2021-01-24

Week -1 (selling this time)

So, in a little under a week, we are moving out.

The plan is to sell this house ASAP. It has been a tad challenging to buy a new place before selling, but obviously selling is now important. The fact stamp duty is due to go back up in April makes it even more urgent.

[If anyone wants a nice 5 bed in Bracknell with excellent man-cave, do say]

I've been trying to work out everything I can do to make this go smoothly.

I have done the TA6 and TA10 and even done an environmental search to confirm nothing unexpected will crop up. I have found all of the paperwork for electrical work and the man-cave conversion and the air-con planning permission. It is all ready for the solicitor.

I'm using Kite Griffin again, they have been excellent.

I have a cleaner booked for the weekend, followed by a decorator/gardener. The plan is to make the place appealing, clean, and ready to move in. I am even throwing in the 65" 4K OLED wallpaper TV in the man-cave, and the CCTV. Yes, I'd take the TV but no chance it would survive in one piece!

I have removed the electric locks and replaced with more conventional ones. It is all very "normal".

I need to decide on a suitable estate agent to market it, so once it is ready in a little over a week's time I can get a valuation and get it on the market. Let's see how long this takes shall we :-)

2021-01-20

Energy performance certificate

Apparently for selling (or even renting out) a house you need an Energy performance certificate.

It seems to me that this is a well meaning, but totally pointless, rule.

I have berated the fact that so much of the needed paperwork is not prepared before selling, but this is one of the few things that is expected, yet not actually any use. The world is mad some times.

Does anyone read them?

Even the guy doing the report agreed nobody reads them. Even if they do, do they actually take this in to account in a house purchase decision? We are "average", so err, fine.. I guess.

Are they accurate?

This is the main bit that bugs me. As I say, nobody reads them, but our house is rated "D" which is average, but then has recommendations and details of CO₂ production.

Except the report is wrong. It says, for example, we do not have any insulation under the floor. Well, I know we do, and even provided pictures for the assessor. However, he checked, as as he is unable to report the thickness he has to report that there is none, and even recommend some is installed! So the report is factually wrong.

Also, the house has 5 air-con units - these are air source heat pumps which are efficient for heating. The report does not cover this at all, only listing the gas central heating. I have not even bothered to ask why - given that we are "average" and "nobody reads these anyway". Oddly, installing heat pumps is not one of the recommendations.

As for the CO₂ production - given that most of the heating is electric and we are on a 100% green energy tariff, the figures he quotes are totally wrong. Oddly, installing solar panels is a recommendation, and is good - but how does it change the efficiency as we are just "using someone else's solar panels" if on a 100% green energy tariff.

But, as nobody reads them, what do I care? I have one, so it goes with the house sale paperwork. Total waste of time.

P.S. One of the factors (in this 10 year life certificate) is if low energy light bulbs are (currently) fitted. How the hell is the choice of light bulb fitted at the time of the assessment a factor in the energy efficiency of the house as a whole. At best it should be "has standard light fittings allowing low energy light bulbs to be fitted", which is like every house.

P.P.S. It occurred to me - what if I had removed any non-low-energy light bulbs when he did the survey, would that have made us 100% low energy and a better rating. After all you don't get lower energy than no light bulb fitted!

2021-01-18

Week 9.3

OK finally we have exchanged, and we move in 2 weeks.

Yes, Andrews & Arnold Ltd is not moving - it is staying based in Bracknell. Do not panic.

Yes, I am not actually retiring to Wales. The whole lockdown thing has taught me how little I actually need to be in the office, and how much can be done using video conference like jitsi. I'm not retiring, I am continuing R&D work and running the business along with my management team as always. Do not worry... (yes people have asked).

Yes, actual glass fibre is available in the depths of wales, and now we have exchanged we can progress the fibre blow.

Friday was stressful as nothing happened, and still unclear why we had to wait until Friday anyway. Basically the sellers solicitors are (in my personal opinion) dicks. Even the agent said it was odd they would not talk to them. They don't answer the phone (says switched off) and if you get an assistant they just say he'll call back and nothing happens. This is what my solicitor has had to suffer for two whole days.

Once again my solicitors (Kite Griffin) are brilliant even for something as simple as conveyancing.

Monday was just as stressful as the hours ticked by. And sorry for pestering my solicitor so much. It got to the point that I just told the agent to sort it - get the sellers to talk to their solicitor and explain that if not sorted today the offer is reduced £5k. Bear in mind we made the offer on basis of a quick exchange and all parties agreed to try and exchange by Christmas. From what I can see there has been no good faith attempt to do that from the seller's solicitor at all. Magically, 5 minutes later, he called my solicitor and half an hour after that it is all done.

The weight off my mind when it finally happened was great. I know I should not stress, but I do. I have mountains of plans in my head waiting to execute - like changing locks from my electronic locks to something simpler (but secure), organising mail redirection, everything, all stacked in my head waiting. It created actual higher blood pressure even!

We move end of the month. Yay. Now to remember from over 25 years ago what you do when you move and who you have to tell!

And then the fun of selling, but the whole purchase exercise has taught me a lot. I'll blog how that goes in due course. As a seller I want to make it as quick and smooth as possible. Managing to buy before selling was, as you can imagine, fun, and means using mortgage reserve and the like which my bank tried very hard to cock up. But that is another story. But I think if I had to wait for a buyer it would have been so much more stressful. Now the work to make this place appealing :-)

P.S. I know people are very security conscious and so am I - finding my soon to be empty house is not hard, but it has alarms, and cameras with remote monitoring, and good locks, and people watching over it, and nothing worth stealing in it.

2021-01-16

Please, just wear a mask!

The only reason I have been going out at all is to get food, from M&S. I try to go when I think it is not crowded. I wear a mask, obviously. I actually wear one all the way there and back (a couple of miles walk each way). People cross the street or walk in to the road, as do I, when passing, even when they too are wearing a mask (as many are). Everyone is sensible.

Today I was rather surprised to see a member of M&S staff with no mask, but the bigger issue is that he appeared to have no concept of social distancing.

Social distancing

What really shocked me was not just the lack of mask (see below re exemptions), but the total lack of any social distancing.

I witnessed him bumping in to other members of staff. At one point, whilst waiting at the till I suddenly realised he was right next to me and I had to step back.

It is not clear what he was supposed to be doing - he seemed to be literally aimlessly wandering around bumping in to people - almost trying to infect as many as possible - well that is how it seemed to me.

Exemptions

Of course, the immediate answer from anyone is "he could be exempt". There are two main reasons for this - medical condition, and severe distress.

I find it hard to imagine a medical condition where the wearing of a mask, or even a simple clear visor, causes a clinical effect which does not also make you a MASSIVE risk for COVID, so much so that you would obviously be sheltering / isolating at home all year. If there is such a condition, please educate me. But someone that has adverse clinic effect to a face visor will really have a problem with an oxygen mask or a ventilator.

However, the other reason, and far more likely to encounter in the wild, I am sure, is distress / anxiety. I know someone that has significant distress wearing a mask, thankfully she is OK wearing a visor (I know they are not as good, but at least they block spray from your mouth going directly to the person in front of you, and they meet the legal requirements). I'd rather people wear a proper mask obviously.

Now, let's put it like this. I am sure there are people who would rather not wear clothes. Should they be allowed to go naked if clothes cause them distress or anxiety? Well, society has made a decision balancing this and knowing that people wandering around naked in public causes *others* distress and anxiety. As such the law, at least in practice, is you have to wear clothes regardless.

There are people, in the middle of a pandemic, who find encountering others with no mask in a shop a cause of distress and anxiety. So morally, ethically, why does the mask wearers distress and anxiety trump that of those around them? What is the balance here for the law?

I am no expert on ethics, but that is a serious question. Someone explain it to me.

Badges

There are government recommended badges saying you are exempt. Now, there is a whole issue with "having to declare that you are disabled". I fully understand that. But if you are wandering around a shop with no mask you are blatantly declaring that you are "disabled, or a total dick". The badge at least just declares you "disabled". Even so, THE VIRUS DOES NOT CARE THAT YOU ARE EXEMPT!

M&S policy?

The other issue, taking the fact that some people are genuinely exempt under current law, is the policy of his employer.

As an employer myself, if one of my staff was genuinely exempt from wearing ALL types of face covering allowed, I would not have them working where they are in the same room as other staff or public. I would have them working from home, working alone, on sick leave, or furloughed. In fact I think we'd do that if they simply could not wear a proper mask. I would never want to risk one of my staff infecting someone whilst working for me. THE VIRUS DOES NOT CARE THAT YOU ARE EXEMPT!

Indeed, I am surprised HSE don't have that exact policy for employers.

So M&S, don't you have any policy on this?

M&S reply?

I am at a loss. They totally ignored that he was not keeping any distance. If I had complained about someone *with* a mask not keeping their distance then would they have been so dismissive.

It is like they think that a Sunflower Lanyard is magic - giving the wearer total immunity to any rules and the virus itself. That is scary.

The more I think about the mask exemption, the more I think the government have got it wrong. Some with disabilities seem to agree...

And to be clear, if the government did not have the mask exemption (which would make it way clearer for shops properly banning people), they would have to have found other ways to support those few with genuine reasons not to wear one. But that would have been way better and clearer and safer for all.

Week 9

Yes, week 9, WTF?

So, a week ago, everyone was ready to exchange. So what happened?

Nothing?

Seriously the one remaining step before completion is to exchange contracts and that one thing has not happened in a whole week.

Why?

This is not easy to work out exactly, but sounds like it went down like this, I think.

  • Agent suggests Friday as date to exchange. No bloody clue why. Did not ask us. The agent knows that ALL PARTIES agreed to try and exchange before Christmas. That we are keen to sort this quickly (made very clear when we viewed and when we made the offer). I really want to get selling this house before stamp duty goes back up, otherwise it will probably cost me a lot in reduced house prices. That is getting less likely by the day.
  • One of the parties decided that, as a result, they would make a ducking appointment with their solicitor for Friday. Why not Monday, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday? Why? Why do that?
  • And why an appointment? Telephones exist! Email exists! I have not seen my solicitor in the whole process! There is a damn pandemic on - seriously!
  • It seems, from what I can tell, as a result of that appointment it became apparent one document, as a result of one query from one of the parties, needing providing. Something to do with a garage, and someone in the council needed to email it over. Seriously - why not sort that one document ANY TIME IN THE LAST 9 BLOODY WEEKS!
  • So, updates during the day - my solicitor is great, keeping us informed.
  • FINALLY! at around 3:30pm we are told everyone is ready to exchange - yay!
  • I sorted house insurance for the new house as I assumed risk on exchange. This involved 25 mins on the phone as a web site refused to quote me.

Now my understanding is that the process is a short phone call, that is all. But the solicitor that finally confirmed ready to exchange then turned off his phone. That's right - TURNED OFF HIS PHONE!

Later, after 5pm, they emailed saying it was too late to exchange. They could have called, and exchanged, instead of emailing, but no, they have not exchanged.

This is the comment from the agent earlier this week :-

I agree with you whole heartedly!  It is beyond me why The [seller's] solicitor will not speak to us?  It is quite unusual!  It is beyond me why they just leave people hanging and don't respond!  It doesn't help anyone. I have tried to do my best to get information to keep everyone in the loop.  We try and be reactive because that is what people need when they are going through such a stressful time.  Clearly their solicitor doesn't think the same.

Even though we have a good solicitor, the whole process only works as well as the weakest link. The agent also said :-

I have to say that your solicitor is fantastic, super-efficient and super at communication.  Unfortunately [the seller's] is not!

I can massively recommend Kite Griffin in Bracknell though.

P.S. I am having "fun" sorting all of the paperwork for selling this house. My plan is to have everything ready as much as possible, and complete, and no missing paperwork, nor certificates, or anything, so no queries and no delays, before even putting on the market.

And packing continues...



2021-01-14

Impressive service for a change

Whilst I have cause to complain on many occasions, and places like Amazon make things so easy (buying, and complaining), I am occasionally buying from other places.

In light of the imminent house move, I am removing the electrically operated door locks. I decided there is no point even "offering" them to a new purchaser as it would add confusion, support, and delay.

However, to make sure everything is neat and tidy I wanted to replace the void where the lock and strike were in the door and frame, so needed something 30mm x 3mm x 255mm. Like this sheet of metal. It was actually easier to find metal than wood for this, surprisingly.

Yes, I'll have to drill and counter sink, but that is not rocket science.

The site I found was some company called metals4u. Yes, I hate the whole "4u" bit, but the site was easy to use. What has impressed me even more is that what I ordered has arrived next morning with no hassle, and is exactly what I wanted.

That should not be rare, should it? But it does sometimes feel a lot like it.

There is however a slight curiosity with their site, they sell some standard lengths, e.g. 250mm for £7.06, 500m for £8.12, etc. I wanted 255mm, so I clicked on the "custom" length, and entered 255. The price, £1.39. Err, OK. I tried 250mm, and the price £1.36. Indeed, you have to be ordering more the 3m for the custom price to be more than the standard price. So if you want 250mm, order as a "custom" length of 250mm :-)

Even so, what arrived is exactly the right size, and exactly as described. I'm impressed.

2021-01-13

Fans (Stargate, etc)

There are fans of all sorts of TV shows and films, obviously, but it struck me there are some very different types of fans out there.

You may have guessed I like Stargate. I have watched it lots of times (SG-1, Atlantis, and Universe). It is very good as "background TV" for when I am doing something else. Yes, there are some serious plot holes like any show, and some massive tech inconsistencies even allowing for it being sci-fi with its own set of science rules. But it is fun, and entertaining.

I did try to make some Stargate playing cards, but sadly the licensing is basically impossible.

But in my case, being a fan is more of "I liked the episode when they went back to 1969", and if I hear the first few seconds of an episode I could tell you exactly what happens because I have watched them so often. No, I cannot name every actor and actress or say every other film or show they have ever been in.

My brother, on the other hand, is very much a different sort of fan of these things, and not just relating to Stargate.

He is far more "They filmed effects in 16:9, but when the released a DVD in Germany (which was made for UK as all in English) they used scaled up 4:3 effects for some reason", and frankly spouts every pointless bit of shit like that! (I am paraphrasing, I was not really listening).

Which sort of fan are you?

2021-01-10

Is Amazon (UK) safe?

I think, personally, that many sites (like eBay, sorry) have a reputation for "iffy" things being sold. I think this is mainly because they are primarily a platform for third party sellers who can easily be "iffy". I may be wrong, that is just my personal opinion / perception. I generally avoid eBay, but when I do buy I try to check what I have got very carefully.

Until now I thought Amazon were better. Even more so, when an item is sold by Amazon and not a third party through Amazon. That was until I bought this treadmill (I'm not going to link to it).

I unpacked, plugged in, and it seems to work fine. Yay.

But then I noticed the plug was rather odd, and on checking I find it is dangerous and illegal.

So, I contacted Amazon. They initially suggested a postage label, but when I explained I was not happy to pay postage to return, and had discarded the packaging already, they arranged a collection for this week. Only once collected will they refund, apparently.

Now, you would expect Amazon to stop listing the item, but no. Their reaction is to put it on offer!

I posted a review with a picture of the plug saying it may be illegal, and they even approved my review and published it! To be clear this is "Dispatched from and sold by Amazon." so Amazon are now knowingly selling a dangerous and illegal item.

So what's wrong? Most obviously the plug...

  • No CE mark (nor UKCA mark) anywhere on the whole thing, or manual - that is illegal anyway!
  • No kite mark or BS1363 on the plug
  • Plug has no fuse! That is a huge clue that it is not legal.
  • Live and neutral pins are 3.6mm x 5.6mm and 17mm long, that is too small and too short.
  • Earth pin is shielded! Watch for this, it is a big clue that it is not legal.
  • Earth pin is 3.7mm x 8.0mm and 21 mm long, that is too small and too short.
  • Live pins are only 6mm from edge - meant to be more than 50% further for safety!
I checked a bit more, and surprisingly the actual lead is not made of wet string, it is 0.3Ω end to end and does not get warm at the 1.5A running load. I did not actually strip out to measure the conductor size, but the resistance and temperature checks are encouraging. The Earth is connected, and in a test socket it did stay connected when plugged right in, surprisingly.

So the plug is a bad sign, but what is worse is Amazon's reaction to this is to simply put it on sale, not to withdraw it from sale! Not even to put a hold on sales until they check. More sort of "quick, sell the stock while we can".

Surely Amazon should have a process when stocking items to check for a CE or UKCA mark on the product. Surely this would especially apply where they are the seller, not some third party, so they are on the hook for the illegality of putting on the market in the UK. I know there can be some fake products with fake CE/UKCA marks, and if that was the case I would have sympathy for Amazon - but Amazon stocked this item without checking something as basic as looking for a CE mark, or checking for BS1363/kite mark on the plug. How is that not STANDARD PRACTICE for Amazon when stocking any item?

So, unfortunately, I now have to say beware of Amazon!

P.S. I tried reporting to Trading Standards and was told I would have to talk to Citizen's Advice, who have not replied. Why is this not simply a matter for the police?

P.P.S. Amazon seemed to have pulled the listing, finally.

2021-01-09

Week 8

The speed with which these things move is quite crazy. All parties want this transaction to happen, there have been no sticking points, no negotiations, yet somehow we are on to week 8.

But there is some good news, finally!

Apparently everyone is basically ready. Searches done, mortgages sorted. My solicitor has the paperwork signed and witnessed, and the money. We were basically ready before Christmas (as originally planned), but as everyone else is now apparently ready, the final steps have been done on our side which did mean physical signed paper through the letter box of my solicitor.

My solicitors have been great. Prompt to email me. And indeed, everything by email apart from those final two documents on paper which added around half an hour delay as I walked to their offices. Indeed, that walk was probably the longest step we have had to do in the whole process.

But it seems others are not quite as on the ball with this. We learned earlier in the week that the sellers were "meeting with their solicitors on Thursday". So days of delay to meet the solicitor (in the middle of a pandemic) rather than just doing things "now" by email, or phone, or video call, or something immediate.

Of course even though all apparently ready, the agent is talking of exchange next Friday. Why waiting a week? What the hell is going on? It seems a couple of enquires have not been answered yet somewhere. Well, answer them! Just do it, like, now, do it! do it! do it! Why wait a week. What the hell is wrong with people?!

Anyway, the good news is we should exchange some time next week, and then apparently they want 2 weeks before completion. So looks like end of January. Whilst that too is a pain, I can understand that to some extent. I have been reluctant to even start packing until we exchange. Packing and booking a removal van will take time. There is also some chance that lockdown will "kick in" and reduce some of the risks involved.

However, with this good news, I have lots of packing boxes, bubble wrap, tape, and the task of packing is looming. Of course, in a normal time, we would be able to get friends and relatives to help, but our options are very limited at present (even if law allows for "moving house" related activities). Thankfully one relative does have antibodies so I am a lot less worried about them coming to help. But it is a daunting prospect. We have been in Bracknell 30 years, and accumulated a lot of stuff.

But, we have made a start...

P.S. Covid tests all negative for 10 days - very lucky!

2021-01-02

Week 7

Nothing happened on the house moving front - as expected.

Still in limbo, and now the whole house also self-isolating as well for the next week, so just hoping a covid test does not come up positive for any of us.

Anyway, all set for chasing solicitors on Monday.

Here's hoping 2021 improves.