OK UK? - Real Estate Reality...

Not quite the castle I was expecting...
Not quite the castle I was expecting...
The "front" of a house like my house but not my house...
The "front" of a house like my house but not my house...
The back lane...
The back lane...
Looks good from a distance....
Looks good from a distance....

Really Real Estate...

As a group, sellers of houses are given to hyperbole with a side of glorious grandiloquence; you have read their stuff, right? You never come across an ad for, say, a mediocre house with little character in a questionable location. No sir. Every house is a masterpiece, a little gem, heaven on earth, or simply requires a gentle flick of a magic wand to make it so. (Called beguilingly a fixer-upper, not a total downer…) I have often wondered if any seller has read the description of their home and felt compelled to put an offer in?

In England these fine folks are called Estate Agents, which is highly suspect nomenclature, bringing to mind the dispersal of the assets of the grand country houses, not a three up two down in the murky outskirts of Newcastle.

My experience is limited to the purchase of two homes, both done during the practice marriage many, many, moons ago. House one was row house, over two hundred years old in the mining hamlet of Clara Vale in Northumberland. It was certainly affordable, but hardly desirable. It originally had two rooms downstairs and three small rooms up. In this form it was lived in by several generations of coal-miners, with families of six or seven children. By the time I purchased it, it was no longer a working class necessity, but a “cute cottage nestled in historic countryside.”

It had been 'improved' with the addition of a kitchen and bathroom (with indoor toilet) or as the card in the Estate Agents window boasted, "all mod cons". Fortunately, they did not mean con as in connivance, but as in 'all modern conveniences'. It had central heating, and at the end of a front yard, (which was in the back), a pre-fabricated garage.

The back yard, which faced the street and thus was the front entrance, no longer held the coal shed and outdoor toilet, but had a seriously badly designed brick extension in it. Sticking a brick box on a stone house, complete with a flat and leaky roof, to house a bathroom and kitchen, should have been a crime, but the sellers were proud of their handiwork, and the Estate Agent simply gushed.

This house was connected to thirty or so other houses of similar design. I was informed that the street was ‘paced out’ by the builder, dropping sand every ten paces, delineating where the walls were to be placed. The walls were built of the rocks dug out of the mineshaft, so they varied considerably from the first to last house giving an interesting horizontal snapshot of the local geology. The walls were about three feet thick, had no damp course, and each house had slightly different window placement and sizes. We shared a long slate roof that was interrupted only by stone chimneys.

I had an inspection done one day, after observing the dramatic sag of the roof above my particular house. The amount of daylight I could see was truly worrying me in the land of rain...but, the report read that the slates were original, sound and that the settling observed was not 'out of the ordinary' and would last in all probability another two hundred years.

Fact is, the roof never leaked, score one for the firm of 'Leave-well-alone and Son' surveyors and general contractors…

Selling the very same house a few years later, complete with a new kitchen installed by me, we made nearly one hundred pounds. The new owners worried about the roof, same guy inspected it, charged them his usual fee (one hundred pounds…), and gave them the self-same report he had given me.

The house was a revelation, and not in a good or biblical way, partly because the materials were the cheapest available in the late seventeen hundreds. Removing the carpeting upstairs (which was an artifact from the disco era) I found layers of newspapers. Those uppermost were from the seventies, that’s the nineteen seventies, but burrowing down, I found some really old ones from the turn of the century The floorboards were all individual, not a single piece was the same length or width as another, and no nails had been used, just little triangular metal pieces cut from a sheet. In a moment of lunacy I decided to ignore the example of Mr. Leave-well-alone and tried to lay a modern hardwood floor over them.

Which I then covered in newspapers to even out the more obvious lumps, and put a carpet over…

The downstairs flooring was less of a challenge, bad carpet on top of newspapers on top of cement. I was informed the cement was a recent addition as the original floor had been compacted dirt with flagstones over.

Have I mentioned how damp and cold the house was?

Both downstairs rooms had large fireplaces. The “sitting room” had been converted to gas, which managed to heat an area of about five square feet directly in front of it. The former kitchen (pre the brick built extension) was now a dining room and boasted a large inglenook fireplace…that no longer worked. Once the working hearth of the home, the source of countless meals, it became a place for the dogs to curl up in, until it got too cold for them. Then they would absorb all the available heat from the one functioning radiator…

The “modern” kitchen had no wall cabinets. I decided to fix that. Then I went a step too far and decided to extend the run of cabinets into the dining room. With its three-foot thick stone wall… After many failed attempts to hang anything, I made an arrangement with my neighbor and drilled through my wall into his house, installed some metal rods, and we both hung cabinets on either side.

It was a relief to sell the place…

House two was a very boring semi-detached (is it detached or not?), unremarkable in every way except how it started out as ours and ended up as hers...

Now if only estate agents wrote pre-nups…

Comments 20 comments

sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

Interesting house hub.

I love the way you played nicely with others.

Sorry the X did not.

(Notice how I, very un-girly-like, stayed away from asking about how damp it was in the house, and if a tube top could be worn without acquiring pneumonia in such a damp house, and ... well... you're welcome.)


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Sue,

Really? No sarcasm? No clothing advice?

Anyway, to answer the burning questions of the day...

Damp, think nightmare cave...

Tube top, 100% pneumonia rate...

And please stop being sensible, its creeping me out...


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

It wasn't really a New-castle by the sound of it, but it was character building. You would be much more boring if you'd have bought a lovely warm ten roomed mansion. Do they have them in Newcastle and is it true that most of the houses are built of coal? Don't they need handy men in Lemon County?

An Englishman's ex-wife owns his castle, could be a new proverb. Cheers mate.


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

AttHum,

I would sit in the freezing living room and wonder how a family of seven or eight could survive, then I realized, that when the guys were not here, they were down the pit, or getting plastered in the club.

It was so bad, both the dogs kept trying to run away from home...

and yes there are some really lovely homes in Newcastle, Jesmond Dene for example...

And the handy men in Lemon County are OK getting paid in Pesos, if you get my drift, so not even close to a living wage.

I'm not a fan of the new proverb...but, clever I grant you!

Cheers


Vera McCabe profile image

Vera McCabe 5 years ago from West Sussex, UK

Chris, I think the family of eight was very comfortable in that house - keeping each other warm would have been an inevitability. Maybe more kids and dogs is the answer?

I like your hub, I can see your house in my mind.


Reynold Jay profile image

Reynold Jay 5 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

With all your real estate work, it is a wonder you have time to do a HUB! I enjoyed this very much. You have this laid out beautifully and it is easy to understand. Keep up the great HUBS. Up one and Useful. Hey! I'm now your fan! RJ


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Vera,

And there was the one benefit of being a miner -you got reduced cost or free coal...

It all looks a little more romantic from 6,000 miles and thirty years away!

I think I paid under $20,000 for it, back in the day...

Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, much appreciated.

And in those days I was never without an Aran Sweater or two...

C


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Reynold,

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, following, all very much appreciated. I need to read your hubs and look for inspiration to finally get my book out...

C


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

My favourite r/estate phrase is "suit handyman" which generally translates to "a real dive"...

Just once, I'd like to open the r/estate section and see a house with "unremarkable in every way" as its honest headline. Oh that would be something.


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Jane,

Wouldn't it be a hoot to see:

"Overpriced dump on busy main road. Interior marginally worse than poor exterior. No mod cons. A genuine, must see, money pit. Goat family in living room included."

I see another hub on this in my future...

C


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Hahaha...oh yes


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Sounds like the Texas version of a "manufactured home" or doublewide.


sunflowerbucky profile image

sunflowerbucky 5 years ago from Small Town, USA

As a real estate appraiser, I have to say, some real estate agents are better at writing fiction than many on hubpages. You just have to learn to translate...."fixer upper" is code for piece o' crap! Great hub!


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

sunflowerbucky,

As an appraiser, what do you think about the prices I talked about in my unreal estate hub (link above) - California coast gone completely crazy! 17 - 20 million for a postage stamp lot...

C


sunflowerbucky profile image

sunflowerbucky 5 years ago from Small Town, USA

Having worked in resort areas, I think some people have way more brains than money. :)


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

As AustinStar put it - Tsunami fodder...


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

I used to be a Realtor and my very FAVORITE description was the "cozy, newly remodeled cottage".. it was a run down barn that had been "remodeled" by adding a wall for a bedroom/bathroom (where we found a commode sitting randomly in the middle of said room) and a piece of carpet nailed down between the rest of the house and the new room.. It did have a makeshift closet and a door, thereby meeting the requirements of calling the bathroom/bedroom a separate room. It was AWESOME!!


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Sue,

Librarian, realtor, writer, chef...no wait, one step too far. You have had as many careers as me...

My favorite from England was "bijou" implying cozy and French, but meaning unbelievably small...

C


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

At 96 I wouldn't have put up with that (true) chef comment, but from a 99... well, that's just funny!

oohh. I like "bijou". Everything sounds good in french. My husband speaks fluent french and he can tell me my butt looks big (in french) and still get a smile. English..well, you can still get away with more than americans, but mostly because we can't understand you. Say what???


ChrisLincoln profile image

ChrisLincoln 5 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California Author

Sue,

In England a '99' is a Mr. Whippy with a flake stuck in it...

OK

That needs translating...

Mr. Whippy is ice cream, well kinda, served from ice cream vans, and a flake is a crumbly bar of chocolate by Cadbury's - I kid you not - that they stick into the ice cream.

We are not weird, just, well, our brains are a bit fluffy, dear...

And you have found the perfect man - he says you have a bijou butt - for sure he's a keeper!

C

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    Dear Hub Reader


    If you enjoy this hub, please check out my book,

    Homo Domesticus; A Life Interrupted By Housework,

    A collection of my best writings woven into a narrative on a very strange year in my life.

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