First Homer, Now Our Flat - Why Have We Sold It?

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Wednesday 13 July 2016

First Homer, Now Our Flat - Why Have We Sold It?

It's pretty much 10 and half years to the day since we collected the keys to our first home together and now today (I originally started writing this on 1st July) we've received the news that finally the sale of our flat has completed.  2 weeks ago we left Durham and locked up our flat for the final time.  Although we'd decided to sell our flat back in January, and so since then in our minds it had been a done deal, it was still a little emotional for me when we did close the door for the final time. Because of the unexpected (and at times a little frustrating) legal hold-ups, we got the opportunity to go back and live in the flat for 10 weeks.  During this time, there were some moments when the thought 'why are we selling this wonderful flat' crossed our minds.  There was no real good reason for deciding to sell.  At the start of the New Year we decided that we wanted to continue our travels a little while longer and so we could have tried to find new tenants.  But something back in January told us both that it was the right decision to at this time let it go.  Although we'd had a great stay in Durham, this feeling was confirmed when we drove away from Durham a fortnight ago.  We've not really reflected upon why we'd decided to sell so here are a few thoughts.....

We were intending to write some reflections together but Dan doesn't really have much to say other than 'Wow we actually sold the flat. I can't believe it finally went through. Yeaahhh!'  And after more than 5 months of unexpected and somewhat frustrating legal hold-ups and constant paperwork and emails back and forth, I can't blame him!  Even our solicitor and the estate agent echoed his words on the phone to us this lunchtime when they called with the good news!  So anyway here are a few of my thoughts as I sit back and take in the news.....

In mid-January, we got a call from our current tenants that they were giving their one month's notice. After much indecision and discussion, between ourselves and with others, we decided to sell our flat whilst staying in Cabo de Gata last January.  There were no real good reason for the decision.  We could have easily and quickly found new tenants.  The flat wasn't in the most sought after parts of Durham so it offered a great amount of space and comfort for the money.  It rented out well.  Since we'd left in 2014 we'd had two sets of tenants, both who'd taken the flat on the first viewing.  There had been no void period.  Although we'd bought the flat in 2006, nearing the peak of the housing market boom, as it was a new build we'd gotten a first-time buyer discount which had cushioned us somewhat when the market crashed.  We'd also gotten a good mortgage rate at the time so we could just about cover the costs of the mortgage and upkeep, including the maintenance and management fees, with the rent we were receiving.  The mortgage did need to be refinanced later in the year but that didn't change the decision too much. Also although the sale would release some capital, our careful budgeting and the favourable exchange rate had meant we'd not had to dip into our savings much during the two years, so this wasn't a deciding factor either.

So there was some deliberation about what to do.  In the end something just felt right about the decision - it wasn't financial or practical reasons forcing us to sell, it just simply felt time to let go.  Thereafter everything happened quite quickly so we didn't really have time to think about it or question our decision.  Within a week we'd agreed a sale with the first person who'd viewed and the legal proceedings got underway.  Initially it looked like it would all go through even before we got back to the UK.

However because of the unexpected legal hold-ups, we got to go back and live in the flat.  And actually in the end, we are very grateful for this.  Not only did it make it practically much easier to go back to Durham and sort out our possessions without imposing too much on the kindness of our friends, it did also give us an opportunity to confirm that we'd made the right decision.  Not because we didn't like being back in Durham, actually it was quite the opposite.

When we arrived back in Durham, late at night after a long and tiring journey North, it was very comforting to open the door to our old home.  As we'd let the flat out furnished, it was like nothing had changed.   Waking up on the first morning back did feel somewhat strange.

The second day back we'd organised a little homecoming gathering.  Our friends asked us 'Do your motorhome adventures now feel like a dream?' but we could honestly say no, not this time.

Last year when we returned to Durham for the motorhome's MOT, Dan in particular was desperately keen to get back on the road and back to the mountains, still associating feelings of happiness with external conditions.  And this idea of needing to go chase and find happiness abroad was the reason why, even though I was ill, we raced off having only stayed in Durham 2 weeks.

But over the past 6-12 months, our journey took on a very different form - one of much self-reflection work and became a very inward focused journey.  As we've written about elsewhere, once the novelty had worn off and we couldn't re-create the happiness felt on our first adventures, it forced us to sit down and start dealing with a lot of our past issues, shadows and baggage we'd been dragging around with us through writing, talking, reading and meditating.  We've come to strongly feel and know now that our happiness isn't determined by where we are living.  This has allowed us to really enjoy being back in Durham and allowed us to fully appreciate the many great things about our life there - not just things we'd overlooked in the past but also what our present time was offering us.

We never expected we'd stay as long as 10 weeks nor that we'd be living in our flat.  There were many times when we thought the sale would go through within the week and we were making alternative plans.  But even though the hold-ups were frustrating at times, we are very grateful for the unexpected opportunity to briefly slot back into our old lives again.  It allowed us to see very clearly just how much we had changed as people since 2014.  It also allowed us to see and appreciate how lucky we were when we'd been based in Durham, even during those times when our thinking was clouded by negativity and we were blaming our situation for our unhappiness.  And finally, our extended stay presented us with another opportunity to heal some more old wounds (yes, there were more), which probably won't have surfaced had they not been triggered by living in familiar surroundings.

There were lots of memories made in the flat over the decade we'd owned it and the past 10 weeks have reminded us what an amazing place it was.  When the sale was dragging on and we started getting comfortable and settling into a nice routine, there were several times the thought of 'why are we selling?' crossed our minds.  We could so easily just slot back into our old lives and be happy.  The longer we stayed, the more the decision, which had come so naturally in Spain, felt a little harder.  It was also difficult when we started bring back all our personal possessions out of storage to sort out and find new homes for.  There were times when this wasn't such an easy process, especially for me, which allowed a few doubts to creep in: 'why and what are we doing this all for?'

But deep down we both still felt it was the right decision.  It was time to move on.  We do feel that one day we will settle somewhere as we both have a longing to be part of a more stable community.  And it may even be back in Durham - we're not ruling anything out.  But for now, we both feel like we still have more to experience and learn from on our life journey.  To settle back down in Durham at this point in our journey, we feel would be too much in our comfort zone.  Almost too comfortable.  We could get different jobs, get involved with local charities, even continue to work on new passions like raising awareness about incontinence and nutrition etc.  But looking back over the past 2 years, the experiences and challenges we've had living together in a motorhome, travelling to some wonderful new places and meeting some incredibly inspirational people, we know that this is broadening our horizons.  We're being challenged to expose and let go of some old habits, mindsets and coping mechanisms which weren't serving us so well anymore and we feel there's still more to this process.

So practically there were many financial pros and cons to selling our flat but ultimately there was no real good reason other than it felt the right time for us to let it go. It's just not the time to settle down again and we just don't won't want the hassle and the responsibility of another property.  After 10 years of owning the flat, it had just about recovered in value since the crash in 2008 so now seemed like as good a time as any.  I feel I have to say here, for now we have decided to still keep our house in Durham so that we still have a base should we need it - although it's debatable now whether we would want to live there again - after motorhome life the flat felt enormous on our return so I'm not sure we can see ourselves living back in that particular house.  Anyway for now, because the mortgage is paid off it does give us a small income (we wrote about this here), even though it's currently untenanted until September.  So for now we're not completely saying goodbye to Durham.

We're not sure what lies ahead, we don't even have very detailed plans for the next few weeks but for now that's ok with us.  We're looking forward to seeing what experiences life has in store for us and what other lessons will come our way through these experiences.  We still feel we both have a lot of growing to do.

Although we initially saw our time back in the flat as a detour to our journey, we can see now it was actually just what we needed and an essential part of the journey.  While being back in the flat, we've been been able to heal old wounds, learn more about ourselves and also see the happy and good things about our life in Durham that we'd remembered much less.  We'd left Durham under a dark cloud and told ourselves a biased story.  Now we've been able to come back and accept all the memories for what they were; we can see we didn't need to label the individual memories as 'good' or 'bad'.  In each case, whether a fun time or a challenge, something good had come out of it, even if it was only that it was part of that which had ultimately pushed us onto this new path.

So for now, it's time to move onwards and time for a new chapter.  It was a little emotional two weeks ago when we locked up for the final time but as we drove away there was once again that excited feeling and a small voice telling us that we'd done the right thing.

1 comment

  1. Oh, well you made the right decision! One house is more than enough ;-))
    I commented on your previous post too, hadn't seen this one when I started writing, hope you can still read it!
    Best of luck! Oh, yes, and I am still jogging...


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