On the Market: When the dream home turns out to be the house from hell

Rachel Love

Rachel Love - Credit: Archant

When it comes to property viewings, the reality isn’t always as good as the glossy brochure would have you believe - as Rachel discovered...

It was the week after my curtsy blunder and my dignity had just about recovered when mum said: “I think I’ve found a house we’ll love. I’ve booked a viewing for tomorrow.” Could mum have finally found her dream home?

The pictures showed the wing of an old manor house with a grand staircase in the communal area, high ceilings, illustrious coving, extravagant mezzanine levels and pillars adorning the entrance.

“There it is!” Mum pointed excitedly, as we drove along the narrow country lane. The crumbling manor house we saw was a poor relation to the one we had seen in the brochure. Our faces fell.

“Are you sure?” My brother looked sceptical.

The estate agent met us in the car park and began to guide us around. The inside was just as unkempt as the outside, nothing like what we were promised. The lounge we peeped at as we entered was cluttered with ornaments, mismatching pieces of furniture, newspapers and knick-knacks.

Dust coated the tops of the mahogany writing desk, a grand piano, an antique drinks cart and a crammed bookcase, patches of damp had gathered on the ceilings and walls, wallpaper peeled and floorboards bowed. I had an eerie sense of having walked into someone’s past, like time inside the manor had frozen in the 1800s.

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An elderly man came into the hallway to greet us, holding out his shaking hand. He said he was 93 years old and had lived alone in the manor since his wife had passed away several years ago. He showed us around rooms that were much the same as the overcrowded lounge, disused and forgotten.

When he offered us tea we were inclined to say no because his nails were inches long and yellow, he had thick, white bristles sprouting from his ears and the top of his nose, he spluttered phlegm into an unwashed hankie and, possibly forgetting we were prospective buyers, told us he had seen a rat in his kitchen cupboard the previous week.

When he came back with a tray of tea we sat together in the living room, the estate agent taking a pew on a velvet chaise longue and the old man in a well used armchair. Something floated on the surface of my tea and the milk had formed a skin in its jug.

“It’s good to see people sitting on that sofa.” He gestured towards us as we reclined in an old, floral two-seater.

“So you don’t have many visitors then?” Mum asked with a look of pity on her face.

“I do, but not many people want to sit on the sofa where Pam died.”

We tried to be casual as we peeled ourselves from the seat - mum repressed a scream, I repressed the urge to burn my clothes and bleach my skin. We cut tea short and asked to be shown the final rooms.

Before we left the old man lifted up a rug in the corridor and exposed a trap door leading to the cellar.

“The previous owner told me that someone had died down there, so I don’t use it.”

“Right, we’ll be going now then.” Mum ushered me and my brother out of the manor, leaving the estate agent to tell the man that the property wasn’t for us.

The saga continues…