Property series. Simon O'Brien and Jonny Benarr work their magic in Tamworth in search of three heavenly homes.
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As you walk through the valley of the shadow of 'For Sale' signs,
and the mountainous heap of discarded property pages...
Have no fear, for we are the greatest house hunters in the valley,
and what is, what was, and will always be
starts here with To Buy Or Not To Buy.
The path of the home-seeker is beset on all sides
by the iniquities of property details,
and biblical proportions of internet home search sites.
Blessed are we, who in the name of house hunting goodwill,
shall shepherd you through the valley darkened by a sea
of uninspiring agents' windows and redundant HIP packs.
For we truly are the keepers of keys and the finders of dream homes.
And I will rise up with great vengeance and furious gusto
against all those who would attempt to derail and gazump our home-seekers.
And you will know my name is Simon
and this is Jonny as we lay down our potential test drive upon thee.
Stepping into today's limelight is parish vicar Peter,
and his wife Carol, who reside in the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales,
but their children have scattered to the four corners of the kingdom,
casting a wide net for their potential relocation.
A bit of background - man of the cloth Peter loves nothing more
than covering his 100 square miles of parish on his trusty motorcycle,
whilst Carol's passion is craftwork and quilting.
And together, our couple adore the nation's waterways,
and climb aboard their beloved narrowboat as often as possible.
With retirement looming, they'll be able to do this much more,
but first, we need to find their perfect house.
It's a beautiful day here at the water's edge.
I'd love to talk narrowboats all day, but let's talk houses.
What are we looking for? Is it just the two of you?
Yes, it is. We've lived in very big houses in the past.
I'm a vicar and vicarages have to have a certain size.
So, when we have a house of our own, we're comfortable with small.
-Shall we say cosy?
Are period properties your thing or have you had enough of that now -
you want something modern and bright?
-That's the thing.
-We've lived in all sorts of places.
Modern houses, traditional houses, six-bedroom houses...
To have a little terraced house with a yard would be fine.
I think I need a shed to go and potter in.
Like a man-zone for you, Peter?
That's it, yes.
We're limited on what we can afford to buy,
so I think we're looking for something that we can afford that is as big as it can be.
If it was in a cul-de-sac or a quieter road
so you can talk to people over the hedge, get to know the neighbours,
that would be a real plus.
Is, therefore, size more important than location?
Do you want to get as big a property as you can for your money
-or is it about getting the balance right between...
-It's the location.
-Yes, that's right.
-..is really important,
so that you can get to know people, sing in the choir,
maybe be involved in the church life.
And because you have such a large area to look within,
we're going to focus solely on Tamworth today,
-as one of the specific areas.
-Because of this! Amongst other things.
Because it has got this great network of transport links for you,
which is going to be ideal for where you're looking to be.
So, Tamworth is where we're focusing our search.
Come on, then, you lovely pair. How much have we got to spend?
I reckon we could go to £115,000.
-Not bad - probably get yourself a nice, little two-bed.
-Now we have to find it!
-I didn't mean it!
-We'll see you in a while. Enjoy the view. We will be back.
Why would I do that? Why would I say, "This is going to be fine,"
before I've even researched the area?
And you know what? For once I agree with you. When will you learn?
I think this budget is going to be very tricky today.
Mmm, not clever at all.
-I tell you what, I'll do us both a favour and go and speak to an estate agent!
-Get on it!
It's such a lovely spot, I think I'll just go for a wander...
Come on, we've got work to do.
Anyway, Tamworth has existed since Saxon times, and was the ancient capital of Mercia,
at the time, England's largest county.
But Mercian power declined after the death of King Offa and the county lost its independence.
Here's hoping today's buyers put in an offer.
Tamworth also proudly lends its name to a rare breed of pig,
and back in January 1998, two Tamworth pigs escaped whilst en route to the slaughterhouse
and their flight for freedom stirred up a media storm.
Brilliantly dubbed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pig,
they evaded capture for over a week, and when finally snared,
their well-earned heroic status urged a national newspaper to literally save their bacon
by re-housing them within an animal sanctuary.
But anyway, let's now have a butcher's at what else you can get for £115,000 around the UK.
Come on, off you trot.
In Wiltshire, where the pigs made their daring escape,
this newly refurbished, two-bedroom mid terrace
blends period features with sleek modern lines. All for only...
Or perhaps Peter and Carol would prefer this two-bed semi in Lincoln.
With a garden overflowing with greenery, this property is a bargain...
Finally, in stunning Cumbria, this charming, two-bed terraced cottage
is the epitome of a sympathetic renovation.
It has original features and modern living touches. An absolute bargain...
A millennium after the waning of the Mercian kingdom,
Tamworth experienced another growth spurt during the industrial revolution,
with the development of the nation's latest high-tech, new-fangled transport system - the canal.
Links to Birmingham and Coventry brought lock-jam to the area,
and more importantly, trade not seen since the middle ages.
-Peter, thanks very much for joining us.
-So, I come bearing gifts - buyers with no lower chain.
Tamworth Castle was built in the 11th century by the Normans after their conquest.
Today, it stands as one of the finest examples
of a motte-and-bailey castle in the country.
The motte is this huge, man-made mound, on top of which stood
a courtyard surrounded by a defensive wooden fence, the bailey.
Over the centuries, the wooden fence has been replaced with local, gorgeous, red sandstone walls
to give us one of the castliest looking castles you will see anywhere.
We've come through a difficult market,
and there's quite a few people who've had their house on the market a while,
and we always say to our clients, "If you don't ask for it, you won't get it."
Be bold and make an offer.
This memorial is dedicated to one of Tamworth's most heroic sons.
Able Seaman Colin Grazier was one of three men who lost their lives
while recovering a code book from a sinking German U-boat during the Second World War.
The intelligence gleaned from such sacrifice
enabled the Allies to decipher the notorious Enigma code
and hasten the end of the war, saving countless lives.
So, have you got some properties that you think will fit their remit?
-Yeah, let's go and have a look.
Mr Benarr, I hope you've been busy.
I have, I'm always busy. I've been to see Peter the estate agent
and that man knows his stuff, let me tell you.
I hope he knows as much as me, cos here's where we're going first.
My choice - Property 1. I just think it's perfect.
For the money, what a bargain. Location - fabulous.
-And as they said, it's all about location. You won't beat it, that's Property 1.
I've gone for a lovely, worker-style cottage.
Period features, the garden is superb.
Inside, it's so spacious, and talk about value for money.
This property is an absolute bargain.
-There must be a catch.
-There's got to be a catch.
There will be. Now the wildcard today - what can we tell you? Nothing - just look at it.
-You can guess why it's the wildcard. Shall we start the tours?
My property is nestled in a lovely, residential street and is everything Peter and Carol have asked for,
complete with two bedrooms and an enclosed garden worthy of Grand Designs.
Right, you lovely pair - and Jonny - come along with me.
-My choice today - Property 1.
In some ways, you two are very easy, because you're very laissez faire, very laid back.
But in other ways, that can make it quite tricky,
because you gave us an open book about what you wanted.
You did say one thing, though - cul-de-sac.
And we've only come just over a mile from the lovely canal where we were, so it's in touching distance, too.
Ticks all the boxes.
-More front garden than we've got at the moment.
-Low maintenance as well.
I think people care. They've got window boxes and hanging baskets.
It looks lovely.
-Just one word of warning.
It's only part-finished, so you'll have to put your own stamp on it. But you've moved many times, yes?
Let's see if this place moves you. Get in there and enjoy.
Nice entrance area.
-Nice that it's separate to the living room as well.
Often they're coming into the living room, aren't they?
It's good, it's a good size. I wonder if we could get our sofa over there.
Well my feet are a foot long. Let me just measure it out.
Two, three, four, five, six, seven-and-a-bit.
-I'm sure you could, yes.
-Peter's feet are exactly a foot long?
-That is brilliant.
So it's roughly about a foot - one of Peter's feet.
OK, your domain, Carol.
Yes, it's got enough size. It needs some refurbishment.
And it looks out onto the garden.
They've got to understand that most of the properties that we show them that have the size and the location
are going to need a little bit of tweaking.
OK, this is a fairly... It's a double bedroom, and it's big enough for anything we would want.
-We'd need to redecorate it, wouldn't we?
-I think so.
Everything benefits by a lick of paint.
-Right, bedroom number two. Well, this is more than a box room, isn't it?
-You never get as much space as we're going to have been used to in the past.
-No, we're not.
Everything's going to have to be squeezed up.
-We're going to have to get rid of a lot of stuff!
-Yes, we are.
Well at least they're being pragmatic.
-They understand that this move is going to mean that they'll have to...
Bathroom's got everything you need - tiled.
You'd be able to redecorate the rest. Lilac is my colour. That'll do fine.
A good, honest house. That's what I think. What about you?
It's got what we wanted - two bedrooms, cul-de-sac.
Nice little garden, low maintenance.
You're spoiled, because you were given a garage AND a shed.
-Ah, that's right.
-Which is excellent.
-You like it, but that might change.
-Depends how much it's going to cost us.
It's guess the price time.
You said your maximum budget is 115 - absolute maximum.
Who's going to go first? Ladies first. Carol.
Oh, right, OK. 112.
112, excellent, OK.
But I can't believe you could get it for less than the asking,
so I'm going to go for more than the asking price - 118.
£118,000. Right, well. Simon O'Brien is the man.
Peter, look at this face. Would I take you over budget at the very first property? Look!
You're absolutely right, I would.
You were very close, actually.
It's not too far over your budget.
-It's actually on for £119,950.
-But...you are in a very strong position.
You don't have a property to sell, you'd be coming in as cash buyers,
and there's always room for a bit of negotiation, so...you know.
I'm amazed that you could find a property with all this.
-You did brilliantly, yes.
-Amazing is what you heard.
Beat that if you can.
-This way, please.
-Head this way.
Modest to the end(!) My choice is a splendid period home
which sits proudly on the outskirts of Tamworth.
It's a wonderful worker's cottage with an extensive, plush garden, and a wealth of character features.
Right, now, you may have mentioned that location was of absolute importance.
I know I've brought you to a property right on a main road,
but there is method to my madness,
because as we approach this property,
hopefully you can see immediately why I've brought you here?
It looks absolutely gorgeous. I love the brickwork, the roof...
The whole property, and even all the green around it. Lovely.
And there's still so much more to it. You said you wanted some character features if possible.
It's definitely got those inside, but it's also what's out back that I think will impress you.
-What do you think, Peter?
-Well, I like the smell of diesel first thing in the morning,
so we've got that feature here!
But I agree - it's a bonny little place.
You may be surprised just how big this property is once you get in there. Get yourselves in there.
-Go on. Enjoy.
House number two.
-Open fireplace, Peter.
I think this would be a sitting room, would you?
Let's be quiet, let's listen for the traffic noise to see if the double glazing works.
-You can hear it, but it's not bad.
-Not bad. OK, so we come straight in.
Yep, we could fit our stuff in here. Very cosy.
Once again, they'll have to use their imagination,
because there is no furniture, but it is a BIG two-bed.
-I guess this would be the dining room.
-Yes, I would think so.
That's interesting, Peter, because that is a cupboard under the stairs.
Your stairs are going up the middle there. That's good use of space, isn't it?
That's the trouble with modern houses. There's nowhere to store anything.
Yes, storage, the bane of modern properties.
But this place, lovely big under-stairs cupboard,
or glory hole, as we like to call it.
-Into the kitchen, OK.
-Well, it's a bit dark for my taste.
I think the floor, particularly, makes it a bit dark.
But we could do something about that, couldn't we?
Yep, OK, the floor is quite dark - a Cornish slate effect -
but do you want a nice floor or a light room to work in?
Oh, it's a little sun room, look.
-You could use this for all sorts.
-You could do quite a lot with this, I think.
What are those hats that a bishop wears?
-Yes, I think they
-preferred Property 1.
-What have we got on the wall, Carol?
Never mind. Sortable.
Let's get round here, close to the road.
-But it's a good sized bedroom.
-Good sized bedroom.
Yeah, it's a genuine double bedroom.
Not one where you just get a double bed and nothing else in it.
That's right, it is.
Oh, it is a bedroom.
-Again, much more than a box room.
-Lots of light coming in.
-What's round here?
Goodness me, it's a big bathroom.
A bathroom that you could have a party in.
I think this house has got a little bit more of everything that the other house had.
I think Jonny has done quite well.
-Let's go and see how much it's going to cost.
I think this property is great. What are your thoughts?
You're right, I think it's got a little bit more than the other house, apart from the garage.
-I do like a garage.
Is there not a garage?
Big garden, though. Space for a BIG shed!
Absolutely. This is a superb garden.
-It's south-west facing, so you'll get lashings of sun.
All the sun, yes.
What about the size inside? I thought it was a bigger property overall than Property 1.
I like it. I like that you go through into that dining room, which is often a dark room,
but that one's got three windows in it.
So, it's lighter than you would often find.
It's amazing. Natural light makes a huge difference to a property, doesn't it?
Just like Property 1, you might have to spend a bit of money on it.
-So, "Has Jonny given you anything left over from your budget?" is the question.
At the moment, it's one-nil to Peter.
Come on, Carol, fight back. I'll make him go first this time.
Your budget, £115,000. Peter, how much for this lovely period property?
I'll go for 122.
OK. Carol, which way are you leaning?
Certainly more than I did for the other property, so I'll go for 120.
Lord give us strength!
This property is on the market for an incredible...
-Goodness gracious me!
-No. £50 short of £100,000.
Incredibly competitively priced, that property.
There's the money to do the work on it. That would be really appealing.
-Can we trump it with the wildcard?
We may as well go and find out, mightn't we? Come on!
Aren't they smashing? Well, finally the wildcard -
a lovely, ground floor apartment which sports the requested two bedrooms, a good sized lounge...
And only a short walk from the heart of Tamworth with all its history and amenities.
Right then, you lovely couple. The wildcard today. Why is it the wildcard?
Well, you distinctly asked us for a house, on a cul-de-sac hopefully,
and that was all you gave us details-wise.
So, for the wildcard, we've given you an apartment.
Also, we've brought you right into the heart of Tamworth. Right in the middle of town, so to speak.
It's this apartment here, a ground floor apartment.
-First impressions, please.
That's the idea with the wildcard!
-It's a leap of faith.
-I'd not thought about that at all.
-You live on a boat,
-you live in a house, maybe an apartment isn't so left-field after all.
-I'm not convinced.
-You've gone very quiet.
-You'll have to persuade me.
What are your reservations?
Well, I don't know where the shed or the garage is going to be.
But I'm here to be persuaded.
Well, despite your particular reservations, let's see how this place grabs you.
Get on in there and enjoy it. We will be listening.
Well, this is the wildcard.
It's a bit different, isn't it? I didn't expect an apartment.
Right, well let's see what we've got through here.
-You like light, there's plenty of light.
You could get all the furniture you wanted in there. Beautifully apportioned, isn't it?
Beautifully decorated - you wouldn't have to do anything.
-Absolutely right, Carol. It really is in tip-top condition.
-So there's the corridor here. Everything leading off it.
Oh! Nice little loo. Yes. Very nice.
Oh, and here's the bathroom. Oh, goodness, you've got two toilets downstairs.
Very good. One for me and one for you.
Would you keep it like that? You've got the toilet and the sink in one room
and then you've got a toilet and a shower next door.
-Would you just knock it through and make one big bathroom?
-You've got to.
-Best kitchen so far?
-It is, a nice kitchen. Well set up.
It's got everything you'd want.
Carol really likes this place,
-but Peter is getting quieter by the room.
Ah, master bedroom.
Good sized window, as well, and it's a nice sized room.
-It's not too big, not too small.
-Lovely that everything is brand new.
OK, this looks like the last bedroom.
-Is it the bedroom or is it the dining room?
Well, it could be both, couldn't it?
I like the fact that it's new, I like the fact that it's...it's...
You could just walk into it.
Well, Carol, do you get the feeling you just can't please some people?
-It's beautiful in there, isn't it?
Size-wise, was it liveable for you?
I thought the rooms were a good size. It was a lovely size kitchen.
I could work with that, and the bedroom was fine,
but we'd argue over what we used that second bedroom for.
-Anyway, guess the price time. It's one-all.
Your budget, £115,000.
Who's going to go first this time? Because you love it so much, Peter!
Right, asking price of 115,000 on the nose.
Your budget is 115, that's what you've gone for.
I'm going to say 116.
Oh dear, oh dear.
You've just hedged your bets there - I see what you've done.
-You hedged them the wrong way.
Yes. It's two-one to you, Peter. That'll make you happy at least.
It's actually on the market for £50 short of £110,000.
-Yes, it is.
-Nothing to do.
And planning ahead, it's in the town centre,
it's on the ground floor - no stairs, easy access.
-But do you want to think like that just yet?
-Near the railway station.
-All those things.
-I'm so persuaded. No, I'm not.
Never mind - don't be persuaded or dissuaded just yet.
We have shown you three very different places
and you've got to decide which one you'd like to spend a bit more time in.
So, take yourselves off, have a wander round,
-and we'll see you in a bit.
-OK, thank you.
-Wildcard didn't go down too well.
-Never rule it out.
OK, while they're making up their minds, here's a reminder...
What can I say? Oh, I know. My choice was everything Peter and Carol are looking for.
They loved its style, size and its secluded cul-de-sac location.
It's a definite front-runner.
Nice. But my friend, you might need divine intervention
as the period grandeur of Property 2
gave Peter and Carol the welcoming character and charm they've become accustomed to. The price...
Our apartment wildcard.
Carol seemed swayed by the convenience and finish here,
but Peter didn't seem too convinced. On at a competitive...
So, which one will be bestowed with today's Songs of Property Praise?
Hallelujah! Peter and Carol have seen the light...
and returned to my homely worker's cottage.
So let the ecclesiastical test drive commence.
Praise be upon you, Brother Benarr, and I get the feeling
a few renovation projects could be headed this way.
But, first things first - will Peter find a suitable niche for his treasured motorcycle?
Two, three foot...
I think I could get the handlebars round that.
Ah, this will do.
Whilst Carol picks her crafts room,
the needle pointing ensues and the quilts get rolled out.
As mentioned, community is king for these two,
so Peter visits vicar Hugh to get the inside track on the local area.
So, the population of Tamworth now is about 70,000 people.
-But that's outside. Come and have a look inside.
-Thank you, yes.
Narrowboating is never far away from Peter and Carol's minds,
and luckily, they've had the chance to join up with other narrowboat devotees,
to locate the perfect spot to moor up.
-Did they just
For Simon's benefit, let's say this was a close-run thing, but come on,
Property 2 stood out head and shoulders, didn't it?
It stood out head and shoulders in its inside,
and it's got such a lovely garden.
It's got an awful lot of potential, this property.
But actually, you know, Simon's was much more to the sort of specification...
Don't be coy, speak up! Tell me that again.
This is a lovely house with a lot going for it, a lot of potential,
but when we think about it, it doesn't have the community feel
and the neighbours and things like that that we were looking for.
Mmm, but in there, is there not a clue as to with your budget, there will be compromise?
And actually, for us, the neighbours, the community,
the kids playing in the street is really, really important.
I shall ask, although I fear I may know the answer. Is this going to be a to buy or not to buy?
We thought about it and talked about it,
but the answer is no, we won't buy.
But this is an area that we've never visited before,
so you've shown us a lot, and we're very encouraged to keep on looking.
Carol, it's also fair to say - you're kind of looking over such a wide area,
it's going to take some time to find where you and your narrowboat are going to be happy.
It's quite a challenge because the pair of us like different things as well.
We hope that you and your narrowboat and your motorbike
-will be happy.
-Thank you very much.
-It's been an absolute pleasure, it truly has.
Yes - thanks for picking my property!
-See you later.
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