So, I have told this story to quite a few family members, friends and colleagues over the last few years, and thought I will record it here so that other new members might learn about the patience and surprises that can occur in this phase of the self build adventure ⛺
It all started when I was 14. I blame my stepfather. He made me dig ♠️ foundations by hand 🖐️ OK, it was only for an extension, but they didn't tell me about the concrete encased foul and storm water drains we would find. Digging to depths of 10ft by hand should have left severe scars to put me off this self build lark for life. But, hey, I got a new stereo 🔊 for all of my hard graft [For you youngsters, a stereo was the way we played music 🎶 back in the day].
Anyway, many years later, the wife and I are in the Lake District and see a barn ripe for conversion, and the timing must have been right - you know, the stars in alignment ⭐ ⭐, and the phase of the moon🌛 augered well, or some other psychological/astronomical claptrap - and we both said "time to get out of the South East". Well, that was about 5 years ago, and we are still in the South East. Lesson 1 for all new south builders - Tip 1: patience my friends!!
Tip 2 - unless you are lucky enough to have been handed a plot of land on which to build, start searching where the wife would like to start, followed closely by Tip 3: using subtle hints and prods in order to expand or direct the search appropriately, always with the mantra (Tip 4) "we need some money left over to build the damn thing!" (Note: some forum members may say that doing that doesn't make for enough of an adventure 🙂 ), we started in the North Devon area, a place where my wife had spent time holidaying as a child with her family, which is as good a reason as any to choose a starting point. We (I) trawled the usual sites for plots (estate agents, land agents, auction sites etc.), we trawled the lanes and byways of North Devon on a number of visits, propping up the local hospitality businesses along the way, I got so bored at one point I went trawling (OK, sea fishing from a trawler 🛥️ but go with it, for the sake of the story!).
Having searched for about 18 months and found nothing, I expanded the search outside N Devon and we started seeing results in East Devon and on the outskirts of Exmoor and Dartmoor. 6 months later and we were looking at plots in the South Hams (S Devon).
We saw scrub covered plots, plots with dense woodland 🌳 🌳 , people looking for a swift profit by selling their back gardens (soon avoided forever after seeing two such postage stamps 📮 ), old industrial sites, then we went to see two modern(ish) barn conversions and decided to make an offer (below asking price 💰 of course!). Herein lies a conundrum I have never quite got my head around - asking price £200,000, Offer £165,000, offer refused. OK Offer £175,000. Offer refused. I'll leave the offer there if you change you mind. 2 months later same property on the market for £170,000!!! Offer £150,000, then £160,000, both refused. 2 months later same property on market for £150,000 and marked as SOLD!! The only reason I can fathom is that they wanted someone particular to buy it.
After I had calmed down, 6 months later (yes I had been really annoyed) we renewed our search and found an abandoned ex-SW Water above ground reservoir with FPP and amazing views. Problem, it was above our plot buying budget (refer to Tip 4) and the seller refused to move an inch on the price.
So, the searches started again. This time, the wife was now quite pliable about the distance from where we currently live and the areas we should look. This is were I have to admit that I had seen a plot with FPP and plans I liked the look of probably about 9 months before the fluidly priced barn fiasco. And, the distance was about 1 mile less than to the old reservoir. So, off I trotted 🏃♂️ one day.....to CORNWALL.
Another visit with the wife, a coffee ☕ with the sellers (neighbours to be) to discuss the plans that had been approved and a re-mortgage later, and we became the proud owners of about 1/2 acre of Cornwall just on the edge of an AONB.
Just a word of warning - this "plot" did not have its own title deed, and it has taken nearly 18 months for the Land Registry to finalise the new title for us. This in itself has probably given me more grey hair so far than any other aspect of the build so far.