Girl done good

The day our first guests were due to depart, I saw no car when I went to feed the sheep, so went in through the main gate rather than the back one and noticed a pink envelope on the coffee table in the living room.  I went in and found that not only had they left the house practically cleaner than it was when they arrived, but they’d also left us a thank-you card and this very lovely message as the first entry in our visitor book.

I really hope they’re all like this!  I emailed them to say thank you and they gave me a couple of bits of useful feedback, firstly that there was a draft coming from the front door (which I have been trying to replicate and have concluded that I need to put something in the information book about lifting the handle up to engage the entire multi-point locking system when closing the door, because that’s the only way I can make it happen) and secondly that the shower screen leaked.  We have, I hope, got that fixed after Mick checked and then re-did the seals around it – it’s just finishing off 48 hours to dry out and then I’ll give it a test tomorrow.

Today has been an exciting day as the valuer came round.  He couldn’t give me a number then and there, but he did say the stunning views and the fact that it’s essentially a new house inside a traditional shell (he said he doesn’t see many traditional croft houses in this kind of condition, which I hope was meant in a positive way!) would be reflected in the value, so I am hopeful that we’ll at least get to the figure I estimated on the Cumberland application and possibly even exceed it.  The last two three bedroom houses sold in the village, which were both in good repair, went for £15,000 and £22,000 more than the number I came up with.  He was carrying on west and going to value the house we’re buying straight afterwards, which was useful, because I was able to tell him what I’d estimated rental income at and he said that without even seeing the house, that sounded reasonable – although obviously again, he couldn’t guarantee that’s what would go in the valuation report without going round it.

Anyway, he said he’d get his reports back to both banks by the end of the week and since these valuations are the last things I’m waiting on before full formal mortgage offers are issued, I think I’m going to spend the next few days biting my nails.  The solicitors are primed and ready to go!

We have lift-off

What a week.  David came back with a newly-toughened understairs cupboard door and also two custom-made plank doors for the byres.

Pete turned up on Tuesday morning and decided the woodburner wasn’t safe to light.  What’s happening is that rain is being forced through the porous blocks in the chimney and onto the outside of the flexible flue liner where it touches the chimney wall.  The water, thick with soot and tar, then runs down the flue liner and drips down the stovepipe onto the hearth.  Pete suspects the whole liner is coated with tar and if we light it, best case scenario is that the whole house smells like a tarmacing team, worst case is that it ignites and we get a chimney fire above the blanking plate that’s completely inaccessible and burns the house down.  One swift call to the agency later, it’s been removed from the advertising as a feature and all guests contacted to explain the situation.  The solution is to get the chimneys harled, which can’t be done until the weather settles down, so we’re probably looking at end of April/beginning of May at the earliest.  In the meantime, Pete will come and remove the stove to clean everything down and then we’ll put newspaper or rags above the blanking plate to catch any drips, replacing with fresh at each changeover.  I really wish he’d been able to come back and see this BEFORE we started advertising, but hey ho.

It was third time lucky for BT on Tuesday afternoon, in that the engineer did turn up and fitted the master socket in the house.  Jamie from Openreach was also in the village, trying to track down a fault on our line at home which has developed a really bad crackle and intermittent broadband.  The engineer found a fault on the line at Ethel’s as well and the two of them put their heads together and worked out that it was a problem in the big 50-pair cable on the main road, somewhere between the farm and the farm cottage.  They’ve had a number of complaints in the village and this should now allow BT to link them all together and get fixing the cable bumped up the priority list.  It was supposed to be done yesterday, but thanks to the large dumping of snow, we’ve still got a crackly line.  However, hats off to BT, I got another two engineers at lunchtime today and by 1pm they’d got the phone and broadband at Ethel’s up and running for me.

Yesterday and today have been a serious case of stop it and tidy up, and I underestimated how long it was going to take.  I got the bedrooms sorted pretty quickly, they just needed a dust and a hoover, ditto for the landing and stairs.  I cleaned the bathroom, stocked the bathroom unit with loo rolls, got Mick to put the bathroom mirror up and then emptied both the cupboards under the stairs and gave them a really good scrub out, as they were absolutely filthy.  Setting up the kitchen was the big time sink.  There was a serious amount of packaging to deal with – this is just from the crockery!

The guests were coming up from Angus and I wasn’t entirely sure they were going to make it, as for most of the day the snow gates on the A9 were shut and we were completely cut off from the rest of the country.  When I checked my email at about 2.15 to find a message timed an hour earlier saying they were just 80 miles away, I had a slight panic, because the kitchen at that point looked like this:

One very focused hour later, I was just about there.  (And yes, I did remember to put the dog water bowl on the floor!)

It’s almost exactly two years since we got the keys and just as a reminder of how much we’ve done, this is what the kitchen looked like on day one, shot taken of the same back wall.

Our guests made it to the village about 5pm – Mick had just got home and we spotted a car driving slowly along the village road, stopping at each driveway.  I thought that had to be them, so Mick ran up the drive and it was.  He gave them directions, told them to ring or come and see us if there was anything they needed, and so far we haven’t had a screaming guest at the back door demanding a refund, so hopefuly that means they’re happy with the place 🙂

Hello 2018

We’re having an unexpectedly soggy start to it up here – we were forecast a nice dry day with a gentle breeze to the south, so Mick set off down the road this morning intent on clearing out the woodwormy boards from the barn and having a big bonfire.  It was going well until about half an hour ago when the skies opened, but he’s manfully carrying on, as there isn’t that much left to go (we had a big fire on Saturday as well and got rid of all the wood lying out in the field).

I’ve been cramming myself into the corners of the bedrooms with my tripod and camera and think I’ve managed to come up with some photos good enough to go up on Scottish Cottages.  They accepted the exterior ones anyway, which is good, so I’ve sent five shots of the bedrooms over and tomorrow I’ll get Mick to help me load the coffee table into the car and then I can stage the living room and photograph that as well.

In very exciting news, we have our first booking!!!  Cheating a bit, because it’s a friend, but she emailed me the other day to say she’d booked a week in the summer and was looking forward to seeing us 🙂  Neither she nor I have had a confirmation email through yet, but I’m assuming that’s because everything’s shut down for the holidays and the agency won’t confirm until the deposit has cleared through their payment system.

As far as I can tell at the moment, the start of 2018 for us is going to look something like this:

January & February: finish Ethel’s.  We have 59 days until we could potentially have a guest, as it’s available from 1st March.
March:  Hopefully welcome first guests (it’s an early Easter this year).  Get house-cleaning routine thoroughly documented so it can be handed over to Clean Bees if necessary.
April:  Get to grips with social media promotion before lambs start arriving for cute photo ops!

What we’ll do post-Ethel, we’re still not 100% sure.  Our options are:

  1. Buy another holiday let
  2. Buy another project to renovate into a holiday let
  3. Buy a plot and build a holiday let
  4. Build a house and agricultural shed on a big field we already own in the village (I need to get planning through for the shed this year, as I need to apply for a crofting grant for it before Brexit happens – it needs full planning rather than prior notification because the site is less than 25m from the road, so we might as well put a house on the same application)
  5. Renovate the house we live in which is, to put it politely, looking a bit tired

One thing’s for sure, it’s not going to be boring 🙂