Donald MacInnes: Our ideal home on a hill is the first kill in house-hunting safari


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The Independent Online

So now the story can be told; now the cat, unlike Erwin Schrödinger's theoretical subject, can exit the bag.

Our hunt for a home of our own has produced its first kill. But it's not a zebra's head adorning the wall of my (increasingly) metaphorical study.

No, the thing which met its maker was our dream of a nice house on a hill overlooking London. Sadly, some cash-rich prospector outbid us. So now we sit gazing at the walls in our (admittedly lovely) rental flat and wonder if we could have done anything differently.

We became aware of the house (hereafter known as "the house") about six weeks ago.

We had combed the hill for months, looking at a few places, but never being overly impressed. Then we saw it. A three-bedroomed, semi-detached home, it had been renovated extensively by its owner and was presented in an immaculate fashion.

Every wall was snow white, every floor lickable. It didn't even smell of sausages and old tights. Although most people have gone through the will-sapping agony of househunting, it's nevertheless worth stating how rare it is to find a house like this. Having inspected many in the past few months, I can reveal that a surprisingly high percentage of people live like post-apocalyptic hoarders, unaware of the smell which emanates from both them and the shed at the bottom of their Amazonian hell of a garden.

Anyway, having poured over pictures of the house (and even gone into Google StreetView to walk the route from "the house" to "the chippy"), by the time we actually attended the busy open day, we were beyond excited and both doing our best not to scream "We'll TAKE it!!".

As the owner showed us round, I did my best to charm her into selling us the house without actually making her knees buckle or giving my wife grounds for divorce.

As it turned out, we all got on famously. Before we left, I even asked for her number and, with a wink, said we would be in touch. This is highly inappropriate. Not just because I am married, but because we were only supposed to deal with the estate agent. But we had a personal connection! Well, we thought we did.

We found out later that we were one of nine prospective buyers sniffing around. We began with a bid of £11,000 over the asking price. Uh-uh. Not even close.

The next 24 hours saw a minor bidding war between us and the others, the price being nudged up repeatedly until it passed £300,000 and the owner asked for secret best and final bids. We bid £321,321 and crossed our fingers. Sadly, we lost. What remains staggering is that we bid 41 GRAND over the asking price and this still wasn't enough.

It's all pretty depressing. But what are you going to do? We just have to keep looking. Or buy a tent.

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