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12Mar/140

New blog to document my home-buying experience

I thought it would be more pertinent to start a new blog documenting my experience of buying this new build. Hopefully this will keep things a little more segregated as I am sure if you are looking for information on buying a new home you won't really be interested in the rest of the content I have on this site! So here it is, the new blog: http://newbuildbuyer.blogspot.com/

5Mar/140

Filthy Estate Agents…And the first steps to our New Home!

We set up a few appointments for viewings with multiple developers: Bloor Homes, Taylor Wimpy and Carey Homes. We set up the appointments using the rightmove.com website after finding houses in our price range that we liked then requesting more information from the developers. To be honest the developers/estate agents can be a little pushy to get you to come see the homes where we were literally just wanting more information about the properties themselves at the time.

Saturday was a busy day! We had three estate agents coming over to assess the value of our rental for our landlord, and we had set up three appointments to view some New Builds. As I mentioned before, I have owned houses in the past. They were all "second hand" houses, so the whole New Build concept is very new to me and my fiancée. First two estate agents from competing firms came over at 9:30 am...arriving at the same time. I thought it was about to be pistols at dawn, but they were in and out in about 15 minutes without a single shot fired. It was then time for us to head out to our first appointment, with Bloor Homes.

Our sales guy sat us down for a few minutes to get to know us and what our situation was and find out what it is we were looking for. We had a good idea of the particular house we were interested in so we set out to go have a look. First things first....hard hats and high vis jackets! Very fetching.

Walking down the main street of the development, we got a lovely feel for the place. There were a few houses at the top end of the street already occupied and a couple that people were busy moving into. It was quite fascinating to think of this new development starting its life with these small families and young couples coming together to form a new village.

We arrived at the plot where the house we were interested in was situated. Loads of mud and rubble everywhere, but the house itself was built. The garage was built, albeit without a garage door yet. Loads of building material was stored inside the garage (I think it was mostly insulation for the walls). We took a walk round to the back of the property. The garden was bigger than we expected from what little we could glean from the advert online. I fell in love with the place pretty quickly. My partner loved the place too, but had just one reservation: The garden was north facing.

We spend a good amount of our time outdoors, and try and enjoy what little sunshine we get in the UK. We really enjoy our BBQ's with friends and family. We also both really enjoy our gardening. So a north facing garden looked like a potential deal breaker. The comment was that it felt gloomy and depressing. I can see why, there were clouds overhead at the time and the yard was just a big pile of mud and rubble. Not a good combination.

We left the plot to head off to the show house in a nearby village. The show house was the same type of build and the same layout, only a bit smaller than the one we were interested in. But this was just to get a feel for the finish of the place. We were very impressed.

It was around 12pm at this point and we had another developer appointment to get to, this one with Carey Homes. Took us a little while to find them but eventually we got there. We were shown straight to the show home. Instantly both of us were struck with the contrast in quality of the finish from this show home to the one we had just left by Bloor Homes. The Carey finish felt cheap in comparison. Toilets, sinks, taps...even doors, all seemed like they bought the cheapest possible products, on sale. We probably spent about 15 minutes there before heading back to the car, and back to Bloor Homes. On the drive back, we discussed the North facing garden. We also cancelled our appointment with Taylor Wimpy, we just wouldn't have the time.

Arriving back at Bloor, we had a stroke of luck...the sun appeared and we decided to go back to the plot we were interested in to see how much of the back yard was lit up by the winter sun. Thankfully about three quarters of the garden had sunlight bathing it. Decision was made on the spot, we wanted to buy it!

Back at the marketing office we started to do some negotiations with the sales chap. Long story short, we managed to get the 3% stamp duty paid for, carpets etc. thrown in gratis, and £500 towards our legal fees. We were both happy with the deal. I am sure if it was just 6 months ago we could probably even have got the price down by 10% or so, but times have changed and the market is on the way up again. At this point, my other half needed to leave me to tend to another estate agent doing a valuation of our rental property. About an hour later she returned, and we had another two and a half hours to go before we would be leaving, with the property reserved for us!

So what can you expect at this moment, the moment where you have decided on the new build you want to buy? First things first, as I mentioned above, you do your negotiating. Don't be afraid to ask for extras to be thrown in, or possibly upgrades to appliances. You won't get what you don't ask for! Next you will go through a ton of paperwork, you have your typical information gathering (name, address etc.). Then you go through a few "legal" requirements...i.e. signing to confirm you understand what you are agreeing to; signing on the various specification sheets and layouts to confirm you understand what you are getting from the company. Make sure you ask loads of questions. Get clarification on anything you don't understand. This is a lot of money you are about to spend, so make sure that you leave no stone unturned! Lastly you will need to pay a reservation fee. Generally speaking this is £500. This makes sure the property is no longer available to other potential buyers. The £500 is refundable under most reasonable circumstances (mortgage is not approved, or change in personal circumstance that you can prove). If you just decide you don't want to go ahead with the purchase, then odds are you have lost your £500. Clarify this with your sales agent before paying!

The title of this post mentions Filthy Estate Agents. Unfortunately this was down to me! When we got back from the house after viewing it for the second time and walking through the muddy back yard, as I mentioned we were sat in the sales agents office for almost 4 hours. When I got up from my chair to pay my £500 across the other side of the office, my fiancée gasped in horror as she pointed at the trail of mud I was leaving behind! Underneath the chair I was sitting on a minute earlier was a neat pile of dry mud that had come off my shoes, and from there to where I was now standing was a lovely trail of mud. Oops! When we left the office, somewhat red-faced I will admit, we saw the smartly dressed Sales chap dragging a Vacuum Cleaner over the mess I left. I will admit it did make us chuckle. Sitting in the car getting ready to leave, we looked at each other thinking the same thing...."One step closer to our new home!!"

3Mar/140

Been a busy few months!

I haven't had a chance to update my site for almost a year now. Lots has happened. Most importantly I got engaged!

The last month or so we have been looking at wedding venues in the local area. We have found a beautiful venue, and we are scheduled to be married in the Autumn of next year! I am sure I will write a bit more about that as time goes on.

Another big decision we recently made was to buy a home together. Our original plan was to wait until after we were married before looking for a home to buy. However recently we were given notice on the rental property we currently live in as the landlord wants to sell. This pushed our plans forward. This is most likely going to end up being a good thing financially as the property prices in the UK seem to be pushing higher every month, and availability of properties are few and far between for what we are looking for.

Having decided on the venue where we will get married, we spent the last two weeks looking for our new home. We decided we wanted a New Build. Less hassle to buy (no chain - past experience in buying houses have been absolute nightmares), a home that no-one else has lived in, and lastly the government schemes to help out buyers of New Builds.

I thought I would document our experience with buying our new home. I know that I have been researching and reading up as much as I can about what the experience is when buying a New Build property, so why not contribute my own experience.

28Apr/130

Bridged WiFi routers via LAN/Homeplug?

wifi-logo

This will be a quick post about a problem I was having. I have two Wireless N routers, and have them connected via LAN (through a Homeplug) so that I could extend the WiFi through my property.

This was working fine for most of my devices but I have been having problems with my Windows 7 netbook (Samsung N140): When I was in range of the second router I would be connected to the WiFi with a strong signal, but the internet would be intermittent. Highly frustrating.

After a load of troubleshooting, and changing of firmwares, I finally figured out the problem....and it is a silly problem.

First, my configuration: I have a TP-Link 1043ND router, which I managed to brick. I then bought an ASUS RT-N16 to replace it. I put TomatoUSB on this router and it works like a dream...it is a fantastic router with a great spec. It was however bugging me that my TP-Link router was bricked so I pulled it apart and soldered a USB to TTL cable to the board and followed these instructions. After a few attempts I finally managed to unbrick it.

Now that I had a second Wireless N router, I put this in the opposite end of the house to my main router, and connected it via Homeplug (effectively a LAN cable). If you haven't actually got to this stage yet, the setup is pretty simple:

How to bridge two routers via LAN to extend your WiFi

  • Make sure only your first router is set up as a DHCP provider, disable this on the second router
  • Set DHCP to provide a range of IP's from x.x.x.100 - x.x.x.200 (i.e. 192.168.0.100 - 192.168.0.200).
  • If your main router is set to IP of 192.168.0.1 then set the second router to a static IP on the same subnet...i.e. 192.168.0.2, and make sure the IP is lower than the DHCP IP range set previously (less than 192.168.0.100).
  • When connecting the main router to the second router, don't use the WAN port. Plug the routers together using one of the LAN ports on each.
  • Set the SSID (WiFi Name) to the same name on both routers, also make sure the security settings are the same...i.e. WPA2 PSK/AES on both, AND make sure the password is the same too.
  • The last thing to do is set the channels for the WiFi to manual, and make sure they are different. Try get them on opposite ends of the spectrum. i.e. for my setup I have one router set to channel 1 and the second to channel 11.

You should effectively have seamless WiFi on your property now. Moving between the areas of the two routers should switch the signal to the strongest signal seamlessly.

This is where I got stuck. The instructions above are pretty much the instructions you see anywhere else on the web, and they work for the most part. My Android devices don't have a problem with this setup and neither do the wireless cameras I have. But my netbook kept having intermittent internet issues.

The simple fix? Make sure your channel width in your WiFi settings are the same on both routers! Wireless N allows you to choose between 20MHz or 40MHz. 40MHz theoretically provides more bandwidth (150Mbps vs 54Mbps), but 20MHz provides backwards compatibility for older devices. I don't have any problems on 40MHz, but if you do, then switch both routers to 20MHz.

Below is an example of the setup on my main router (running the brilliant Toastmans' version of TomatoUSB)

TomatoUSB WiFi config

and below is a screenshot of my TP-Link 1043ND router setup (I had it runing on DD-WRT, then on Gargoyle...but reverted to the stock firmware as the WiFi performance appears better with it):

TPLink 1043ND WiFi config

Let me know in the comments if you are having any further issues with your bridged router setup.

5Dec/120

The Dark Knight Rises (spoilers, but why haven’t you seen it by now!!!)

Ok, so been away for a little bit...ok quite a while due to the various illnesses, ailments, holidays, busy-ness etc etc but I'm back and posting my overdue but also timely thoughts on TDKR.

The reason it's timely is that I've just rewatched it on Blu-ray my 2nd viewing, the first was on the day of the release and I didn't want to post on it then for obvious reasons.

So my initial thoughts on a 2nd viewing were still....what an excellent film and that this was filmmaking on an epic scale. However I also now think on a 2nd viewing is that TDKR is the weakest of the trilogy...and in a trilogy of this high a standard that is by no means a derogatory statement.