Lee Rotbart

Archive for the ‘Second time lucky’ Category

It’s payback time

In Second time lucky on October 7, 2010 at 4:00 pm

I am off. On holiday. 8 days. Starting tomorrow.

It’s my last big blow out before I settle down to the nomadic existence I’m likely to be leading for the next few months, involving all my favourite activities – packing (it’s the devil’s work), budgeting, moving, unpacking (more of the devil’s work), and commuting from the suburbs of London.

Danny had his time off a couple of months ago, 1 week in France and 1 long weekend at the Big Chill festival and now it’s my turn. Granted, his week in France was doing hard labour on his house out there, but it was still a week in sun-drenched France while I sat at my desk looking out at the appropriately nicknamed ‘Wall of Misery’.

Now I’m off: Driving from Phoenix, Arizona to LA with a girlfriend (Thelma and Louise style but without the tragic ending). It’s a holiday I booked over 5 months ago, which makes it feel ‘free’, and I had no idea when I booked it that I would be semi-celebrating (I shouldn’t tempt fate as we’re still not home and dry quite yet) owning a guest house in St Ives. I love it when that happens, just more evidence of not knowing what’s just round the corner.

Anyway… while I am excited about going it does involve me letting go of everything that’s going on here. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to learn that the ability to let go is not one of my more obvious personality traits, along with relinquishing control, delegating, and handing over responsibility. However it’s something I’m being forced to do, not being very keen on getting a phone bill that I would need a second mortgage to pay by calling from the States all week.

It’s over to Danny who is calmer, more efficient (he doesn’t waste time blogging and talking to people on Twitter), and less of a drama queen. I have every confidence that by the time I come back our wonderfully patient mortgage broker will not be very keen to pick up communications with me again – me of the 25 phone calls, 9001 emails, and 62 questions per day.

Have a good week all, and here’s hoping that by the time I’m back online we will have had closure around the mortgage.

Another weekend lost to numbers

In Second time lucky on September 21, 2010 at 11:16 am

It’s Tuesday… and I’m bored to tears of looking at our ‘revised for the 99th time’ business proposal. We’ve analysed every word, we’ve re-worked every sentence, we’ve tried to inject our personality into each paragraph and sentiment, and we’ve met (as far as we know) key lending criteria. We also sacrificed another Saturday night to the Business Plan gods.

With a massive sigh we sent it off on Sunday to our long-suffering broker.

Now the high of discovering another property has left me, I am  finding it hard to accept people’s congratulations with an excited smile because in my heart of hearts I know that the mortgage is the sticking point; and if the last few weeks have proved anything it’s that mortgages, not properties, are the hard things to come by.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down or depressed about the whole thing, just a little more laid back, and a little more cynical, and while I am certain that we will eventually get there, I’m just not 100% convinced that this will be the property we do it on, or that we will be down there by Christmas – as was originally intended.

I’ve learned that plans don’t always go the way we expect, but that’s no bad thing because I have utter faith that it will all work out in the end. A cash rich industry, guest houses do not lend themselves to robust business planning; being owned by people who consider them hobbies doesn’t help either; and that’s just something we have to accept.

Amusingly most of the owners we’ve spoken to have said the same thing, “Just tell the banks that we are retiring / running it as a hobby / only open 2 out of 5 rooms / close during peak times and they’ll understand”… hmmm, no they don’t! I hate to break it to all of you but that kind of reasoning just ain’t cutting it when we’re asking to borrow over £250k.

The stumbling block of the moment is that we found out that fixtures, fittings and furniture are not included in the price so we are waiting to find out the ‘good will’ cost of the business; based on the last 3 years’ accounts this should be minimal however there’s no point speculating, and I guess we’ll just deal with this obstacle when it turns up (which was supposed to be yesterday).

On the ‘going forward’ side Danny has sold his flat so will be moving in with me early November; based on the size of my flat it will, if nothing else, inject a sense of urgency into proceedings.

This time we’re serious (in 3 parts)

In Second time lucky on September 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Part One – the overview

One thing you can say about Danny and I is that we don’t hang around! Less than 3 weeks after we lost Porthminster View we have had an offer accepted on another property in St Ives. It’s just down the road, has equally stunning views, and (for the sake of our finances, sanity and mortgage-ability) is significantly cheaper.

Friday and Saturday were two long days. 5 viewings in 3 locations across South Cornwall, a dinner with my folks, a night in a tent (told you we were budgeting), an offer and acceptance on a beautiful property that feels ‘just right’, and a brilliant two-handed play at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.

Exhaustion may well be the reason for not updating this blog for a while, and this was not helped by Danny dragging me round Victoria Park for a ‘run’ on Sunday (it’s in inverted commas because there wasn’t much running involved, just lots of panting and complaining on my part), followed by an evening of re-jigging business plans and cash flow projections.

Yesterday was all about getting the information we needed out of the new property (via our new BFF estate agent), calling our mortgage broker, and doing yet more sums to check we can afford to do what we want to do with the property (we can!) while laying down a 35% deposit and putting us in a much better position with the lenders.

So… all in all, there’s a fair amount going on but this time we know what we’re doing. If all goes according to plan we’ll be in uncharted territory soon enough but that would be good – that would mean we have had a ‘yes’ for the mortgage, and my ever so patient buyers will still be hanging in there ready to exchange at the drop of a hat.

Part Two – the detail

When we lost Porthminster View it was both sad and liberating; sad because we’d put so much into it, and liberating because we felt that we’d finally been given ‘permission’ to look around at other properties and, as duly reported, get back in the driving seat.

Organising the 5 viewings over the weekend was exciting, looking on all the different sites and choosing properties based on size, turnover and location gave us a real insight and understanding into what we wanted (something that, because we’d just stumbled upon Porthminster View, we hadn’t had so far). As is inevitable there were 2 or 3 that we really liked on paper, and 1 or 2 that were just making up numbers.

Seeing our ‘favourites’ on Friday was a little depressing. They’d seemed so perfect, so right.

  • Property #1 was almost too perfect, what could we do with it that hadn’t been done already? Plus the location was a little out the way and Danny and I have to live where we run the guest house, we can’t just plonk ourselves in the middle of nowhere and hope for the best, hope that even though everyone that goes into business with their partner will have relationship issues at some point, being in the middle of nowhere won’t make things worse – hah (but that’s a subject for another blog).

As an aside, this was an awesome B&B, run by awesome people who were going to move onto bigger and better things down the road… not a great start for us with the original owners taking all the repeat business.

  • Property #2 was the saddest we saw. In the middle of St Ives, with spectacular views, the house was bereft of love. It was as if someone had come in and just sucked all the joy, warmth and joie de vivre out of the place. Small, cramped, basic rooms, and sad looking en suites only looked good when you compared them to the kitchen which looked like it was being prepared to get a special mention on ‘How Clean is Your House’. It made me want to buy it, gut it, and turn it into the beautiful place it had the potential to be… but at a price tag of £550k that wasn’t going to be possible.

Dinner that night was an animated affair as Property #3 had given us something to think about, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that even that one, while so much better than the other two, was too much of a ‘project’ for an inexperienced couple, and its location and view just didn’t have the WOW factor that we were looking for.

So… you probably think we were being too fussy, asking too much? And maybe we were, but if any of you reading this have ever bought a property you know that it has to feel right, on every level, and that when you’re dealing with £hundreds of thousands you can’t afford to settle, especially when it’s for a B&B where we want to be proud to open the door to our guests.

As we walked up to Property #4 on Saturday morning our demeanour would have not looked out of place in a funeral march. Vocally reminding ourselves that we had to keep an open mind even though we thought this one was a waste of time we tried to keep each others’ spirits up as we climbed the granite steps. This wasn’t as hard as we thought as we turned to see the view provided by the raised pathway and got an instant reminder of why we’re doing all this.

Our funeral-esque attitude turned to, not very well hidden, excitement as we walked through the house (Note to self: NEVER attempt to play poker). Low expectations were quickly forgotten as each room was airier and brighter than the one before. Things on our checklist were slowly being ticked off, great views from all the bedrooms, an enormous kitchen, a beautiful garden, a bright dining room and ample storage. I was too scared to look at Danny at one point just in case he hadn’t fallen in love as fast and as hard as I had; but one glance midway through the tour was enough to reassure me that I was not alone.

Adrenaline coursing through us an hour later we phoned up and put in an offer, not a doubt in our minds… then, as was necessary, we quickly focused our attention on Property #5.

Without going into much detail about this one (as it seems quite pointless at this stage) it’s only worth me saying that this was a close second, and Watergate Bay is quite possibly the most beautiful place I ever seen in the UK.

Driving up the M5 on the way home a few hours later I noticed my phone had an answerphone message. It was Steve Cross informing us that from a remote beach in Thailand the owners of our dream house had accepted our offer.

Part Three – the irony

Yesterday morning Porthminster View’s proprietress phoned me to say that their new buyer had lied to them and the place was ours if we wanted it.

Suffice to say, we are going ahead with the new property. I guess everything really does happen for a reason.

Location based small talk

In Second time lucky on September 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Someone once told me that you can tell you’re a Londoner by the fact that you can have a one hour discussion on how to get from Wembley to Notting Hill by public transport during rush hour, yet you can’t point out Dorset on a map. When I first read that I laughed in recognition, not a shamed bone in my body, completely conforming to the stereotypical view of a Londoner.

It’s crazy to think that there are entire parts of the UK that don’t talk about tubes, that don’t care how you got to work, and that don’t spend hours of their time working out where (to the nearest mm) to stand on the platform so that you get off the train opposite the exit.

Today there is a tube strike and London has been thrown into chaos. The hundreds of thousands of people that exist below ground from 6am through to 8pm are now above it, blocking up buses, hailing taxis, and cycling around on bikes they found at the back of their garden (if they have a garden).

Danny and I have been exchanging texts all day about living a life that doesn’t involve tubes and hordes of people, and it makes me laugh to think that I’m going to be engaged in a whole new type of small talk.

Instead of talking about tubes am I going to be talking about tides?

Instead of moaning about traffic am I going to be moaning about tractors?

Instead of discussing smog am I going to be discussing sea air and rust?

So much conversation is ‘location / situation based’, it’s inevitably why we are drawn to people that have had similar experiences to us. It’s the human need to belong and in London we are pulled together by the universal subjects of rain, smog, public transport, the price of public transport, the time it takes to travel across London by public transport (you could get to Birmingham quicker!) noise at night, and new bar / restaurant openings.

What is in store for us now? What discussions are going to keep us up at night? Are we going to get fed up with the fact that we can see our (new) friends by walking 10 minutes down the road, or are we going to be popping round for tea and village gossip every day?

Whatever it is, it will certainly be different.

There are some constants though, it’s 2 more sleeps till our property weekend (we are up to 5 viewings) so it’s not so hard to guess what we’ll be talking about for the next week or so.


Here we go again

In Second time lucky on September 3, 2010 at 3:13 pm

There’s the niggly fear that if we see a property we like next weekend the whole thing will start again. We’ll put in an offer, we’ll get it accepted, and then we’re back in mortgage saga country.

Someone once said (and don’t ask me who) that ‘success is available to those who don’t realise that failure is inevitable’; a slightly depressing take on the whole affair yet probably quite fair. Contemplating, and allowing for, failure means you give up quicker, that you accept the situation, and (while we can’t change everything) don’t try to change anything. Throughout this process I have been at my most happy and most positive when I have just not considered failure an option; and it’s a little frustrating now that the idea of failure is sneaking back into my thought process.

Next Friday we are seeing viewing 3 properties all of which are really exciting for different reasons, and while I am dying to get down there I cannot shake the feeling that we are just starting the whole, painful process all over again. “Of course we’re not” the optimistic part of my head scolds, “it’s different this time – we now know what we’re doing”, “But what…” says the other part, “if we’re just never going to get the money”. It’s actually harder than it initially seems to juggle a job, a social life, a relationship AND two people in my head.

Having talked a lot about the waiting game, and moaned about not being able to do anything to affect the outcome of where we’re at, I now really am a bit stuck as to what to do for the next week or so. Danny and I have searched every site we can find in an attempt to identify more relevant properties, we’ve emailed commercial estate agents and residential ones, we’ve driven (one of) our long suffering mortgage brokers mad, we’ve discussed breakfast menus (again), we’ve listed the pros and cons of the properties we’re going to see, and now I’m trying to update this blog to keep readers interested and engaged when there’s actually nothing to say.

I feel impotent and it’s boringly familiar. Maybe I’m being taught a lesson. Patience.? Tolerance? Determination in the face of adversity? Maybe knowing that we can fail and just doing it anyway is the answer. Maybe, just maybe, there’s no such thing as failure; merely circumstances which we find ourselves in, and then it stands to reason that if there’s an ‘in’ there must be an ‘out’. All this speculation, all this to-ing and fro-ing, friends have described this to me as the ‘paralysis of analysis’.

I guess that my conclusion is “so what if we have to go through it all again?”… after all, no experience is a wasted experience, it informs who we become in the future and what action we take the next time round. All I can hope is that it’s ‘second time lucky’ and not ‘third or fourth time lucky’. François Duc de La Rochefoucauld said…

‘Hope, deceitful as it is, serves at least to lead us to the end of our lives by an agreeable route.’

… and fear is not an agreeable route, the dread, the worry – it’s just not fun and it certainly doesn’t help. So François, we’ll do it your way. I HOPE that this time it will be different.