Saturday, January 08, 2022

My Life In ... Homes (4 of 3)

Penrith / London / Italy. 2021.

Part four of the trilogy of "My Life In ... Homes". A year of massive churn in the M&M Enterprises property empire. In 2021 we sold three houses, bought one, rented one out and exchanged one timeshare for another; net simplification of the portfolio by two.

Plan A had been that we would sell one of our buy-to-let properties every 10 years and live off the capital for the next decade. Covid and 2021 turned the plan completely upside down.

[SOLD]: 41 Heathfield Square, Wandsworth. 2015-April 2021. A mid Victorian two bedroom, ground floor flat directly behind Wandsworth prison. This was our main home. 

In 2019 the mother of our neighbour across the hall was thinking of downsizing and moving to be nearer her son. She liked Heathfield Square and had been to look at a flat for sale further along the terrace. That was a disappointment and so we offered her a look round our flat for comparison. She liked our flat so much that she asked if she could have first refusal should we ever decide to sell which we had no plans for at the time. 

In the interim we acquired a lodger for our spare room. The plan was that during summers in Italy we would get a house sitter, plant waterer and post picker upper. In return he would get almost exclusive use of the flat, at least in the summer months. When the first Covid lockdown happened in March 2020 we decided to stay up in Penrith. Under the strict rules it was illegal for us to stay in our own apartment because we would burst the lodger’s bubble! So in the latter part of 2020 we only spent six nights in our own home, when the lodger was away visiting family.

Then in early 2021 the neighbour's mother came back to us saying that, after a couple of false starts, she had found a buyer for her place and would we consider an offer. Since we had been unable to live in our own home, knew that our lodger was looking to move back to North London and we were starting to put roots down in Penrith we said yes. 

If we could meet the end of March deadline she would avoid paying stamp duty because of the stamp duty holiday. A bonus for us was that we would pay no estate agents fee as it was a private sale. In addition she was so keen to make the end of March deadline that she offered to pay the solicitors fees if we used one she knew to ensure that it all happened in a timely manner. 

And so that is what we did: sold up and moved some of our belongings into our lockup garage in Heathfield Square, some into temporary storage in our unoccupied Bolting House flat and some up to Penrith.

[BOUGHT]: 10 Brunswick Road, Penrith. June 2021-Present. A late Victorian four bedroom, mid-terrace house. 

What do you do when you sell your main property and have w-a-a-y too much stuff to fit in your second home? Do you: 

  1. get rid of stuff 
  2. rent a lock up to store furniture, etc 
  3. rent a garage to store bicycles, etc 
  4. buy a new, bigger property 
  5. all of the above 

The correct answer according to Mary is e)

Having decided that we needed a bigger home in Penrith it did not take too long to find the right property, now known as Penrith Money Pit II. Fortunately as we had sold Heathfield Square making Brunswick Road our main home and we were still in the extended stamp duty holiday period we paid no stamp duty on this purchase. Hurrah!

The saga of the building works for the kitchen and the utility room is ongoing and more can be read elsewhere on this blog

[RENTED]: Benson Row, Penrith. August 2021-present. A three bedroom, two reception room, mid terrace 1850’s house in Penrith.

We were Zooming with a friend of ours, who we met in Italy, telling her all about our purchase of Brunswick Road and what we were thinking of doing with Benson Row. One option was to revert to our original plan and let it as an Airbnb property while we were in Italy during the summer or, in current times, possibly all year for the newly revitalised staycation market.

She mentioned that her daughter was thinking of relocating to the Lake District. The daughter was planning on renting for a year in Penrith or Kendal while she decided a) exactly where she wanted to live and b) found a house to buy. A few calls later and we had a match made in Heaven. We gave her a good deal on the rent and in exchange we got a tenant we knew and trusted to look after the place. A serendipitous win-win.

[SOLD]: Via Manzoni 15, Cisternino, Puglia aka Sotto Le Stelle. 2012 - October 2021. A studio apartment on the outskirts of Cisternino old town.

We had no plans to sell Sotto Le Stelle but with Covid we had no lettings in either 2020 or 2021. In theory we could have rented it out but paying for someone to manage it in our absence and the cleaning regime required by the Italian authorities meant it was not really feasible or economical.  

The nephew of a friend who had stayed there previously had been looking on Italian estate agents websites and got an unrealistic view of property prices. He asked how much we would want for our place. We got the local estate agents to give us a valuation which we duly relayed and got the response that that was far more than he was hoping to pay. 

So that fell through but it planted the seed of the idea that perhaps we should sell this currently loss-making property now rather than later. We asked the estate agents to market it for us and very rapidly found a full asking price buyer. While we were out in Italy for six weeks in September and early October 2021 we met up and completed the transaction.

It turns out that the buyer is fairly local but intends neither to rent the property out nor live in it. Rather she will use it as an occasional place to rest and pass time whilst waiting for her children to return from school or other activities.

Of all the sales this was the one we were the saddest to see go. We weren't quite ready to let it go even if it was a practical decision. However we still have our main apartment in the old town with a spare room for visitors.

[SOLD]: 8 Bolting House, Wandsworth. 2010 - November 2021. A purpose built third floor, three bedroom, one reception apartment in Wandsworth.

Selling Bolting House was part of the original Plan A. The tenants had moved out in September 2020 followed by a sigh of relief on our part. However the market was pretty static because of the pandemic. There was very little interest, a few online viewings but nothing in the way of real life viewings.

Eventually we found buyers who beat us down on price but that’s the way markets go sometimes. They took so long faffing about with questions and answers to and fro that the boiler, which was approaching the end of its life, gave up the ghost. After more haggling we agreed to replace the boiler and split the cost so the sale finally went ahead. 

Some of the proceeds we used to make allowed overpayments off the other buy-to-let mortgages and the rest we set aside to eventually pay off those mortgages at the end of their terms.

[EXCHANGED]: Quaysiders Club, Ambleside, England. 2011-present. A two bedroom, one reception (kitchen / dining / living) room, timeshare apartment.

Being in Penrith, we were not getting much use of our timeshare and were trying to decide what to do with it, we had put it up for sale but there was no interest. But then Mary’s aunt asked if we would be interested in her timeshare in the same complex. Ours was for Christmas week, her's was for New Year's week.

The other apartment has views outwards towards the lake and a balcony that gets the afternoon sun. We thought we might make more use of the New Year's week than our Christmas week. So we gave up our slot and she gifted hers over to us. So we still have a timeshare: same complex, different apartment, different week.

This year it proved very useful as it gave us a week's respite from the building works in Brunswick Road. Lovely to have a place with a real kitchen.

Hopefully that's it for a few years!

See also:

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