Inching towards the finishing line

I’ve been tied up with a big project in my day job, so once again work has ground to a halt, but two bits of encouraging news on the financial front:

  1. The residential lender has been in touch to say the credit reports are back, but because I provided the version of an SA302 my accountant’s tax submission software spits out rather than a proper HMRC one, there’s a slight problem with verifying my income.  I can either write to HMRC and request they produce official ones for me (I can’t just print them off the website because that option isn’t available when your self-assessment gets submitted via accountants’ software) or they can forward my application to their head office for one of the senior lending staff to look at it, and they recommend I take the latter option because “referral route may be quicker on the basis that my head office would be happy to agree” – which sounds promising!  They also sent me a list of valuers on their panel to choose from, so fingers crossed we’re nearly there with this.
  2. SGRPID got in touch to say that the Drawings Office would be visiting on 26th June to survey the house site and garden at Ethel’s in order to prepare the sale plans.  This is amazing news because originally I was told it would be about six months, i.e. October/November.  It may actually now turn out that that side of it is ready before I’ve finished the house.

Anyway, all good incentives to carve out some time to get my overalls back on, and the upside of working flat out on something for the past week (to the extent of starting at 6.15am and closing the laptop at nearly midnight for the last two days) is that the invoice covers a very large chunk of what I need to make from the day job each month, so I don’t need to go chasing around for other work too hard for the next three weeks.

Promising news

Visitors who rent self-catering properties are thought to be worth almost £300m to the Scottish economy.

An interesting article on the BBC website.  The research only covers properties assessed for business rates as self-catering lets, not people doing Airbnb or renting out houses still assessed under council tax.

Some key numbers:

  • 23% of visitors to Scotland rented a self-catering property for at least part of their visit.
  • 32% came from England, with the north-west being the largest regional contributor and London the smallest.
  • Scots renting self-catering properties in Scotland accounted for 30% of the total, while the other 27 EU nations represented only 4%.
  • Most groups were made up only of adults, with children included in 30% of rentals.
  • The average spend on accommodation was reckoned to be £643 per group, totalling £313m.
  • They spent, on average, £245 on travel to and from the property.

That’s not the only promising news today – we have passed the initial affordability checks for the mortgage we need and have now proceeded to a full application for a decision in principle.  If we get that, then things are looking good – as long as they agree with the valuation.  We’ve got a little bit of wiggle room cash-wise, but not a huge amount.

I’ve also heard back regarding buying the land Ethel’s House sits on and the Agreement in Principle should be with me on Monday, but the gist is that I’ll need to pay them £150 for the actual land, plus £280+VAT to their solicitor for preparing and issuing the formal offer of sale, plus £300+VAT to the Drawing Office for them to send a surveyor up to prepare plans to be attached to the offer of sale.  Then I’ll have my solicitor costs on top of that, so it’ll work out about six times the cost of the land for all the paperwork!!  However, this gives the house title deeds and puts it on the Registers of Scotland, making it suitable security for a mortgage, so it’s well worth doing.

Well, well, well…

Progress!  Not one, not two, but three pieces of good news to report.

Firstly, I had a recorded delivery letter from the Crofting Commission to say that my application to decroft the house and garden site has been granted.  I am chuffed to bits that (a) it’s gone through in about six weeks (it can take up to four months) and (b) it’s gone through first time.  Reading through the order, which is signed and stamped with a very official-looking red seal, it doesn’t come into effect until I’ve actually bought the land from my landlord, after which I send a form back to the Commission to say it’s been done and then the property gets entered onto the Registers of Scotland as freehold and becomes mortgageable.  I’ve emailed SGRPID, as the representatives of my landlord (the Scottish Ministers) and they’ve forwarded my enquiry to the correct person, so now I just have to wait for them to get back to me on what I do next.

Secondly, Derek and Dougie have both been on site today and we NEARLY have a central heating system.  It would have been up and running today but for two things – Derek wanted to double-check what we were doing with the drain for the shower and the flue plate has dropped off the boiler and needs welding back on.  So he’ll be back tomorrow with a welder he knows and, fingers crossed, we should have a big switch-on tomorrow at some point.  It’s looking good though.

Sitting room heating layed and covered for walking on.

One of the individual room thermostats.  These can all be set to different temperatures and are programmable.

The manifold is nearly full and Dougie has fitted a master control panel.  David’s going to build us a slim cupboard the length of the landing to hide all this – I was hoping to use the rest of it for spare bed linen, but I don’t think there’s going to be any spare space!!

Last but not least, the land is slowly being renovated as well.  When we were making hay in the summer, John Angie told me that there was a natural well on the slope down to the little cove, but a landslip had covered it a few years back.  He showed me roughly where it was, but I didn’t get round to having a proper look.  Then a neighbour mentioned it again last night, so yesterday I climbed down and went in search of it.

I could hear the water running and soon found what looked like a shallow muddy puddle in the right place.  I kicked a bit of the silt out with my boot and it filled itself up again – bingo.

So this morning I strapped a spade to the back of the quad bike and after I’d fed the sheep, I dug away until I hit rock, using the silt to make a dam at the front – John said he had a piece of stone at the front, but it got taken out by the landslip, although I think I’ve found a corner of it sticking out of the ground a couple of metres below the well and may be able to dig it out.

I left it to fill and when I went back down to the sheep this evening it had topped itself up.  Add one old saucepan and that’s an end to the problems of filling water buckets all the way out on the point 🙂

Frog swallowing

Anyone else swallow frogs?  The saying stems from the thought that one should swallow a live frog first thing every morning on the grounds that nothing worse is likely to happen to you that day (or the frog, for that matter…).  Getting the maps done for the decrofting application has been a frog that’s been growing in size steadily over the past month or two, so last night I held my nose and swallowed it.

I need to ring the Department today (or the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspectorate Directorate, to give it its proper name, but SGRPID is tricky to pronounce, so everyone calls it the Department), as they are the representatives of my landlord (the Scottish Ministers) and see if I need an appointment to get a signature on the forms to say they approve of the application or whether I can just drop in.

What else has been happening?  Mick has been working hard on his improvised plasterboard-cutting table

and as a result we have three separate rooms again upstairs, plus Derek and his team have finished laying the underfloor up there.

Last of the insulation going in upstairs

Bathroom ready for the pipework for the shower.

Corner edging in place

We had a Rembrand delivery on Thursday.  Mick had ordered some more plasterboard and the 22mm chipboard sheets to go over the underfloor heating upstairs and had arranged with them to ring my office phone when they were close so I could go down and help unload.  Now, every time they’ve been here in the past, it’s been around 10.30-11am, so when I got down the road at 9.15 to feed the sheep I was a bit surprised to find the order neatly stacked outside the front door.  The problem was that moisture-resistant plasterboard sheets weigh 26kg (or about 57lbs) which is over a third of my bodyweight and we had a fairly stiff breeze of about 35mph coming directly from the south, which meant that the 8×4 plasterboard sheets and 8×2 chipboard sheets (which themselves were about 15kg each) turned into giant sails, blowing me around with them when I picked them up.  After a bit of a false start when I tried to take a plasterboard sheet straight into the living room, got it wedged between the stairs and the front door and had to climb out of the living room window, I got the 8 plasterboard sheets and 30 chipboard sheets inside and stacked up in about 45 minutes.  Seems a winter of heaving 25kg sacks of sheep feed about has its uses!  David’s away at a wedding at the moment, so once he’s back he’ll come and lay this for us, then it’ll be ready for underlay and carpet.

I also had a surprise gift – John, Ethel’s former partner, turned up with this and has refused to take any money for it, because he reckons he put the barn roof on in 1991 and it should have been good for a few years more yet.

For those of you going, ‘What on earth…???’ it’s a Massey Ferguson fingerbar mower (the second blade is in the shed for sharpening) and it means I now have all the equipment I need to make my hay without outside assistance this summer, though I suspect I shall be on the phone to John going, ‘Help!’ the moment something breaks down!

Not much to report

Progress has been slow over the last fortnight.  David hasn’t been able to get to us for the past couple of weeks, but hopefully will manage a couple of days next week, as Dougie now has a reel of shotgun cable, ordered for him by Colin Chessor (who’ll be doing the satellite dish installation in due course) and is going to be running it into the living room and bedrooms next week.

Mick has spent a day down there today and we now have an insulated living room and the living room ceiling is plasterboarded.  By the time I went down to feed the sheep (who moved back to the fields around the house yesterday) it was too dark for photos.

On the finance and admin side, I got round to catching up on entering all my invoices and spends into my spreadsheet – we are now £35,000 into the budget *gulp*.  What I’m pleased about is that the majority of that money, all bar a couple of thousand, has been spent with local companies and tradespeople.  I do try to spend within the local economy where I can.  I’ve also ordered the correct Ordnance Survey map extract needed for the decrofting application, which arrived on Friday and is sitting in a tube on my desk ready for me to break out the colour pencils.  Since it cost me £19, I think the first thing to do is ask Mick to make several copies of it for me to practice on!  (My scanner doesn’t do A3).  Given I was sorting sheep out on the area in front of the house yesterday (we managed to pick up a few extras coming down the village!), I’m only going to apply to decroft the bit of ground the house sits on and a tiny bit behind it for a small garden – as long as I draw the map accurately, it should go through with no problems, as I’m not applying to decroft any areas that would restrict access to the rest of the croft.