As regular readers will know, our landlord gave us notice to leave a few weeks ago. He wants to sell our house and realise the profit he imagined when he developed the property. We have been paying his mortgage for him for nearly 4 years.
With two small children at school, the thought of finding somewhere else to live was daunting enough, but when we started looking for a new home, we soon realised just how daunting house hunting has become in the affluent Sussex towns and villages.
My husband works, earning just a little less than the national average, but that is not enough in places like Sussex. An average family home costs around £200,000 + to buy and a three bedroom property rents for between £900 and £1100 per month. That is around 60% of my husband's salary. Clearly I cannot work, however much I would like to, so we are limited to one wage.
No matter, two bedrooms would do, so we started to search the local property sites.
There was nothing. In the first week, just 6 properties were on the market and the good ones were let within seconds of an administrator pushing "send" on their databases.
After countless appointments to view depressing rabbit holes, we finally found a little cottage that would do us and put down our deposit.
Credit checks complete, all looked good until yesterday morning. The tenants currently renting the cottage could not find or afford anywhere else to live, and the council have advised them that they will have to be evicted before they can be found even temporary accommodation.
I had phoned the local council myself when we were unsure if we would be able to find anything in time and it was one of the most depressing phone calls I ever made. In the starkest of terms, I was told we would have to sit tight until our landlord evicted us (destroying any credit rating we might have) and even then, we would be placed in a B&B for up to two years until suitable accommodation could be found.
Like most people, we decided anything would be better than that and ploughed on through the private sector.
Yesterday saw a flurry of panic as my husband and I dragged the children round a succession of even nastier rabbit holes. With just 2 weeks left to find somewhere suitable to live, we didn't have the time or resources to be fussy.
Miraculously, the 4th property we saw was beautiful. A huge old Victorian mansion flat with stucco ceilings, wonderful gardens and a conservatory. We snapped it up in delight. For the first time in ages, we spent the evening excitedly planning where our furniture would go and how lovely it would be to live there.
When I called the agent this morning to put down a holding deposit, we were told that it would cost us £292 EACH for referencing and agency fees. Just £200 of that goes towards our overall deposit with a whopping £400 going to the agency. Well, we have no choice but to find £600 then do we? As you crawl through this process, you can see why so many families are finding themselves unable to afford a roof over their heads.
Having done a little digging, agents tell me that there is an explosion in tenants unable to move, forced into eviction and living in fear of what tomorrow will bring. Areas like mine are in the grip of a housing crisis - not enough homes, rents too high, mortgages too high. Remember, these are not necessarily families who rely on benefits, but working families who simply can't afford a home.
We will duck and dive, scrimp and borrow because we have found a beautiful home that we want to live in as a family and because a roof over our heads is kind of non-negotiable.
Whatever solutions politicians are currently considering to this crisis, it is clear that they need to act quickly. The South East - and other areas - simply do not have enough homes. The laws of supply and demand dictate that all the while that is the case, accommodation will move further out of reach for ordinary people.