HOUSE HUNTER: Nothing like buying a house to make you feel grown up

Wednesday, 21st February 2018, 9:39 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st February 2018, 9:49 am

Waving madly through the windscreen at the slightly scruffy looking estate agent, I virtually jumped out of the car for our first ever property viewing.After dreaming of owning a house for so long, it was exciting to finally be able to see some bricks and mortar instead of just browsing through endless property porn online. Looking at pictures is all well and good, but it’s just not the same as seeing a house in the flesh.I shook the woman’s hand and all three of us stood waiting by the front door of a semi detached in Greystones.After a few seconds, it became slightly awkward.“Are you the estate agent?”, I asked brightly, preparing to ask my typed list of questions , covering everything from the age of the boiler to how long it had been on the market.No, was the answer.She wasn’t the owner of the property either.“So...who are you?” I asked.With a look that conveyed just how very dim she thought I was, the woman confirmed she was also hoping to look around Number 21.As a potential buyer.And then we all stood in an embarrassed silence until the actual estate agent arrived to let us in, my husband slowly shaking his head from side to side, a move he only repeated when he asked whether a house had double glazing or not.Now that property, despite its conservatory, lovely garden and potential for improvement, wasn’t for us.It needed a great deal of work far beyond our capabilities and had clearly been lived in by a smoker for the past 30 years, as evidenced by the yellow walls and pungent smell.But it was a good first lesson of the politics of property purchasing.Another good lesson to learn is that - certainly in parts of the city - the phrase ‘converted cellar’ covers a vast range of things.It can be a typical Sheffield cellar, a bit damp, with brick walls and housing seven bikes, but with a bit of carpet stuck down next to the electricity meter.Or it could be a completely transformed and tanked room which the owners now use as a spare bedroom when visitors come to stay for Tramlines.And thirdly it could be something you might expect in a horror movie - a dirty, shabbily painted room with a random toilet in there - adding another £20,000 to the price tag and another nightmare to your repertoire. It isn’t particularly the done thing to turn up with a list of questions to house viewings anymore, either.There’s a good chance the estate agent won’t know, and will direct you to the office for enquiries, or the more organised owners will have a sheet all typed up and ready to go with reams of information about council tax bands, insurance and parking, plus the exact number of students still living nearby.Ah, parking.The Holy Grail for many searching for a new home - especially in Sheffield.It does seem to be unique in that half the city can’t find a parking space anywhere near their own home, you just don’t get that problem in other parts of Yorkshire.Any house with a garage or off road space into which a car can be squeezed is instantly propelled into the next bracket of desireability, with or without the dodgy cellar.There are some great examples of owners who have made ingenious use of space to make this happen.We didn’t let the lack of parking put us off the house of our dreams though.Desperate drives up and down the streets of S11, necks craning for a space, any space, look likely as after just one weekend of serious viewings, we decided to go for number two on the list.There was no exhaustive list of ‘musts’ on our part - just a bath (after four years with only a shower, it really was non negotiable ) and a garden that nobody could cut through to put their bins out while having a gawp.It had been my favourite property from the start, and from the minute we walked in it just felt right - good sized rooms, plenty of light throughout, and just the right balance of being finished to a high standard so we could live in it straight away, with some room to personalise things over time.We hadn’t even got over the front step on our way out before we were talking about our potential offer, and loading up YouTube videos on negotiation techniques.There’s nothing quite like making the biggest purchase of your life to make you feel really grown up.Now we just need to wait and see whether the offer will be accepted...

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise