This much I know, I never want to live in an ‘executive home’, and neither do I want to live in a house that belongs to a ‘collection’ of homes that have been built to a ‘high specification’. And which feature bi-fold doors. Quite frankly, having been house-hunting in Surrey for the best part of two years looking for something I can afford, I don’t care if I never see another bi-fold door as long as I live.
What’s wrong with a back door with a simple hinge, or a French window? When did we all get so lost up our own posteriors we needed the entire back wall to come off our house, even if it’s a three-bedroom dormer bungalow? When we decided to make three-bed dormer bungalows worth more than a million pounds, that’s when.
Honestly, house-hunting in Cobham really does take the biscuit, or should I say biscotti. If it’s not executive homes on housing estates calling themselves ‘collections’, then it’s dormer bungalows that have ideas so far above their station they need bulldozing to put them back in their place.
When I first started looking, I would see a picture of a sad, ugly bungalow on Rightmove and think, ‘Ha ha! Who would buy that?’ Out of grim fascination I would go to look round, and the place would reveal itself to have been so chavved up inside that it now featured shiny white poured concrete floors in a minimalist kitchen, with bi-fold doors opening on to a perfect square of artificial turf, and some sort of B&Q gazebo on the tiny patio. A potting shed would be presented to me as ‘a home office’.
I would tell the agent they had to be kidding, laugh in their face, and a few weeks later someone would buy it at the asking price of £1.2 million.
The ‘executive homes’ are no better. Usually in ‘collections of two’, these are invariably built in someone else’s back garden after they got greedy and sold their lawn to developers. The ‘stunning architect-designed décor’ has invariably come from Wickes, and earns the title ‘bespoke’ because the vendor has hung a vintage birdcage in the kitchen with a dried flower arrangement inside.
The fact is, despairing urbanites have been trying to escape to the imagined utopia of Cobham since time began, and as such 1,200 square feet of appalling taste down a cul-de-sac called Squirrel’s Leap will sell like a hot cake for seven figures, no sweat.
All of which is by way of mitigation to explain why I am apt to fall for anything that is mildly charming, and which I have got the chance of a sniff at before the doer-uppers with their B&Q loyalty cards bi-fold the bejesus out of it then scatter the finished aberration with leopard-print soft furnishings until it looks like an episode of Come Dine With Me is about to be filmed there.
Imagine my excitement, therefore, when for the second time in as many years my dream tumbledown cottage in a little lane a few miles outside Cobham came on the market.
It’s just a tiny cottage, with two small bedrooms on the first floor that you couldn’t swing a cat, never mind a child in, and one attic bedroom they are calling ‘the principal’, which has ceilings so low you can hardly stand. There isn’t a cupboard in the entire house. The downstairs, while sweet and featuring a log-burner, is just one room with a kitchen diner at one end. Or, as the agent puts it, ‘One step up gives access to the dining room providing ample space for a sizeable table.’ I would have to pour myself into the place and sell most of my possessions. And it’s in a hamlet with no shops or services that has been living for some years under the threat of a massive housing development.
I am prepared to take all this on the chin, however, because I know I will never find my ideal home in Surrey without finding it in a state of enough disrepair and blight to bring it into my price range. Or so you would think. Unfortunately, the vendor of this two up two down cottage, who has been renting it out while living in a much grander house elsewhere, is asking £765,000 for it.
I’m not sure who is more insane: me, for wanting to buy a tiny mid-terrace home in a hamlet with no services opposite agricultural land where the local council is threatening to dump a new town and a traveller site. Or the guy who is trying to sell this charming pig in a poke — sorry, stunning period home — for the best part of a million quid. I suppose we are about to find out.