Wednesday, 1 February 2012

New house and removals adventures

Two weeks ago, over the course of about three days (plus a couple of extra hours around the sides to grab miscellaneous furniture), Ben and I - with the help of family and friends - moved into our new place. As you might have read in the post "We're in!", this was actually two weeks before our original closing date, which was already super-fast in UK property market terms (just over a month - purchasing a house in England, even without a chain, can take 2-3 months and that's considered reasonable).

Fortunately, Ben and I were in a position that allowed us to leave our apartment (and break our lease, thanks to a wonderful friend of ours wanting to take over the contract!), and have the time to take a few days to do the actual moving ourselves. We'd already started buying furniture we didn't have and packing to get ahead of the game for the first closing date, so we just upped our efforts there to be ready on time for the new, earlier - and let's face it, very exciting - mid-January closing date.

Soon enough, the Big Day rolled around, and we drove to our attorneys' offices to meet with them, our realtor, and the seller to exchange and sign the final contracts. It was a 10-minute affair, all very straightforward and it was absolutely fine for me, a-not-quite-yet-green-card-holder, to be named as an equal partner in purchasing the house. Phew! With the signed documents in hand and a promise of our deeds being in the mail ASAP, we made our way to our new place. Ah! It's all been such a whirlwind that looking back on it now seems kind of dream-like (almost like the wedding I guess!), but getting into our new home for the first time was exhilarating, joyful, surreal, and had a huge impact on my feeling like a real part of this country now, too. The biggest part of it is knowing that Ben and I have a home together, that we chose and are now getting to build into a place for us and, one day, our family. We spent the first day there cleaning it all down: scrubbing the oven, fridge, bathroom and so on, and unpacking what small things we had been able to fit in our cars on the journey over.

As part of the deal with our realtor, we were offered free use of their "van" to help us move and, as we weren't hiring a removals company, we took them up on their offer. The "van" turned out to be absolutely enormous; it was actually more of a truck that was so big it was pretty much the largest size vehicle you could drive on a car license without needed to upgrade to an HGV license or similar. Fantastic! So, pretty much the entire contents of our apartment, plus a couple of extra pieces from IKEA that we picked up en route, fitted beautifully into the monster moving truck of awesomeness, and we managed (with a couple of car loads) to empty the entire apartment over a 24 hour period. We were also lucky enough to get the van a day early, so our friend Ryan was kind enough to use his day off (the second day we had the house) to help out with both carrying the heavy stuff out of our old place and building the flat-pack stuff at our new place, along with Ben's brother Scott who joined us that evening. By the end of the second day, the house was looking surprisingly and pleasingly homely. We even managed to move the dog over that night, to allow him ample time to settle in and get used to the new space.

Recycling soon!
Day three rolled around and we mainly spent it unpacking what we could and putting together any remaining flat-pack items. Scott came round again (thank you!) and, by the end of Saturday, everything that could have been built was built, and the mountain of cardboard reached potentially world record levels. We stopped at around 4 that day as we had the happy excuse of going out for dinner for Ben's mum's birthday that evening. We also nipped out to get Ender some dog booties which, aside from looking ridiculous, served to help him learn to walk on slippery tile and wood surfaces. These kinds of floors were a tough (though not previously unencountered) phenomenon for him, especially as he has old legs, being 13 going on 14 now. He has since learned how to walk in the house without the booties but we've kept them just in case he starts to struggle again. As you can see from the photo, he wasn't exactly impressed, but seemed to work out that we were trying to help him. Y'know, as well as cooing over how wonderfully daft he looked. Poor puppy!

U-Haul, me haul, we all haul!
Over the course of the next week, we had essential house-related issues attended to (internet, insurance, roofing, alarm system etc.), and went out to pick up some dining furniture we had on order that arrived later than we had hoped, resulting in us needing to hire a U-HAUL van to fit it all in. We also got our sofa delivered a few days afterwards, pretty much completing the house in time for a big family dinner at the weekend.

All in all, it has been a crazy but satisfying moving experience. It didn't seem as stressful a thing to do as moving often does (possibly because we had the time available to us to do it ourselves, and the sweet help of people around us), even with moments of fatigue, pain, and frustration in the actual physical parts of the move. The end result has been incredibly fast, and wonderfully happy, so I have no complaints. Not bad for only having been here 3.75 months! We've had a fortunate and joyful start to 2012.

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