So, with the best part of £100,000 burning a hole in my bank account, it’s probably not the safest time for me to be browsing the Scottish property auctions, but sometimes I like to live dangerously 😉
A bit out of my area, but still in the Highlands, is this 3.5 hectare site with a former military bunker/command centre in Poolewe.
It’s got lapsed planning permission for four villas (Scottish for detached house) and has a guide price of £100,000 – but not one if you don’t like midges, its position on the west coast practically guarantees clouds of them in the right weather!
The Flotta cottage from August is back in, at a slightly increased guide of £20,000, as is the Wick shop with a slightly reduced guide of £36,000.
I might not have quite bought the house yet, but my first tenants are arriving at the weekend!
As it’s a croft, I am required to carry out traditional crofting activities on the land and round here, you don’t get too much more traditional than keeping North Country Cheviot sheep. I was planning to start towards the end of next summer by buying a small pen of ewe lambs at the annual sale, raising them for a year and then selling them as gimmers, ready to breed – my sheep advisers, who are kindly teaching me all about how to care for them properly, told me that it was a gentle way to start without having several weeks of getting up every few hours in the middle of the night for lambing.
However, a friend of mine is moving away to the other end of the country and can’t take her three pet sheep with her, so I said I’d look after them for her – they were bred in the village, so it seems kind of fitting that they stay here. They’re coming to live in my fields until the purchase goes through (I’ve got a CPH number from when we kept pigs here, so it was just a question of ringing Animal Health and letting them know they were arriving – apparently I don’t need a flock number until I start producing lambs) and will then move to the new fields to eat them down once available (not that three sheep are going to make much of an impression on 9.75 acres, but I’m going to grow some of it on for hay anyway).
so I’m half-expecting it to go wrong somewhere!
I am obviously jinxed when it comes to this particular institution!! On Friday I received a letter from them.
“Dear Mrs J,
We have been unable to verify your signature. If you still wish to continue with the encashment, please visit a branch or call us on the below number.”
I’m paraphrasing a bit, they sent me a whole side of A4, but basically I think the problem stems from the fact that I was Mrs H when this account was opened and despite me having sent them a request to change my name with accompanying documentation on no less than five separate occasions by recorded delivery (they eventually changed it on the fifth attempt), they hadn’t kept a copy of my new signature.
Fortunately for them, there is a branch in the nearest town, 26 miles away, after they bought a chain of building societies a few years back, otherwise I’d have been driving the 100 miles to Inverness on Saturday morning, swearing all the way (as I had to do three times when the Inverness branch failed to pass on the documentation they’d certified for the change of address the Croydon branch had told me before I moved I could do in writing and didn’t require any certified docs…see why I was nervous?).
That said, they seem to have had a bit of a turnaround in customer service over the past few years (or maybe it’s because they kept on the original building society staff!), but I produced my passport, driving licence, most recent bank statement and, just for good measure, my decree absolute to prove that I used to be married to a man with the surname I’d signed with to open the account, it was all faxed through to the Premium Investments office and I have a fax receipt that says they received it correctly, so fingers crossed. I might just give them a quick ring tomorrow to make sure, though…
My Rightmove feed has thrown up something a bit different – a former abattoir. The local Caithness slaughterhouse closed down a few years back and despite many attempts to get it restarted so we don’t all have to take our livestock to Dingwall, its doors have remained closed.
25,833sq ft warehouse for offers in the region of £175,000.
I’ve had a letter from my solicitor! It enclosed the reply from the seller’s solicitors, several maps and the entries from the Crofting Registers for the two crofts. I’m not exactly certain why or how, but it seems that because the crofts are still held in Ethel’s name, it makes the paperwork an awful lot simpler and cuts out a lot of the waiting around for the Crofting Commission to approve things. I think, although I may be wrong, that it essentially now treats me as if Ethel had nominated me to take over the tenancies.
Anyway, my solicitor has asked me to confirm that I’m happy with a few changes they’ve made to the clauses (things like the sellers not being able to warrant that the electricity works properly or there are no contaminants, because they’re the executors and haven’t lived there – usually in Scotland you have 2 weeks after the date of completion to report serious defects to the seller, this will essentially be cancelled) and as long as I am, then all I have to do is deposit the purchase price in my solicitor’s bank account and the other side will start the paperwork – my solicitor will hold the money in escrow until they’ve confirmed the transfer of the tenancies has been completed correctly.
So it’s SHOW ME THE MONEY!! time. I am paying £95,000 for the two tenancies, so I’ve rung up the financial institution that runs the part of the family trust I’m borrowing the money from to see how much is in there. This makes me sound like a total rich kid – I’m not, my father died when I was relatively young and his investments were put into a trust fund to provide an income for my mother for the rest of her life and capital growth for me and my half-brother to inherit after she dies. For one reason or another, it’s split between two financial institutions and the bit I’m borrowing hasn’t been paying Mum an income for a number of years now, so my brother and I, as the trustees, decided that the trust would be better off loaning me the money to do this and I’ll pay Mum an income off it at a rate of base rate + 3%.
They told me that there was £91,500 in there and all we needed to do was write to them to confirm that we wanted to liquidate it (1% fee for liquidating it) and close the account. They’ll also take a pro rata amount out for the quarterly management charge, so I’m expecting to get around £90,000 transferred into my bank account early next week, though this is a bank not renowned for its customer service skills, so I’m half-expecting it to go wrong somewhere! The remaining £5,000 will either come out of my savings or Mum will add to it from her Premium Bonds so she gets the monthly amount she’s expecting in income.
I have my friendly local roofer doing some work on my house at the moment and since rain had temporarily stopped play, I dragged him up the road to have a look at the roof on Ethel’s House.
The roof is currently Marley Eternit cement fibre slates and it’s not too bad. There’s one tile missing on the back and a few that have been glued back into place, but it’s basically sound and should survive the winter. However, what I want to do is enlarge the two tiny Velux windows – if you can see the size of the one on the front, there’s another the same size on the back and that’s the only light for the third bedroom which, consequently, is rather like a prison cell.
As I was standing out the back and the roofer was admiring the views over the fields and moor to the hill, it slowly dawned on me that I could put three Velux on the back, one in each bedroom, which would really bring some light into the upstairs, open up the views behind the house and, with the right positioning of the beds, would mean guests could lie in bed at night and look up at the stars or the Northern Lights (the house is about a third of a mile from the nearest street light).
Roofer thought this was a fab idea, but pointed out that he’d be taking off so much of the roof to do it that it would virtually be only the cost of the slate and a couple of days’ labour added on to the job to get the whole thing re-roofed at the same time. So, subject to the purchase all going through, we’re booked in to have it done next March.
I was typing away at my day job yesterday (I’m a freelance transcriber and virtual assistant) when the dog started barking and shot outside – a sure sign that I have a visitor. I followed her out and, to my surprise, saw John’s car halfway down my drive. We’ll pass the time of day if we meet and wave to each other if we drive past, but this is only the second time in over seven years he’s come to visit me and I suspected I knew why he’d come – John was Ethel’s partner for the best part of 25 years. I don’t know the full story of what went down between him and Ethel’s children after she died, but it ended up with angry accusations on both sides and the police getting involved, so I was slightly nervous about what he might want to say to me.
Turns out it was about poo. Specifically, one of these:
There’s no mains drainage out here, we’re all on septic tanks and John had kindly come to warn me that the tank for the house blocks fairly regularly, every three months or so, so I might want to look at getting it sorted. I’ve adjusted my mental budget accordingly, because I suspect ‘getting it sorted’ might involve digging the whole thing out and installing a new one.
In the end, since it was a lovely sunny day, John and I stayed chatting over the gate for the best part of an hour. He talked about Ethel, told me stories about when they were younger and his face lit up as he laughed at the memories. He might be nearly 72, but when he smiles it takes a good 15 years off him.
No, I haven’t completed and got the keys already, but I have finally made time to get some pics I took when we viewed it off the memory card and onto my PC.
The kitchen – needs some work and sadly I don’t think that range will make it. However, the washing machine’s new and there’s another range wrapped in bubble wrap in one of the outbuildings – I’m waiting to find out if it’s included in the sale or not.
Kitchen ceiling – we were slightly alarmed by this until we went upstairs and found a nearly new immersion heater above it!
Bathroom – also very new, much of this can be kept.
…though I might want to fiddle with the layout a little.
Wiring – newer than I was expecting, but still going to be redone.
Love this little cupboard in the panelling in the second bedroom.
Standing in the second bedroom looking across the landing to the first. The third is a tiny single off to the right.
Original fireplace in the first bedroom. The whole of the upstairs is panelled like this and much as I would love to keep it, it’s going to have to come off because the house isn’t insulated at all. I’d hoped we’d be able to save it and put it back on, but a friend who’s renovated more than one of these says it’s impossible – if it doesn’t split when it comes off, it’ll split when you nail it back on. May see if I can save enough to do the lower half of one room and glue it back on…
New skirting board needed for the landing! The home report did note woodworm, so one of the first jobs will be to seal up all the windows and doors and pump in some bug-killing chemicals.