Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who's thy neighbour?

Ideally, a face that smiles in passing, a pleasant enough garden or small patch of green outside the building, a grocer, a small supermarket, a place that sells trinkets and other browse-worthy items, a shop selling eggs and salami, a stationer’s and a photocopy place should form part of your neighbourhood.

Not everyone can have all of these, while some may have more. When you shortlist a particular property, prepare the following general checklist for the neighbourhood:

- How must one reach the house from the railway station?
- How will this property change your commuting patterns? If for worse, how much worse?
- Is there a share-auto/ share-cab service from station to home?
- How far are the shops that matter? I would be more interested in shops selling general stuff like toothpaste and pest cleaners, than a jeweller’s and gift centre.
- What are the nearest landmarks? Is it necessary to include them in the new postal address?
- What options will you have for eating? Are there any restaurants close to home? What about home delivery services if you want a take-away?
- Also, is there a home delivery service for groceries?
- Make a trip to the area at night. Does the place creep you out or do you actually like how it appears in the dark? Is the darkness safe or scary?
- Is transportation available in the night hours in case you have a medical emergency?
- Is there a hospital close by? Also, is there a general practitioner in the vicinity?
- How far is your bank? Also check for the nearest ATM.
- Is there a Skypak facility to pay your bills?
- Is there a local fruits and vegetables market?
- How many families reside in the neighbourhood? What is their general profile?

You can add any other questions that occur to you. Once you’ve checked out about one kilometer or more around the chosen property, you need to check the building itself for other parameters such as:

- Who are the people living on the same floor? How willingly do they part with information?
- How well-lit is the building at night?
- Is there enough water and uninterrupted piped gas supply whenever you visit?
- Does the building look like it needs general repairs? Find out when the last repairs were done.
- What are the maintenance charges?
- What is the car/bike parking schedule like?
- Are there any incidental expenses you might be charged in lieu of repairs/ installing security?
- Does the building have a watchman or any form of protection from intruders? If not, is the house equipped with enough security?
- Are there any health/ recreational facilities in the society? What are the charges?
- Is there a baby-sitting service run by anybody in the building itself?
- Is it okay for you to run a small business, like say, take tuitions or computer classes in your home, of course with adequate permissions from the society?
- Is the managing committee okay with you carrying out certain modifications, such as widening a window or adding a wall? Find out what permissions are required for the same.
- Is there a strict anti-non-vegetarian/people of opposite sex coming to stay and visit/ partying with music and guests code?
- Does the building celebrate festivals and such? How much are you expected to contribute to the same?
- Does the building have its own handyman to carry out plumbing/electrical/carpentry repairs?
- What is the building’s policy on allowing courier boys/repair men enter the premises?

These are just general pointers; every place comes with its own challenges so you’ll have to add or deduct a few questions. But be sure to survey the place inside and out in detail – you don’t want any upsets later, trust me. Good luck!

Next: Minimum intervention and how to restore a house

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Good agents, bad agents

We all need them at some point of time. And they know it, but that doesn’t mean they take advantage of your (near total) dependence on them. In fact, a little clever work on your part can keep the agent’s work to a minimum while helping you select the right property at a good price.

But knowing who you are dealing with is not always easy, and several times, you realise you’ve been had only after the deal is struck and you’re committed. Most of the million agents we approached, both when we were looking to purchase and finally came back to renting, needed a swift kick in the seat of their pants. A tiny majority were thorough professionals, while just one gave us the confidence to broker a deal with him. Here’s how you get a good agent who will work for you:

#1: The agent must know which places to show
It works like this: you approach an agent and tell him/her your requirements. After which, if the agent is sincere and willing to work hard, he/she will consult his/her database and immediately give you about five options. Unless you’re proposing something totally outlandish, a good agent should be able to give you a good eight-ten options to choose from at the very first meeting.

#2: The agent must be willing to cover a lot of ground
Nobody expects house-hunting to be an easy, pleasurable experience, but it can be made so if your agent is well-organised and arranges site visits in direct accordance with the time at your disposal and your location of interest. I’ve seen agents not lining up the visits properly – with the result that you’re literally going around in circles and revisiting the same areas over and over, instead of finishing one locality completely before moving on the next.

Your agent must also be patient and willing to show you houses till his stock runs out. That you did not like anything showed to you does you no discredit, so don’t be afraid to state what displeased you about a certain house or if the price is too steep.

#3: The agent must never take sides
An unpleasant experience was had by one and all on two occasions early this year, when we were looking to purchase a house. We saw a house in the building that we currently live in, but the lady who owned the flat had some amount of loan she had not yet repaid. Besides, some vital documents were missing from the file she gave us through the agent, and that would have resulted in the bank not processing our application anyway. So imagine our surprise when, instead of telling the lady to give all the papers at her disposal, the agent told us off for asking for too many documents!

In the second instance, we had almost finalised a deal and went to visit the home owner, also a woman, with a cheque for the token amount. However, we realised on perusing the papers that the building did not have an Occupation Certificate (OC) despite being about thirteen years old. Now, that’s okay as long as you know the exact reason why the OC is not available. When we raised this query, the lady flared up and started giving us ‘gyaan’ about us not trusting her and whatever else. When we turned to our agent, he told us to stop fussing since most buildings don’t have an OC, which was not the point in the first place.

An agent must NEVER take sides. If I get the feeling that the agent is favouring the other party more than me, I am simply not going to deal with him, especially since he is going to charge me for his services.

#4: The agent must have a good network
Most agents work with other agents in showing houses and cracking deals. It is not always possible for one agent to cover an entire locality, so he/she enlists the help of other agents, and vice versa. However, be wary of paying to support this network: for instance, if an agent charges two brokerages for cracking a deal, ask immediately why you are being charged so. It is possible that instead of splitting his brokerage with the other agent, your agent is trying to help the other agent through your money.

#5: The agent must clearly state his terms
I find that some agents spring unpleasant surprises as the house hunt progresses. For example, he/she may insist on doing the stamp duty and registration process for you, naturally at a price. You will find that you can do the same for free if you take the trouble to find where the registrar in your locality is. You can know what to do simply by asking around there. If you do it yourself, you will only have to pay the registration fee.

The agent must also not bullshit you about the brokerage. Ask clearly what his expectations are and ensure that they are stuck to. Other terms such as taking possession of the flat, ensuring that all pending repairs are carried out before you move in and cheques cleared on time and receipts made out, are also tasks that agents must look into.

I respect agents who clearly state how much they will charge for services rendered, without being too open to negotiate.

#6: The agent must listen and work on your behalf
A good agent first starts the process by taking down all your relevant details. A good agent also calls the moment he/she hears of a good property on the market. If an agent does not know about a property on sale/ lease in the locality where he/she functions (even if that property is listed with another agent), I would not be very confident of his abilities. Reverting back to the point about an agent networking well, the agent must know within a few hours of a new property coming up for transaction, and inform you at once.

#7: The agent must not be nosy
This is tricky; agents must not be too aloof either. They are clearly told by their clients what they expect from the person they will deal with. For example, one building we saw a house in insisted on letting only vegetarians buy houses there, so our agent was obliged to ask us about our food habits. Another agent cocked an eyebrow at us when my husband said he was an Ashar and that I was a Lad; clearly he did not much like the mixed marriage aspect of the deal. That could explain the sniff.

One agent asked why I had not changed my maiden name after marriage, but he was merely trying to make conversation, I suppose. Many others looked at us quite offensively when we said we were married – probably looking for signs such as a mangalsutra or wedding rings – before telling us they would like to see our marriage certificate.

The idea is to not be offended, because the agent is only doing his job. Tell the agent to jack off if he/she crosses the line with a query that neither he nor his client has any business raising in the first place. How much money you make and what you propose to do with the house once you buy/ rent it is nobody’s business but your own.

#8: The agent must not nurse a grudge
It makes sense to enlist the help of more than one agent at a time, because that way you see a lot of places faster. However, I’ve seen some agents lose interest the moment they realise you’ve approached someone else simultaneously. I’m okay with them losing interest, but I cannot accept them not showing me enough houses after that. A good agent will also be smart enough to realise that he/she can’t have a happy ending for every person who approaches him/ her, and will not hold it against you if you approach him/her again later for another deal. If the agent seems cold or indifferent when you approach him/her a second time, don’t expect him to exert himself on your behalf.

Next: Why recce the new neighbourhood?

Money money...

A good thing to happen today was that some money due to me from the company I used to work for, was credited to my account. In the midst of hectic budgeting and keeping track of how much to pull from other accounts and how much to borrow and return, this was just great. At least a bulk of my financial fix is remedied while we struggled to get cash together for the new house.

In a week, I’ll be set to pay the deposit and relax a bit knowing the rent money is there, at least a big chunk of it.

I’m not saying all of us should wait around for windfalls, but people, if you’re making the move to a new house, please ensure all outstandings owed to you are settled now. This takes the pressure off in a big way; all of your earnings after that will only cushion you further.

In the absence of any outstanding cash inflow, however, there are still ways to manage your finances before you start signing cheques.

First, get the latest bank statements from all the accounts you have. I have three, of which just one is really active. I had no idea one of the remaining two had some cash in it, while the third used to be a salary account. Get a correct picture of how much money you have on you. You might also consider using a passive account to handle only the house money, so you don’t end up mixing those payments with daily living expenses. Ask your partner (if there is one) or a co-investor (if there is one) to do the same. Write down exactly how much money you can spare immediately.

Second, look for sources that will yield money right away. Maybe now is the time to tactfully remind that friend/ family member/ whoever else who mooched off you recently, to return your money since you need it desperately. Keep a track of how much you get through these channels.

Third, and this is a good idea if you’re purchasing your own property and need to keep cash in ‘black’, is to make a list of about twenty people who you can ask for money. This is a workable solution my husband’s boss told him to consider when we were looking to purchase. Don’t be flabbergasted when I say ‘twenty’; go ahead and put in as many names as you can. Why so many? Because you can ask for small loans which they might not refuse. You do the math: are twenty people you know well likely to refuse you a loan of Rs 5,000 (or a bit more) each? Twenty times five is 100, so that’s Rs 1,00,000 arranged just like that. If it’s a close friend, you can maximise the inflow by asking for Rs 10,000 or even more. This is a lot easier than asking big loans off about two people.

Fourth, make a list of people who will be able to float a big loan for you. A close friend who’s got the cash stashed away, a family member who wouldn’t hound you for the loan…don’t just sit there reading, make a list.

Fifth, if you’re purchasing a house, approach your bank with all the documents at your disposal to know your exact loan eligibility. Try and work out an in-principal approval (which is valid for three months) so you know how much you owe the bank as well.

Sixth, and this is not always easy to do, but try it anyway. Set aside all those clothes, utensils, furniture, sometimes electronic goods, and see if you can sell them off. Sell off all the newspapers, magazines, books nobody reads, empty glass and plastic bottles to the raddiwala. Gold jewellery you are not about to use can also help, but I would hang on to the gold just yet. It’s really your call, though. The money you raise can help in smaller payments, or simply tuck it away till you can put it to good use.

Seventh, and this is something I would do, is to try and work from home for extra cash. In fact, the money you can make from this source can help you a lot when making your monthly EMI payments to the bank, or settling a loan, or simply to pay the rent. This way, your regular job can help you live comfortably.

Eighth, get cracking.

Next: Getting a good estate agent.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pack up

The worst part of anything is always the packing up.

It’s not nice, but it’s important, so step one is: Get organised. I am a list person, so I start my step one by making a list.

#1: The can-use-later clothes
These come under the head of clothes you don’t use often, and include party wear, formal wear not immediately required, clothes to be worn about the house, extra pairs of socks, underwear and so on. Pack these items in considering the time gap between moving them to the new house and settling in.

#2: Books, CDs, cassette tapes
Generally, I find that if you’re going to use the same bookcase and CD drawer/unit in the new home too, pack your books and CDs in the same order in which you’ve put them in right now. Tie up each batch firmly with string inside newspapers. In case of CDs, it would be a good idea to throw in a silica packet in each package.

#3: Crockery, kitchen utensils
I would put the cups and dishes I use every day in a separate bag to be transported last. The rest of the stuff you don’t need immediately, pack it all in and send it on the new house for setting up first. Setting up the kitchen takes a really long time, so it is wiser to get this chore out of the way. Pack all glass items in bubble wrap; hopefully, you may have retained the boxes your glass items came in. I find that such items as tawas get scratches while transporting, so pack all pans in newspaper or plastic before you send them on.

#4: Beddings, pillow cases, pillows
Never, EVER tie up your pillows together with a string because they will get bent out of shape. Instead, place one over the other and wrap inside a single bed sheet. Better still, put all your bedding in one or two suitcases and send them along. In fact, it is wise to keep just the one bed sheet currently in use on your bed, and pack everything else. Put in a lot of mothballs in the bags containing these items.

#5: Toiletries
I have a large number of handbags, so I keep one of them aside for such items that I will use till the last moment of moving: toothbrush, dental floss, toothpaste, face wash, shampoo, soap and such. Similarly, the husband will require a separate bag for such items as shaving cream, his toothbrush, razor, and similar. This bag will also carry deodorants, cosmetics, hairpins, moisturisers, face creams, hair brushes and combs and other things you will need the moment you move in.

#6: Handbags, suitcases
This one’s easy: you just have to fit one in the other and carry the biggest one. It is a good idea to pack small items such as bedside lamps and medicines inside the smaller bags, instead of making separate bags for the same.

#7: Newspapers and magazines
If you’re done with everything else, it makes sense to get your raddiwala to the flat on possibly the second to last day of moving. That way, you will have only the day’s papers on you, and everything else is disposed off and paid for. Discard all glass bottles, deo cans and other such items if he’ll take them. Saves a lot of garbage bags too.

#8: Electronic goods
Pack these carefully, with liberal amounts of thermocol and bubble wrap and whatever else you can use to pad these items inside their boxes. It is a good idea to hire one tempo for your TV set, DVD player, refrigerator, washing machine, bed and wardrobe, instead of sending these along at separate times. Generally finish washing all your clothes at least a day before you pack the washing machine so you won’t have piles of laundry to do the moment you move in. Also, systematically empty your fridge off the perishable items starting a week from the move. On the day of moving, you should ideally have nothing in the fridge. Set up the fridge the moment you get to the new place to avoid spoiling such items as eggs, jam, vegetables and so on. Since my mum lives close by, I might dump a few items in her fridge. See if you can ask somebody to keep your stuff for you till you move.

#9: Shoes
Put your shoes in one bag after tying them together so they don’t get bent out of shape.

#10: Get going
So first draw up a list and decide where you want to start from. Be quick about it, moving day will be here before you know it.

Next: Gather your finances

Monday, October 26, 2009

Every little thing...

It’s not amusing, but it’s got to be done.

The paint in my current house is so fragile, if I sneeze in the living room, a mark shows up on the bedroom wall. The flat owner is allergic to any damages his home will incur, so it’s been a fun year keeping all furniture a good one inch away from the wall and not slamming doors when angry because the bathroom plaster is falling like snow.

When you decide to buy/ rent, make sure the owner gets the place painted if the house needs it. The charges for the same are NOT to be adjusted against your rent. In fact, any repairs the owner carries out, if you’re renting the house, are to be seen as enhancing the value of his/her house and are not a concession to you. If purchasing, you will naturally do the painting yourself.

When examining the house, check if all faucets, door knobs, latches, commode flush are in working condition. This is very important in case you’re renting, so point out any ill-functioning taps and appliances after a thorough check. The owner must get these repaired before you move in, and after you take possession. I actually took photographs of the house before moving in, compiled a list of minor damages here and there which the owner had not addressed, and got the list signed from him. Keep yourself safe on all counts; the owner must not have a window of opportunity to carry out repairs against any damages you might have caused from the deposit money you paid up.

Also, put the terms for recovering your deposit in the clearest language in your agreement. Generally, the owner hands over the deposit after a last inspection of the house. Agree that the house keys and deposit money will be exchanged on the same day.

What you will have to check for:
- Leakages in external/ internal walls.
- If the walls are too defaced to put up curtain rods, paintings and such.
- If the fans, lights, hot water geysers, intercom point are installed and in working condition.
- If door handles, knobs, latches have come unstuck/ are jammed.
- If there are plug points for your washing machine, refrigerator. These require special points, you cannot plug these appliances into your normal ones.
- If there is an inlet for a water filter. Also check for inlet and outlet for your washing machine.
- If there is a TV cable connection already provided.
- What the arrangement for gas supply to the kitchen is.
- If there is space to hang mirrors, bathroom cabinet/ shelf in the bathroom.
- If the window grilles, door shutters are in good working condition, and how secure the house is from burglaries/ forced entry.
- If there is enough storage space for kitchen utensils. Also check for additional storage space in the form of lofts.
- If there are cockroach infestations anywhere in the house. Look for these under kitchen sinks, unused room corners, kitchen cabinets and other places affording breeding sites.
- If there are cleaning ladies frequenting other flats in the building.

Start with these basics and you might discover many other things you need to look at while you’re still checking. Once these are done, you can start shifting your furniture. Leave actual beautification for the last – putting up plants, setting up planter boxes, wall hangings and wind chimes, wall paintings and flower vases – but get your house thoroughly cleaned, sprayed for pests, and painted before you start moving in.

Do write in if you have any tips to share.

Next: Packing for the move.

This is it!

You’ll know you want a house the moment you walk into it.

Every house, like people, has a personality. Of course you knew that, but keep it in mind when making the final choice. Some houses I’ve been to see were friendly in a superficial kind of way (the place was roomy but they had almost no running water, the paint was scraped off by some vindictive soul), some were grumpy and uncommunicative, some were ugly but habitable, some were rejected through no fault of their own because the building was embroiled in some kind of dispute.

Whether buying a house or renting one, be sure you like not just the house but also its surrounds. Even if it's just a rental place you will move out of a year later, make sure its personality matches yours. No, I don’t mean it should like chocolate milk shakes and walks on the beach. Try and match the house in front of you with the house in your head. The closer the match, the closer you are to making a wise choice.

When we were looking for houses, we rejected many more houses than we shortlisted, and that’s normal. We saw the whole works – dump holes, jazzy painted spaces, houses hemmed in from all sides by other buildings, a leaky ceiling – and drove several agents up the wall by demanding to see more. Some houses were great but I vetoed them for a variety of reasons – a neighbourhood comprising people of just one community, a series of slums leading to the main building, improper approach roads, a garbage dumpster right in front of the building entrance, building secretaries nosy beyond all reason. But these reasons should not necessarily stop you. You might have your own set of no-nos. However huge the temptation, do NOT compromise on factors that you are fundamentally against.

For instance, I would NEVER take up a house in, say, a building full of senior citizens or an all-Gujarati, all-Marathi, all-something else neighbourhood. I would also not be interested in a house that is now inside a tower block made by rehabilitating a chawl. Do not show me houses where the building is crumbling before my eyes. I am also not looking at places that are in the middle of nothing, and I have to trek one kilometer just to buy a loaf of bread.

Having said that, it is also not wise to reject something on first appearances alone, especially if you are looking to purchase. Find out the future of a particular house. For instance, buildings close to such important sites as the metro rail will see a staggering upswing in prices in the future. Also look to invest in a house that is liable for redevelopment, since you will get a bigger house courtesy the builder. Look for such fundamentals as grocery shops, restaurants and chemists near the building you select.

Next, the building itself. Once you’ve decided to purchase/ rent a property, insist on meeting the building secretary or chairman. Be friendly, not flattering. Tell him/her that you would move in soon and point out why you chose this particular house. Before asking him/her details about the building, slip in a request that you will require an NOC to submit at the registrar’s. Before he/she asks, tell them to list out the documents he/she would require from your end to prove your credentials. The most basic ones they will need are marriage certificates, passport copies and PAN card copies. Also keep aside extra photographs, ration card copies and once prepared, a copy of the agreement between yourself and the present owner of the house.

If you’re purchasing, find out such things as whether the building is involved in any legal wrangles, if the water connections perform as promised, if there are power outages, if the neighbourhood is friendly. These might matter even when you’re renting a place, so make enquiries before committing yourself.

Also, find out from at least three different sources, the correct market rate of the property. This applies also to rental homes. Some agents and homeowners quote funny prices, so find out what the deal is before you laugh. Property sites on the internet can help with this, if you search each area diligently.

When you take possession of the house keys, talk to the neighbours. In fact, it is a good idea to sometimes talk to the neighbours before you finalise a deal. You will know what to expect from the person next door and you might get an accurate assessment of your purchase.

As for me, I butt into the house-hunting process only twice: first to veto or shortlist a property, and next, when it is time to move in. I understand nothing of the monetary part of the deal, so the husband handles that. He is not allowed a say in the other things. If you’re looking with a partner, decide which specific parts of the process either of you will handle. If single, all the best and have fun.

Next: What to really look for in a house.

Token love

Well, so the house is final.

First thing you have to do is pay the token amount. This is an exercise purely to get the flat owner leasing out his flat to you, to shut up and stop dropping hints about “other buyers” queuing up to get the house you have already finalised. After several rounds of discussion. I have known some people to go to extreme lengths merely to snooter the prospective buyer – in the hope that the more desperate the buyer, the more the eventual price. There was once a home owner who made a deal with another party after accepting the token amount.

So first things first. The moment the token amount is given, insist on a receipt mentioning all the relevant details. Tell the home owner/ agent clearly that you will require subsequent receipts for monthly rents paid, the deposit sum and any other compensation from your end. After they have meekly agreed, do a dance to rub their faces in it.

I trekked to the agents’ today to give the token amount for the new house. There was a form to sign and I had to put down my father’s home address and the husband’s home address (“for police procedures, heh heh heh” said the agent) and I traipsed out with the knowledge that the deal is finally through. Of course, the husband put the spanner in the works by asking me a) Why I had paid the token amount (when it had been discussed yesterday that we were going to) and b) What is the guarantee that the money will not be misused?

After issuing dire threats and ordering him off my phone, I fumed all the way home and cooled down only much later. But let me tell you this: gauge your agent, if there is one. After you decide you trust him, that you like his face and the fragrance of his deodorant, try and determine how well his business his doing. Also keep an ear open for whether he listens to you. For instance, one of the agents we hired was such a prat, he kept showing us fully furnished homes after we specifically told him we wanted empty houses, and then insisted that we take up a shady-looking accommodation that nobody seemed to want.

Second, your agent is not likely to run off with your money unless he is a complete berk and if you have every transaction in writing and signed. Do not be taken in with promises of “Pay now, we’ll issue all the receipts together.” Insist on the receipt at the time of handing over your money. Keep all your receipts carefully and check for any spelling errors of your name; this might complicate matters somewhat if your HR gives you house rent allowance and finds your name spelled wrongly.

Third, assess how much cash you have in paper form at home, and how much you have in the bank. The general rule of thumb is that you make an agreement for at least 11 months, so multiply the monthly rent you agreed on by 11. Add the deposit money (refundable) to this amount. To this, add such sums as stamp duty and registration charges, brokerage for the agent (generally equivalent to two rents, but some charge just one rent if they know the party), and items of immediate concern that you might have to pay for, such as fixing some furniture or getting some minor repairs done if the owner does not do them. Try and insist on the owner carrying out any repairs – after all, whatever they do to make the house as habitable as possible is an investment in their own home and is not to be construed as a special favour on you, the licensee.

However, before you make noughts and crosses on the walls to mark the spot where your kitchen cabinet goes or where the bedroom mirror affixes itself, ask your owner if it is possible to punch holes in the walls if you promise to restore the house before you leave. Some owners are notoriously touchy about people even touching their walls, so any hole-punching is out of the question. Ask me; I spent all my eleven months in the present house tiptoeing about not touching anything.

Once you’ve set aside your money, try and put a bulk of the amount in a bank account that is not as frequently used as maybe the account that has an ATM card. This way, you know you are not defaulting on your monthly rent payments and you don’t have to constantly juggle between the house money and cash for daily living. Having learnt the hard way, I will now use a hitherto neglected account for the rent money and keep my HDFC one for daily expenses.

Tomorrow, I am following up on the piped gas connection with the agent. I expect to get the receipt after I have made a trip to the bank to track an extra payment I made to my current homeowner (yeah, that happens too). Let’s talk about selecting the right location for your house tomorrow, which I now realise should have been topic number one. Do write in if you have a tip to share or a point to make.

Before I begin

This blog is meant as a place for education and interaction, between home owners and licensors, licensees and other people vaguely interested in the business of setting up home.

Ah, who am I kidding, it's a place to help me let off some steam and write down the things that strike me as rude to say to somebody's face but which I can put down here because, as every idiot knows, setting up house is a harrowing business which necessitates letting off some steam.

So my husband and I are in the process of moving a second time. The lease on the current flat goes poof on November 15, and we've homed in on a dear little house which comes with a terrace, thus opening up a whole lot of possibilities involving pottering about with spades and plants. Also, I love the process of moving in. Last time was fun, and though most parties will not admit it, I did it ALONE.

I will largely do it alone this time, too. Anything and everything related to the move will be found here, right from the faffing one must do at the agents' to the slow disintegration of your most comfortable pair of slippers as you trek the neighbourhood seeing dreary and delightful homes, to the process itself, right down to the pottering about with spades and plants. Suggestions and tips are most welcome, because as much as I brag about it, I have done this just once.