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Everything posted by editha

  1. An update: We decided to sell our house in Canada a year earlier than we'd planned, and buy a house in Devon before we returned to the UK next year. This was for a number of reasons. In Canada the market is slow (though not as bad as the UK), but in our city, this spring, there was a temporary shortage of houses in the price range that includes our house, and our realtor advised us it was a good time to sell. This proved correct since we found a buyer within 3 months, which compares well with the length of time some of our neighbours have taken to sell their houses in the last few years. The downside is that now we have to rent here in Canada for the next twelve months, and rents here are higher than the UK. The upside is that we are in a position to buy a house in the UK now, and avoid having to rent for six months or so, when we return next year. Another incentive to buy in the UK this year is Osborne's dumb (IMO) "help to buy" scheme which is predicted will cause house price inflation. When we moved to Canada in '06 there was raging house price inflation here, but in the UK although prices were going up, the market was slower. We had a horrible nail-biting few months waiting for the sale of our house in the UK to go through, while the average price of properties in Edmonton Alberta was going up by $2,000 a week. Osborne's budget raised the spectre that we might be doomed to repeat the experience in reverse if waited until next year. Our house is now sold and I'm negotiating to buy a cottage on the Hartland peninsula in N. Devon. We haven't agreed a price yet, but I'm confident we will within a few days. I've taken your advice into account as well as advice I got from locals when I visited this year, and in previous years. The area we've chosen is isolated, in fact it is one of the most isolated areas in the West Country, but that doesn't bother me, and in some ways I see it as an advantage. I got no sense of antagonism to incomers when I was visiting. I expect we will encounter some, as we did in Staffordshire too. I did check out the weather and the "microclimate" and it seems favourable. North Devon, though not as sunny as the south coast, is a lot drier than the central area round Dartmoor. We haven't gone for a cob and thatch house. As well as the advice on this board, we were strongly advised against cob and thatch by friends of friends who ran a b&b in Devon for a long time and owned two traditional houses. But, the house we're buying does have some personality and it is going to be fun doing it up. Thank you all for your input.
  2. Thanks. I visited Clovelly 4 years ago, and made it down to the harbour and back! Thanks for all your replies.
  3. Thanks for the replies on Great Torrington. I still think it is a good match for our needs and tastes, so I'm keeping a close eye on prices there. There also seem to be a lot of bargains in the mid-Devon villages, the area north of Dartmoor and Okehampton. I was down that way this spring, and had a great time. I think the remoteness of some of the villages and poor transport links is off-putting, but on the other hand I'm wowed by the possibility of owning a classic cob and thatch cottage, and the countryside is fantastic.
  4. Does anyone know Torrington in Devon? There are a number of properties in the town in our price range, and look good value. All the information I've collected about the town looks good too. We used to live near the market town of Leek in Staffordshire. We liked the market town lifestyle: shopping in small shops, the pubs and small cafes and restaurants, and the sense of community. Leek is being spoiled by a new supermarket development, which is one of the reasons we are now looking elsewhere to retire. We considered Ludlow, which has made a real effort to maintain its small shops, but prices in the area are still sky high. Torrington seems to be the West Country Ludlow, having fought off a Tesco's planning application. It still has a bi-weekly market and its small shops seem to be thriving. Plus development is limited by the surrounding common land. I don't think I've ever been to Torrington, but I do know the surrounding countryside which is great for walking, and the RHS garden at Rosemoor just down the road. Given what a gem it is, prices seem low. So what's the catch?
  5. It's patchouli. I used to be a hippy myself. Crewkerne and Axminster have already come up in property searches. The Mendips seem pricey, because that is commuter country. Overall the Glastonbury area, and the Somerset Levels seem to have the most properties that tick all our boxes.
  6. Well, I'm looking all over. My husband will not want to be right beside the seaside. He grew up on a fishing boat -- quite literally, his father was a salmon fisherman in Victoria BC. He had enough of the sea when he was a kid. On the question of pricing out the locals, that's a complicated issue. I once owned a 5 bed house in Inner London, but since I moved out of London 17 years ago, if I wanted to move back, I would not be able to afford anything bigger than a 2 bed flat. So you could say that I'm a local who has been priced out. My understanding of the West Country, and places like it, is that locals resent second homers, who leave their property empty most of the year, but are less concerned about people moving in who bring money into a community and buy goods and services.
  7. On crime, I think you have to look beyond the statistics. When in London I experienced two muggings, two burglaries and our car was broken into several times. Before he met me, my husband had been mugged and injured. My husband got a job in Stoke on Trent, and we moved to a village just outside the city. In Stoke all the nightclubs are in Hanley, and it gets rowdy there on a Saturday night. We only experienced it once, and we felt disgusted by all the sick and pee everywhere, but that was all. We did not feel threatened, but we are middle-aged. I knew young people who'd been threatened with knives, or even injured in the clubs. In the village we lived in there was barely any crime at all. So, as far as we were concerned, despite the statistics, it was a safe area to live. Looking at the statistics for Yeovil and Chard, they are low for burglary and robbery, the two crimes that I feel threatened by. I do see that the anti-social behaviour stats are very high for both towns, higher than Stoke in fact, but if I was living in a village a few miles away, I doubt whether it would affect me.
  8. The long weekends idea is more or less what we've been planning to do. We'll arrive in the UK several weeks ahead of our furniture, so we'll be staying with my mum out of necessity. That would be a good time to take a trip to the West Country. However, our return is still two years in the future, so it is a bit early to be making those kind of plans.
  9. That would be the ideal, but not as easy as it sounds. Villages where we can afford to buy are not necessarily those where we can afford to rent, or where long term rental properties are available. I already part own my mother's home in East Sussex, and from a financial point of view it would make more sense to stay there until we buy somewhere. At the start of our retirement we'll be capital rich but income poor, and I'd not be keen on reducing our capital to pay rent. That's one of the difficulties with moving to the West Country. In the West Midlands we could rent a 2 bed house for 400 a month, but in a Somerset village the rent is likely to be at least 650.
  10. Thanks for the warning about Chard. Good to know, because it is on the edge of the area I've been looking at -- roughly the triangle of Glastonbury, Yeovil and Taunton.
  11. I'm living in Canada at the moment. My husband and I are planning to retire back to the UK in a couple of years time. We're torn between moving back to the West Midlands, where we still have friends, and the West Country, but we will probably choose the West Country. I've been keeping an eye on property prices for some time. Originally, I was only looking at the Bridport/Beaminster area, because I have family connections there, but the prices are really too high for us, so I've started looking further afield, in Devon and Somerset as well as Dorset. The area that seem to have the most suitable properties for our requirements and price range is South Somerset, I particularly like properties I've seen on Rightmove in Muchelney and North Cadbury. The problem is that I only know this area from holidays, and I don't think my experience of attending the Glastonbury Festival is a very good guide to living in the area! I'd appreciate the views of anyone with more knowledge than me.
  12. Hi I'm a bit late replying to this topic. I haven't checked out this forum for a while, but I guess you might still be monitoring replies occasionally. I think you've got a good idea moving to Stoke. I moved there from London in 97 and stayed until 06. Stoke gets a bad press, but it actually has a lot going for it. It is surrounded by some really lovely countryside, and is small enough to make the countryside accessible whichever part you are living in. People are friendlier than in London (the BNP supporters excepted), and it is not just property prices that are cheaper; the cost of living is significantly lower all round. There are downsides too. There is a neanderthal element, which resulted in several BNP councillors for a while. A good way of working out the areas to avoid would be to look at where the BNP vote is concentrated. Shopping facilities are poor, but Birmingham and Manchester are not that far away. If you are into eating out, then you might be disappointed by the standard of local restaurants. The centre of Hanley has a reputation for rowdy nightclubs (but then you might like rowdy nightclubs). The biggest problem is lack of employment, which forced us to move away after my husband was made redundant. For property, it is worth looking outside Stoke at Newcastle under Lyme, and the surrounding rural villages in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Prices are not much higher than Stoke itself, but accessibility to the M6 puts prices up a lot -- if you don't need the M6, avoid properties close to it.
  13. I've been keeping tabs on the Bridport and Beaminster area through Rightmove, because it is on our list of places to possibly retire to in a couple of years time. What I notice is that properties are not selling at all. According to Rightmove no house sales have been registered at the Land Registry since spring 2008. Some houses seem to have come down 25% in price without shifting. Others still look as if they're being offered at peak of the market valuations. I'm guessing that what is on the market is mostly second homes, with owners who think they can wait until the market recovers. So what will happen? Will prices crash in the area, or will the market recover? And how far should prices fall from their peak? I'd like people's opinions.
  14. Hi. We are also in Canada, and we are also intending to retire to the West Country. There the similarities end. We are in Edmonton where we moved from the UK in 06. My husband is a Canadian, who spent 25 years in the UK, but I'm English. We are not intending to move for a couple of years yet, but in the meantime I'm keeping an eye on the market. What I've observed about the areas in the West Country that I'm looking at is that the prices are fairly static, but property is not selling. A lot of asking prices are much too high. I recommend using the website Rightmove, not just for listings, but also for price comparison reports. They show the last properties to be registered at the Land Registry. In the two towns in Dorset I'm keeping tabs on, no houses have sold at all for over 2 years, which makes the asking prices little more than whistling in the wind. There are a lot of homes in the West Country owned as holiday lets or second homes. Second home owners can sometimes wait for prices to improve, but if nothing is selling at all, sooner or later prices are going to crash. If I were you, I'd certainly rent for a year. You have been in Canada a long time and things do change. You might not like Blighty as much as you think. But also prices have nowhere to go but down over the course of the next year.
  15. Thanks. Glad to hear I'm right about small houses and large gardens. It's amazing what you can work out from the internet isn't it? Before we moved to Alberta I spent a lot of time studying realtor's sites here and got a really good idea about where it would be good to buy. It saved a lot of time when we were looking for a house.
  16. Hi. What can I say about myself? I'm late fifties, female, living in Canada. I'm lucky -- a fourth generation home owner who bought my first home when I was 22. However, I have less house equity than that would imply, due to a disastrous few years in my early forties when I had a bad split up, prolonged ill health and a business that went bust. On the other hand, the equity I'd built up to that point brought me through that without insolvency, and I'm still a home owner. We (me and husband) moved to Canada in '06 with the intention of returning to UK for retirement, which will be between 2 and 7 years time, probably 4 years. We'll sell our Canadian house and buy in the UK a year or two before my husband actually retires. So, I'm keeping an eye on the market. I have a Right Move addiction, but find this site and Property Snake jolly interesting too. My personal view of the market is that the present "recovery" is illusory and by the end of this year we'll see another dip. After that I think prices will not start to go up for some time, maybe years. My reasons: primarily the recession and the increased deposits being demanded by lenders. However, I also think there are demographic factors. Young professionals are now entering the job market already saddled with debt from their graduate loans and that will make it much more difficult for them to raise a deposit. However, I also think that regional price disparities are going to become much greater than they are already. The housing shortage is much more severe in the south-east than anywhere else, although the popularity of the West Country for retirement will keep prices high there too. The baby-boom generation, of which I'm a member, are going to be looking for less expensive places to retire, and that may create regional booms in the more scenic areas in the Midlands, Wales and the North.
  17. Hi Spud. I'm a RightMove addict too, (as well as having a gorgeous cat called Spud, which is irrelevant). In my opinion a lot of places are being overpriced because the vendors have over-extended themselves financially, and simply can't afford to sell at a lower figure. A lot of the overpriced places on the market seem to have been "improved". I suspect that the owners have taken out finance to make their improvements under the delusion that they were adding more value than they were borrowing. We sold our place in the West Midlands for £125,000 in 2006. It was a low price because we were emigrating. Our purchasers put the house back on the market over a year ago at £225,000, then reduced to £215,000. That is still a ridiculous price for a two bed terrace in the area we were living in. It is obvious why they need to sell at that price. They have replaced the wood window frames with PVC double glazing, even though the wood frames were partially double glazed and in good condition. In the process one of the installers must have put his foot through the flat roof on the kitchen extension, because they have replaced the roof too. They have totally redecorated, replaced all the carpets and all the curtains, and completely redone the bathroom. In my opinion, none of these "improvements" would have added enough value to justify a price hike of £90,000, even before the price crash. It was obvious when we were selling to them that they were having difficulty arranging the finance to make the initial purchase. My guess is that after buying, they raised additional finance to make their "improvements" under the delusion that they were adding more value to the property, and they could sell at a profit. That was despite the fact that my immediate neighbour had made the same mistake and had already spent around 4 years trying to sell her place at £185,000, which was the lowest price she could afford. I think that the numerous home improvement programmes on the TV have a lot to answer for. They've given people the completely false impression that they can add value to their houses greater than the money they've spent. In my experience (40 years of buying and selling houses) it is a complete fallacy. If you want to make a profit on a house, don't do anything to it. Let your neighbours improve their houses so the area "goes up", then sell at a profit. That's no great insight on my part; if you read the more responsible advice in newspapers and journals, that is what they always say.
  18. One reason I want to live in or near a market town is so I can avoid supermarkets. We lived near Leek in Staffordshire until '06. We found it was cheaper buying from small shops and in the market in Leek, than from the supermarkets. We saved around £15 a week on our bills by not shopping in Tesco's. But, in E.Sussex where my mother lives, the overheads faced by small shops puts up the prices and makes the supermarket cheaper. I like buying local produce from small shops. It's partly a green choice, and partly a lifestyle choice. When I visit Devizes one of the things I want to check out is how many small shops are surviving, and what the twice weekly market is like. The village I lived in in Staffordshire lost its shop too. One solution is to open a community shop. If prices in the Devizes area go down in the next year or two, that's good news for us. We won't be buying for another two years at least. We are planning to sell our house in Canada a year or two before my husband retires and buy a place in the UK to move into as soon as he finishes work.
  19. Thanks for your replies. The kind of properties we are interested in are mostly coming up in the surrounding villages rather than Devizes itself. I'm planning a stay in the area to check it out.
  20. We are currently living in Canada, but planning to return to the UK to retire. We used to live in the Midlands. close to the Peak District, but are thinking of buying in a new area for the interest of exploring new places. Devizes and the surrounding area appeals, partly because of a family connection, partly because of property prices which don't seem as high as in the rest of the West of England, and partly because there seem to be a lot of small houses with large gardens, which is what we are looking for. I'd like to hear the negatives. Why shouldn't we retire to this area? And, what do you think will happen to the property prices in the Devizes area in the next few years?
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