Monday Morning Musing #25 – back to the drawing board

For sale sign and a houseQuietly, 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.

6 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musing #25 – back to the drawing board”

  1. So sorry to hear your dream house fell through Jo. It is a shocking system. You must be gutted and as you say the grief of the year has been cumulative. I feel for you x We had a house for sale for over 2 years in England as we were moving to the Philippines for work. It fell through 5 times, no fault of ours and the last time on day of exchange because the buyers got cold feet. Ridiculous system. Anyway, I really hope that an even nicer dream home will show itself and the purchase will happen soon, and you can move forward again. Having turned the big 60 this year, I also understand how you’re feeling about the future being now, the impermeability but hope and excitement of the possibility of the ‘nest post’, and the reality that settling down should really be the best thing but feeling well, is this is? Is this what it’s all been for? Expats unite!


    1. Hi Jo, thanks for the solidarity. You were brave though and have settled Down Under not ‘back home’. I don’t think I am that brave. And boy, does it look like you are thriving!


  2. Ugh, sorry this has happened. We had to pull out of buying a place in the summer because it was just too much work for us at this stage (still not sure what’s happening in three or four years), and also not financially viable. It was a big disappointment but I’m now thinking of all the things I would have needed to do and buy, and quite glad it didn’t come off.
    As for repatriation after decades away – Hmmm. The thing you have on your side is the empty nest, meaning you can take advantage of so many countries at your doorstep. (I think, I mean who knows with Brexit? LOL)


    1. Thanks, Toni. Thanks for the empathy. Today, I was reminded that there are some lovely things I can do in England that I can’t do here, though. Mind you, we have countries on our doorstep in Holland too, you know!


  3. Oh yes Jo, this certainly resonates at the moment. As you recognised, it isn’t only that it seemed to be the perfect home, it represented going home… the final chapter in the overseas adventure. It is true that it’s a challenging and a painful transition, my journey is a little easier as each week passes, but it’s a struggle. What I do know is that at some point it needs to be done, most of us life-long expats will go home and I’m holding on to the hope that contentment will come. AND that I’ll appreciate how perfect it is that we still have the wonderful wide world to also visit from time to time. Here’s to 2019 and your new chapter… xx


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