A Yank Searches for a House in 'Brum Part 4

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My Irish Husband Tony and I moved to Birmingham in September of 2004. This past year we finally decided it was time to quit paying rent. This is a chronicle of our journey through the world of UK property buying.

Week Five: Your Chance to Vote!

What we have learned so far in this journey:

  1. The Queen owns all the land in the kingdom. That's why she's the Queen. When you buy something, you are really just renting it from Her Majesty.

  2. 'Leasehold' means you own the building, but not the land. The Queen owns the land. You are merely living on it.

  3. 'Freehold' means you own the building and the land. Freeholds are usually granted for 99 years and if you buy one that has less than 60 years left, it's bad news. You pay some small amount every six months to the company or person who really owns the freehold (probably a front for the Queen) and eventually you can own it. Or extend the lease for 990 years, which is the same as owning it. Except the Queen still owns the land.

  4. 'Shared freehold' means you're screwed.

And guess which applies to Upper Holland Road? The freehold is shared with the person who owns the upstairs and rents it out to someone with an elderly cat and possibly a red Rover. He or she hasn't bothered to fix up the front doorway or even double-glazed the windows (a minimum improvement here).

Peter the Mortgage Guy called back to tell us that lenders don't want to give mortgages like ours to shared freehold properties. Leasehold, no problem; freehold, not really a problem. Shared freehold: Houston, we've got a problem.

Nicola, who believes in fate, asked us to meet with the mortgage broker connected to her agency. Why not? We would be as honest with him as we were with Pete the Mortgage Guy.

Are you a fan of Frasier? Do you remember Donnie, the lawyer Daphne almost married? That's who would play this mortgage guy in a movie. So we met with 'Donnie' and put our cards on the table. We told him the deal Pete the Mortgage Guy got us. He searched the internet, he called on his mobile, he called on his office phone. He answered his mobile and then he answered his office phone. He printed out a deal that would cover a shared freehold, but we would have to put in some of our own dollars from the States.

We told Donnie we would have to think. We left the car parked in Sutton and got the bus to Erdington to look at furniture. We chatted and we thought and we tried out the sofa bed in the British Heart Foundation shop (no mattress; that's why it was only £149).

I said, 'Let's be creative. Buy the whole house. Maybe the upstairs owner will sell.'

Tony said, 'Let's be smart. Buy the one outside Sutton that costs less and Pete the Mortgage Guy will finance it all tomorrow.'

We called Pete and told him the deal.'Donnie' had found. He searched and called and finally threw up his hands, saying he couldn't get the same deal.

We told everybody to have a nice day and we would get back to them after we return from our trip.

We're off to Dublin and then Scotland with Tony's daughter and granddaughter and then back to Birmingham. We need to stop thinking about this for a while, and you have to do the thinking for both of us. You get to vote. Here are your choices.

In Sutton

Good news: Beautifully refurbished. Good cat views from front bay window. Huge kitchen with room for all invited Thanksgiving guests. Right in Sutton. Short walk to all buses. Old house with character. Possibility of some day buying the upstairs and refurbishing it. Big rooms (relatively speaking).

Bad news: Only three rooms (Kitchen, BR, LR). No extra room for possessions acquired on travels or visiting guests who want privacy. Tricky getting in and out of driveway. Requires using dollars to pay in pounds to share ownership with someone who can't even be bothered to double-glaze.

Outside Sutton

Good news: Beautifully refurbished. Good cat views from back conservatory. Close to the only bus that goes to my campus. Totally financed with plenty left over to pay off bills and buy furniture. Lots of gorgeous wood, including conservatory looking out on beautiful garden. Walk-in closet. TWO bedrooms.

Bad news: Small bedrooms, small living room, not a sit-down kitchen. Staircase. Conservatory would serve as the dining room and wouldn't hold all invited Thanksgiving guests. No way to improve it to raise property value.

Or... wait! Lots of properties will be advertised soon. Something else will turn up.

Vote now! We will appreciate your words of wisdom. Fingers crossed.

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