If God wanted us to live in dark, soulless, damp dwellings he’d have left us in caves, or asked the local authority - those in Cornish, Wates and Woolaway look away now - to build a few million more pre-cast reinforced concrete coffins that nobody will lend on.
Agents Note: If a property is cheap there’s usually a reason - or somebody taking a backhander.
It was too early to tell if the owner had excavated towards Sydney in their desire for more floor space but even before I’d eased myself from the car I could see a more pressing problem. Eco-arses next door.
Now I’m all for saving the planet for my children. I’ve even started separating the household rubbish into plastics, papers and landfill bags, but seriously ugly solar panels brutally clamped to a 1901 cottage roofline, with all the subtlety of a mongrel bonking a bitch, isn’t going to help you sell your home. Particularly as the payback time for a saggy-amp trickle of power that might run your kettle in August, is about twenty-five years and counting.
‘ I suppose you’ve seen next-door’s monstrosity.’ Sighs the lady vendor when she opens the door. I nod, and before I’ve even checked for an upstairs bathroom, or a downstairs plunge pool – never trust those damp-proof company guarantees – she adds. ‘Will it affect my value?’
It’s a toughie. In pounds sterling it will be hard to equate. There was a time when a satellite dish welded to your elevation would scream ex-local authority property and chavvy unemployed neighbours watching daytime television and late-night porn, now everybody is at it – so to speak. But however earnest you intentions, it can’t be avoided - solar panels are a blight.
‘It might put some people off.’ I concede cautiously as she leads me towards the narrow kitchen at the back and I look over the fence to next-door’s garden.
‘And what about that?’ She continues, eyes sparkling with anger. Reluctantly I follow her out to the courtyard, then beyond to her slim-width strip of lawn and flower borders. The smell hits me just before the cockerel starts crowing.
‘Does that last long?’ I ask hesitantly, as the big-bollocked bird croaks lustily. ’From dusk ‘till dawn.’ Comes the weary answer, as I try to subtract a few thousand off my market value without using a calculator. ‘And did you smell the chicken shit?’ She asks unnecessarily.
Out of an unaccustomed sympathy I accept the tea and biscuits she’s prepared and we perch on kitchen stools, while the beastly bird perches just over the larch-lap and judging by the stench, stools as well.
‘Have you tried having a quiet word?’ I ask, raising my voice over another bout of crowing.
‘No point,’ says the dejected owner. ‘They’re a couple of weirdos. Think they’re keeping polar bears alive, when they’re just keeping the f***ing neighbourhood awake.’
The swear word, from this immaculately made-up lady, jolts like a cattle prod but I can see she’s at the end of her tether. As is the whiskery-faced goat I suddenly see behind her, craning over the boundary and nibbling on the shrubbery. Viewings here are going to be a challenge unless I pitch to the deaf and blind organic brigade.
‘You haven’t put anything in writing have you?’ I probe nervously as the woman unburdens herself by listing the, totally unsuitable for urban areas, menagerie the hobby farmers next door have assembled. Any neighbourly disputes are part of the standard solicitors per-contract enquiries nowadays and lying about it can land you in more crap than appears to be piling up over the fence.
I drive away empty-handed apart from some cheap – aptly named - free-range eggs, from the neighbour’s honesty box.
Cracked the Good Life.