We didn't know what we had until it was gone

Buying our first home was something of a whirlwind. Given that it was 2015 and we were looking in south London’s Zone 2, we had to move fast – after spending a mere 10 minutes sussing out the small, hall-level, Victorian one-bedroom flat, we placed an offer and it was accepted on the same day.

Being able to afford to buy in south London was a fluke – it was a great location, but a lot of hard work was needed on this ex-social property. Layers upon layers of old kitchen lino told the story of its unloved past while random pieces of skirting on the ceiling shed light into its history. Weird as it was, it was ours, and we were determined to love it back to good health.

So, after chipping away over two years (a new bathroom, general decorating, extra storage and eventually a new kitchen), we stood back and admired our work. Our once rough-around-the-edges, 460-sq-ft project was finally complete.

We couldn’t believe we’d made it – it felt too good to be true. And what we quickly learned is, if something feels too good to be true, it probably is. Only two weeks later, our whole world came crumbling down. Quite literally.

On a gloomy Thursday in March, while everyone in the five-storey terrace was out at work, a burst pipe in the flat upstairs leaked happily for several hours, causing not only our ceiling to collapse, but destroying the property downstairs, too.

That extra storage we built? Ruined. My childhood diary, which I kept for safe keeping down the side of the bed? Soaked. (I later frantically used the hotel blow-dryer to try to save the ink.)

All of our hard work had been completely undone in a matter of hours. From that point on, time seemed to stand still. Loss assessors, loss adjustors, surveyors and project managers came and went, and yet our flat stayed the same, a sad, empty, smelly shell of a home.

Since then we’ve hauled ourselves all over the neighbourhood, from hotels to AirBnbs to short-term lets, and it still stings every time I have to resist getting off the train at my usual stop and continue to my temporary home slightly further down the line.

But, finally, after six months of separation, heartbreak and pining, this weekend we can reunite with our beloved home.

It really has gone through ups and downs over the past two years, from its neglected social housing status to our gradual pruning, to disastrous heartbreak, to full-on reunion. We’ve promised never to take our home for granted again. It’s true what they say: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

ECK, London


Further information

'We didn't know what we had until it was gone,' is part of our new series, A Savills Love Story, prompted by Savills new advertising campaign.

We invite you to submit your own Savills Love Story. What made you fall for your home? Was it love at first sight or more of a slow burn? Do you have a 'type' or is your approach to house-buying more pragmatic? Or tell us about your fantasy home – the magical place you've always wanted to live, perhaps inspired by a novel or a fleeting glimpse in a magazine? We will donate £50 to YoungMinds for every story we publish on Savills UK Blog. We'll also make a donation for every story submitted for consideration.


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