Monday, 26 August 2013

Head versus Heart

I'm sitting on our decking in 24 degrees heat, drinking a beer, having just come home from a walk along the Hove seafront with Mandy, and I'm wondering how we can ever contemplate leaving this house.

I realised this afternoon that it's 23 years to the day (August Bank Holiday Monday 2000) that we first saw this house. We'd come down from Stratford, East London, for that weekend, to investigate moving to Brighton, as we were contemplating starting a family and didn't see that as possible in our little Victorian two-up two-down terrace house in Henniker Road E3. We saw various properties, had the details for this house, but could not get a viewing, as the occupants were away for the weekend. Before we went back to London, we took a last drive past - and saw the residents unloading their car outside. Cheekily we drove round the block, gave them five minutes to get settled back in, then knocked on their door, estate agent details in hand, and pleaded our case for a viewing. Mrs Stevens very kindly showed us around and we fell in love with it. We returned to London that evening, in the morning made an offer and by the end of that week had secured our new home. 23 years, two young adults and several remortgages later, we are now having to think about moving on.

If you read my previous blog "Not Moving On" you'll be aware that, for various financial and health reasons, we are seriously looking at selling up, paying off the outstanding mortgage and relocating as cash buyers to somewhere else. We've looked at the North East and Newcastle-upon-Tyne but decided it's not for us. I asked my network, via my blog, where they would recommend as a good place to live. Several folks queried whether or not we had really looked at elsewhere in Sussex. Good points - well made!

On Sunday therefore, we took ourselves over to Seaford in East Sussex. Bit of a well-kept secret, is Seaford. Between Newhaven and Eastbourne, it's half an hour from Brighton, 20 minutes from Eastbourne, and hour and a half from London by train. It's a 'proper' town in its own right (see Morpeth in previous blog), and from what we could see on this exploratory visit, house prices appear to be within our anticipated range. This could work!

Our criteria appear to be met. The financials look as if they stand up. My head tells me it's the right thing to do. But as I sit here in the late afternoon sunshine, in the (albeit shabby) garden of the home we have built over the last 23 years, my heart is hurting. 

So many emotional ties - we fell in love with this house exactly 23 years ago. Tash and Sam ran around this garden and up and down that tree for many of those years (as did I). This is the only home they have ever known. We only built the kitchen extension (The "Nessie Gavin Memorial Wing") three years ago. Many parties, celebrations, Shabbat candle lightings and cosy evenings in front of the telly have happened here.

Much reflecting, processing, calculating and decision-making ahead of us. Our Heads are clear. Our Hearts are heavy.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Not Moving On...

We have just returned from a week's 'holiday' in the North East of England. "Why the quotation marks around 'holiday'?", I hear you ask. The purpose of our break was two-fold - one, to have exactly that, a holiday, and two, to seriously investigate the Newcastle-upon-Tyne area as an early, pre-retirement, life-change opportunity. Recent events have made Mandy and I question how sustainable our current lifestyle and commitments are over the next few years.  Saddled with a draining mortgage and other outgoings (all of our own making, I hasten to add) which require us both to work and earn no less than what we're currently earning until 2020 at the earliest, coupled with some health issues and work uncertainties, have made us wonder how long we can keep going like this.

So we have started to investigate selling up in the South East, paying off the remaining mortgage and, as cash buyers, relocating somewhere else.  Not downsizing yet - we still have two young adults in further education - but relocating to find an equivalent family home without the burden of a monthly mortgage repayment hanging over our heads.

Anyone who knows us will be aware that Mandy has been studying for the last three years to become a Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist. The plan was for her to stop working as an IT Training Manager within the next couple of years and start practising as a Counsellor/Psychotherapist either from home or rented studio wherever we ended up. We have holidayed in the North East/Northumberland area and loved it. We wondered if the more urbanised Newcastle-Upon-Tyne area would fit the bill. I will still need to work and be able to get to National Rail and Airport locations for work travel.

So we booked a week in Newcastle, with the intention of spending three days investigating areas that had been recommended to us, talking to estate agents, and touring around where likely property was suggested.  Then we would have a few days off and just holiday on the wonderful Northumberland Coast and surrounding areas...

And now we're back home.  Long story short... We're not moving to the North East! Everywhere we liked, the estate agents - kindly - suggested that our anticipated buying power was insufficient for us to achieve our objectives of housing equivalence, urban transport, convenience, culture etc (in other words, Brighton up North!). Everywhere we looked, we ended up travelling further out to large 70s, 80s or in some cases, 30s(!) residential estates, with no centre, soul, or decent public transport links.

Now, this is not, I hasten to add, the end of the world.  We currently live in a fantastic area, which satisfies all of our work, living and family criteria. Emotionally, we have no desire to move. We would love to retire and live out our time in Brighton and Hove, if we can.  The burden is the mortgage.  The imponderables in the equation are our continued health and our ability to work and earn the living required to keep that whole ship afloat.

Call it niaivity, call it 'Southern' arrogance, we honestly thought that we had started to see some light at the end of the mortgage/work tunnel and that our 'selling power' in the South East would give us the wherewithall to maximise our 'buying power' elsewhere. On this experience, it would appear that we were mistaken and will have to rethink our plans.

However, let me put the question out to you, dear reader, who may live in or know well other areas of this glorious country of ours which might 'fit the bill'.  Where else should we consider for our life-changing move? We make great neighbours! All suggestions welcome, so please comment. Thanks.

All that said, we spent the remainder of our holiday, doing just that - having a holiday!  And we had a great time, spending time in Newcastle and Gateshead, walking the Northumberland Coast at Druridge Bay, visiting the Beamish Open Air Museum and the National Trust's Wallington House and Gardens.  See some photos here.