Thursday, 2 April 2009
You would think that once we had made up our minds things would be easy: pay the money and ask them to gift-wrap it. But that would be too easy. We must not take coal to Newcastle, but do everything the way things are done here. And things concerning property are done slowly and seriously. The day after we had put the bid, a man phoned us, introduced himself as Mick and told us that he would be our mortgage advisor. He came to visit us, looked like a gangster in an American movie from 1950s, talked much too fast, showed us long rows of numbers on his laptop and tried to explain all those elementary things that we, dumb foreigners, didn't get. We did get the most important thing: we would not pay anything for his services, someone else would. The agent, the solicitor, the surveyor... Wait a minute, Mick, what solicitor? Why would we need a solicitor? Because this is how things are done here. But he, Mick, can provide us with a solicitor. And concerning mortgage (more numbers)... and if this doesn't work, we'll take the next.
Being completely ignorant, we didn't have much choice. So the merry-go-round started, with new incomprehensible papers arriving every day. I must do Mick justice: he answered patiently all our queries. He calculated our living costs, much to our surprise. When one bank didn't approve our application, he found another one, with even better conditions. After trying to sell us incredibly expensive life insuranсe (more papers), he admitted that it was not mandatory for mortgage. We had to trust Mick, we had no one else to trust.
(Incidentally, the procedure made me realize that I am getting old. The bank that rejected us pointed out that the mortgage would extend beyond my retirement).
The female solicitor did a marvelous job. We received a substantial report about our future property, including a detailed demographic profile of the neighbourhood (majority of population retired couples - I felt immediately young again). Even though Mick had been much too optimistic promising that we would move in by March 1, there came a day when we were invited to the solicitor's office in Haverhill, some twenty miles south of Cambridge, to sign the papers. Apparently, the solicitor was amazed that we wanted to come in person. Everything else had been handled by post and email.
When it actually came to paying, first a deposit and then the rest, it felt really weird. When we sold the house in the old country, I met the buyers in a bank office, and since we used the same bank, the transaction went painlessly: some abstract sums were moved from one account to another. Now I had to go to my bank and ask them to transfer a breath-taking amount of money to our solicitor's account, who would then transer it to the sellers' solicitor's account, who would then transfer it to the sellers' account. Are you still with me?
It felt like playing Monopoly: bying property in Old School Lane, plus tax plus more tax plus still more tax and don't pass Go. Even the young lady in the bank was a bit overwhelmed. Perhaps she doesn't see so much private money change hands too often, not these days.
And then, almost three months after we first went to see the house, we could collect the keys. It just happened that I was going away to The Other Place that very day, so I haven't experienced the thrill. It's only fair: Staffan hasn't experienced the thrill of selling.