Wednesday, 22 June 2011

House Viewing: The Tardis and Labyrinth

Since Mould Mansion we have not had a house to view which in any way fitted our size/price criteria. We've been to look at some nonetheless, but always with the knowledge of their inappropriateness in the backs of our minds. Sad times, indeed.

The other day Finn and I had a borrowed baby sling to try out, and so we went on a trawl of the estate agents to see if there was anything interesting about. We drew a blank, but a few hours later one of the agents rang saying he had a house that had just come on that would suit, and that the owners lived in the same street and were thinking of selling their house too, and did we want the particulars?

Er, yes!

When they came through they were incomplete, but very intriguing. Both houses are within our price range, and have enough rooms and random bits of space for communal good times as well. In fact, there seemed to be far too many rooms for what look, from the front, like quite narrow terraced houses. Oh yes, and one of them has a first floor conservatory, too. Random.

And so, today we embarked on a very exciting house viewing of these two properties; the Tardis, and Labyrinth.

First, The Tardis*.  This house looks a little different to others on the street, both inside and out. The owner has had great fun moving walls about inside, creating an awesomely wide and light hallway. There are 7 bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, 3 bathrooms and an awesome basement with two windows. It also has a small garden, conservatory, a sun terrace on the second floor, and a large study area on the landing. The basement is enormous, and gets extra points for being the only one I've ever been in that doesn't stink of damp. In fact, it didn't smell at all - and neither did the rest of the house. A house in Swansea with no visible/smellable damp? You can imagine how impressed we were.

This house is different to others we've looked at on many levels. For one, it appears to have been reasonably well-loved and looked after. The owner seemed quite proud of it, and he didn't seem like a blagger, which made a nice change. The house felt; well, it felt like a home, and that is something I know our house will feel like. It was hard not to like it. It doesn't have any massive bedrooms or any teeny tiny ones. We'd all get an OK-ish amount of personal space, and lots and lots of varied communal space. Whether this suits everyone is still up for discussion.

We next went down the road to Labyrinth. Despite their similar size and location, the two houses couldn't have felt more different. Labyrinth has been HMOdified**, which is to say that every door is a fire door and thus shut all the time, that there are numerous extra internal walls making even large spaces feel small and boxy, and that the kitchen smelt weird. Such is the way of the HMO. 

It's currently split into two flats, with the bottom flat having a huge living room, small kitchen and bathroom in the basement, and then 3 bedrooms on the ground floor. The top flat has 3 bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom, and a living room. The room sizes are more varied here, but there weren't any absurdly small rooms, just some a little smaller than we'd like. There was a bigger garden here, but no other extraneous areas.

Were we to live here, we'd have the whole ground floor as communal space, which would be awesome. In The Tardis the space is more split up into different areas, but there's also more of it. It's so hard to work out which is more important sometimes, but such is the way of buying houses. We are always trying to think of what will work best for the long-term of the co-op, and that does mean making tricky judgements.

After the viewing we went back to Cassian's for a debrief/squeebrief***. This involved, amongst other things, deciding the houses' names (for bloggity purposes) and determining that choosing between them was somewhat akin to a fight between David Tennant and David Bowie. Cue rubbish artwork.

Less importantly, rough floor plans were drawn and pros and cons debated, and it turns out that we see merit in them both. We're going to go for second viewings, and try to get more detailed measurements for The Tardis, which had some hilariously inaccurate ones in the particulars. We're going to do some investigating of market values, and re-work the business plan to see how it goes with both houses. We're going to have a meeting; the first of many, if we decide to go for one or the other.

As Joe so pointedly said, here we go again.


* It's not only named for the TARDIS because it's bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside, but also that if you painted it blue, it would have a slight similarity. Honest.
** I made this word up today, and had to use it :)
*** Another word I made up today. Clearly I'm on a roll.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


So, I am moving house again, for will be the 4th time in just over 2 years. This makes me sad.

Artists impression of the Author.

Mattie! I hear you cry, what does this have to do with us? We are here to read whimsical exposition on mould and Babies, not hear you whinge about your personal housing situation! Well PAH! I tell you. This is about social inequality, unstable housing and the benefits of stable, mutually organised housing managed by tennants. So there. Listen to my whinging, oh invisible audience.

The situation is this.
Well, are you?

My current landlord has issued myself and my 2 housemates 2 months notice to scarper and find somewhere new. In a way this is nice, because in all my 8 months of living there I have <ILLEGALITY WARNING> not been on the contract. While partly because of disorganisation, mostly this is because I cannot find £160 of non refundable 'going on the contract' money.  The only housing security I have had is that my housemate is awesome and not some form of baddie.

My housemate - Not Skeletor

Swansea has very odd HMO rules that mean that should you want to live anywhere near anything ever you have to be less than two households. Otherwise HMO housing. Lovely, expensive student housing, in short. So far, the estate agents that we have spoken to have either said 'no, we don't do small HMO properties', 'we have houses but they're filthy' or 'we have a good house, but you'll have to pretend that there are less of you than there are'.

Due to being on 16 hours a week I will have to claim housing benefit. This means that upon moving into the next house I will need to pay contract fees and a bond. For living in a house.  How demanding am I.

Not this demanding though, God kids!

Now, this may just be me, but as a bond round here can be up to and beyond £300, contract fees £160 and a months rent around £180-250 before bill seems a bit steep for somewhere to live. You know, living, that thing that people do.

Start a housing co-op, take over the rental market. Make sure that I am part of the last generation that haemorrhages money it doesn't have into private pockets for the privilage of a roof and 4 walls.

But of course, private rental landlords, follow the advice below.

Bad Advice Chimps