Moving On: We Have Bought A House & We're Moving To Ely

14 Jul 2019

We Have Bought A House & We're Moving To Ely

We are now homeowners… 

That title does a pretty good round up of what I am about to say in much more detail. But, hey, if you like the detail then please do delve in.

So yes, as I briefly mentioned here and here – we have been going through the process of buying a house since April. I haven’t talked about it on the blog much because you hear so many stories of these things going wrong and falling through that I’ve just been trying to allow it to tick along in the background and not think about it too much (I did have a wedding to distract me tbf).

But actually, things have gone pretty smoothly and we completed on Friday! Yesterday, we went to pick up the keys and we will officially move in next Friday. The house has been unoccupied for six months so had somewhat of a funky smell about it, the garden has become an actual meadow and there is no running water although we are not entirely sure why. But it’s ours. 

We decided last year that we would buy a house in 2019, after the wedding, and have been considering where we would buy a house for a good couple of years before that. As to why we seemingly have picked a place out of thin air – I wrote in more detail over here why Gary and I are a little ‘rootless’ in terms of places to ‘settle down’. But to clarify the obvious, no matter how much we love St Albans, we have always known we cannot stay here if we ever wanted to own our home. St Albans is sob-into-your-bank-account expensive and we can’t even afford a one-bed flat here. You’re looking at £800k for a terrace house for crying out loud (when did I become the person bitching about house prices, when?!). It sucks but there isn’t much point labouring on it.

We considered a lot of places, originally just widening the circle around St Albans and looking at other areas of Hertfordshire. We did a lot of day trips. We also considered areas of the midlands and Kent (where Gary is from) but nothing ever felt quite right and I’d resigned myself to rent forever and staying in St Albans… which is hardly the worst fate in the world.

Gary took to browsing google maps a lot and sometimes we’d just click on places at random and be like ‘what do you reckon XXX is like?’ These places would then be ruled out either due to the length of the commute or by other people’s reactions (people do not speak highly of Peterborough FYI), but mostly due to house prices. The further north you went, the lower the house price but the higher the commuting costs. It was hard to find the sweet spot.

And then one day, Gary casually asked me ‘have you ever heard of Ely?’

I didn’t even look up from my laptop. ‘Where?’

‘It’s a town – city maybe – just north of Cambridge.’

My ears pricked up. ‘Cambridge you say?’

‘There’s a big cathedral, old-looking houses and, well, it’s affordable. Just.’

Boom. I was interested. We took a day trip. We took another. And another. We spoke to people from the area, who knew the area. No one looked at us like we were idiots. I took my mum. She loved. I took my mum again. She decided she was moving there. Ely is pretty, with cobbled streets, a gorgeous gothic cathedral and canal boats bobbing on the river. But there’s also practical housing estates, a station and four different supermarkets. We seemed to have found the sweet spot, entirely by accident.

(Of course, nothing ticks all the boxes and both our commutes are shite. But just on the reasonable side of do-able when you can work from home half the time, and Cambridge presents other job opportunities for the future.)

We went to stay for a few days just to get a sense of what the commute was like and allowed Ely to settle in our minds for a few months. And then around March time we got itchy feet so, after some discussion, we decided there was no harm in starting viewings, just to get an idea of what we like and don’t like house-wise. But we wouldn’t actually start making offers until after the wedding.

Aaaannnd we put an offer in on the first one we viewed. If you have ever been house hunting, I’m sure you know that everyone will tell you to view a fair few houses and not put on offer in on the first one you see… advice we clearly ignored. We viewed a grand total of 2 houses and the second one was in a very half-hearted manner. The thing is, sometimes you do just have to trust your instinct. Particularly when the house is the only one you have seen on rightmove that is close to town, has four bedrooms and is within budget. Gotta do what you gotta do.

Which is why we have ended up getting married, taking a 3-week honeymoon and moving house all within 6 weeks. And honestly, we only had that much time because we had to stand firm on a completion date – as the house was already empty, the vendors wanted to complete a week after we landed back in the UK. Which was fair enough but near-on impossible for us even before you consider the jetlag.

We are swapping a tiny flat for a four-bed house, monthly rent for a 20+ year mortgage, a city centre for the suburbs and lazy Sundays for DIY projects (we’re planning on knocking down a wall… what could possibly go wrong?). I will miss St Albans, truly, but I’m really rather excited to get settled. I want this new house and new town to become our home, to know we have years of time ahead of us in this place. I’m excited to have Cambridge on our doorstep, to be able to get to the coast within an hour and have all these new lovely-looking parts of the country to explore. And I’m excited for Ely; for this little city (one of the smallest in the country) to provide us with new people, a new local pub (v important) and a new chapter.

Photo by Robert Gramner on Unsplash