Are you sitting comfortably, because this is a very LONG post – it’s the full story of our move from Portpatrick to Drummore and it’s not the most exciting of tales, but I’ve been asked what happened so many times, so here you go.
Last July we thought we had been blessed with an amazing opportunity. We had English B&B visitors on a house hunting trip who fell in love with the identical house next door to us. Sadly for them, someone else bought that house, but as we had been planning a move of our own, we suggested ours and were delighted to agree a price, subject to them selling their own house. We had bookings through to October, so we figured it was all going to work out great. Serendipity we thought.
We were wrong. They sold their house, we all went into action, got our solicitors talking to each other and set a move date for the end of October. A couple of weeks before, we said farewell to our last B&B guest, then held an open house event to sell off all the B&B related stuff we wouldn’t need anymore. I’d just agreed a sale of our dresser when I got the phone call from our buyers to tell me their buyers had pulled out.
This was bad news, enough bedding, crockery and furniture had gone that we couldn’t just re-open the B&B, We had started the packing so were in a state of mild chaos with packed boxes in every room. Then we got a visit from the guy who had bought the house next door to us and he said it was a shame he hadn’t known we wanted to sell as he would have been interested. He’s a businessman and farmer, buying up property to do holiday lets, and he made it clear that he was keen to buy ours. He is also based in Scotland which makes a difference.
Scottish law differs from English law when it comes to buying and selling houses. I won’t go into all the ins and outs, but there is definitely an advantage to having a Scottish buyer (who doesn’t have a house to sell) rather than an English one in a chain who has to rely on the ‘last minute’ nature of the English system. Things can happen much quicker and once an offer has been agreed in writing, you can’t be ‘gazumped’.
We had just started discussions with this Scottish businessman when our English buyers got in touch to say they’d sold again – to first time buyers with their mortgage agreed in principle. We agreed subject to a tight timescale – if they could do it in four weeks (it can be done) then we agreed to honour our original deal.
A couple of weeks in and I was having tense conversations with them as there seemed to be no activity on the mortgage front from their buyers. They got their buyers mortgage broker to call me and he reassured me everything was progressing as it should. Once again, we got to the point of booking the removal firm for the beginning of December and once again, our buyer’s buyer pulled out right at the last minute.
To say we were upset is an understatement. There’s something awfully draining about being in a state of limbo. We had begun work on our new web and graphic design business, but didn’t want to go ahead and make any announcements until we had a new address and phone number. We’d got a little work in through word of mouth and I had some work in a gallery for a couple of weeks, but with Christmas looming, we knew everything would slow down and we were feeling very anxious about our finances and the future.
Then BT screwed up. The short version is that we used their online system to postpone the date of the move (because to cancel you have to call them and sit in a queue for hours) and they did not postpone the move, but went ahead and cut us off, activated the line at the house we didn’t own and put a redirect message on the old number. Anyone trying to get hold of us (my doctor as it transpired later) was re-dialling a number at an empty house and leaving a message that no one would ever be able to retrieve.
That in itself was bad enough, but their incompetence at trying to resolve this situation caused us more stress than it really needed to. They insisted we could never get our old phone number back because it had been re-assigned to someone else. We knew fine well that it was being used for the re-direct message and had not been allocated to anyone else, but they patronisingly explained that we were wrong. So there we were trying to run a web design business with no broadband and business cards with a number on we couldn’t be contacted on. We ended up with three different phone numbers in the space of four weeks, but through sheer persistence, we did eventually manage to cancel the re-direct, and lo and behold, they were able to give us our old number back.
[… and breathe …]
Determined to turn the situation around, I contacted the Scottish guy again. When we’d spoken before, he had said it could all happen very quickly. My solicitor said that because she had done all the work at her end (in Scotland it is the seller’s solicitor who conducts the searches, not the buyer’s as in England), she was ready to go and in theory it could happen in two weeks.
So a few conversations later and we found ourselves with a written offer the Thursday before Christmas. We just had time to get a conditional acceptance back (condition was timescale) before everyone shut for the holidays. Phew! We unpacked the board games and DVDs and settled down to relax and enjoy a somewhat frugal Christmas.
Once we were out the other side of the holidays, our solicitor got busy and asked for a completion date of Jan 22nd. As the deadline got closer, it transpired he hadn’t quite got his finance in place and it was more likely to be end of February.
Throughout all of this, there was always the underlying anxiety that we would lose the house we were hoping to buy. They had been so patient with us and understood that we were dealing with things outside our control. We had such great plans for the place – it had a big barn and a small stable to convert, a lovely garden and sea views. We had been holding onto some big dreams for that place to see us through, but the sellers couldn’t keep holding on forever, so, quite understandably, they pulled out and put it back on the market.
As we had agreed to a sale, we couldn’t put ours on the market without formally withdrawing, so we gave it another couple of weeks, but eventually lost faith in their ability to come up with the finance and we did withdraw and got the estate agents round ready to put it on the market.
We figured it would take a while to sell, so we announced our new design business, Glendrian and set to on tidying up the house and arranging the packed up boxes to make the place presentable. We booked the home report survey and the day before he was due to arrive, our solicitor emailed us with written proof of finance from our Scottish buyer, asking if we would we be willing to re-instate the offer to sell to him.
Now at this point, you can imagine, we were pretty wrung out by the whole affair and found it hard to trust our own judgement. We spent a few days agonising over whether we trusted this offer, or whether we should just walk away and put the house on the market. We discussed it with our solicitor and the buyer’s finance offer was sound, though part of a bigger and more complex loan with potentially a nine week wait for it to come through.
We had been trying to let go of the house we had fallen in love with, but of course this gave us new hope. We talked to the estate agent and were told they had received an offer from someone else, but hadn’t formally accepted it. The seller called us and I explained the situation, made him aware of the timescales and he said he’d discuss it with the family and make a decision. I think that must have been a Friday because over the weekend, we saw that the house was showing online as ‘under offer’ and we didn’t know if it was our offer or the other person’s. That was a tense weekend! We found out on the Monday it was our offer that had been accepted, so we were able to go back to our buyer and agree the sale again.
Our solicitors have been absolutely brilliant throughout all of this. The point of no return in the Scottish system is concluding the missives, at which point everyone is contractually tied in to the sale/purchase. That didn’t go particularly smoothly and it was a chance discovery that our buyer had rather cheekily started advertising our place on a holiday letting website that eventually got us to that particular milestone.
An entry date of Wednesday May 16th was agreed and fearing the worst, we checked with our solicitor at 4pm the day before, but were reassured that everything was fine. But in keeping with this whole sorry tale, at 8.30am on the day of the move, we got a call to say there was a problem and we wouldn’t be moving that day. The next few hours were very tense while our solicitor tried to get to the bottom of things. The problem was identified and fixed, but our buyer’s solicitor was off sick and getting all the right people to sign things off caused two more days of stress and delay.
We finally got the news that the money transfers had started around lunchtime on Friday and I swear time slowed down that afternoon as we waited to hear that everything had cleared. At around 4.pm we got the call we’d been waiting almost ten months to hear – we could go and pick up the keys to our new house!!
It was another week before we actually moved in, but that gave us time to do a few little jobs in the house and we also got to spend some time with my Mum who had come up for a week to help out. Now we’re dealing with the unpacking which may well take another ten months given the amount of stuff we have!
So the big question I’ve had many times over the last ten months is why would we want to leave that stunning big, modern, bright airy house in Portpatrick? Well for a few reasons, but mainly because we’ve always been country dwellers and though Portpatrick is a beautiful village where we were made to feel very welcome, we missed having fields and trees around us.
Our new house is much smaller, just outside the village, set in its own garden with stunning views of fields and the sea.
Our nearest neighbours are the cows who pass by twice a day on their way to and from the milking parlour, yet we’re within walking distance of the village shop, pubs and cafe.
The Mull of Galloway (Scotland’s most southerly point) is just three miles down the road and there are dozens of country walks and beaches right on our doorstep. Most importantly, this place has a great local community who have already made us feel very welcome.
It just *feels* like home.