Friday, January 30, 2004

Don't bank on it

Picked up Maija and went down town to meet at the Nordea bank to do the deal on the house. We were the first to arrive. Originally the meeting was supposed to be at 10:00 but it was posponed until 11:00. The buyers and the sellers were all together but the official from the bank didn't turn up. It was 11:30 before were were ushered into a VIP room. The was me and Maija and our estate agent the sellers, man and wife and their estate agent. A representative from their bank and a representative from our bank.

There was a flurry of papers flashed back and forth multiple signatures signed on various bits of paper. We have not read anything. We could be signing our lives away. There could be hidden clauses that would force me to be hung drawn and quartered, but we signed everything regardless. Trusting in other people. The sellers were just as willing to sign without reading.

Amounts were calculated and a cheque was written out for the bank manager in the red corner. They parted with one bit of paper, and was handed another bit of paper as proof that we now owned the flat. In the year 1982 the flat had cost 29,000 FIM or equivilent to 5,000€ Now it was selling for 133000€ which makes it 26.6 times more expensive.

With the title deeds in our hands we wondered what to do with it. It seems to be an important piece of paper. We would surely loose it if we kept it ourselves, so we were shown down into the vaults at Nordea to where they keep safe deposit boxes. We rented one for a year at the cost of 27€ and were shown into a large vault with thousands of boxes. We were shown a black box with two keyholes. We used our key to open one lock and the cashier used her key to open another lock. Inside was a small gray tray. We took it out and place the deeds of the flat in it. We then put it back in and locked the safe and left. Do you ever get the feeling that when you have locked the front door, it is not really locked and you have to go back and check. Well for once I just walked way and did't look back. It could be lying open for all I know with the title deed up for grabs.

I heard today tha thouse price inflation in Finland was running at 7% a year where as in England it was around about 25% for the past 3 years. If the inflation stays the same that the flat should be worth 142310€ next year. That would be a profit of 9310€ There are two prices for houses in Finland. The selling price MH and the debtfree price VH. The MH price is always lower than the VH price. As it exists now we only pay a very low monthly rent for utilities of arounf 204€ per month so over a 12 month period comes to 2448€. So the net profit for just living in the house would be 6862€ if house price inflation stays the same.

Now if my mother died at 35 and her brother died at 38 and I have a blood pressure problem and I am 168/107 and if there is going to be a economic crash and the price of bacon sides is on the up and up and if you fried your brain to a crisp doing calculations that don't mean a thing, then you can consider yourself lucky to be alive and breathing without any major difficulties. Money is boring if you have it, but when you don't have it, then it's acquisition consumes all your waking hours

Maija also handed over 150€ for the wardrobe in the corner of their bedroom. We should move in there on the 9th of Feb. They have promised to have moved their stuff out on Saturday the 7th. Will the floors be clean, will the taps leak and the toilets refuse to flush, will the shower be blocked with lime scale, will the neighbours play loud music. Will the rooms be cold, will there be draughts, or lice, or silverfish, or cockroaches, or damp, or mould. There are a whole new can of worms awaiting to be opened. Why am I so pessemistic?

No the neighbours will be waiting with garlands of roses to welcome us to the neighbourhood and they will have hired a brass band to play triumphant songs to inspire us. There will be feast of roast venison and salted salmon and tankards of frothing beer. We will dance and sing and hung one another for joy, and everyone will retire to bed with a happy smile on their face. I wish

We will creep in there unheralded is more like the truth. No we must have some sort of Celebration and it will involve smoked fish and sour cream, and little sprigs of parsley.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Rule Britania

Got in contact with Britania and asked them to deliver our furniture on the 9th Feb. They said they would be in touch. Yes but I want to know if that date is suitable. I want to know if the furniture will arrive. I want to know if I need to take a day off work. I have sent them a couple of emails but they have not answered either of them, so I had to give them a call. I am a bit paranoid that things will get lost or not turn up on time.

The folks that are selling the flat want to sell us their big wardrobe for 200€ ahte estate agent says offer 150e for it. Here we are sitting back and waiting impatiently to move in. There they are being harried to leave their home. Apparently if they do not move out on the date specified in the contract then they will be fined 300€ a week until they do. That does not sound like a lot of money... wouldn't get you a decent room in a hotel for a week... and how would you even collect the money.

The weather is good or bad depending on what you are doing. It is great for walking and enjoying the clean bright fresh air. Maija went for a walk last night and crossed a bridge from Lautasarri onto a small discrete island with a few enormous houses on it. She saw a lampshade in the window of one of these big houses and thought it looked familiar to the one were were getting for free with the house as part of the chattels. She was happy that she would have the same lamp as a rich person would have in their house. Is this a question of worth? I am happy if it gives light when you switch it on. We have different expectations for things.

I talked to Eija yesterday and we got around to the topic of neighbours from hell, and what do you do if you end up living next to somebody that you absolutely hate. When you go on a house buying search your eye looks out for neatness and tidiness in the surroundings. Are the outside rubbish bins full or empty. You look at corridors and walls for signs of graffitti. You look at light switches and door knobs for signs of grim and grubbiness. The sauna has to be clean, the washing up area has not to be littered with abandoned clothes. There has to be silence in the rooms of your appartment. No leaks on the floor from radiators, or dishwashing machines, Clean worksurfaces with no crumbs from toast or dried up blobs of strawberry jam. No strange smells of cabbage, mold or socks. I could be describing a morgue, a place of the dead. Life is messy and chaotic. The more things are sliping through you fingers like fine sand the more you want to grab hold of them firmly and take control.

I wonder if our furniture will arrive on the 9th. I will have to write Britannia once again to get confirmation about the dates

Monday, January 26, 2004

When I survey the wonderous dross

So we went to Espoon Lahti on Friday and had a look at a couple of flats. The first on was on the 2nd floor and the bathroom was wrecked and all the fittings were in the small bedroom. One of the dividing walls had been removed and the living room and bedroom had been combined to give a huge space. In the apartment was a Blind Scottish terrier it was a sad old thing that followed us around and sniffed at our ankles. The door to the balcony was painted blue. I did not like the place and we left.

In the next building on the first floor was the next place we went to see. It was light and airy with good floors and a well equipped kitchen. It felt good and Maija wanted to make an offer on it, provided that she could get all the light fittings in the deal. Esa the estate agent said he would try and do the deal but the light fittings might have some sentimental value. We decided to pay the full price provided the owners vacate the flat on the 8th of Feb.

I went to work and Maija stayed behind to do all the paperwork. At around 16:00 Maija called and said she had agreed to put down a deposit of 5,280€ this apparently ensures that no-one else can make an offer on the flat while our offer is under consideration. She had some trouble getting the money together since there is a limit on our bank cards of 200€ per day s I had to use SOLO SERVICE at Nordea to pay the deposit online.

Later that night the estate agent rang and said we had thapartmentnt pending the final payment. Maija was happy especially when she heard that she had got the lights in the deal even though apparently they had been a wedding present to the couple who owned the flat.

Now I have to get in touch with the removals company in the UK and arrange for our stuff to be delivered on the 9th of Feb. I wonder how this will be handled. In the UK the completion date is all important. No money is exchanged hand s untill the house has been emptied and is ready for the new tennents to move in. Apparently we could hand over all of the money a week before we moved in, but you would then wonder what is to stop the people for staying on longer in the house and keeping your money. There must be some safeguards in place to prevent something like this from taking place.

Anyways we have to be out of our flat in Lautasarri on the 7th of Feb so if the deal goes through then the timing will be excellent.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Square metre prices

Went to the smaller flat last night. It was not to my liking. The floor was all scratched because they had a dog in the house and the floor near the kitchen was sticky underfoot I wonder what that dog has been doing. In Saffron Walden we had cats in our previous house and this caused an enormous problem with flees. Itchy Itchy scratch scratch. We had to have the place fumigated. It was overpriced as well coming in at 136000€ and it was at least 10 sq m smaller than the one we saw yesterday.

It is a good idea to calculated the price per sq m as this is a good indicator of value for money. At the moment over 2000€ is expensive. Moderate is aroung 1700€ and cheap is 1500€ or under. That is in the Helsinki area.

Maija now thinks we should put in an offer for the flat in Esponlahti and offer 133000€ for it. It is away from the kids Christopher and Raisa, but it is near a big shopping mall and has a very good swiming pool nearby and it is only a few minutes from the sea. We fool ourselves that we would go swiming in the swiming pool and have picnics by the sea. Maija has even sugested that we get a sailing boat. Now that is abit over the top. It is not so far away from work, about 10 minutes drive along the Lansiväylä

I would still prefer to see some more places at the weekend and see the house in broad daylight. The one advantage it does have is that the couple who own it are willing to move out by the 8th of February which is when we have to move out of our flat in Lautasarri

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Not for love nor money

No luck, the lady who was selling the house had to have an eye operation and would not want to move out of the house until April. We heard from the estate agent she has accepted a LOWER price than what we offered so she can stay until April. ANd there we were willing to offer her MORE if she would move out sooner. Seems that some people have principles. Her own comfort was more important than money.

The estate agent from Kotiovi said she had another appartment in a similar building coming up for sale soon. It is much smaller at 63 square metres but the price is 135000€ I mentioned that if you compared the two houses with the square metre price then this new one she is offering seems to be rather expensive. Like the wise estate agent that she is she remarked not at all it is just that the other flat was underpriced. Well well if it was underpriced then why was our ofer the best offer and it was sold for LESS than was asked. There is no logic in that argument.

Anyway this new appartment apparently has better views and has a bigger sauna and is on the first floor. I just hope it is neat and tidy and that Maija likes it. So it is off to see another flat tonight at 18:30. I wonder if we should be looking further out and thinking about a drive into work. The secretary here says she drives in from Lohja every morning which is a 30 minute drive. I don't know if I could stand long drives each day.

The first lot of money from the UK has arrived in our Finnish bank Nordea and some money from EMBL has also arrived so hopefully before the end of the week the EOC money will also come in.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Tatty flats

Visited four more flats yesterday. Tatty old flat in karriokallio and nice one in Espoonlahti which had special floors. It was on the first floor and right next to a "pesatupa" a communal washing area, so Maija thought it would be great for washing and drying clothes. We then went to Päkinarinne and say a 3rd floor flat which Maija fell in love with immediately, and wanted to make an offer on it there and then. The estate agent from Kotiovi was all smiles and was already filling in the forms. Since we had another flat to see in the same area, I tried to say let's not be hastey. So we went to see the other flat and it was on the 5th floor and it was a bit of a dump. The floor was all scratched as though the hounds of hell and been having an ice hockey match in the living room and the fridge freezer and cooker was that sunburst brown colour from the early seventies. It was ghastly with grim everywhere. But the estate agent kept on saying it was "big" and it had "potential" He was a forceful young man with badly done highlights in his hair. Never trust anyone with blonde streaks in their hair especially if they are wearing purple polyesther trousers, and driving a rusty volkswagon Polo.

We had taken a form to fill in from the previous house and we went to my office and filled it in and faxed it off the the estate agent. We said that our offer of the full price of 138000€ would be open until 15:00 today and one further condition would be that we would be able to move in on the 15th of February.

This morning we heard from the estate agent that the lady who is selling the house is pleased to be getting the full asking price, but she has an operation coming up and they is why she wants to stay to later in the Spring. Hopefully she will cahnge her mind or come up with an alternate suggestion. We are waiting for a telephone call just like Justin and Colin

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


Our offer of 135000€ was rejected, but the flat has not been sold so it looks like nobody else wants it. They did not say why they did not accept our offer, and the estate agent asked if we wanted to keep it open until the end of the week. We were advised to say no, since if we did we could not make an offer on any other property, for fear of incurring the 4% fine if they suddenly said yes and we had made an offer on something else. You have to be careful.

We have arranged to go and see 4 more appartments today between 4-6. A couple of them are in Espoo and the other two are in Vantaa. We will wait until Wednesday before we approach the "hole in the wall" people once again.

Yesterday I went to IKEA and got a catalogue to see how much things are costing here in Finland. Kitchen appliances were quite expensive, especially microwave ovens. Some of the ceremic hobs were not to bad, and the water taps were good value compared with what you can get in the UK

Monday, January 19, 2004

Hole in the wall gang

We have made an offer on the appartment. The owners were wanting 148000€ and we offered them 135000€ This was because there was no dish washing machine or washing machine, and the fridge freezer was ancient, In addition there was the "hole in the wall" in the bathroom which has to be filled by order of the housing association, because they view it was a possible source of water damage to the appartments below. The other problem area is the fireplace. Nobody knows if it is functional, if it with draw smoke, if it has been checked, if it has been swept out for soot. The living room has wooden oak floors and I noticed in the area next to the bathroom wall even though the floors had been sanded and newly varnished there was a few dark spots which looked like it might have been dampness coming through from the bathroom, but since everything had been cleaned it it was hard to tell.

I visited the appartment once again on Sunday and the estate agent had said ten people had already viewed the flat. He talked about the "hole in the wall" and the fireplace so it looks like everybody is being informed of these drawbacks. Our offer went in on Friday and we said that they have until 15:00 to agree to the deal or not. If they agree then we will sign the contracts at the end of the month. If either of us back out then there is a fine of 4% of the sale price which comes to over 5000€

I have arranged for money to be sent from the UK from the Nationwide building society two lots of 50000€ which should be enough to cover the deal as well as mending the "hole in the wall". It also transpires that we have to pay a purchase tax which will be around 2000€
While I was in the area I also went to see a house in the the next block of flats. It was smaller at 77 sq metres and the price was 138000€. The floors were of a dark wood which I don't think Maija would like but it had a nicely tiled bathroom. Maija has fallen in love with baths, and would want to put a bath into the other appartment even though I think a shower is suffucient. I would prefer some steam cabinet with a powershower attached, like I saw in England, but perhaps that is too avant garde for the type of flat we are going to buy.

Friday, January 16, 2004

How to find things

Arrived in Finland on 12th of December. I am living on the island of lautasarri, but will only be there until the end of the month so it is essential that I find a place to stay. We are looking to buy a house. Last weekend I visited 7 different houses stretching from the West to the East. In Finland the estate agent advertise in the Helsingin Sanomat at the weekend and tell you when there is a viewing. I used Oikotie to find out where the houses were located and then a local route planner to get directions to where the houses were located. Very organised you see, but nevertheless it took us all afternoon to visit the places. The flat that I liked my wife did not like. Some were too small, some were too expensive, some were too far away from where I work, some were shaby, others were in areas that your grandmother would not walk in at night time. The day ended with us exhausted and not having found anything we liked.

On the Monday after the weekends viewing, my wife Maija looked again at the newpaper and instead of going for the estate agents she found a flat that was being sold by an individual. She phoned her up and made an appointment to see the flat on the Teusday. The flat was on the third floor of a block of flats. It was quite big at 87 sq M. It had been built in 1962, and was at the end of the building, so basically it had windows on three sides. The floors were made out of oak and had recently been sanded and varnished, so the living room and the dining room looked good. The kitchen was done in a "french style" which Maija liked, but I was not too sure about the practicallity of tiles for the work surface. The kitchen also had underfloor heating but it did not seem to be working. The walls had that "artex" look to them and I know that "artex" has a small amount of asbestos in it so I was a bit suspicious, however the woman whowas selling the place said it was "ventonite". The things to watch out for in old houses are mould or damp, leaking taps or radiators.

In the bathroom there was an enormous hole in the wall. The lady said it was a space for a washing machine. When you went into the bedroom and looked in the cupboard then you could see the space that this "hole" has taking up. Maija liked the idea of the washing machine being up off the floor since it would be easier to load and also give more room in the bathroom.

In the living room there was a fireplace, which is a very unusal feature to find in a block of flats. Maija asked had the chimney been swept but the lady did not know. The windows had recently been replaced and it was all in all in good condition with venetian blinds all around and a small balcony where you could sip your vodka at the end of the day