Ahh compromise. It’s one word we hear repeatedly when people talk about house-hunting. I swear Kirsty and Phil must say it at least 12 times in every single episode of Location, Location, Location. And it was something we were fully aware of – after a while, anyway – when we were searching for our perfect home. And that’s the thing – yes, it can actually be perfect and you might still make compromises. We started our search with some kind of blind naive faith that we would get absolutely EVERYTHING on our wishlist. (We were so innocent then.) That was never going to happen.
Despite how pretty it looks, we still had to make compromises on our dream property.
We had a budget that we wanted to stick to, of course. And despite the fact it was a fairly healthy budget for what we were looking for, the more you look at various houses, the more you end up wanting. Suddenly you spot a house that’s basically nothing like your wish list but look! There’s a utility room! Now I must have a utility room! Or else… this broken down shell of a project that would cost us £100k to put right has beautiful original tiles in the hallway! Ok, wait, now that’s getting added to the list… What do you mean this bungalow has a full working alpaca farm that comes with the house? I don’t want that particular house but I need an alpaca farm!! Suddenly, your list is twice as long as when you started and the house that would actually have all those things is twice the price of your meagre budget. It happens.
So, for us, we realised about half-way through our search that there was probably no way we were going to find absolutely everything on our wish list. That every single house out there – no matter how closely it aligned with what we were looking for – would have some down-sides. It’s the nature of the beast. And while there were many, many things about the house we decided to buy (and subsequently moved into) that were absolutely spot on, there were a couple of things that we found ourselves happy to compromise on – and it surprised us both.
When we spotted our home on the listings, there were a couple things that jumped out at us straight away that weren’t quite right. But we decided that it had too much going for it so we wanted to look at it anyway. And I’m so glad we did. Here they are…
Compromise #1: A North-Facing Garden
What?! I hear you shriek. You bought a house with a north-facing garden?! Yes, yes we did. For some reason, the north-facing garden seems to be the death-knell of many homebuyers dreams. It’s absolutely a non-negotiable for many people. I spent hours on forums searching what people who live with north-facing gardens say. People who don’t have them hate them. They think they are going to be dark and miserable all year long. Nothing will grow! They say. It’ll be horrible and cold and damp ALL YEAR LONG. And yet, I found many people who were actually living with north-facing gardens saying they were fine. So, what was the deal?
We started to think about it closely. The house we just moved from had a south-west facing garden. Pretty much one of the best aspects you can have in this country with the sun on your garden through almost the entire day. And that was lovely. But the truth is, it meant the opposite side of our house – where the living room was – was always dark. Always. I had constant problems taking pictures of my living room because there just wasn’t enough damn light in there aside from about an hour first thing in the morning.
So, compromising on a north-facing garden meant having a south-facing house. One where the sun would be at the front of the house (ya know, where we actually spend most of our time) all year long. For our home, that means that the living room, dining room, dressing room and master bedroom (all at the front) had wonderful light pouring in all day long. How was that a bad thing? As a blogger who takes an awful lot of pictures in her home, this was actually really really good. I had a light-bright filled home!
I mean, how often are you actually sitting in the garden anyway? Maybe 3 months of the year – if that? Let’s face facts, we live in a pretty damp country here. It’s not like we live in the Mediterranean where you spend half your life outdoors. It’s cold here most of the year. Or raining. Or overcast. Even in our old house with our southwest facing garden, in the winter, the garden didn’t get much sunlight at all because the sun was so low. So… was having the sun in the garden for those 3 months worth the price of having a dark house all year long? Do you see where I’m going with this?
And now, we are actually living with a north-facing garden. Is it cold and dark and nothing grows? Erm. Not even close.
Our dark, miserable, damp and cold north-facing garden where nothing grows. And yes, in case you wondered, that was sarcasm.
Here in the UK, we just had a bank holiday (ie 3-day) weekend. The weather was glorious. I mean, it was around 25 degrees in the shade and in the sun? Well, it was really really hot. Which, don’t get me wrong, was great and we spent plenty of time in the sunshine. But we also felt the need to retreat from the sunshine from time to time and we found that lovely shade right near the house. It really was the best of both worlds. And that shady bit right at the back of the house didn’t bother us a bit.
I do want to make one note, however, about why I think this particular house’s north-facing garden works for us. The house is not long and thin like our last house – it’s more of a box shape. This means when the sun is at it’s highest, the shadow from the house isn’t that long. So there’s maybe a metre of shade right at the back of the house and the rest is in sunlight. I think if you had a long rectangular house, the shade will be a lot longer so bear that in mind. Second, we have a fairly long garden. Which means half way down the garden, we get sunlight all the time, most of the year. I think if the garden wasn’t quite as long and the house wasn’t the shape that it is, we wouldn’t have as much sun as we do. So there ya go. I think it helps to look at stuff like that and I think that’s part of the reason why it wasn’t such a big compromise for us.
Compromise #2: Nearby Train Tracks
Yep, we live near a train line. It’s probably one of the reasons why we were able to afford the house to be totally honest with you. But after living under a flight path for such a long time and getting used to it, we knew a few slow-moving trains (they are not up to speed by the time they get to us) every once in a while wasn’t that big of a deal. They come by a few times a day (so not very often really) and they aren’t really even all that loud. Certainly, the planes that used to fly above us when we lived in Manchester were far louder and far more frequent. And even that we got used to.
Would I prefer if there wasn’t a train track nearby? Of course, I would. But it also means we don’t have any neighbours behind us for quite some distance which is a plus as it means we’re not at all overlooked as you can see in the image above. Our garden has a high fence at the back and in front of this are thick, large bushes and trees and the train tracks are in a deep embankment behind this (also surrounded by fencing).
Because I know some people will wonder: If our cats were more adventurous, I might have been more worried but well, they just aren’t. They barely leave our garden at all and if they do on the odd occasion, it’s just to go on top of the neighbour’s shed. That’s about as far as they go (they never ventured far in our old house either). The dog certainly couldn’t jump the fence regardless. And even if by some chance one of the cats did decide to go over, they’d have to then be determined to jump yet another high fence to get to the tracks below. And then there’d have to be a train going by for that to be dangerous and there are so few trains that the whole scenario is very unlikely. So yeah, you don’t have to be worried – the cats are fine! ;) (I know, despite me saying all this, people will still worry. I get it, really.)
Compromise #3: A Big Driveway
That little patch of brick tiles at the front? That’s our driveway.
So this is sort of a smaller compromise but I thought it was worth mentioning. We wanted a driveway. That was one of the biggest, most important things on our list. After living with just on-street parking in our old house, we felt it was time to graduate to a home that had a proper parking. We didn’t exactly get this. What we did get was a dropped curb which meant the front of the property at some point was transformed into a very small long driveway at the front of the house. No one can park there except us which is great and there’s room enough for two cars parked parallel to the front of the house. Is it perfect? No. But can we fit our car on the drive pretty easily? Yep. And that’s really all we needed from a drive. So the fact it’s not a ‘normal’ driveway really doesn’t bother us too much.
And maybe the fact that we have a north-facing garden and a nearby train line and only a small driveway would be compromises that some of you might not ever make, they were ones we decided we could live with and everyone’s choices will be different. We got everything else we were looking for in the end: a period property that needed some work, the potential for an open-plan kitchen diner, good size reception rooms with high ceilings, plenty of original features, the potential for a utility room (yep, that one stayed on the list), 4 bedrooms, a full size cellar, a great area, walkable distance to town – the list goes on and on.
I think my point is that you may be surprised when you find THE ONE what compromises you find yourself willing to make. Because you will make them. It’s about deciding between your MUST HAVE list and your NICE TO HAVE list. For us, the other aspects of this property far outweighed what compromises we did make. And now, after living here, barely feel like compromises at all. What compromises have you made when searching for your own home? I’d love to hear from you!