Real life

House-hunting in Cobham has driven me to the verge of insanity

I’m about to pay the best part of a million quid for two up two down I’ll have to pour myself into

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

4 July 2015

9:00 AM

This much I know, I never want to live in an ‘executive home’, and neither do I want to live in a house that belongs to a ‘collection’ of homes that have been built to a ‘high specification’. And which feature bi-fold doors. Quite frankly, having been house-hunting in Surrey for the best part of two years looking for something I can afford, I don’t care if I never see another bi-fold door as long as I live.

What’s wrong with a back door with a simple hinge, or a French window? When did we all get so lost up our own posteriors we needed the entire back wall to come off our house, even if it’s a three-bedroom dormer bungalow? When we decided to make three-bed dormer bungalows worth more than a million pounds, that’s when.

Honestly, house-hunting in Cobham really does take the biscuit, or should I say biscotti. If it’s not executive homes on housing estates calling themselves ‘collections’, then it’s dormer bungalows that have ideas so far above their station they need bulldozing to put them back in their place.

When I first started looking, I would see a picture of a sad, ugly bungalow on Rightmove and think, ‘Ha ha! Who would buy that?’ Out of grim fascination I would go to look round, and the place would reveal itself to have been so chavved up inside that it now featured shiny white poured concrete floors in a minimalist kitchen, with bi-fold doors opening on to a perfect square of artificial turf, and some sort of B&Q gazebo on the tiny patio. A potting shed would be presented to me as ‘a home office’.


I would tell the agent they had to be kidding, laugh in their face, and a few weeks later someone would buy it at the asking price of £1.2 million.

The ‘executive homes’ are no better. Usually in ‘collections of two’, these are invariably built in someone else’s back garden after they got greedy and sold their lawn to developers. The ‘stunning architect-designed décor’ has invariably come from Wickes, and earns the title ‘bespoke’ because the vendor has hung a vintage birdcage in the kitchen with a dried flower arrangement inside.

The fact is, despairing urbanites have been trying to escape to the imagined utopia of Cobham since time began, and as such 1,200 square feet of appalling taste down a cul-de-sac called Squirrel’s Leap will sell like a hot cake for seven figures, no sweat.

All of which is by way of mitigation to explain why I am apt to fall for anything that is mildly charming, and which I have got the chance of a sniff at before the doer-uppers with their B&Q loyalty cards bi-fold the bejesus out of it then scatter the finished aberration with leopard-print soft furnishings until it looks like an episode of Come Dine With Me is about to be filmed there.

Imagine my excitement, therefore, when for the second time in as many years my dream tumbledown cottage in a little lane a few miles outside Cobham came on the market.

It’s just a tiny cottage, with two small bedrooms on the first floor that you couldn’t swing a cat, never mind a child in, and one attic bedroom they are calling ‘the principal’, which has ceilings so low you can hardly stand. There isn’t a cupboard in the entire house. The downstairs, while sweet and featuring a log-burner, is just one room with a kitchen diner at one end. Or, as the agent puts it, ‘One step up gives access to the dining room providing ample space for a sizeable table.’ I would have to pour myself into the place and sell most of my possessions. And it’s in a hamlet with no shops or services that has been living for some years under the threat of a massive housing development.

I am prepared to take all this on the chin, however, because I know I will never find my ideal home in Surrey without finding it in a state of enough disrepair and blight to bring it into my price range. Or so you would think. Unfortunately, the vendor of this two up two down cottage, who has been renting it out while living in a much grander house elsewhere, is asking £765,000 for it.

I’m not sure who is more insane: me, for wanting to buy a tiny mid-terrace home in a hamlet with no services opposite agricultural land where the local council is threatening to dump a new town and a traveller site. Or the guy who is trying to sell this charming pig in a poke — sorry, stunning period home — for the best part of a million quid. I suppose we are about to find out.

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  • lucath

    Why is the photo of Shaftesbury (Dorset) when the article is about Cobham and Surrey?

  • Ahobz

    Melissa – bored with Greece and DaeshISILWhatever, elsewhere I turned to your column for refuge.

  • If only this were England, Melissa, I’d invite you to come to the Smoky Mountains. Build your own, with room for the dog and horses, on as many acres as you care for (and the farmers’ honey is lovely, too). All for what in British pounds sterling amounts to a song. And you’re just our type: freedom-loving, sparking intelligence, with short patience for human-variety cow-pat. Oh well.

    • Guest 1

      65 million people in a space around as big as Indiana, which has only 6.5 million people. And still the population here grows, and grows. My own feeling is that the political elite want the population to reach 100 million to help keep them at the international ‘top table’.

    • pedestrianblogger

      House-hunting tip: have a look at your potential new abode on Google Earth and watch out for blue circles, nearby. These are trampolines, which have been bought in the hope that the progeny of the home-owner might be tempted to waddle away from the PlayStation once in a while to take a bit of exercise but, in practice, are used solely by the “adults” of the household, usually on a Friday or Saturday night (at two in the morning), when the pubs have chucked out, in the mistaken belief that their cackles, hoots, and shrieks and the loud, rhythmic creaking that the utilisation of such equipment entails will enchant and entertain those among their neighbours who like to sleep at night and who have to be up in the morning ready for a day’s work. I speak from bitter experience.

      • Egads. At least most people don’t use basketball hoops very much: they merely remain eyesores (to which many suburban Americans are weirdly addicted: count ’em as you go up any street). Thanks for the timely tip, P.

      • Precambrian

        Note also that stealth trampelines (black circles) have also become available. Otherwise, spot on.

  • Builder boyfriend

    Dear God if melissa moves to ockham lane the house prices will drop,even the developers will pull out and the travelers will move there caravans. Remember kite your type are killing the countryside buy pushing up the prices with your London money. Best stay in London,we don’t want you back here in Cobham. Hoorah the ex,builder boyfriend x
    Ps America is nice and cheap have a look hahahahahahahaha.

    • Ngaire Lowndes

      Ooooh nasty…. claws in, Builder!

      • Builder boyfriend

        Yer sorry how rude of me,we Cobham builder/ banker types,got no class,it’s all money from the city,range rovers and garden party’s.anyone for pims haha,some of my friend’s even pay tax!! what a rum do it is to play polo all week and then have to go down the pub and drink the bar dry. Monday morning is hell as to many helicopters hovering over head.definitely time to invade maybe west 1,Mon to Fri London pad.drinks poo,s time must go.xxx love the builder

        • Ngaire Lowndes

          Have a look at Sutton. A few nice little corners around that borough.

  • pedestrianblogger

    How ghastly.

  • Frank Marker

    Oh I do feel for you Melissa. Sometimes Cobham just doesn’t deliver does it?

  • Hugh Jeego

    Why not house-hunt elsewhere? Other locations are available, you know.

  • Precambrian

    In my dream world, where I inherit a nice million from an unknown relative, I could understand this (how many souless modern houses are there on Rightmove, or worse, modernised old houses that have been stripped of their soul by a legion of the undead?!).

    But three quarters of a million for a tiny house is a sign of just how absurd this country has become over houses (thanks to unleashed credit that has inflated the housing bubble – its not a lack of houses, we have many empty ones).

  • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

    Try Hertfordshire, far better properties and not filled with tasteless hoorays called Nigel who are something in the City. And for £1.2m you can get a massive house in nice town

  • Ngaire Lowndes

    Melissa, dear, you’re really not looking in the right place. Cobham is quite ghastly! As another commenter suggests, deploy Google Earth to seek out a reasonably quiet, sane neighbourhood. Depending on your needs, consider the less likely-sounding environs of Sutton and Croydon – some of the little back areas are really very pleasant. And, lacking the snob appeal of Cobham, very much more reasonably priced.

  • Michael

    I would love to live in Chelsea or say Kensington. But I cannot afford there. The same principle applies across the UK. Most of us who work hard can afford a pleasant home but not necessarily in the Home Counties or London. No need to go to mid Wales or Orkney – but try Wiltshire of Hampshire or (much of) Kent. I know Cobham but ever since Chelsea FC made it home for their training ground prices have rocketed. So go West or North if money does not stretch…….

  • Richard Eldritch

    Home of the aging light entertainer.

    • Everyone’s ageing, Rich; not everyone is an entertainer.

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