Quietly, behind the scenes, not wanting to jinx things by sharing, we have been in the process of buying a house in England. At last after four years of searching we had found one that made our hearts sing.
And then three weeks ago the seller simply changed her mind about selling. This is what house-buyers and sellers have to prepare themselves for in England. No one is committed until contracts are exchanged and this can happen two to three months after an offer is accepted. Until then the buyer pays for conveyancing, mortgage services, maybe a structural survey and invests in the property emotionally and holds his breath. Either party can pull out before exchange with no financial penalty. In the Netherlands, when you appoint an estate agent to sell your property you pay them start up costs too. Our lost costs reach into several thousands. We paid these costs but then had to pause our house-selling process in case we sold it and had nowhere to go! But this is not about the money.
It is a heartbreaking system and we have had our hearts broken. For the second time in our house-buying lives. This time we were 11 weeks into the purchase process.
We have been living in limbo for a while, not knowing whether Ian’s contract in The Hague will be extended beyond March, when, unbelievably we will have been here two years. We have no idea where he may be sent instead either, which is why in the words of the Brexiteers we were keen to ‘take back control’ and buy a house in England so at least we had something concrete to focus on. Something permanent.
After what has been pretty much an annus horribilis so far this year we needed something good to focus on and now that has been taken away.
A week after the sale fell through the grief at losing my father hit me with a force that I had not expected. I understand from others that it is normal to cope fairly well for a few weeks and then bam the floodgates open.
This limbo is nothing new. It has characterised the last 30 years of our lives and has brought with it a certain excitement of the unknown ahead. Yet, I wonder, therapists out there, whether the effect of all this uncertainty is cumulative and there comes a time when limbo is untenable? Is it that big six oh looming a few years hence on the horizon that makes it so difficult to stomach now, I wonder? Or is the fact that having children living at home distracted us from the reality of what this constant uncertainty was doing to our future? The future is now. We can’t tread water any longer.
You know, I think of Terry Anne and her repatriation and how she struggles with the potential finality of it all and I recognise that I feel just the same. I am both desperate to stop this merry-go-round and to settle in a place that is ours and ours alone and also terrified that when the music stops I’ll realise I left my identity overseas. An identity that I spent 30 years creating. I’m terrified I’ll be stuck.
So many people have reminded us that ‘everything happens for a reason’ and that probably we weren’t ‘meant’ to have this forever home; that something much better is around the corner.
Well, Ian and I hanging on in there for 2019 and the hope that our future home will be waiting for us come the new year.