Friday 11 February 2022
We’ve exchanged contracts!
The last couple of months have been stressful on multiple fronts, but this week we had the news we’ve been waiting for. Contracts exchanged - and the new house becomes ours NEXT MONDAY! Valentine’s Day! (We’re in love. 😍)
Over the next five weeks, there’s a lot of work to coordinate - electrical, plastering, hoist installation, wheelchair-accessible doors, some decorating and so on. This is all to make the property ready for us to move into at the end of March. That will take us to the “interim” position for Morgan, with the lounge becoming his bedroom.
We’ve had an initial site visit with our architect. He will be working with us to design the annex for Morgan (conversion of double garage, plus new room). Then we’ll go through the planning and build process, which we estimate could take 12 months until completion. So there’s a fair bit of road yet to travel, but this week marks a momentous milestone.
Thank you for all your care and support!
Love, Rob, Sharon, Mo & James
Saturday, 18 December 2021
A lot has happened since our last update - including the whole family catching COVID. We put our house on the market in September and agreed a sale in about a week. After that, the pressure was on to find the new home.
With very little on the market, even less that was suitable, we placed an offer, which was then accepted, on a lovely house in Mickle Trafford, a village just outside Chester. This house has a detached double garage, which we plan to convert into Morgan’s quarters. And there’s a gap of about 12 feet/3.7 metres between the garage and the house, where we will build a new staff/kitchen/store room.
Originally, we’d hoped to do the work before moving in, but with planning applications taking 6 months, we could not ask our buyers or seller to wait that long. Our plan B is to use the lounge temporarily as Morgan’s bedroom, while we complete the other works. This takes off some of the time pressure.
This leaves us still with many things to plan and organise, and much paperwork to complete (including a Disabled Facilities Grant application). We’re doing our best to contain the stress. Any move is stressful after all, and this move doubly so.
If all goes to plan, we will own the new house in late February, using bridging finance (that part hasn’t changed). That gives us time to do some basic modifications for the interim plan: wheelchair accessible doorways, and ceiling track hoist. We expect the sale of our existing property to complete at the end of March.
Having walked such a strange journey over the last 12 months, the next phase now feels alarmingly close. Once Christmas is done, the packing will start and we’ll be in the new house before we know it, God willing. At the same time, we’re able to visualise and start planning Morgan’s living quarters and therapy space. We feel a strong sense of responsibility to put the fundraising to the best possible use, for Morgan’s benefit.
Wednesday, 1 September 2021
It’s getting real.
- Almost all the work on our current home is finished.
- New hall, stairs and landing carpet to be fitted shortly.
- Existing home goes on the market in a fortnight.
- We viewed two potential new homes yesterday - one is a very strong contender.
- The strong contender involves some compromise - mainly that it has a very small garden. But the layout is the best we’ve seen so far (although some structural work will still be needed).
- We’ve raised (you have raised!) nearly £80k so far. We will apply every penny as wisely as we are able, to make the new home the best we can for Morgan & James.
The housing market normally picks up in September, so we may see some more possible homes entering the market. We are excited and apprehensive. Challenges include:
- Finding a home that ticks even more boxes (if it exists).
- Finding a buyer for our current home who is prepared to wait while we adapt the new one.
- Managing the logistics around Morgan’s care during the day(s) of the move.
In other news, some more funding has been approved to increase the amount of care Morgan receives. We’re heading towards two-to-one care, 24/7, but we’re not there yet. With the increase, our wonderful care package team now need to find and train up staff to provide the funded cover - which is no small feat.
There are hurdles ahead, but with your love and support, we can face them head-on.
Monday, 2 August 2021
Good news, hot off the press - in more ways than one.
You may have seen our story in the Sunday Times at the weekend. To our utter astonishment, it was the lead story in the Money section. The journalist Imogen Tew did a great job, covering the issue we referred to in our last update: that mortgage lenders would not permit us to apply any of the funds raised towards a deposit on a purchase.
Earlier today, local charity the Steve Morgan Foundation contacted us to say that they might be able to help. They were willing to transform the funds raised into a grant, together with any paperwork necessary to satisfy a lender that there were no strings attached. In addition, they have offered to help with the costs of adaptation. What a mind-blowing double offer! The funds transformation idea is great to have as an option, for when we start looking in earnest for Morgan’s home (probably in September).
And then more good news: I (Rob) have just come off the phone to Imogen. A contact at the Halifax has been in touch with her. The Halifax has reconsidered our situation in the light of her article. As a result, they are now able to confirm that the fund raising would not be barred from use as a deposit.
What a result! It is our sincere hope that other lenders will follow suit.
Practically for us, it means that once more, any funds raised can extend our reach towards the more expensive properties. So although we are not far off the “official” AHFM fundraising goal, there is no limit to the amount that can be applied to help Morgan - to help his bamboozled parents find the best home we can for Mo and his brother James: two very precious boys.
Thank you Imogen. You rock.
Thursday, 15 July 2021
We made an interesting & slightly awkward discovery in the last fortnight. Due to increasing regulation in the finance sector, residential lenders make more queries than ever about the source of funds for a deposit. It turns out they will not accept funds raised through campaigns like this!
We had previously believed that any spare funds raised (beyond what’s needed for adaptations) could “extend our reach”, to slightly more expensive properties. But it appears that would only be possible if we weren’t ALSO taking on a mortgage. So if we had indeed raised our previous target of £300k, and only needed £100k for adaptations, I’m not sure what we would do with the excess £200k if we couldn’t spend it. Send it back again?!
To cut a long, slightly confusing story short, we are lowering the fundraising target. It’s a very weird situation and we are of course still complete amateurs at this.
Meanwhile, thanks to everyone for the continuing support and for sticking with us. We’re a lot closer to being ready to sell our current house. We’ve had some slight setbacks (including Morgan needing an overnight stay in hospital this week - he’s okay now), but there’s a chance we’ll still be ready to go on the market in September.
Love from all of us, Rob, Sharon, Mo & James
PS Near the start of this journey, Rob had vaguely wondered how frequently criminals might attempt to use fundraising sites to launder money. Based on the above, attempts are perhaps all too common.
Tuesday, 29 June 2021: Rob
We’re probably overdue an update. In today’s update, we’ll focus on our missions.
- Mission 1: find the funds
- Mission 2: ready to sell
- Mission 3: find the house
- Mission 4: ready to move
Thank you once more to everyone who is so generously helping us with mission 1 (find the funds). The fundraising stands at nearly £75,000, which is awesome.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been beavering away at mission 2 (get ready to sell). We’ve made great progress, tidying, smartening up the house and decluttering.
Much decluttering has been needed, especially in the loft. We’ve lived in our current home for nearly fourteen years, during a period where we’ve had decreasing capacity for anything beyond basic survival and meeting our boys' needs. And that really showed in the state of our loft! The easiest option for so many things has been “just put it in the loft for now.”
That has meant the loft has held many things, e.g.:
- Ornaments we put away during James' most destructive phases when he was younger (and which we didn’t get out again)
- Pictures that we brought from our last home and just haven’t got round to putting up
- Things we’ve put in the loft to make space for all Morgan’s supplies (CDs, DVDs, spare bedding and even two dining chairs!)
- Things we thought we might need one day
- Things that gave us decision paralysis
It’s not just the loft. Over the last few months I have scanned and shredded thousands of documents. Going paperless releases space and reduces clutter. We’re quite close to being able to part with our two-drawer filing cabinet, which a few months ago was bursting at the seams, with unfiled paperwork hiding All Over The House.
Mission 2 also includes replacing our roof. It needed doing. It would have come up on a survey. Replacing it will absolutely increase the “wow” factor. On balance, we think it’s well worthwhile.
We’re also repainting various rooms. The hall, stairs and landing are finally done (after being half-done for an embarrassing number of years). The lounge is being painted this week. Sharon is painting the kitchen. And we’re planning to paint the exterior of the house too, which really has needed doing since we moved in. (We apologise profusely to our long-suffering neighbours!)
We’re working on mission 3 (find the house). We actually went to view a house today. Very interesting, but we’re not sure if we can make the space work. If it’s still on the market when we’re finally ready to sell, we’ll almost certainly go back for another look and to measure up carefully.
We have active searches on Rightmove, OnTheMarket and Zoopla. Even with really tight search parameters, still the vast majority of properties that come up are unsuitable. If you know of a property in the Chester area that may be suitable that is NOT on the market, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mission 4 (get ready to move) involves preparing the new house for Morgan and James. We can’t yet predict what that will entail. That depends on the outcome of mission 3.
So: we’ve come a long way and there’s a long way yet to go. We are facing many challenging decisions, often which have no “right” answer (that’s life, isn’t it)! We need wisdom, patience and clarity. If you pray, do pray for us?
Thank you so much for following us on this journey. We literally could not do it without you.
Rob & Sharon
Wednesday, 19 May 2021: Rob
Today promises to be quite an exciting day! We’re already off to a storming start, with a lovely article in our local news outlet:
And we’re bracing ourselves, Sharon and I, for an interview at 10:30am today on our local radio station, Dee 106.3. You can listen online here. Check timing in your local time zone.
Please do consider continuing to share our website and fundraising page with your contacts near and far. Thank you!
Thursday, 13 May 2021: Rob
Sharon and I had a great (nerve-wracking) opportunity to speak live on UCB this morning about special needs parenting and the ongoing campaign to raise money towards a home for Morgan.
This interview focuses a lot on our faith and how it affects our story. If that’s not your jam, we understand, no problem. You can listen to the show using the embedded player above, or by following this link.
Thank you UCB and to all those who made this happen! We have some further possible opportunities to tell our story in the media - we’ll let you know if they come to fruition.
Find out more about Ruth O’Reilly-Smith’s show This is my story, on UCB’s website.
Friday, 7 May 2021: Rob
We launched the fundraising campaign yesterday, not at all knowing what to expect. We had set the target at £15,000, and that felt audacious. As I posted the links to social media, I was thinking something I’ve said to a few friends recently, as we discussed this idea: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
What did I think would happen? I wasn’t sure, but in my heart of hearts, I thought maybe we’d raise a few thousand pounds, and that would be amazing.
At one point yesterday, I quipped, “I’m battered and bruised from how often I’ve fallen off my chair today.”
Just astonishing. Every gift, regardless of size, blew me away. I tried to thank every donor personally, as gifts came in but I couldn’t keep up. In less than a day, thanks to the kindness of people we know and people we don’t know (how is that even possible!), we had raised the full £15,000 and then some.
But more than that, people were telling us, “Be bold”, “Aim higher”! So this morning, with feelings I can’t even begin to describe, I’ve raised the target, setting it to an amount that expands our options significantly, to make this project happen. Will we meet that target? I have absolutely no idea. Yesterday I might have said “Not a chance!” Today I am humbled, thankful and ready to wait and see.
The last 16+ years of our boys' lives have been quite a journey. Like many parents of children with special needs, we find this to be a rollercoaster. Without doubt, yesterday was one of the highs, beyond our wildest expectations. We are grateful to you and we are grateful to God who has sustained us throughout.
These two little words seem far too small for the occasion. And yet they are the truest thing we can say right now: thank you.
“Thank you” image courtesy of Marco Verch.
Joint video update:
Main page | Fundraising site