Build A New Life In The Country

Series 4 - Episode 5: Norfolk

Episode 5: Norfolk

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Darren and Mel have swapped the bustling streets of Norwich for an idyllic country life near the village of Lodden. Their aim is to convert a 19th-century barn into a modern family home. "I love barns. The idea of a barn... it's magical, really," enthuses Mel. To finance the project, the couple hit on the idea of selling the barn's annexe. "We thought, 'why not sell the annexe?' The sale would then fund the other barn for our renovation," Darren explains.

The pair need to raise around £150,000 from the sale of the annexe. Charlie is impressed but worried by their high-risk strategy. "I really hope for their sakes that someone buys that barn," he says. Fortunately, the couple soon accept an offer on the annexefor the figure they need, so the builders set to work on the barn conversion.

As Bill the builder strips the roof, Darren takes on the role of project manager, while holding down his day job. "It's very stressful. The workload has just totally doubled," he says. Two months in, the couple are rocked by the news that the buyers of the annexe are struggling to get a mortgage. "We've had a bit of a disaster," says Darren. "It seems as though they're going to pull out." The credit crunch has struck Darren and Mel's project and, without another buyer, work grinds to a halt. "Nothing is selling quickly," the estate agent tells them.

A cash injection from Mel's dad enables them to complete the roof and start on the internal walls. Meanwhile, Darren and Mel reluctantly accept an offer on the annexe that is below their asking price. As they downgrade the scale of the project and divide it into sections, Mel reaffirms her desire to finish the house. "I feel a lot more attached to it now," she says. "I think Darren and Mel have shown a real strength of character so far," says Charlie. More bad news strikes when the second set of buyers pulls out. "It is taking its toll," Darren reflects.

"I have had a few sleepless nights." "You've got to pick yourself up and carry on, and think about what you're going to do next," adds Mel. The pair secure a £41,000 loan to carry on with the work, and opt to do a lot of the tasks themselves. At last, the windows are installed and the building is watertight. Having spent nearly a year living on site in a caravan, Darren and Mel are desperate to achieve their goal of spending Christmas in their new home.

A makeshift Christmas dinner is organised, but the house is far from complete. Their hopes now rest on an auction of the barn to raise the money they need to pay off their debts and finish the job. Unfortunately, the bidding falls agonisingly short of the £120,000 minimum they need. Can Darren and Mel pick themselves up from this latest setback and keep their dream alive?

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