well for us when we were almost run off the road by a tractor! But view the property, we did.
The house in question had lain empty for two years, through two of the worst winters we have experienced in southwest Scotland. You can imagine the state of the place... but then we stepped outside of the soggy, wet kitchen and into the rain-drenched back yard ... and saw the full potential of what almost quarter of an acre of partially walled garden, complete with stream running along the bottom, could offer us!
Buying property in Scotland is very different to how things are done elsewhere, so our first port of call the next morning was to our lawyer's to have them inform the agents of our interest in the property. Before any legal offer could be made we had to provide evidence that we could fund the purchase along with proof of identity. This takes a bit of time but we managed it within 48 hours.
We made a few preliminary enquiries, obtained the Home Report and read the gruesome details. At this point, I might add, NEVER trust what it says in a Home Report - query EVERYTHING you aren't sure of. Only then can you avoid most nasty surprises.
The Internet is the most glorious tool ever, as we were soon able to establish that the cottage in question was NOT, as described, circa 1880 and it was NOT, as described, connected to mains sewage. These are pretty relevant points that need to be considered if you are thinking of parting with your life's savings.
Within about an hour, we had established that the building was at least early 19th Century and that it was, in fact, a Listed building! All of this aside, we still called the lawyer back the same day and asked them to make a verbal offer on our behalf, reflecting these salient points. Of course, that took us into the weekend, so we had to wait. Prospective househunters should note that most things regarding property sales in Scotland are carried out by the legal profession.
Over that first weekend, we decided to go all out in our bid to buy ourselves a property rather than rent. Prices are tumbling around us, they could tumble further, but we hadn't the time to wait for that: it was now or never.
Monday became Day 1 of what I called my 45 Day challenge. That was how long we had remaining before our lease was terminated. By day 2, our initial offer had been rejected with the seller looking for at least £5,000 more. We simply couldn't find another £5,000.00...
In the morning of day 3 we spoke to the lawyer and gave her our bottom line - the absolute limit our budget could stand.
In the afternoon of day 3, we learned later that our second verbal offer had been conditionally accepted, so we then needed to gather together all our paperwork and meet the lawyer to discuss the formal offer. (I should add that our lawyer was already aware of our financial situation.) That's when we discovered that the sale of the house was subject to approval by the Office of the Public Guardian. This means we had to apply in writing for permission to buy the house and allow a 21-day period for any objections that may be raised. The 21 day period expired on Wednesday 30th March 2011.
This is now Day 45 of our 'challenge' and we are unable to move out of here tomorrow.
However, we did receive a copy of the stamped approval from the OPG, followed by the Qualified Acceptance.
We went and paid for our cottage at lunchtime today!
Missive being concluded, funds being cleared, keys and title deeds are already with our lawyer.
As of next weekend, our very own microholding project will begin.