Many people regard buying a house as one of the most stressful experiences of their lives. There seems to be an interminable list of processes that need to be completed, and it can be a never-ending odyssey of frustration and despair. For many it is not so much the work that creates the problems, as getting the work done in the right order, for often you are at the mercy of tradesmen. Not a very good place to be.
I, on the other hand, did not feel in the slightest bit stressed during the whole house-buying process. I get stressed trying to reason with my teenage children, I get stressed watching Shelbourne trying to defend a one goal lead for eighty minutes, and I get stressed when the queue of traffic that I have chosen appears stationary compared to the queues on either side of me. But buying a house? It was actually rather relaxing.
Of course, you are all eager to know how I managed to accomplish this tortuous and gargantuan task without feeling pressurised in the slightest. Well, its time for me to reveal the secret, which, if followed, will benefit at least half the people reading this. I left it all to my wife.
No point in the two of us becoming bogged down in a morass of bank correspondence and solicitor’s appointments, I reasoned. The process is like quicksand, dragging you down into the murky depths, and it is just as liable to overcome two people as one. So while my wife tried to follow the push-button instructions of the Bank’s mortgage department, and tried to get our old house sold before the new one was ready, I stayed supremely aloof in the background, occasionally murmuring encouraging words like “It’ll all turn out okay in the end,” and “When’s dinner ready?”
Of course, I didn’t manage to escape altogether. Towards the end of the process, when she was up to her oxters in removal men and packaging materials, she asked me to prepare a snag list for the new house. Always eager to help, I set to work immediately and had reached number fourteen, (cocktail sausages with cream cheese) when, leaning over my shoulder, she pointed out that it wasn’t a snack list, but a snag list.
Naturally, I was entirely disbelieving when she explained to me that sometimes builders try to sell you a house without putting the finishing touches to their handiwork. Yes, I know, an absolutely preposterous notion and a complete slur on an honourable profession. But, in the interests of familial harmony, I grabbed a magnifying glass and a toothcomb, and headed off for our intended abode.
We were buying a new house in a new development and I arrived there, pencil and paper poised, determined that no bad plasterwork should escape my beady eye. After all, we were paying hundreds of thousands for this house, so everything had to be perfect.
I started with the outside of the house and counted the roof. Yup, one. So far so good. I went around the back of the house, checking the shores, window frames, the fence, the patio area, the slates. To my untrained yet inquisitive eye, everything seemed in order, so I ventured inside.
To be honest, because a new house is empty, there’s not much to check. Paintwork, holes in the floor, doors that won’t shut. In our house, there were no such problems. I was a bit concerned that there didn’t appear to be any bedrooms in the house, but I eventually located them up the stairs. I returned back to our old home quite confident that the house was practically ready to move into.
My wife took my list off me, when I arrived home and perused it swiftly. “So,” she said, her lips pursed, and I knew immediately I was in trouble. “Apart from a cobweb on the kitchen window and a Mars Bar wrapper in the bathroom, everything’s okay is it?” I nodded, cautiously, waiting for the catch.
By reply, she handed me a sheaf of papers. “This,” she said, “is the architect’s snag list. As you can see, he found 78 faults.”
Now, architects, to me, are people who design luxury lakeside villas in the Bavarian Alps, for people with more money than sense. I was naturally horrified at the enormous expense we must have incurred from flying this gentleman back from Munich to inspect our U-bends.
However, when my wife produced the invoice, I was mollified somewhat. Times must be tough for architects, for he was only charging a comparative pittance. And when she further enlightened me with the cost of getting a plumber, tiler or electrician out to rectify mistakes after we had moved in, I was positively beaming.
I flicked through the snag list. A lot of it was written in Building Language, with references to soffits and architraves that I didn’t understand. I had to admit, I should have spotted that the kitchen ceiling wasn’t painted, that the basin in the bathroom lacked a pedestal and that the banisters hadn’t been varnished. The rest of it – the broken pane in the sitting room, the excess plaster all over the skirting boards, the damaged shelving in the hot-press etc, I felt he was nit-picking. Though I ruefully had to concede that it was better if the builder fixed them, rather than leaving it to me.
I tossed the snag-list back to wife.
“Didn’t spot the Mars Bar wrapper, though, did he?” I proclaimed contemptuously.