Hunt that wascally habitat!

Well, it’s nearly time to shoot off to England to see if we’d rather live there than here. Next Tuesday is when I fly. I’ve set out a schedule to visit the Pennines, South West and the Lakes, the last two with Neil and Chris, respectively. Unfortunately, due to their other commitments, I have only a short time in each area and I need to be efficient about seeing houses. This includes doing an effective triage on the candidates on the web; getting as many visits in as possible; recording data and impressions carefully.

The triage is proving difficult, though I may be over-thinking the problem. Three weeks ago, I searched RightMove’s web site for likely places and saved those pages as webarchives. When I repeated the search for recent listings, I seemed to miss a lot of places that Monica has now highlighted. As well, Monica has re-prioritised several places I’ve already rejected so I have to go back and re-evaluated them.

The usual process follows this pattern:

  • set up a regional search based upon: #beds, price, detached, not new
  • work through about ten pages of this search
  • for each interesting property
    • gauge first impression of the look of the place
    • check its match to the main selection criteria*
    • take a broad view of the property’s location in Google Maps
    • try to check the satellite image of the property and its surroundings
    • try to get a street view
    • make an assessment and score the property as must-see, could-see or don’t-see

Now, I’ve found it hard to record each of these steps, hence I’m forced to repeat evaluations and new properties are piling up for evaluation. I need a system! DevonThink or Finder seem to be the front runners. The spreadsheet approach may be a useful adjunct for scoring but is unlikely to be the basis for what is likely to be a fairly emotional decision.

The requirements for the system are:

  1. Record data and images for each house
  2. Allow comments and scoring to be attached
  3. To be repeatable and uniform
  4. To be compatible with a hard-copy form for use during an inspection

In the Finder, this will require a folder for each property containing images, web link, brochure, notes and data capture sheet. All that’s needed is to draft the data capture and comments sheet, including fields to flag whether a brochure, image, map, satellite view and street view were obtained. I’m sure this could be done in Pages or Bean and saved as a template.
It’s hard to see how DevonThink could improve upon this. It has a template facility but it doesn’t look easy.

*From ‘House criteria’, the house we choose will:

  • be old, fine-looking and sound (listed is OK)
  • look out over a changing view
  • have four bedrooms and three reception rooms
  • include a separate accommodation for visitors
  • be blessed with several sheds
  • be set in a few acres
  • be private and quiet
  • be near water and hills
  • be within five miles of an excellent market and the railway
  • be a couple of hours from a city or cultural centre
  • cause family and friends to want to visit and stay
  • More detailed criteria and scoring are in an spreadsheet ‘House selection table’

Trip planning

The basic schedule for my time in England is set as:

  • Wed 06/04 arrive Manchester
  • Sun 08/05 collect Monica Heathrow
  • Tue 24/05 depart Manchester

I guess I need to plan my activities in more detail so that I can recruit some house-hunting helpers and also secure some floors to sleep upon.

The areas I definitely need to cover are Bristol, the Pennines and the Lake District. Given that Neil is keen to look around Dartmoor and South Wales, he seems prime to accompany me on that leg; Kevin is obvious for the Pennines; so hopefully Chris will be happy to mooch about the Lakes. If Chris and I can make a dash up to Knoydart, too, that’d be great.

I also need to call in to see Al & Bev, Tony, Shirley and Sylvia, so they’d best be fitted in somehow.

As I arrive into Manchester airport, it would be sensible to call in to see Mammy and Daddy and then get out to Bacup to stay with Kevin and Stacy. I guess I’ll be able to see an area per day, looking at perhaps four houses, so this area of the Pennines will need three or four days. With the weekend off for socialising, that means I leave on Wednesday 13/04 with about 22 days before meeting Monica.

For the South West, I’ll need a day each for Dartmoor and Exmoor, then maybe two each for Chepstow, Bath & Dorset and Bristol: a total of eight days. If Neil comes along, he could bail out whenever he’s bored or needs to get back to the Smoke.

The Lakes is our favourite spot and hard to get around, so I’d best set aside four days for house-hunting there. Side trips to North Wales and Scotland will take a couple of days each but would be best with a couple of extra days for walking etc, making this trip eight to twelve days.

So, that’s comfy. I have twenty days of house-hunting with Chris and Neil, plus a couple of spare to call in on friends and rellies as I move about. I’ve laid these out on my iCal calendar myLife.

When Monica arrives, there will be a few key people to visit and, hopefully, a house or two in each area to inspect. I’ve suggested some times in the Mondavia calendar. I must make a separate calendar for these that I can publish.

All Change

Life in Adelaide is sweet. Some of our favourite friends have slotted right back into place, swapping dinners, herbs and gossip at any excuse. When her Melbourne contract ends in March, I’m sure Monica and I will enjoy the place even more. In a couple of weeks, the Adelaide Fringe starts so we’re trying to lock in a respectable number of shows to make up for the years we’ve been away. The annual Fringe is a spin-off from the Adelaide Festival of Arts which will also become an annual event from next year. It’s the world’s second biggest, after Edinburgh, so you can imagine the difficulty of choice we’ll face then. After the Fringe are four days of WOMADelaide (world music) that we’ve always enjoyed, taking us through to late March.

After that, we’re planning to take the long-promised trip back to England to catch up with everyone there and also to make a decision about whether we want to stay in Australia into our retirement years. Monica wasn’t convinced of the need for this (remember, we never planned to remain here beyond six months!) but Neil, for a laugh, sent me the link to Uncle Michael’s farmhouse, the Stank, that’s up for sale near Stirling. When I casually showed it to Monica, her reaction was surprisingly strong and, after checking out that place and many others for sale up and down the country, we realised that we’re still strongly connected to the idea of life there; and that there’s a real opportunity to do well out of the move while the two economies and currencies are in our favour. We’re imagining an old farmhouse with just a few acres of garden and orchard, probably back near Bristol but maybe around the Lakes.

I’ll probably come across first, leaving Monica with the dogs. Then while they’re in kennels for a couple of weeks we’ll travel together, visiting and house-shopping. After that, Monica will stay for a while with her family. If we’ve decided on the move, Monica will complete the tasks at that end while I pack up here. It’ll be a great shame to disappoint our friends here (again) but, at the moment, we feel the pull of the life we left behind.