We're one step closer to finding a permanent home for the Nappy Valley family (at which point I promise I am going to change the name of this blog to something else, as it certainly isn't based in Nappy Valley any more, and thank goodness, my children have been out of nappies for some years).
I've spent the past four months manically house-hunting. This might sound like fun, and probably would be if I was on my own in the company of Kirstie Allsop with an unlimited budget and an architect on speed-dial. But actually, negotiating the estate agents of south London in a crazy property market is quite another matter.
With the apparent scarcity in property on the market compared to numbers of buyers, viewings were often conducted in groups, so you'd be tramping round a house along with lots of other people, trying to size up how keen they were based on the number of photos taken with their iPhones (one guy scarily photographed everything about five times). There was pressure to make offers, even if you'd only seen the place once, which is ridiculous when you think about it -- the biggest purchase of your life and you devote 20 minutes to making your mind up?
We spent a few Saturdays doing viewings as a family. It's not exactly easy to concentrate with two boys running around people's houses, touching things and testing out sofas as if they were in a furniture showroom. Even when they were being good, agents or owners looked paranoid that they would do something bad -- one woman (who had about nine cats positioned throughout her house, including in the shower) constantly pleaded with them not to tease or chase her cats when in fact all they wanted to do was stroke them.
Nothing was quite right -- if the location was right, the price was always too high or the house was too small. If the house was nice, it generally didn't have a big enough garden for our football-playing boys, had parking issues or wasn't in a convenient area for our various journeys to work and school. There was one big and far-too-expensive house that we liked, and we waited in vain for the owners to lower the price (as it's been on the market for a while), but they never did.
Can I just confirm here that London house prices are going crazy? The other day I noticed a house near us had a board outside it --I'd looked at a similar one in the same street before Christmas which needed a bit of modernisation, and knew (so I thought) roughly how much it would go for. As it wasn't yet on the web, I phoned the agent thinking I'd arrange a viewing. I simply couldn't believe my ears at the asking price -- a cool 800,000 more than the one down the road that was essentially the same. Well, it might have been beautifully modernised and had a loft extension but surely, that is ridiculous?
Finally, though, last week we found a house we like. The right size, the right price, the big long garden, not too far from school or work. We like its unusual architecture (vaguely Gothic) and its promixity to a leafy park. I'm not going to jinx it by saying where exactly but all will be revealed IF the whole thing goes through. We've had our offer accepted, but as we all know that's only the beginning of the story when it comes to house purchasing.
So maybe, just maybe, in six months' time we'll have reunited all our furniture and crockery and put some pictures up, and can start to talk about "home" again. And I will be able to pass an estate agent's window without feeling I have to look at it.