Mike and I have dreamed for years about one day moving to a home with a little land enabling us to be as self-sufficient as we can be. Everything we work for is with this goal in mind yet we sometimes wonder if we’ll ever make it.
Then I stop to think about how life has changed over the last decade and I can’t quite believe how so much has happened over such a relatively short space of time, and I realise that indeed, anything is possible if you want it badly enough.
Eleven years ago we were a family of five, living in a one-bedroomed Victorian conversion flat in Surrey. The set-up was cramped with the flat needing complete renovation. There was no heating, the hot water didn’t work so baths were filled by boiling a kettle and the toilet leaked. Mike worked days, I worked evenings and we were expecting child number four. It wasn’t ideal but we felt fortunate that we had a home and were together.
Despite the state of the flat, it was still worth a decent amount of money due to its design and location. Fortunately, we had bought and sold during the housing boom, meaning in the six months we owned it, it had risen in price at a more than pleasing rate. However, this also meant that every other property had also risen in price at a more than pleasing rate to their owners too.
We had put an offer in on a bigger property – a three-bedroomed house on an estate. It wasn’t in the best of locations but we had no option – we had researched various mortgage loans and our budget only stretched so far. Our offer was accepted but the property prices had risen so much in the three months our solicitor took to dilly-dally, that the owners pulled the property from the market, knowing that if they put it back on again they could ask for a much higher price.
We were devastated, not least because we already had a date for exchange and completion on our flat, meaning that we would effectively be homeless. Yes, we would have money in the bank but we didn’t want it to be eaten up by rental fees to greedy landlords. We wanted the security of owning our own home and to not have to worry about the expiration of tenancy agreements hanging over us.
House prices had continued to rise during the time it took for the sale of our flat to complete, and this time our own budget could barely stretch to a three-bedroom, ex-authority property which again needed complete renovation. There was no heating, there were no railings on the stairs and there was barely room to swing a budgie, let alone a proverbial cat. We would be mortgaged to the absolute hilt and have no spare money to carry out the work needed. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place.
It was time to make a decision. We could either take this property or we could see how far away we could move in order to afford a bigger home for a lesser amount of money, yet it had to be within commuting distance for Mike and I to continue working.
Within two weeks of losing the house we had been planning to buy in Surrey we had visited Kent three times, and put in offers on two homes – the first of which fell through within 48 hours of being accepted. The second one was a four-bedroomed Victorian terrace, selling for only £10,000 or so more than we had sold our flat for. We could not believe it! Not only would we be well within budget but we would own a far bigger home that we could ever have hoped for by staying locally.
The decision to move wasn’t affected by us moving away from family or friends. We didn’t have a support network of child-carers and babysitters, and were already self-reliant in looking after the children ourselves, that it simply wouldn’t make any difference to us.
Not normally spontaneous by nature, the need to be independent and to have the security of a family home was enough for us to make the snap decision to move 50 miles away from all we knew and, thankfully, we haven’t looked back.
Within a couple of years of moving, we were working four jobs between us whilst still sharing looking after the children. One would leave the house as the other would return. In addition to my office job I also worked an additional two jobs from home. Juggling this for a few years helped us to move again, again well within budget and keeping our mortgage down.
We worked and we worked and we worked! Eventually we reached the stage where we could both become self-employed and work from home for ourselves – something else we had always dreamed of. No commute, no boss, nobody paying us what they thought we were worth but the potential to earn as much as we could, removing any ceiling of income. We have no ‘Monday morning’ feeling. We have freedom.
We wonder how different our lives would have been if we’d stayed, and though it seemed everything was falling apart at the seams at the time, we now look back at what we went through, and we are reassured that with a little sacrifice and a lot of hard work, anything is possible.