Sunday, April 13, 2014
Barn Dance - Sunday
‘Wow what’s this worth?’ Asks my wife’s friend in stunned admiration. We’re on a long weekend break with the friend and her husband, plus another couple, all of whom know I’m an estate agent but have still agreed to share a vast barn conversion with us.
You either love or hate barn conversions, there’s no middle ground. I’m staring at the soaring trussed roof, two vast original beams spanning the width, one with the original builder’s name burnt into the wood, date of construction in the mid nineteenth century. It’s a fair bet the more recent timber-framed homes, built for humans not livestock, won’t last as long as this sturdy structure - although you could probably fit a dozen starter homes in the space.
‘Well ?’Asks my wife’s friend again, as I realise everyone has dropped their bags and are looking at me expectantly. Not many people want to holiday with an estate agent, but everyone wants to know property values from you. I can only imagine doctors are quizzed on fellow travellers’ bodily growths, and how best to remove a vacuum cleaner nozzle from a penis without visiting A & E, in the same way. I can only imagine…
‘It’s not an easy one to value.’ I begin to a chorus of scorn.
‘You would say that wouldn’t you?’ Scoffs one of the men. ‘Probably want to knock it out cheap to a contact and pocket half the difference.’ It’s only the fact that he’s half-smiling and we’ve paid up-front for three nights, that stops me from grabbing a farming implement from the wall and knocking him into the stalls.
The fact is, one-off homes, are hard to value. It’s why you see guide prices, or offers in the region of, in agents’ advertising. Sometimes the only way to find a property’s value is to test the market, with maximum exposure. A trick those snobs who think they’ve kept some mysterious allure about their home by shifting it ‘off-market’ to some cash-in-hand oligarch with a red-trouser-wearing buying agent in tow, miss completely. They probably deserve each other.
Reluctantly I give the two couples my guesstimate. Predictably, one set think much higher, the other way lower - pretty much a mirror image of every seller and buyer. Then the home-proud owner arrives to demonstrate how everything works.
‘We’ve designed it all to be eco-friendly and energy efficient.’ Gushes the woman excitedly. Paid over the odds for untried technology then, I think, as I spot the colour- coded waste bins that mean I’ll be expected to sort through and separate tea leaves from leftover animal parts later in the weekend – or not.
The specification is impressive and the vast open plan living area with galleried landing is fantastic for three day parties like this is planed to be, but actually living there 24/7, trying to get away from cooking smells or noisy children, would pose a few logistical problems.
‘Wouldn’t you love to live somewhere like this?’ Asks my wife, as I kneel in supplication before the wood burning stove that has refused to light, despite me shoving in almost a box full of distinctly un-eco firelighters I smuggled in as contraband. I’m not getting any more splinters from chopping kindling again. Axes just make me mad.
‘It’s an illusion, ‘ I tell my wife bluntly, as someone else’s Daily Mail goes up in flames. A pleasing accelerator for the suspiciously green looking logs.
‘These place are just not that practical and it’s a thirty minute drive through cow shit to find a Tesco Express.’
‘Mr Grumpy.’ She says spinning.
Mr Practical I think, turning to see the newspaper sputtering to ash with no sign of the wood taking.
‘There are no radiators.’ Proclaims my wife, shivering and looking at the unlit log burner accusingly. That will be under-floor heating. It’s environmentally friendly but f***ing freezing.
‘How does the hot water work?’ Asks someone else’s wife later, appearing in a dressing gown as I open the second bottle before the sun has reached the pig sheds.
‘It’s solar powered.’ I tell her trying not to look at the towelling-free gap at thigh level. ‘You might need to wait for it to heat up.’
I’m guessing about May.