Friday, 15 April 2011

Moulder and Wiser

Dear readers, I am gutted to let you know that we have had to abandon the quest for Mould Mansion.

I can't pretend this is a post I'm pleased to write, but I will be doing my best to focus on the positive. Frankly, there's nothing else for it. After the most frenetic period of activity in the year long history of Golem Housing Co-op, we had a meeting last night to formally agree that we could not realistically go to the auction for Mould Mansion. The mood was curiously upbeat, which I suspect was mostly down to the relief of finally knowing something for certain after so many weeks of uncertainty. It's just a shame that the certainty was that we are likely to remain an un-housed co-op for some time.

To re-cap, Sven spotted the magnificent mouldering edifice that is MM on Rightmove some while back. Some of us were keen, others less so. Why was the start price so low? Did we really want to deal with the vagaries of the auction process? Could we possibly ever afford such a large house? A viewing was arranged for those of us keen to have a closer look, and we duly saw that though undeniably mouldy, it was (spacially, at the very least) the perfect house for us.

Excitement set in and a second viewing was arranged. Could we, dare we go for it? More viewings and more discussion led to the unavoidable conclusion that we had to try, and so off we embarked on the incredible rigmarole that is attempting to buy a house.

And this is where the process defeated us, for at the end of the day, for all of our enthusiasm and determination, we cannot manufacture time. Quotes take time, valuations and surveys take time, finding investors takes time, and fitting all of these things into a workable business plan which gets approved by mortgage companies all takes precious time, which, in the end, we did not have. With a normal house sale there would be time to do these things consecutively, but with the auction deadline looming, we were forced to do them all at once.

Clearly, this approach did not work, but I feel proud that we tried, and amazed at how much we have learned in so short a time.

Focusing on the positive, (which I promised I would do), we all now have a clearer idea of the complexities of the house-buying process, and it's pitfalls. We have built relationships with surveyors, builders and trades people of all sorts, solicitors, guarantors and investors which will stand us in great stead when we next see a suitable property. We have all learnt that we can push ourselves to get things done to tight deadlines, have three meetings a week and not go mad (even when two golems are at work on dissertations). On a personal level, I have learnt more about damp and insulation than I, for one, ever expected to know. I can give you a rundown of energy-saving home improvements by cost and effectiveness in a way that the geek in me is unspeakably proud of.

Most importantly, we are all still friends. We still eat together. We still fill our meetings with innuendo. We still make pots of tea and hold babies for each other when needed, and we still want to continue in the unpredictably emotional process of buying a house together, which is surely the most positive thing of all.

Onwise and Upwise

To fend off dejection and ensure that our collective thoughts remained focussed on finding a house in which we all shall live, those non-dissertationing golems amongst us will be turning our energies towards one of the major stumbling blocks we face as a co-op: The Housing Act 2004. This mighty embuggerance legislates for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs). It's meant to protect tenants from unscrupulous absentee landlords, sub-standard and dangerous living conditions, and other such perils of rented accomodation.

For this, we applaud it. But our applause ends abruptly when we consider that it also applies to housing co-ops. As a co-op you are both tenant and landlord, and as such, mightily unlikely to keep yourself in sub-standard living conditions. Not only this, but certain characters at Westminster have openly admitted that housing co-ops were never meant to be included in this law. Indeed, there was meant to be an exemption for them, but somehow it got forgotten. A minor oops in bureaucratic terms rendered many co-ops illegal overnight, and the co-op movement has been trying to get this situation rectified ever since.

Some golems have already been lending their weight to a campaign by Friendly Housing Action to get an amendment made to the Housing Act, and in the pursuit of a home to call our own, we will now be working on ways to persuade Swansea Council to clarify the situation in our local area. If you're interested in the issue and want to help out, then do get in touch.



  1. Awwwww! I feel so sorry for all of you! definitely keep trying and as you say you've learnt a lot from this and are much more prepared for when you find the right place (possibly even with less mold!)

    Good luck and stay positive! :)

  2. Thanks Alex :) Luckily it wouldn't be hard to find somewhere with less mould, so we'll keep looking.

  3. Yes buying a house is certainly enough of a nightmare without all the complexities of cooperative finance. Both times I've bought a house there was no chain to speak of, no need for major work on the house to meet finance conditions and it still took the solicitors months to sort out all the loose ends ! I wish you success in your endeavour - if you are still together by the time you've achieved this goal there must be very good reason for it !