Most of the other things I’ve written about are completely possible or even required to be done out of the country. There is only so much you can do regarding finding a place to live without actually looking at houses. MC is really fantastic at looking at online listings and narrowing down what she wants and what she thinks won’t work. So basically she did all she could do remotely.
Even with MC’s house investigation skills we realized early enough in the house finding process that we needed help. Based on a recommendation or two we settled on a relocation agent. Their job was to help us find a house to live in. We had several criteria. We wanted to be an area with a lot of green space. We also wanted a house with the backyard. This is something that MC has wanted for a while and we promised our kids. One of the biggest priorities was proximity to good schools for the girls. We also wanted to be a reasonable commute will be located. And obviously we had a budget to stick with. With all that information in hand we let our relocation agents go to work. At the same time I had spoken to several friends from work who currently live in or around London. I also spoke to a friend of mine who is in New York who was relocated from London. After a lot of back and forth we suggested to the relocation agents that we felt our criteria would be met in a few specific neighborhoods.
After their research the relocation agent’s agreed with us. We then started focusing our efforts on the surrounding neighborhoods that we felt were a fit. The relocation agent sent several house examples to us. They were only examples since we learned that most property gets rented very quickly so we needed to see what was people out there however we would not have the specific listings we were going to see or possibly rent until right before we went to look.
Finding a house however does require some on the ground work. All of the research that MC has done and all the work done by the relocation experts leads up to an on-site house viewings. The question became when could we go. We knew that when we started finding the right time to go was always a big question. Originally we were hoping to go in early October however childcare was a challenge. We also learned that to rent a house you need your visas done already. Our visas weren’t ready in October. We also learned that you have to view a house right around when you want to take it since they go quickly.
Early on in the planning my mom had said she would take the girls while we went to look for a house. The best week for her was the week of Thanksgiving. It only required hard to do the school routine two days and then go to my sisters the rest of the week until we got there. That gave us the entire weekend before and four days, Monday through Thursday to do what we needed to do. The relocation people said that the timeframe could work since property would be available for viewing then that we could rent in December. We preferred to rent for January however this was the only time we could go.
Other things we figured out was that you cannot get into a school right away so having a property rented and then starting the process to get the school sorted in December was appealing. The overlap in cost with our apartment in New York was frustrating however one month wasn’t the end of the world if it got us what we wanted.
With our dates settled we booked travel. We waited a bit too long and tickets were going to be pretty expensive for airfare. Then we had the idea to use reward tickets. We each had enough points for round trip ticket and there was availability the days we wanted to travel. The only challenge we had was we had award points on different airlines. We ended up booking the tickets and flew separately. Going out to London our flights were only about 30 minutes apart. Coming back however it was about 2 1/2 hours.
Due to delays MC only arrived about 15 minutes before I did and waited for me and read a book right past customs. We were able to ride together to the hotel.
The way the schedule worked while we were in London for our house visiting trip was we had Saturday to rest from our overnight flight to view the neighborhoods we were interested in. We also hoped to find any last-minute houses that we wanted to view on our own. We walked around the high streets of two neighborhoods. We also spoke to one realtor and lined up two houses to view on Monday.
We were only able to view one house Monday since the other one we could get into. The house was lovely however it was right adjacent to the train and we were concerned about that. I thought I would be more concerned about that then it turned out to be however the bigger issue with the house was its distance to the train. It was three quarters of a mile walk. Without a car the girls would have issue doing that anytime we wanted to go anywhere.
Monday night we met up with a friend of mine from work who lives in the neighborhood we were looking at. By Monday afternoon the relocation agents had emailed us the itinerary for our marathon viewing sessions on Tuesday. We were originally going to try to do some houses Tuesday and some houses Wednesday however the schedule worked out that it was all done on Tuesday. Fun fact we learned that house viewing in England is best done on a Saturday or weekdays that are not Monday. Apparently Monday is when they reconcile offers made from weekend viewings.
With our list of houses we reviewed them with my friend at a pub by the office. We got the lowdown on the streets where the houses we wanted to see were. Based off of that and the details from the relocation agents there were no matter what and some that we were really excited to see.
On Tuesday the first house we saw was a disaster, literally. There was what could only be described as a hole in the floor of the kitchen. There were some sort of water damage that had been addressed yet and the entire kitchen was buckled floor. It was a good start of the day. The next few houses were okay but nothing spectacular.
Before lunch we viewed one house that was MC’s stand out favorite. The street was nice, the backyard was nice and it was pretty spacious. What we learned was even though we only need three bedrooms the houses we viewed you really needed a 4th bedroom. The reason for that was the last bedroom be it the third or fourth was always super small. We could have survived on three bedrooms however my dream of a home office in a guestroom would’ve been dashed. The rooms were just too small to hold more than a desk or more than a single bed. The single bed even wouldn’t have been enough since we want guests to come and that means usually more than one person at a time. Apparently this size room is typical in prewar houses.
After lunch we saw another house or two we liked. One house with really good location to a fantastic school was just horrible. The last house we saw as MC said had terrible curb appeal. It was off of the main Street was a little bit further of a walk than what we liked however it was doable. The thing with that house was once you are inside it was fantastic. There was a pretty open floor plan first floor. The living room was pretty big and there was an eating kitchen. The backyard was huge. So large to the point we could not see the end of it due to the way it was laid out. I wasn’t a fan of the bedroom configuration but it was okay enough.
In the end the decision boiled down to two houses. One was a big four-bedroom with a huge backyard with a swing set. It had if I recall an eating kitchen and a garage with off street parking even had a dryer in the garage. That apparently is very rare for England. It hardly did not come with appliances however the previous tenant had left appliances we could use with no warranty if we wanted.
The other house was MC’s favorite that was close to the train on a cute Street. It was a three bedroom that had the attic converted into a master bedroom with en suite bathroom. It did not have off street parking however you can get a permit so parking hopefully should be manageable since not just anyone can park.
We put an offer on the four-bedroom with the converted attic. The final straw was it had several school options that were good. The other house we light had really only one school option and if we didn’t get into it we would have to travel pretty far for in other school. One of the things we said we needed that the relocation agent suggested was a high density number of schools in case your first and second options don’t work out.
Since our original plan was to view houses Wednesday and we had an offer out we had a free day. We went to the Tate and Borough Market along with walking on the river for a while. It was generally restful day before we flew home on Thursday.
As of the time of this writing we have our house. We got the house we wanted and were pretty happy. The relocation agents have already started the process of getting our utilities and other things set up. There helping with things I didn’t realize they would help with. Well I guess I realized that since I did read the terms and conditions however you forget the details. I was getting overwhelmed with the things we need to do and there taking care of many of them.
By the time this blog post is published we should be already living in her house.