Our house. In the middle of our street.

This week in funemployment news: my partner and I are going through the process of buying a property.


Buying a property is a good demonstration of how rich people stay rich. It’s also a great insight into a system that has a lot of moving parts and a user journey that looks like a rollercoaster had offspring with Escher.

It has also entirely validated my use of Trello. ORGANISE ALL THE THINGS.

We’ve been scouting a newly built flat for while, looking to prop up the London housing bubble by using Help To Buy. We’ve been shopping around and settled on a two-bed, so we can have a home office. With any luck, working from home is going to become more and more common, and it’s nice to be prepared.

Help To Buy ISAs seem like a con, by the way. You save in the hope of getting a 25% bonus from the folks in government, but you can’t use it at exchange when you hand over the deposit. The deposit, which represents 5% of the total value of the property (in London). This is easily the largest amount of money you part with, but you can’t use your ISA for that. You also can’t use it for anything else. The idea seems to be that you spend it on the property at completion. Which is…frustrating. The barrier to people buying houses is scraping together £20,000 for a deposit.

Anyway. The way round this we found was asking our solicitor to negotiate the deposit down by the amount we’d have in the ISA by completion.

PSA: You can negotiate everything when you buy absurdly expensive things. Nobody expects you to pay the sticker price. I would love to know where that line is. I wouldn’t negotiate a bar of Dairy Milk (£2.00) but I would negotiate a flat (£450,000). Somewhere between those two data points is “the line at which this item is so wildly expensive I feel comfortable calling your bluff and making a case that it cannot possibly cost as much as you’re asking”.

We’re buying “off plan”, which means “based on drawings”. That’s enough to make a person nervous, but there’s a mirror-image of the building already built that we’ve seen inside.

Then there’s the paperwork. It’s not a well designed system. I’ve clearly been spoiled by GOV.UK, but I’d really like a friendly page. Here’s one I made earlier.

NOT REAL. Made for fun.

The most difficult thing is choosing the right mortgage broker and solicitors. With a new build the developers will have set up one each of these, because of course it’s in their best interests for you to move quickly — they generally like to get to exchange, when you hand over your deposit and are contractually bound to follow through, within 28 days of reserving. Yikes.

So we’ve had to move quickly. There are plenty of comparison sites out there, and they do a great job. Somewhat too much of a good job, perhaps, since my partner and I were completely paralysed by choice. We’ve gone with companies that will remain temporarily nameless, depending on how well we get on with them. So far so good. Both our solicitors and mortgage brokers seem quite experienced, so that’s a bit of a relief.

There’s still a lot of paperwork to sign. I’m glad we’re now at the place in time when I can use my phone to scan documents and email them back, but I can’t help thinking that we’d be in a better place with an encrypted signature. I won’t get onto a soapbox about state-implemented public-key encryption here. Suffice it to say: there is a better way.

So now it’s Friday. Two sets of processes are crunching along. We’re going on holiday tomorrow and taking a laptop in case there are any last minute emergencies. We’re hoping to come back to green ticks, or thumbs up, or whatever measure solicitors use to tell you that everything is going to plan.

I have some recommendations for culture this week:

HAPPY! is messed up. It’s also the best thing Christopher Meloni has ever done. It also stars Patton Oswalt, whose stand up show Annihilation remains the only stand up show that has made me cry tears of sadness. Catch both on Netflix if you’ve got it.

Our little #weeknotes community seems to be expanding apace. Keep your eyes on that twitter hashtag. My favourite from recent weeks has been this, from Nour Sidawi:

View at Medium.com

That’s all. Next week will see beaucoup d’un lovely city, and hopefully a call from my new team. I’m so excited!

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