Author Archives: girlintheglasses

The Ugly Phase

It has been a while since I posted an update and a lot has happened in the house.  Captain Canada has been very busy.  First of all the wallpaper that covered nearly every wall and most of the ceilings has been 98% removed.  There is still a little on the ceiling of the stairwell which is difficult to reach and all the walls just need wiped down and cleaned to remove the last little bits of paper and wallpaper adhesive.  Neither of us ever want to see wallpaper again as this is the second house we have owned that required a whole lot of wallpaper removal.  So please, consider others before you commit wallpaper crimes.

The next thing that Capt. Canada sorted out was removing all the fixtures, fittings and ceramics from the half bath and current master bath along with the faux wood ceiling boards in the master bath & kitchen, taking down the flimsy wall between the master bedroom and guest bedroom (which will be rebuilt properly), and then removing all the screed concrete throughout the entire main and upper floors.  On a side note, we were surprised to find out that below the screed layer of concrete that there was a layer of ground cork to separate it from the structural concrete floor, which made the screed removal much easier thankfully (you can see a mound of this to the left in the “Master Bedroom Currently” picture).  Then since we were doing the floors and will be replacing all the doors, we thought it best to remove the tiles that covered the front porch as they were not in very good condition.  Over the past week and a half Captain Canada has also had to get all the concrete and brick he removed out of the house and disposed of.  Which meant long days spent with a wheelbarrow and monotonous back-breaking work (Captain Canda really is a super hero).  So far he have has one dumpster filled (from the chimney removal) and taken away, and dumpster number two is currently in the driveway.

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At the moment the house looks like a bit of a disaster zone, but that should change soon enough.  We have some large deliveries arriving soon with supplies for the laundry room and bathrooms as well as the new heating system.  Also, last night we went over and sorted out where all the light switches and outlets will go.  So we are nearly at the point where things will start being “put back together,” so to speak.

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Officially Home Owners

Last week things were finalised at last!  So we are officially home owners once again.  Now the work really begins, in fact the work had actually began months ago when were given keys early and Captain Canada got to work cleaning up the yard and patio area.  With things being official though we are able to get to work on the actual house.  On Tuesday Capt. Canada already ripped out all the old radiators and Thursday and Friday got to work removing one of the chimneys that is no longer needed.  I also got a little start on the wallpaper removal in what will be the new bathroom (mind you almost every room in the house has wallpaper that needs to be removed).  We have a fair bit of work ahead of us  but we have been planning for months so we are ready to go.

The house we purchased was built in the 60’s during a time that families needed affordable housing.  Our home is located on a street of houses that were built by the same builder and were originally all the same.  Through the years many have been added onto or altered.  It is a very basic box of a house that has not had an alterations really aside from the addition of a garage which we are super happy to have.  So we have a pretty blank canvas, aside from all that wallpaper, to do what we like.  We are only the second owners of the property as it was passed from the original owners to their child who rented it out for a few years.  It is because of these lovely renters that we have to remove the wallpaper as they were heavy smokers.  In spite of the fact that all the walls had been freshly painted prior to going up for sale, the house absolutely reeks of cigarettes.  This was also a contributing factor to us deciding to remove the radiators, replace all the flooring and doors as well.  We figure it is the best way to eradicate the horrible smell.  Not to say that the floors and doors were not in need of some updating anyhow.

So for those of you who are curious as to exactly what are plans are for the house here is a list:

  • Replace furnace
  • Install in-floor heating on main and upper levels
  • New efficient radiators in the basement
  • Install new interior and exterior doors
  • Install new kitchen cabinets and appliances (there is currently nothing in the kitchen)
  • New lighting in every room
  • New flooring throughout the main and upper levels
  • New handrail for stairs and tile
  • Build a new master bathroom in one of the small bedrooms
  • Convert old master bath into a laundry room with dog wash & storage
  • Remove wallpaper throughout the entire house
  • Update plumbing and electrical
  • Install a new higher fence and gate

These are the things that we need to complete before we move into the house.  Then hopefully in the fall or next spring we will begin work on the patio.  We plan to extend the current patio which is quite small and once contained a rather large pond which Captain Canada removed months ago.  The plan for the patio is to:

  • Level and grade the area to allow for proper drainage away from the house
  • Install new patio stones so that we have a continuous level surface
  • Build a roof over a portion of the area
  • Install a privacy screen/fence

We are hoping to get the house ready to move into over the next two months.  For one, we really need to get out of the apartment we live in and secondly, we have some friends coming to visit from Canada in mid September.  So we would prefer to be in the house by then.

I will be adding updates as we go along so if you are interested in following our home renovation journey keep checking back or you can sign up for e-mail notifications down below.

 

 

 

 

So you want to buy a house in Germany?

Well buckle up, because you are mostly like in for an interesting if not bumpy ride!

After toying with the idea of building new, we came to realize that it simply just was not going to be the best option for us.  So then began our search for a house.  My husband and I knew what we were looking for as we had discussed in great detail what we needed from a property and the things that would be a nice bonus but were not exactly a necessity and also the sort of things that would be an absolute no go.  For instance, an older property that needed some updating and cosmetic work done would be perfectly acceptable since we (by we, I mostly mean Captain Canada) feel capable of handling  quite a bit of the renovation work ourselves.  However, we knew that something that was too old, as in deemed a historic or listed property, needed structural work, or had any sort of water damage, damp or cracked foundation for example, was a strong no for us.  For one, we have limited resources which we wanted to make the very best use of and had no interest in doing a remake of the Money Pit, and time was also of the essence as we were looking to get out of our current living situation as soon as possible.

With our search criteria sorted, we began voraciously searching the online real estate listings and we quickly found ourselves in yet another situation where Germans simply do things differently than we were used to.  It seemed that when we would call to book a viewing that the real estate agents would first give us the address (because they do not put the property address in the listings) and request that we drive by to give the property a look before setting up a more formal viewing.  This was fun because we live in a more rural area so some of these properties were not exactly just around the block or in the next village over.  So be prepared to do a fair bit of leg work if you are going to start this process yourself.  Also, when you contact an agent they sometimes want you to give them a lot of your information and one agent even wanted us to sign a contract before he would agree to show us a property.

After quite a few disappointing viewings and looking at the real estate listings every day we started to get frustrated as the process was taking longer than we would have liked. Quite frankly we were beginning to lose hope that we would find anything suitable in our price range.  The search process in Canada seemed to go more quickly not to mention that once we found a house and put in an offer to the time we took possession of the house was rather fast as well.  This was not to be the case here in Germany though.

As I mentioned before, we checked the real estate listings daily and eventually a property located in the village we currently live in popped up that had some potential.  We had hoped that we could stay in our current village as is it conveniently located, which allows Captain Canada (my husband) to be able to bike to work most days and is not too out of the way to get to any amenities we need.  However, we honestly did not imagine that it would be possible as it is a small village and there is not a whole lot of turn over in the real estate market here.  So naturally we called right away to book a viewing and saw the property the following weekend.

The house viewing went well.  Not to say that it would not require some updating and work though.  We went home and talked things over and an hour later we called to let the agent know that we were interested in making an offer, which is what we thought the next step would be.  However, when we called the agent he said that there were other viewings that weekend so on Monday he planned to present the seller with any and all offers so he could then choose.  My husband asked if there was anything we could do to put ourselves in a better position to get the house and we were told by the agent that this was not an auction situation and he was not interested in having a bidding war.  So in short, there was nothing we could do but wait and hope.

After waiting to hear from the real estate agent until the agreed upon date we heard nothing from him even we had been reassured that he would let us know straight away.  So by the late afternoon Captain Canada gave him a call to find out that the seller had decided to sell the house to a neighbor who wanted to secure a property in our village as an incentive to convince their daughter to stay nearby.  To say that we were devastated would be an understatement.  For one we were honestly upset that the agent had not even attempted to contact us and wondered when and if he ever would have let us know anything.  Also, we were annoyed by the fact that we had been fully prepared to do what we could to put ourselves in a better position to secure the property but were essentially had our hands tied.

The next week was hard.  We felt dejected and our house search was at a standstill as none of the properties that were coming up were anywhere near being suitable for our needs.  In all honesty we had began to feel quite hopeless.  Our current living situation has been and still is stressful as all the residents in our building are not very respectful and flat out disregard German tenancy laws, the building rules and the lease agreement.  However, something kept nagging at me and I just did not feel as though that this was the end of the line with this property we had found.

Sure enough at the end of the week we woke up Saturday morning to Capt. Canada receiving a phone call from the real estate agent.  He told us that the deal with the neighbor had fallen through and that if we were willing to agree to a few terms that the house was ours.  I would be a liar if I said we were immediately overcome with joy.  The truth is that we were still hurt and a bit angry considering the fact that some of these terms were things we had been prepared to agree to from day one and that this whole emotionally draining situation could have been avoided.  But alas, we licked our wounds, moved on and met up that day to sign the initial paperwork to secure the property once and for all.

It turned out that were some restrictions as to when we could take official ownership and possession of the property that due to privacy reasons on the home owners part I will not get into.  So the paperwork could not be finalised until early July.  In the meantime the owner offered to give us keys so that would could get started on things as they sympathised with us having to wait so much longer than what we initially thought.  We happily took them up on their offer but decided to keep the work limited to the garden or yard just so as not to take too much risk just in case anything were to go awry for any reason.  So as soon as the weather permitted (we were blessed with a rather early spring), Captain Canada began hacking away at the overgrown cedars, removing the pond, repairing the retaining wall and started whipping the garden into shape.

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Although things did not happen as quickly or go as smoothly as we had hoped, we learned a fair bit along the way and were able to get some much needed work done outdoors before the weather got unbearably warm.  Not to mention that this gave us ample time to sort out just exactly what needed to be done and make plans for the work ahead.

In short, if you are looking to build or purchase home here in lovely picturesque Germany, be prepared for some unexpected twists, a whole lot of bureaucracy, and to have your patience and sanity challenged.  Even with all that, we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and have renewed hope that all the struggle to get here and making such a big move to a new country so far away from everything and everyone we know was right.  I think that perhaps all the difficulties we faced along the way have just made us more sure of what we want and need and all the more appreciative of what we have and of the things we achieve.

Scrapped Plans

First I feel I should give you a little background information on why we took the route we did, which was to buy and renovate an older home.  At the beginning of the year when we decided it was time to search for a house, we had a brief flirtation with a new build and made multiple visits to Fertighaus Welt Nürnberg, which is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in building a new prefab house (Fertighaus Welt has similar parks located throughout Germany).   In fact, we had a lot reserved and found a fantastic building company that ticked all the boxes and then some.  However, the reality of the time, cost and stress of a new build set in.  You have to consider so many other things than simply the procurement of your lot, and finding a builder.  So if this is something you might be considering, really do your research so as to avoid any surprises or disappointments.

Just a few things to look into and consider if you want to go down the prefabricated house or new conventional build road that matter:

  • Does the lot you are looking at include utility hook ups or will that come at an additional cost?
  • Are there already services in your new neighborhood?  Sometimes you can find that your service provider of choice for things like cable or internet may not be available in your area, not to say that they may not come later.
  • Does the neighborhood where your lot is located place restrictions on things such as the height of your house (roofline, chimneys), exterior finishes or color choices, landscaping plants and materials, or even how far your home needs to be from the street or other things? Some neighborhoods can also require you to chip in for the cost of building parks.
  • Do not be fooled by advertisements with price tags that seem too good to be true (like many of the yet to be built homes that you will no doubt come across on real estate listings).  Those listings are usually just for an empty unfinished shell of the house.
  • Consider doing some of the work yourself if you are equipped, able and industrious enough to do so.  Why pay someone else a premium to do jobs that you can do?  There are even some building companies like Living Haus for example, that are more than happy to work with you in this manner and even have partnered with OBI (a big box hardware/building store here in Germany, much like Home Depot or Lowes in North America) to offer classes to teach you how to some of the work yourself.

I am by no means an expert and we only took a very short walk down the path of building a new prefab house, but our eyes were sure opened to some things in that time.  So again, I reiterate, do your research and ask a lot of questions.  Do not hesitate to ask friends and coworkers for advice as well as they can be a wealth of knowledge.  At the end of the day, they simply just do things differently here in Germany than my husband and I were accustom to in the United States and Canada.

After doing our research we ultimately decided that building new was not the best use of our resources.  We knew that to get the size and type of property we were looking for that we would get more for our money if we could find an older house that needed a little love and updating.  There will be more on that arduous process to come.

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Changes

My site has been dormant for far too long and I have decided it is time for a revamp and resurrection of sorts.  I would like to get back to writing about the things that first got me into blogging which is sharing my experience as a foreigner living in another country.  I began my original blog many years ago to keep our family and friends up to date on how and what we were doing during a three month stay in Germany.  During those three months my husband and I enjoyed ourselves and found that life here really appealed to us.  When we left to go back to Canada, which is where we had been living at the time, although we dreamed of returning permanently, we never thought it would actually happen.  However, in 2008 my husband found himself presented with an interesting job opportunity within his company.  We decided that in spite of having just purchased a home a few months prior that we had to pursue it.  Just months later in June of 2009 we put our house on the market, packed up everything we owned and jetted off to a new life in Germany.

Life has been good here for us and we found a nice apartment and settled into a lovely small village located near his work, which is where we have resided for the past nine years.  However, this year we decided to make a big change and began the process of finding a house to purchase as we had outgrown our apartment.  This was an interesting process to say the least and it was vastly different from our experience of searching for and purchasing a home in Canada.

Fast forward a few painful months to today, where we are currently in the planning stages of renovating the house we close on & officially take possession of next month.  It is this experience that I would like to document and share.

Once everything is official, I will share more details, including photos and our plans for our property.

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