The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good part of living in a refurbishment project is seeing progress, a job well done. The bad is having to do the work at all. This is not our first renovation. This is the first we’ve lived in while doing this much labour and the only one where we needed major help. Some of the jobs were beyond us, this time; we had to hire a builder. Good thing we knew of one well-respected.

People keep asking if the house required so much work why we bought it. Almost every house demanded restoration. We even upped the budget and were shocked to find homes seldom in better condition. Sometimes the properties were no bigger so the higher price tag was often confusing. We chose this house because, as with every move, it’s hard to locate a decent garden.

When I say refurbishment, I’m not talking redecoration. The trials of painting and wallpapering hold no fears. We could have finished a simple facelift in a month. Any relocation will likely require more than pretty embellishments. In these economic times, it’s difficult to judge how much someone should spend on their home, but owners will find that neglect may hit them in the resale value of their property; conceivably, this will also affect the price when the survey arrives on the purchaser’s doorstep. Any offer should be ‘subject to survey’ though buyers often ignore points that arise in the report. Even if they try to renegotiate the expenditure, the seller is angry because we all consider our homes to be worth more than they likely are in reality if not maintained. We’ve never sold a home with a serious defect, yet frequently experienced the frustration of a buyer ‘trying it on’, haggling over inconsequentials (in one instance a non-existent never-having-existed shed). Insignificant details aside, ignore real flaws, pocket all profits, and homeowners are going to be in for a shock when claiming on home insurance. Everything is ‘regulation’ now. We know this personally. A friend tried to apply for compensation for a broken window only to be told, “Not Fensa? Sorry, not covered.”

On a more serious note, if a house fire caused by ancient wiring doesn’t bring about a loss of life there’s likely to be a forfeiture of property because if insurance can find a way to back out of paying, they will. What better way than owner responsibility? An ugly truth doesn’t make it less true. So yes, apart from a couple of trifles, we’ve done everything that came up on the surveyor’s investigation…for our own benefit, and also for resale; we want no problems.

This weekend we removed the dirt from almost all of the woodwork (I could swear the last owners hadn’t cleaned this house in twenty years) and the base layer of the stairway is finished. We won’t do the second coat until the builder revisits. Which brings me to the bad points of the weekend — there’s still a lot to do. The kitchen units arrive soon. Both major rooms need upgrading before Christmas as per our original plan to finish the house by then. We’re cutting the timing close, and it may mean completing the bathroom during the seasonal holidays. If we can get the kitchen finished, though, at least we can have a festive break. I cannot even imagine dragging out and festooning a tree in the present mess.

We do our best to rest, which, unfortunately, proved a low point in time wasted watching a film called Extinction. If I dislike something I tend to say nothing, but on the good and bad theme, Extinction makes a good juxtaposition (it should be ‘extinct’). A cross between The Blair Witch Project meets Jurassic Park, think ‘noises of things unseen’ and rubber non-frightening dinosaurs. One of the funniest scenes (mild spoiler) is when three of the explorers trying the old ‘if we don’t move, it can’t see us’ routine when confronted by a dinosaur and the fake reptile chooses its dinner. While two ran away screaming, we sat sniggering — not the reaction likely intended by the film-makers. I think the only reason we saw it through came from neither of us wishing to admit we’d picked such a flop even at random (three-star rating and the question is how?), coupled with a tiredness that prevented us rousing ourselves to choose something else. I felt sure I would be asleep before the conclusion, but I woke to full alertness when we flicked onto standard television and caught the start of a lovely film entitled Marion.

This is the sweet tale of an aging couple where the wife is told there’s nothing more that can be done for her. One of the joys she clings to is singing with a local amateur choir — something her husband, played by Terence Stamp, is against, preferring she rest. Stamp plays the perfect grouchy spouse, and brings emotion to a performance that I would dare anyone but the hardiest souls not to shed a tear over.