‘I wrote a letter to everyone on my street to buy my home’

Pricing was an issue, recalls Clark. “We knew that Dad’s bungalow was not the usual run-of-the-mill property,” she explains. Three estate agents had already given wildly different valuations. “We took the middle one.” 

What Clark’s siblings didn’t want was “someone who would buy the house, ‘do it up’ and then sell it for a quick profit”.

Reader, we got lucky. After completing in November 2019, two days before our rental agreement expired, Clark’s family home became our lockdown haven. During Covid we replanted her father’s vegetable beds and reglazed his greenhouse. A massive renovation added a weaving studio for my wife, who grows traditional dye flowers in our garden, then naturally colours handwoven baby wraps and scarves.

As property markets tighten and empty nesters grow ever more reluctant to downsize, sourcing houses by post has become a regular tactic for desperate house hunters. 

Eight years ago, father-to-be David Gee, a landscape designer from the Midlands, was desperate to live on a Victorian street he’d admired since school. “I literally scribbled something like ‘please forgive me for being so forward’ and posted it through 12 doors on the south-facing side of the street,” recalls Gee. 

One replied immediately. These owners had crafted a beautiful family home “but, big surprise, they had triplets,” says Gee. “So their house was suddenly too small.”

As the vendor knew Gee had a family on the way, there was an obvious connection. He adds: “We hadn’t come up from London with loads of money to outbid everyone. We had a stake in the area.”

During the next five years, neighbours to the left and right, who had also received his original hand-scribbled letter, sold their terraced houses to Gee. “They saved agent fees,” explains Gee. “They also knew I wouldn’t pull out at the last minute.” 

Obtaining three properties off-market means he can rent two out to create an easy-to-manage rental income for retirement. “And it all started with that one letter.”  

Using off-beat tactics to secure a dream home works at all levels. “We had a client who was in competition to buy a £5m house owned by an elderly lady,” says Henry Pryor, a buying agent. “Her daughters had been married in the house (her life had been centred around the property for 35 years) and she was part of the community.” 

The client’s two little girls wrote to the elderly owner thanking her for the welcome, then hand-delivered their letters. “The seller signed through tears,” adds Pryor, “and the two exchange Christmas cards every year”. Just as I do with our Lichfield vendor.

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