23rd May 2016

Clinging onto the Property Ladder

In May 1986, Paul Berwin was in the first month of running his brand new law firm. In May 2016, thirty years later, I am in the first month of running and renovating my first home.

I instructed to Berwins to deal with the purchase and Sue Avery looked after it for me. As I am sure many of Sue’s past and existing clients will recall, the whole process was conducted seamlessly and felt like a walk in the park. If only this theme could have continued post completion.

Before becoming a homeowner, when people spoke about ‘getting onto the property ladder’ I always associated the phrase with the image of someone calmly climbing onto the first rung of a ladder. I now picture someone hanging off that rung one handed, desperately clinging on for dear life.

I have no experience of renovating houses or ‘DIY’ and as a consequence my eyes have suddenly been opened to a whole new world of questions that I didn’t even know existed. Yesterday my builder asked me what colour grout I would like him to use for tiling my bathrooms. I thought grout just came as standard. Obviously I was wrong. I soon discovered this as he looked at me witheringly and explained that there is a whole range of different shades for me to choose from.

There have been many unexpected obstacles. Perhaps the most memorable is when I put my entire leg through the living room ceiling after the plumber had taken up some of the floorboards in the bedroom above. No sooner had my dad come to my rescue and hauled me out of the floor, when my mother arrived in timely fashion and WW3 ensued. A few days later, she still couldn’t quite see the funny side but we moved on and quietly booked a plasterer.

So what’s the link between Paul setting up Berwins and me crashing my way through (quite literally) my first house purchase? No doubt Paul also had similar feelings of exasperation when things did not go quite to plan. However, despite the obstacles, tantrums and disasters, I have laughed until I cried (although maybe in delirium) and made so many memories already. What has struck me most is the way the people around me have rallied around to support me in whatever way they can. Their unwavering kindness and generosity has really reminded me of the ‘Berwins values’ (#care #passion #teamwork #accessibility #ownership) that we strive for everyday here and are even painted all over our office walls in case we ever forget!

My friends have inundated me with offers to help with the decorating and have rushed straight round to admire and exclaim what a gorgeous house I have, when in reality it looks like a building site and smells like one too.

My boyfriend has given up his evenings, weekends and lunchtimes to commit to decorating, tearing up carpets, chauffeuring, dog walking, appeasing tantrums and perhaps his favourite job to date…clearing an ancient birds nest out of the roof. He also spent eight hours painting the cursed aforementioned ceiling and the first words he uttered when he saw the damage were ‘It’s not that bad’ (it was).

My colleagues have listened patiently to my mad ranting about whatever disaster has befallen me on that particular day. When I decided (on the morning I was due to exchange contracts) that the insurance policy I was about to put in place wouldn’t quite do , they rushed around to help me find one that would.

Perhaps the biggest champions of all are my parents who have given up every waking hour of their lives over the past month to help me, all whilst simultaneously trying to manage a massive structural renovation project at their own property. We’ve not only had WW3, but also 4, 5 and 6 – and yet they still come back every weekend ready to decorate!

And so to return to May 1986 when Paul was setting up his business with those ‘Berwins values’ in mind. Here I am thirty years later not only lucky enough to work in that very same business- but also fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends and family with the same outlook. It is with that thought in mind that I think maybe I’ll manage to keep clinging onto that ladder after all!


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