So we put that aside, and instead looked at houses we could afford. Which meant ones a lot smaller, and ones that needed work doing. Hooray. After much trudging up and down bloody New Malden bloody High Street and looking at another dozen houses, we found one we could stand. We put an offer in during the last week of January. They accepted our offer... in the second week of March.
Yes, indeed, we seem to have found ourselves the most utterly obstructive vendors that not only I, but also my family, the estate agents, our solicitors, our independent financial advisor and her entire firm have ever heard of. (Again, you might think I'm exaggerating - but I'm not. Honestly, I wish I was!). To cut an extremely long story short, it's a probate sale (i.e. it's being sold because the owner has died). The old woman who owned it had, without her family's knowledge, sold off part of the equity to a bank or insurance company. Her family expected to inherit a house worth a certain amount of money, but in fact are getting a lot less. This could go some way to explaining their awkwardness, except that... Well, put it this way: you own (or part-own) a house that's had nothing done to it since the late 70s or early 80s and needs fairly major work doing just to bring it up to a habitable state. Because you are stingy buggers and/or broke, instead of paying maybe £10,000 (at most) to get it up to good condition, you sell it as is. Then you sit around wondering why no one wants to buy it. After the house has been on the market for a few months without any serious interest, some bright young things offer you a price which, although less than the house in perfect condition would be, is the absolute most that anyone with any sense would offer. Do you (a) embrace that buyer and do everything possible to speed on the transaction so you can get your money a.s.a.p., or (b) drag out the sale with unreasonable requests?
I think the fact I'm referring to them as "obstructive" answers that. Their first ridiculous request was that they wanted to see an original bank statement saying that the deposit for the house was available immediately. This bank statement (a) didn't exist (hello, who has five figure sums sitting around in their current accounts a month before completion - let alone before the offer has even been accepted!) and (b) wasn't actually ours - it was Richard's dad's! Now, would you give an original of your own bank statements to your estate agent for him to give to the company handling the sale for them to give to the vendor's solicitors for them to give to the vendor? Even assuming you would, would you be prepared to ask your own dear pa for that - let alone your partner's? Maaaybe you might take an original to your solicitors for a certified copy to be made with personal information tippexed out, and they'd post it directly to the vendor's solicitors... but the vendors were refusing to tell the estate agents who their solicitors were, so things were pretty much ground to a halt. I think swear words are inadequate. And this was only the first of their unreasonable requests. Blah.
So you begin to get some idea of where I've been for the past few months (and this was only one of my problems). Having originally wanted to move at Easter, it was looking like we couldn't even get companies in over Easter to start the work. We were sitting around stressed but not able to do anything other than just wait for things to go through, due to not being able to afford anything better. (Better condition but smaller, yes. But the whole reason we're moving is we need more space!). Meanwhile, my mother was getting on my frigging nerves asking me seemingly every 5 minutes if we were buying this house because we actually wanted it or because we couldn't afford anything better, and if we would buy the house we originally wanted if we could afford it. To which the answer was "Yes, but we can't afford it so why are you winding me up by even asking?!". (Yes, I'm already stressed about the fact my partner earns 5 times as much as me, you know it's not my fault, argh!!). Bloody hell.
To do what I originally promised and cut a very long story short, my parents have now come up with a Plan whereby they lend us a sum of money for ~2 years - which removes my worries about not wanting to take money from them because they'd end up having no spare at all, and then us having to suddenly run round and find money if one of them has to go into a nursing home later (or sooner). This means that instead of us buying a small house now and then getting it extended or moving to a bigger one in 2 years as we'd originally planned, we can move straight into a bigger one now and remortgage it later. (The point of the 2 years being that's about the amount of time for me to get into a salaried job and have been there for long enough for my income to count on a mortgage form). Amazingly, House A, the one we originally wanted, was still on the market (its buyer having fallen through due to problems selling their existing house), so we had only few qualms about saying sod House B and its difficult vendor (having not actually exchanged contracts yet). And apparently this is what we're now going for. (I have actually looked at over 20 houses now, and it still comes out top). It is apparently going through, but I haven't spoken to anyone recently and need to ring our solicitor and financial advisor in the morning and find out if anyone's done a survey on it yet, etc.
I believe we are still in a situation where only God knows if or when we'll actually get to move in, but there is hope.