MINISTRY OF CULTURE
Hello again comrades, and before you all start complaining like the weasel-faced do-gooders you no doubt are, I know, I've not been writing my column recently. I know, alright? And due to the unprecedented amount of email I've received on the subject, I can only assume you've noticed also. Some of you probably think I'm slacker than Sharon Stone's czipcza, but I've been moving house, goddamnit. I mean physically moving my entire house from one location to another, brick by brick, morsel by morsel. NOT REALLY. But close, and that's why my column's not been here, so stop complaining. Both of you.
In the last 18 months I have moved house 5 times. The only people I know who move house more than me are fairground folk and snails. I move house so often I don't bother unpacking any more. Everything stays in the box (singular) until such a time as the box deteriorates and the contents spew randomly all over the floor. Then I consider myself unpacked.
If you ever have to move house you should listen to me; I AM EXPERIENCED. I am the reason there are two pages for the letter "S" in your address book. I know everything about moving, and being as I'm also a wonderful man, I will give you the benefit of my trifling wisdom.
BEFORE YOU START:
Somebody once said that moving house is one of the three most stressful things you can do, alongside death of a relative and divorce; well they clearly were never involved in a jewel heist. That being said, it is fairly hectic, so remember these key things:
1) your new address
2) your old address
3) the route between the two
And beware the chisellers
OH NO, NOT THE CHISELLERS
Oh yes. Now I don't know about the US but here in blighty buying property is more expensive than a crack habit on the moon. Indeed, what might buy you a sprawling suburban condo with 10 acres of land, a tennis court, an indoor pool, two maids, and one of those fancy remote-controlled garages (with a basketball hoop), over here would get you a house-brick, some soil and a banana. Leasehold, of course.
UNCLE SUMMY'S GUIDE TO SHELLING OUT UNNECESSARY CASH WHEN BUYING A HOUSE
Or "real estate" as you crazy yanks call them (as opposed to "pretend estate" presumably.) They take 2% of the sale price for little more than putting up a picture in a shop window and looking after someone's keys. Nice work. When confronted with a question such as "how big is the door, I have to be able to get a piano through it" they shrub feebly and recommend you call the people selling the house. Useless parasitical wastes of flesh, with wet look gel and Ford Mondeos; they drink bottles of beer on Friday nights before slamming in a ready cook meal for one and bitch with their imaginary friends about absent imaginary friends.
In 1706, Rev Roy Williams, when reading the bible, came across the following passage: "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Not wishing to forego his life of luxury he came up with a pattern that became a blueprint. He borrowed.
In the UK, no one owns anything. We borrow vast sums of money for everything, then toil helplessly for the rest of our lives in order to pay it back. Once we've paid it back we are free to die or retire at our leisure. You are trapped in a dark pit of drudgery and despair forever, and the money made on your property pays the interest on your loan. In short, you're back to square one. In fact, you never left it.
Lenders know this, and that's what makes them the cruellest of all chisellers. They get you to fax them every piece of paper you ever looked at in your life; bank statements, optician wall charts, fairground fortune telling machine print-outs; and then huff and puff about your credit history, before finally saying, "Awwww, go on then, I suppose you can borrow the money. But I'm watching you, understand me?" Then they send you junk mail offering more credit as if to prove beyond any doubt their malevolent sense of humour.
In order to persuade the LENDER to part with their cash, you have to pay for a survey to be completed so that your home can secure the loan. The idea is to prevent stupid little you from borrowing forty million pounds to buy a lock-up garage in Wandsworth (only worth 38 million). So £250 later, someone sends you a report that reads; "The house looks fine. The door could do with a lick of paint, but we couldn't see the loft conversion from the car, despite slowing down to almost 40 miles per hour."
In order to accept no liability whatsoever for their report they pepper it with phrases like:
"the buyer should pay for a timber and damp inspection of the property" and
"we recommend that the buyer checks to see if the loft conversion complies with building regulations, we couldn't be arsed to do that"
and "we recommend that before purchase the buyer pays for somebody to survey this property again."
Buying a house would not be any more complicated than buying a loaf of bread if it weren't for the lawyers. The conversation would be thus:
YOU: Nice place - how much do you want?
THEM: 50 grand?
YOU: OK, it's a deal. When can we move in?
THEM: A week today.
YOU: Cool. And you'll give us the title deeds and everything?
THEM: No problemo.
However, where's the fun in that? Or rather, the cash. Forgive me, I'm being cynical. Lawyers are a vital part of the game. They turn the seller's plain English into important legal-speak, and you pay for your lawyer to turn it back into English again before codifying your reply and repeating the procedure in reverse. Notwithstanding the foregoing, they vouchsafe that the first party is entitled to transfer the subject of sale to the second party, and ensure that the relevant warranties are in place to make good said transfer.
Easy when you know how.
THE INSURANCE PEOPLE:
These people are despicable opportunists and do not merit even the slightest mention.
SO, GIVEN THAT IT'S EXPENSIVE AND A RIGHT PAIN IN THE ARSE, WHY, OH WHY, DO WE MOVE HOUSE?
Itís a fair question. If the house you moved to in the first place was so bad, why did you move there? Because it was all you could afford, and you were younger and less cynical. The crooked doorframe was "rustic"; the overgrown garden had "potential" and you were a naïve tosspot. What looked like a bargain in an up and coming area turned out to be a diseased death trap in a plummeting slum.
No, the house you live in represents your aspirations. It is a bricks and mortar manifestation of your glory. It gets bigger and fatter as you do, it gets old and needs repair when you do, and when you die, your children get it and sell it first chance they get. With the cash, they go to Hawaii, something you could never afford to do. The new people will stub fags out on the carpet and laugh at your trinkets. But you can always haunt them.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNT?
ESTATE AGENTS ARE EVIL: fresh from financially raping their last mewling victims, they will arrive en masse, tin cups in hand, sweating feverishly - don't give them house room. When they offer coffee at the shop, drink it. It's the only useful think they will do for the thousands of pounds in fees.
LAWYERS ARE EVIL: muttering things about stamp duty, conveyancing and earwax tax. Like demented side-show pugilists who punch you in the face and later invoice you, each one expects unhealthy doses of gratitude and cash for their lethargic fumblings.
BUYING A HOUSE IS POINTLESS. People always say: "ooh, invest in property, ooh, invest in property." But these people are idiots. You NEVER realise the investment on a house. NEVER. You either sell and move up the ladder and into more debt, or you die and, in a very real sense, move down.
UNTIL NEXT TIME