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.

Are we there yet?

Amazingly, yes, we nearly are!  Remember the lovely lady at the Crofting Commission who was going to give me a ‘wee bump’ through the system?  Well, she bumped extremely well and on Thursday night last week, when I was doing my every-few-days-just-in-case inspection of the Crofting Register (okay, and because I’m nosey and it’s interesting to see who owns what bits of land round here!) I discovered that not only were the crofts now on the register as of 29th February, but that I’m listed as the tenant!

I went screaming upstairs and shoved my laptop under the nose of my mostly-asleep husband and then tossed and turned half the night until my solicitor opened for business on Friday morning.  Would it be possible to get the money transferred and pick up the keys that afternoon?

Sadly not, as it turns out.  Firstly, she hadn’t been notified that the registration had gone through by the seller’s solicitors, secondly there’s a bit of paperwork for the seller’s solicitors to do involving transferring the payment that goes with the croft and she doesn’t want to release the funds until she’s checked that’s correct, which is fair enough and a good point.  So she’s chasing the seller’s solicitors to get that done and if I cross my fingers very, very, very hard, I might get the keys in the next few days.

However, I did take a pair of wire cutters and snip the ‘For Sale’ signs off both croft gates this afternoon – I’ll leave them with the seller’s solicitor when I pick up the keys.  That’ll get the village talking!

Get set and a half…

A letter from my solicitor, enclosing a copy of the formal letter sent to the seller’s solicitor before Christmas and telling me that she’d heard from them to say that the transfer paperwork would hopefully be signed by the end of the week (i.e. Friday just gone).

I’ve emailed her to ask what hurdles we have left to jump – as far as I’m aware, it’s just registration of the crofts and entry of my name into the register as the crofter.  Time to start investigating my insurance options, which I think is going to be a whole post in its own right.

Get set…

So I won’t be getting the keys for Christmas, but I’m a gigantic step closer – my solicitor has just emailed to say that the final query has been resolved and if I’m happy, then she is happy to issue the letter concluding missives.  (If you’re unfamiliar with the Scottish house-buying system, concluding missives means that you’ve bought it – you cannot now back out of the transaction without incurring very heavy financial penalties.)

All that needs to happen now is for the executor to sign the transfer paperwork and for the Crofting Commission to confirm acceptance of the transfer and put me on the Crofting Register as the tenant.  Hopefully we should be done and dusted some time next month and then the real work begins!

The countdown has begun


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.

The waiting game

This is the bit I like least about buying a house.  You’ve found the place, arranged the finance, had your offer accepted – and then everything grinds to a halt while the solicitors do their thing.

Matters haven’t been helped by my solicitor coming back from holiday today and me going away tomorrow morning.  Thank goodness for email, at least if anyone comes up while I’m away I’ll be able to reply to it immediately.

In the meantime I shall just have to be patient a little longer.  There’s the most amazing display of the northern lights up here tonight; clearly visible to the naked eye.  Watching them dance from the study window makes my fretting about delays seem pretty insignificant really 🙂

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!