A good week’s work

Mick and I have been cracking on with more panelling removal and we’re making slow but steady progress.  Pete the Roofer was going to bring David the Joiner round for a look this week, but Pete’s wife (who works with Mick) passed on a message that David has the lurgy that’s going round (or man-flu, as she put it!), so hopefully he’ll be recovered soon and able to come round and size the place up.

One of the nice things about spring starting to spring is that flowers are popping up all over the place outside:

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Inside, we’ve depanelled the dormer window in bedroom two and found this – I think the initials may stand for Harry Macdonald, Ethel’s husband’s uncle (if I remember correctly), who left the house to her husband.  (EDIT:  Thanks to my friend Elizabeth, it may also be Hughie Mackay, her mother’s cousin, a joiner who worked on a lot of the houses in the village.)

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It’s amazing how much more space there is with the panelling taken out of the top of the dormer window alcove – that thin piece of wood was only to fix the panelling to, so hopefully we can leave it open and maybe put a small armchair in there for a quiet reading spot.

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One unwelcome find in this room (and it’s not very clear on the picture, but trust me, it’s there) was woodworm.  Lots of it.  On all the roof beams on the west-facing roof.  It’s live as well, a bit of sawdust came out of the holes when I banged the beams with a hammer, so that’ll all have to be soaked with treatment stuff.

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It was when I was working in this room and Mick was working in the little bedroom next door that we realised we could hear each other so clearly that we could have a conversation in normal voices, despite being in separate rooms.  As our target holiday guest is a family with young to teenage children, we thought that Mum and Dad might not appreciate the lack of soundproofing at bedtime (for any number of reasons!), so we stripped off some of the panelling on the internal walls to see what was inside.  Answer?  Sweet nothing – that wood is the back of the panelling on the other side, so we can’t take down both sides or we’ll remove all the internal walls!

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The only other thing we’ve done this week is break into the living room fireplace – Mick has done a great job and it looks like it’s been filled in with concrete and bricks, so we should be able to enlarge it for the woodburner fairly easily.

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Whoomph!

Mick took the day off work yesterday, as he’s away for the long weekend and wanted to get some more work done.

Actually, scrap that, what my pyromaniac husband wanted to do was light the big pile of panelling and since the wind was coming from the south and not too strong and he was going to be outside repairing some of the fanks so I can dose the sheep tomorrow, it seemed like a good time to do it.

I’m not quite going to say ‘I told you so’, but I did express my reservations about setting light to something nearly as tall as the house in fairly dry conditions with both peat on the ground and an oil tank in the vicinity, so I did have a quiet chuckle when this appeared on his Facebook timeline:

Today’s job – rebuild and hang the gate on the fanks. Took me a while but got there. Also ran round like a looney with a bucket of water throwing it everywhere as the old wood panelling took to an inferno………

We’ve been working mainly in the second of the bigger bedrooms this week, stripping out more panelling.

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Old nails left behind from last time the roof was worked on.

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That’s one heck of a big stone!  Sitting just over the fireplace in that room.

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Back wall of the house.

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This fell out when I took the skirting board off.  Wonder what happened to the rest of the deck?  We also found a lot of hair grips!

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And finally, I had a quick look under the tiles in the living room fireplace.

Good news on that front though, Pete the Roofer says that David the Joiner is on board and he’ll be bringing him over early next week to have a chat.

Budget Day

Not just for Mr Osborne, but I thought I’d add up how much I’ve spent to get here so far, as the solicitor’s bill arrived this afternoon.

The only two expenses I’ve had (not counting the running costs for my sheep – I’m keeping my crofting budget separate) are the interest on the money I’ve borrowed from my family and the legal fees, so the accounts so far look like this:

Difference between money borrowed and purchase price – £70.51
10th Nov – Interest – £96.68
10th Dec – Interest – £276.88
11th Jan – Interest – £276.88
10th Feb – Interest – £276.88
10th Mar – Interest – £276.88
16th Mar – Solicitor’s bill – £766.00
Total:  £2,040.71

So it’s cost me a little over £2,000 just to get the keys.  In fairness, that’s not bad – I had to sit down when I opened the solicitor’s letter, as I was expecting that to be four figures and possibly starting with a 2!  I shall drop in and pay it tomorrow and leave a large Easter egg for Jane, my solicitor 🙂

I had a call back from Dougie the electrician this afternoon – he was up the road in Melvich, could he come and have a look?  Sure.  The good news is that he’s agreed to quote for it, so I need to think about what I want in each room in terms of lighting and sockets (I don’t need to finalise positions just yet), think about where I want the TV and the phone, as he’s going to hide all the cabling currently tacked to the front of the house for those, and decide whether I want the power to the byre to be on a separate meter to the rest of the house.  He’s also going to move the position of and seriously upgrade the heating controls (it’s a cheap clockwork timer and the noise is really annoying) and move the meter and fusebox etc. – he’d seen that the main power cable into the house is chased into the harling down the outside wall and then goes through a wooden panel above the front door, which isn’t ideal, so since we’re getting the door replaced and we’ll have someone patching the non-harled bits that will be revealed when Pete takes the fascia boards off, it’s going to go through the wall at the height of the connection and all be hidden in a little cupboard on the landing.  Mick has suggested that we ask him to also quote for putting in outside lights, particularly one to illuminate the fanks (sheep handling system), and also for wiring in a back-up generator so that if we do have guests in and there’s a power cut, it’ll cut in and take over.  We actually have a generator here, but it’s not wired in, so it can go down the road.

Another two hours stripping out panelling and bedroom one is very nearly ready for work to start.  The priority over the next few days is to get the surfaces with the Veluxes/proposed Veluxes bare so that if Pete wants to start cutting holes in the roof next week it’s all ready to go.  I uncovered a MAHOOSIVE spider which I thought was dead, but turned out not to be.  Mick really Does Not Do spiders, so I had to dispose of it out of the bedroom window.

The starting point

“Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”

I thought it was important to take photos and videos before we did anything, so when we get completely bogged down mid-project and feel like it’s never going to end, we can look back and see how far we’ve come.  Thanks to our broadband speed it has taken nearly five hours to upload an 11-minute video(!) so here are a couple of films showing you the outside and the inside and I’ll try and go through the photos tomorrow.

So with apologies for my Blair Witch-style filming and dodgy commentary (I’ll get better, I hope!), welcome to Ethel’s House!

Outside:

Inside:

3% levy on second homes

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Well, I was feeling slightly smug for a few weeks about Scotland not being affected by the 3% surcharge for buying a second home that was announced in the Autumn Statement, but despite the SNP’s avowed loathing of Westminster, they’ve not hesitated in going, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea,’ and doing exactly the same for LBTT (Land and Building Transactions Tax, our version of stamp duty).

Scottish Budget: New 3% levy for buying second homes

I’m really not sure what the recent flurry of legislation affecting landlords is supposed to do, other than reduce the amount of rental stock, thus pushing rents up.  Anyway, if my purchase looks like it’s going to get anywhere close to not completing by the date this comes in (unlikely, but then I thought I’d be six weeks into renovations by now!), I shall be strongly suggesting that the seller pays it.

Finding a house

House-hunting works a little bit differently up here in Scotland. For starters, we have fewer dedicated estate agents.  Most properties up here are sold via solicitors, most of which will have a dedicated estate agent in their office.

Up here on the north coast, I have a list of sites that I check on a regular basis for possible interesting new additions.

  1.  Rightmove
    Who doesn’t know Rightmove?  The problem here is that most local solicitors don’t use it.  However, for the ones that do, it has two very useful little tricks – firstly, I’ve got an RSS feed set up so that every time a new house within 40 miles of my postcode is listed on Rightmove, it pops up in my daily feedly.com blog feed.  Secondly, I’ve installed Property Bee.  If you’ve not come across Property Bee, it’s an add-on for Firefox that tracks changes to listings on Rightmove and a few other sites.  So when I look at Rightmove search results, this is what I see:Property Bee screenshot
    It shows me the date a Property Bee user first saw it and any changes to the listing or the price subsequently.  VERY useful!
  2. Caithness Solicitors Property Centre
    Or CSPC, to give it its shorter name.  Most areas of Scotland have one of these group websites, so there’s ASPC for Aberdeenshire, ESPC for Edinburgh, GSPC for Glasgow and so on.  However, CSPC is only used by two of the solicitors covering Caithness and Sutherland – Young Robertson and Georgesons.
  3. Highland Solicitors Property Centre
    HSPC covers the whole of the Highlands, including the Western Isles and Northern Isles.  It tends to be where solicitors outwith Caithness list properties they’re selling within the county and also shows anything the Highland Council is selling (which saves me a separate trip to the council website).
  4. Individual solicitors
    There are four other solicitors’ websites I check on a regular basis – Drever & Heddle, Pollards, Inksters and the local Re-max (okay, technically not a solicitor).
  5. Auctions
    I love auction catalogues!  There’ll usually be a handful of lots for sale up here each month.  I check SVA Property Auctions, Wilsons Auctions, Future Property Auctions and Auction House Scotland.

Are you in the process of finding a house in the Highlands?  Anywhere else I should be checking?  Let me know!

Diary of a wannabe house hoarder

My name’s Caroline and I’m a house hoarder.

Well, not yet I’m not, as at the moment I only own the one house, but I’ve had an offer verbally accepted on another which means I’m hopefully at the start of a long-held ambition to make a living out of buying, renovating and renting houses.

Of course, this would be significantly more straightforward if I still lived in Bristol (or Reading or Cambridge or Croydon, where I’ve also lived), but no, I had to wait to get cracking with this until I’d moved to one of the more remote places on the UK mainland – I live on the north coast of Scotland, 26 miles from the nearest town, nearly 100 miles from the nearest town with what you might call a normal high street.  Slap bang on the edge of nowhere.

It’s undeniably a wonderful, beautiful, peaceful place to live, but the housing market is slow-moving and flat, the rental market is virtually non-existent and it’s quite common for a house to take one or two years (or even longer) to sell.

So this experiment of mine could quite possibly go horribly, hideously wrong.  Grab some popcorn, get comfy on the sofa and come and join me as I find out whether my long-held dream is going to turn into a nightmare!