thewritersbarn

Writing because words are the essence of my life.


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Bonkers Mortgage Brokers, Books and Bollox: Part 1

House moving is completely bonkers

House moving is completely bonkers

The whole house move thing is almost as stressful as everyone would have you believe. I can summarise my angst with three concepts:

• Mortgages
• Books
• Lack of control

Big house small house.

Big house small house.

My husband and I had hoped to be mortgage free when we sold this house, but unfortunately we aren’t even close to that. Given that we’re moving south, our lovely four bedroom Derbyshire house is only worth a two up two down terrace, down there, which on one hand is perfect because that’s all we want. However, because prices in the East Midlands do not seem to have held their own, we’re selling for less than we bought for 7 years ago which is a bit of a bummer to be honest. It means we need to take out another mortgage. Should be straight forward right?

Wrong! We went to take advice from our (very efficient and not at all bonkers) mortgage broker. Apparently because we’re taking on a business we cease to be of interest to the banks. They only lend if you have a guaranteed income. Although our business is established, the banks aren’t interested because when we take over it all becomes Day 1 trading. I was pretty disappointed about this news because … well…

I’m an army brat! There. I’ve said it. I’m not sure I ever say it with pride. For me it is all about turmoil and insecurity.

I look great in khaki

I look great in khaki

My Dad exited the Forces when I was 19, so I spent my entire childhood moving from place to place. I once worked out that I went to 16 different schools between the ages of 5 and 18. Fortunately for me, the BFES (British Forces Education Services) employed some very gifted teachers and I did ok. But the moving around; I hated it! Some army brats get so used to this nomadic way of life that they spend their entire adult lives moving around and they enjoy it. I, however, am desperate to find somewhere to put down roots. The next house I buy I want to be the one I live in until I die and hopefully that will be a long time away! The longest I have ever lived in one house is 7 years and that’s in the one I currently occupy, and sadly I have only ever thought of this as a means to an end.

So we can’t get a mortgage for at least 12 months and probably closer to 3 years. Boo.

I have now started to hunt down houses for rent and I have approached several estate agents. We have dogs so renting is not straight forward at all, but there are a few houses available. What’s completely awful is that rental values down South are as much or more than our current mortgage. I mean, really? We can’t get a mortgage but we can pay extortionate rent? Blimey.

Say what?

Say what?

Or so I thought anyway. I phoned one estate agent yesterday to book a viewing on a property next week and she asked about our ‘situation’. I explained and she said they would need to see proof of income to sort out a rental deal. I explained our ‘situation’ again, more clearly perhaps, and said we wouldn’t be able to show a year’s worth of accounts as we were starting with Day 1 trading. I had this sinking feeling in my gut that we weren’t going to be eligible to rent either. We could really be up shit creek, couldn’t we?

Fortunately, it transpires that if we can pay 6 months’ rent in advance we will be able to rent. No
problems there then, because we will have the excess money from the sale of the house waiting to go as a deposit on a new house somewhere. Maybe we should buy a static caravan instead? But what do you do if you don’t have a deposit?

It was never this difficult to get somewhere to live when I was a student!

My perfect home! There I am, writing away!

My perfect home! There I am, writing away!

However, I put an ad on Gumtree to see if anyone had anything we could rent, and I have been contacted by a really lovely couple with a beautiful little cottage that is perfect for us. I am crossing everything that can be crossed that we get this one because it just sounds fabulous! No room for you lot to come and stay though ;-p

More on that in the future!

Cross your fingers, dear reader xxx

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The Fine Art of Gazumping

Buying a business: A risky game of chance

Buying a business: A risky game of chance

I’ve been a bit quiet again, haven’t I? Oh, if only I had my feet up in the sunshine with a cocktail! No, instead I have been standing as a Green Party candidate in my local Ward and I have been busy achieving and losing my dream.

Does that sound confusing? Sorry about that!

Twelve months, when it was becoming apparent that my days in my old ‘career’ were becoming seriously numbered, my husband and I fell in love with a little post office and convenience shop in Somerset. We decided we would like to pursue it so we put our house on the market. Unfortunately someone else bought it before we could. Boo!

By August I knew I was leaving my old job and I was pretty poorly, so we started looking for something else. We found a Post Office and Convenience store in Devon this time (where I hail from). What sold it to me, apart from the glorious rural and seaside location, was that it had accommodation and part of that accommodation included a barn.

A barn! My very own barn! To write in! It was then that The Writer’s Barn was born. Oh I wanted that space very badly. We were confident our house would sell. We made our offer through Kings Business Transfer, had it agreed, paid £6000 for the deposit, and started discussions with the Post Office. It was all in hand. Surely it was just a matter of time?

Well no. I took redundancy at the end of September. I wrote and wrote through October. I started work at the grotto in November to eke my redundancy payment out. Christmas came and went. I was unemployed. Still the house didn’t sell.

The Somerset PO came back on the market after its sale fell through. We had first refusal but felt that now we had agreed to a sale with the Devon PO we should remain loyal and continue on with that. But we still had to sell our house!

People came to see the house and moaned about ‘not being able to see what size the rooms were’ or that ‘it needed a new kitchen’ or that there was ‘only one parking space’ etc. etc. Crazy things. It got to the stage where I actually hated anyone coming around because it felt a bit personal having someone moaning about my house.

The winter dragged on. We seemed to have a lot of lingering snow and not many people viewed at all between January and March. Occasionally, our Estate gents would phone up and expect someone to see the house within the next 10 minutes, invariably when we were out or away!

Out of Reach

Out of Reach

The nice man at Kings Business Transfer would keep phoning me up to check on progress, and I felt guilty, both for him and for the seller of the Devon PO for keeping them waiting. Every viewing that didn’t pan out was a kick in the stomach. But he was very nice. Kept saying he was ‘rooting for us’ and would keep ‘everything crossed’ etc. I was genuinely touched. That’s how bloody naïve I am!

Then miracle of miracle, we had two young couples within two weeks of each other who asked for second viewings! The second couple came for the first time on the Tuesday evening and then came back on the Wednesday. By Thursday we had an offer and started negotiating. Alleluia!

I instantly phoned Kings Business Transfer to give them the news. I was so excited! Finally! Our dream was actually about to come true. The man at Kings seemed a little underwhelmed which surprised me rather. He said he would speak to the seller and get back to me. Oh. I nibbled my thumb nail. Twiddled with my hair.

I waited and waited for the phone to ring. It didn’t. Twelve hours passed and nothing. Now it doesn’t really take a sixth sense to know when something has gone wrong, does it? And I think I knew something was up when I spoke to the man at Kings. Meanwhile, I was completely on tenterhooks. Climbing the walls. I couldn’t believe it was Friday and I wasn’t going to hear anything until after the weekend possibly. I was ready to hit the valium!

Finally 25 hours after I phoned Kings Business transfer, the agent got back to me. ‘A bit of bad news’ apparently. He had not been able to get hold of the seller on the Thursday and had kept trying. That day, that VERY day, someone had WRITTEN to him and offered a higher amount than us. He had to give the two offers to the seller for her to choose ‘when’ he could get hold of her. Could I up my offer? Well, no. We accepted a lower offer so that we could get moving with the PO. That was all of our money.

Tears and tribulations

Tears and tribulations

If it had been a verbal offer from the new buyer, he explained, he might have been able to swing it. My, my. A higher written offer on the day we were set to actually do the deal. What a coincidence. I can just imagine the flurry of phone calls along the lines of , ‘if you want it, you hve to move fast and you have to write to me’ that got the higher offer on the table in writing. Pah! Supposition on my part of course but … really? Of course the seller chose the higher offer. And with that, my bubble was well and truly popped.

All that effort. All those months of trying, of waiting and praying. To add insult to injury I had to wait nearly a fortnight to get my deposit back, and it came back as a cheque that I then had to wait to clear, even though I had sent it via BACS in the first place. They didn’t offer any interest on it either, even though they had had a big wad of my cash for 7 months.

So I expect my next few blogs will be looking at house moving, buying a business and finding somewhere new to live … keep reading!


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The problem with freelancing (or would you buy a kitchen from this man?)

Knightsbridge Kitchen - what it looks like beneath the glamorous veneer of respectability

Knightsbridge Kitchen – what it looks like beneath the glamorous veneer of respectability

I’m living the dream in many ways. I was so stressed out, strung out and sick by last summer that redundancy was incredibly welcome. Every day I wake up with the fear that I have to go back to my old place of employment, and every day my heart skips when I realise I don’t.

Initially I wasn’t concerned about what I would do next; I was too ill to care really. But obviously I did need to do something. Becoming an elf in the run up to Christmas was a great way for me to restore my confidence, and although it was long hours it was fun in a way.

I love writing!

I love writing!

All I knew for certain when I finished work last year was that I wanted to write. While I was off with stress I wrote a great deal, on my novel, short stories, some non-fiction etc. Some of it has been sent out. Some of it has been buried in the compost heap. Since the beginning of January, as regular readers will know (ok, all three of you! And yes I KNOW I don’t post as much as I should!), I have been freelancing. I started off feeling scared and worried I wouldn’t pass muster, but I have been really successful and have quickly built up a great client base. I’m now writing blogs for a wholesale company, a tablecloth company, along with articles on dating and relationships, health and wellness, natural remedies, travel and business. Most of my clients are wonderful and I’ve been lucky.

This week I have learned a lesson however. I put a proposal in for a job along with a number of others, twenty or so writers, and the client duly came back to me and asked for a sample article. I think that’s a sensible response in order to see whether you are suited to each other, and I’ve written a few sample articles in the past. So I stopped what I was doing (which was trying to hit a deadline with 20 x 1000 word articles on natural remedies) and researched and wrote an article for him.

I checked out his website first. It’s a very plush kitchen company in Knightsbridge which numbers a popular cake maker among its customers. The other blogs on it were fairly generic although a couple were interesting to be fair. I liked all the photos – I’m a simple soul!

I spent an hour and a half, probably more, researching and writing it. I sent it off. I didn’t get a response or hear anything for three days so I sent a reminder. He came back to me quite quickly after the prompt, to tell me he didn’t like it. To be fair, I’d guessed as much because of the delay. You can always tell when a client is keen! Well in this case, it wasn’t my best; it was ok but I was up against it with all the other work I was doing so it didn’t get tweaked as much as I would like. He decided he didn’t want me for the job, which is ok, it’s a competitive market, and I was rushed off my feet so it’s only to be expected, but when I requested payment for the sample article that he had asked me to write, he refused.

You what? You're not going to pay me?

You what? You’re not going to pay me?

I felt powerless and angry. Freelance writing fees are rubbish on the whole and I am scraping a pittance while working up to 60 hours a week. My house is on the market because without my salary we can’t afford the mortgage so we need to downsize fast. He works for a Knightsbridge Kitchen Company that probably turns over hundreds of thousands a year and he wouldn’t even pay me my £25. That’s how the rich get richer, by exploiting people who are desperate.

Where is the integrity in doing business that way? Would I buy a kitchen from that man? No, because he’s unpleasant, greedy and unethical. Not that I’ll ever be able to afford to buy a kitchen, not even from Tesco, especially while I’m freelancing with clients like him. I guess he wouldn’t put a kitchen up for someone without demanding a down payment. Someone, somewhere will be getting their beautifully designed kitchen, and £25 of what they pay should be coming to me to help pay my mortgage. Would you buy kitchen from this man? Of course you would if you could afford it. I’m not daft enough to think anyone will be bothered about the actions of this company. Most people wouldn’t give it a second thought, but of course, it is important to me because things are so tight. That’s the way life is; we don’t think about each other with any sort of compassion until faced with similar situations ourselves. It’s not easy, life, is it?

My thoughts exactly!

My thoughts exactly!

So, I was a complete fool and it was a lesson learned for me this week. I’ll chalk it up as experience. No writing freebies for anyone, especially people who can afford to pay but don’t. I need to read what the clients says more clearly and request payment up front.

Anyhow, I’m still a hell of a lot happier doing what I do now, compared to this time last year! And I have a few pieces of good news, so keep reading 🙂