Categories
Computer Games

EGX 2019

Moving house is tomorrow, so lets do this instead.

Last weekend I went to EGX 2019. I’ve been once before, on a day-pass in 2011, where I was unimpressed by the queue to play time ratios, and the lack of anything to do that didn’t involve queuing for things.

This time I went for the full experience, Thursday through Sunday, nearby hotel. I arrived Thursday afternoon, when it had been open for a few hours already. I hadn’t gone in with any major plans. I wanted to see the latest on Cyberpunk 2077, I’m interested in Death Stranding and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and I was booked for both the Friday & Saturday D&D sessions with Outside Xbox/Xtra.

Thursday was mostly wandering around getting my bearings. The ExCeL centre is huge, and EGX did well to make it both manageable and navigable. Some places could have done with better signage.

Thursday Encounters

Cash ‘n Guns

Cash & Guns with Dicebreaker

(Watched, Tabletop) Cash ‘n Guns is a board game for 4-8 people, and I watched Dicebreaker play it – you can watch the video of that on youtube. I like the mechanics – you could reskin it fairly easily to not involve pointing foam guns at each other, but the physicality plays in to the game really well. From watching, it’s not a game I’d play with strangers – I can all too easily see a version of this with an interplay of injokes and noodle incidents on one side and a couple of players smiling slightly, and there are some people I would never play this with due to griefing concerns, but it does seem like a lot of fun if you’ve got the right group for it.

MediEvil Remake

(Played, PS4) I missed the original MediEvil on PS, so this was my first introduction to the game. Wikipedia summarises the reviews of this as:

MediEvil received mixed reviews. General praise was directed at the game for its story and visuals, which were considered to be faithful to the original MediEvil. General criticism was directed at some aspects of the game’s gameplay, which was perceived to be outdated

MediEvil (2019 video game) – Wikipedia – 2019-10-27

And… yeah. Felt very much like playing an early 90s 3rd person action game, but with nicer graphics and high-res textures. Complete with a mix of rapid-reaction platforming sections with dodgy cameras and no clue as to what you should be doing. A new game in this series might be interesting, but this remake was faithful enough to be a good reminder of why we don’t do it like this any more.

Control

(Played, PS4) Control is a Remedy game, and a direct line from Max Payne through Alan Wake (and apparently Quantum Break, though I didn’t play that). You start off the game as a mysterious person with a past, and the player has no idea what the fuck is going on. Soon, some things are explained, which does not make anything better.

In this case, the background is a world where iconic objects – the service pistol as a concept, the Red Hotline from the cold war – become objects of power which can be bound and wielded.

Control is a well-executed shooty game with a strong narrative element, told in Remedy’s distinctive style of live action video, cut scenes and environmentals. Live Action video in a game still has the uncanny mountain problem it’s had since FMV games in the 90s, but it’s not distracting in context.

The half-hour I spent on it at EGX convinced me to abandon my hatred for the Epic Game Store long enough to buy it there, and the several hours since have validated my position.

Friday

Friday I went in with a Plan. Primarily, to get in early enough to get to see the Cyberpunk 2077 demo. Cyberpunk 2077 was probably the best managed queue system I saw at EGX, although not without problems in itself. You would queue for a ticket that would be for a certain time, and then when your time popped, you headed back to the booth to see the show. This did mean if you didn’t get to the booth in time to get a ticket you couldn’t get in that day, but crucially did not mean you were waiting in a massive queue unable to do anything else, which only moved once an hour.

I arrived at EGX at 9:30, thinking I’d be early for the “Early Bird” 10am opening, only to find a queue of hundreds in front of me. Eventually and with purpose, I headed to the Cyberpunk stall and queued for a ticket, eventually slightly surprised to find I was early enough to snag one for the first show at 11am. The rest of the day was watching Live shows or wandering around the Indie stalls having taken one look at the queues for the other stuff and just going “Nope”. I was interested in the Avengers demo, but it was a long queue that only moved every 25-30 minutes as the entire set of players rotated. About halfway along was a sign saying “Waiting time is about 2 hours from this point” and I just… didn’t. Doom Eternal had the same problem.

A couple of hours in, that plan was absolutely scuppered by running into my best mate from school, who I hadn’t seen in about 25 years. So I spent the rest of the day wandering around with James, which increased the whole experience several-fold.

The Oxventure Begins

That evening I went to see the Oxventure, a D&D live game run by Dicebreaker’s Johnny Chiodini, and played by the crew of Outside Xbox & Outside Xtra. (Both OXs, Dicebreaker, Eurogamer & EGX are owned by Gamer Network, which in turn is owned by ReedPOP, which in its own turn is owned by RELX, who I used to be employed by as part of their subsidiary company Elsevier. If that sounds like a stretched connection, it really is).

Oxventure is a really good example of comedy D&D adventures run to the narrative within the rules. They’re really fun to watch, especially as the players rise from newbies to actually invested players over the games. You can see the rest of the adventures again on Youtube, and I recommend them highly.

Games Of Friday

Cyberpunk 2077

Queues at the Cyberpunk booth
Queuing for the Cyberpunk booth

(Watched, XBox One)

This year’s Annual Hour Of Cyberpunk Gameplay was a “Prove your worth” RPG quest to convince an ally to give you the next step on your main quest. It consisted of going into a new area where you’re not really welcome, meeting a contact who slowly walks you to a contact who lets you through a door to meet a contact who slowly walks you to his office so he can give you a quest to go to another location and stealth/murder your way to the objective.

Queueing to get a wristband that meant I could queue to get into a presentation to watch someone else play a computer game seemed like to apt a metaphor, I guess.

The gameplay looks like a lot of fun. In the demo, they switched between a couple of builds and redid bits of the level (Not possible in the game, but mocked up for the demo) as either a stealth or strength based character.

I liked the gameplay loop a lot, the layout did seem to be a lot more “This is your playspace, go forth” rather than “Pick a road, Stealth or Murder”, which makes me hope that you can play the game with a build you find interesting rather than hyperspecialisation or bust.

Less positive were the mentioned chain of zero-worth NPCs to get to the quest. In game this might feel like a slow infiltration of layers of a secret organisation, but watching just didn’t feel like a good use of time.

I’m still a bit worried about the ability to build yourself into a shit place, but we’ll see how that works out.

I find it really strange that a game so much about impressions and how you look to fit in has gone entirely first person, too.

Epilogue Simulator

Epilogue Simulator protagonist, alongside a thing that will enable a bit of your… items menu? Maybe?

(Played, PC) Epilogue Simulator is the weirdest game I saw at EGX, which is not a low bar to clear. It starts in the aftermath of a something, and you start with nothing. As you begin, you pick up movement keys to let you go in different directions, and keys that bring up the beginnings of menus that mention spells and items.

The world is corrupted, and your spells are corrupted. There’s one that turns the world into a glitched-out hellscape, and another that overlays a soundscape of atonal noise. Other spells can reverse some of these, but not all.

A great little piece of weirdness, and one I look forward to exploring.

Bird of Passage

(Played, PC) You are some kind of ghost in Tokyo. You get into taxis, and you talk to the drivers though a conversation system. Then you get out of taxis. Eventually you… work out what you are?

A strange and meditative game, reminds me a lot of Glitchhikers from the opposite direction. I’d like to play more of this too.

DnDice

Not a game, but a dice store. They sell some beautiful dice, including this £400 Damascus Steel set. I bought some dice. They are blue.

Some dice. They are blue.

Beyond A Steel Sky

(Played, PC) Beneath a Steel Sky was one of my favourite graphic adventure games. It combined a well-realised setting with a great script, some well written jokes and a low level of stupid puzzles.

The sequel looks great – it’s in the same 3D engine as the newer Broken Sword game, and the 15 minute demo I played had some decent jokes, some nice puzzles, and some good gameplay. I’m not in love with the new art style, but it’s not a deal-breaker, and I fully intend to check this out.

Hardware

A tripped out gaming PC
A tripped out gaming PC at EGX

Corsair, Overclockers, Asus and various other hardware providers were there in abundance, a constant reminder that my current PC build is no longer top of the tree, nor even very high up it. I still don’t need a neon flashing case with plasma screens and dioramas inside. But I could do with an upgrade. However, this week we move house. Then we look at future things.

Nuts

(Played, PC) Nuts is a game about finding squirrel hoards. You set up cameras, watch their overnight recordings, then reposition the cameras to try to work out where the squirrels are going. It’s fun, frustration, and the colours are weird.

Legends of Runeterra

(Played, PC) What happens to your game when the Sauronic Eye of popular consciousness is drifting? League of Legends is a game that capitalised good and hard on the lane-based game craze inspired by the Defence of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, but recently their dev team announced nine new games based on the same universe. This is the first to be released, a collectable card game!

It reminds me a lot of Hearthstone. Like, a lot a lot. The dynamic cards, the escalating mana system, the character barks, the flow, the art style.

It’s not a bad game, really. It’s hearthstone, but with an alternating turns system that puts one player on the offensive and one on the defensive each turn. It’s well-produced and crafted, but I’m not sure there’s any reason for it to exist.

It’s also weird that the second product out of a company that came out of a Warcraft Mod is so clearly going directly after a different Blizzard game.

DOTA Underlords

(Played, PC) What happens to your game when the Sauronic Eye of popular consciousness is drifting? DOTA2 is a game that capitalised good and hard on the lane-based game craze inspired by the Defence of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, but recently their dev team announced a new game based on the same universe. This is it, a grid-based strategy game!

The new game in the DOTA2 universe coming out of a mod for DOTA2 feels comforting. Valve have once again taken a mod for one of their existing games and pumped money into it and called it a new game, as Counterstrike & Team Fortress had before, and in an age where Valve games are rare – and Artifact was a dud – it’s good to see.

I have no idea if this game is any good or not. The lore is baroque and confusing, the creature stats don’t appear to mean what they say, and winning seems both consistent and arbitrary. From the same point, me and my colleague testing this at the time had vastly different experiences. I put some creatures out and wiped the floor with my CPU opponents until I hit a wall. At the point I hit the wall I had no idea why my team were suddenly dying, and I didn’t have the money to switch anyone out. So we just kept dying, because you gain money by winning, and I wasn’t.

James had roughly the same experience, but earlier in the level progression.

Unto The End

(Watched, PC) It looks like this, and plays like this too:

Unto The End

Deathtrap Dungeon

(Watched, PC) Deathtrap Dungeon is a Fighting Fantasy Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book by Ian Livingstone, and one of the most popular ones. It was made into an awful 1994 3D Action Game, but now is coming out as an “Interactive Storybook”

Basically, it’s Eddie Marsan performing the book at you, while you choose the next path. It’s really well performed from the videos I saw. As a “The pictures are better on radio” kind of guy, I’m not entirely sure about it, but with any luck it’ll bring these fun experiences to a new audience, and I look forward to giving it a go.

Everspace 2

(Played, PC) If you would like to get into a space-ship and fly around shooting things, you miss X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, Wing Commander and that kind of game, and you’d like something to tide you over until Star Citizen disappoints you, Everspace 2 works, it’s a lot of fun already, and it’s up on Kickstarter now.

Warcraft III

(Played, PC) No, not the remake. Towards the end of the day we played 2 player deathmatch of the original WC3 in the retro games area. I lost, but it was a lot of fun. In light of recent developments, I’m not sure I can recommend Blizzard right now, but if you’ve already got it, it’s worth a replay.

Saturday

By Saturday I was a little burned out. I overslept a bit, so missed the first set of tickets for Death Stranding & Final Fantasy VII, then went in to look around for new things.

Games of Saturday

Super Mario Maker 2

Played some co-op levels with a stranger. It was interesting, but while the gameplay loop of trad Mario games is a carefully crafted thing of perfection, it goes alongside some beautifully crafted level design. This had the mechanics, but some truly horrible level design (and these were pre-downloaded levels by Nintendo)

A long queue for Doom Eternal
Queue Eternal More Like!!!!!

Doom Eternal

I have a policy. If I stand in line for half an hour without moving, I leave. Because by the time I get to the front of your queue I’m going to be dead.

Death Standing / Final Fantasy VII

By Saturday, Square Enix had abandoned physical queues altogether, and in order to get into presentations / demos for either of them, you had to go for tickets. Tickets were released on the PlayStation Experience app at 9am for the morning sessions, and 1pm for the afternoon sessions. I missed the first window (I was asleep), and by the time I got to the app in the afternoon all the tickets were booked.

That you had to use the app was signposted nowhere.

Epilogue

At that point on Saturday Afternoon the place was heaving and everything I hadn’t seen had queues. I went to find a couple of presentations, but due to audio issues and timings these didn’t work either. This set of disappointments was enough to make me nope-out, so I spent the afternoon writing up notes for an RPG campaign, and then went back for the second OxVenture panel, which was – again – great.

Doing this again, I think, would be better with a set of friends to hang out with – the afternoon I ran into James and we went around discussing things was great – rather than on my own, and probably maximise Thursday for the big popular things if I can.

Queuing up for 50 people to see a half hour demo on screen of a thing, especially when the event has thousand people cinemas where this kind of thing could scale far better, is a wasted opportunity.

Timeslot based experiences like Cyberpunk work far better, because you can do things while you’re waiting, but online tickets seem just to be a disappointment engine. Also I wonder how many people missed their appointment.

So not perfect, but I saw a lot of games I’m interested in for the future. We’ll see about next year.

By Saturday I was thoroughly tagged.
Categories
Personal

How to buy a house

This is not a comprehensive or legal guide, and some of the aspects of this are just generally not a good idea. This is how we did it, though:

1: Raising a Deposit or, Tragic Luck

A couple of years ago, my last remaining grandparent died. As a result of this, I could afford a deposit.

That’s the single biggest thing that propelled this process. I’m an IT worker on significantly above the UK average wage, my partner is also employed, and without this kick-start we would be renting for the rest of our lives no question. “Relief” for first time buyers saved us ~£5k on a £70,000 investment. Sure, the numbers would be a lot different if we weren’t buying in one of the most expensive areas of the country (Oxford is, on a house-price to average-salary ratio, more expensive than London, though that’s partially due to demographics); but people have to live here too.

2: Very Large Nets or, House Hunting

So June happened, and with it a large amount of money arrived. I paid off all debts, set a budget for Shiny Things from it, spent that, and realised that if I didn’t start this house-buying process now, I was going to gradually chip away at my inheritance on a “well, it’s only” and “I’ll put it back in next month” basis until I’d fucked everything up.

Just down the road from us was a brand new development – rare in Oxford, whose surrounding Green Belt constricts new housing development a lot of the time – called Barton Park, announced to great fanfare as having 40% affordable housing. All of that, however, appears to have been allocated to Oxford’s massively underserved Social Housing system, which I entirely support as a concept, but in this case means that none of the affordable housing is actually buy-able, and the non-affordable housing is… well, not affordable. 3 bedroom places were going from £580,000. My budget was – with a 60k deposit and a rough and ready mortgage calculation – £350,000. (I could have gone higher, but I wanted to keep monthly rates down. Plus every year I’ve not been able to do this is a year I’ve put over £12,000 into a landlord’s pocket instead of a house, and correspondingly reduced the time I can spend paying off a mortgage before I – hah – retire. I’m 38).

So, budget set, area set (within commute distance for my partner’s work. I’m remote, so it matters less to me), I hit my preferred house-hunting tool, Nestopia. There wasn’t much there. Apparently the housing market goes quiet between June and August – a fact that boggles my mind – but we had a couple of available options.

The first was a home that had been until quiet recently the Forever Home of an elderly couple for most of last century. Small rooms, a desperate need for redecorating and dodgy wiring aside, it had a nice garden and an external garage. It was going to take a certain amount of fixing up, but it was a nice option. We dithered for a bit, and a buy-to-let landlord scooped it.

The second place we saw was an end of terrace 3 bedroom with good transport links, an even nicer garden, a less nice but still great shed, decent sized rooms fairly recently redecorated. The floorboards felt a bit weird, and the religious iconography in every room was certainly a design choice, but it felt like a nice place. We were viewing it at the same time as another mid-30s couple, and as we left we decided it was worth a punt.

3: The Punt or, An Offer They Certainly Could Refuse

I told the seller’s Estate Agent, and they recommended a third party insurance broker. I booked an appointment with her the following morning, and we went though various options and what the next steps were. She put all our data into her system, and it spat out several options on mortgages, and I selected one based on her recommendation and terms. I could have done a lot of this online, but the deals I could get myself weren’t anywhere near as good as the broker’s. There are very few companies who come out of this process without complaint, but our mortgage brokers are one of them, they’ve been great though the rest of this torturous process. Let me know if you’re looking nearby, and I’ll put you in touch.

Mortgage offer in hand, I went back to the Estate Agents and put in an offer at the asking price. I probably could have gone slightly lower, but the other couple did that, and our offer was accepted.

(This is the point where I found out who the mortgage was with – it didn’t really matter as much as the numbers to me – and found it was a company whose Mortgage Application Tracking software I was working on 15 years ago, and nearly got fired for complaining about in a blog post where I (stupidly) didn’t redact my employer’s name)

That was June 21st, and was the last time we’d be in that house until October.

4: Due Process or, Solicitation or Bust.

Here’s a mistake we made: After the excellent advice of the Mortgage Advisor I forgot the central rule of dealing with Estate Agents which is: They work for the Vendor. When they suggested a Conveyancer I said “Yes, put them in touch with me”. Shortly afterwards I got a bill for searches and some other documentation saying “Thank you for retaining us”. When I asked on whose instruction they were working on, they said “Your estate agent”. Then their quote got the Stamp Duty wrong by ten grand. Then they said they couldn’t represent me because the vendors were also with them, but they would transfer me to their Nottingham office because “It’s technically another law firm”.

Reader: I fired them.

I took a couple more recommendations, and then went with the time honoured tradition of picking the one which actually answered and got back to me within a week. They did… fine, I guess. They’re not getting named here, because I’m going to whinge about them later.

They started doing searches for things like flood plain information, building land rights, sorting out contracts, that kind of thing. I wound up their clockwork with some starting cash, and they skittered away like a tin soldier.

That was 25th June.

5: Not-So-Easi-Form or, It’s Coming From Inside The Walls

Between 1920 and 1960, but mostly in the years following the World Wars, it became necessary to put up houses cheap and fast, thereby unticking the classic checkbox “good” of that trilogy. Laing came up with a thing called “Easi-Form”, where the foundations and walls are (as I understand it) cast in place with rebar for reinforcement. This is great, but that was ~70 years ago and there are a few cracks in the walls where it’s settled over the years, and sometimes those cracks leave the rebar open to the elements, at which point it rusts, dissolves and becomes less reinforcement, more liability.

The above took me around 4 months to learn. Here’s why:

Because the floorboards felt slightly weird – as mentioned above – when we went for the building report we got a full “Homeowners Report” instead of the basic level. This report is everything you ever wished to know about a place you were moving into, from which bits have been bodged with plaster and hope, through to what the walls are made out of and what’s going to need to be fixed in the next few years. Our report came back slightly before the mortgage one did, which is why we weren’t surprised when the mortgage company’s structural engineer’s report also came back – in part – with “this is a non-standard build, I’m not qualified to say if it’ll stand upright for the length of the mortgage”, which is when I learnt about Easi-Form.

At which point we needed to hire a Structural Engineer who could give a professional opinion on Easi-Form structures, which proved difficult. Every Structural Engineer our original building inspectors knew were either busy, skiing over the summer, or not willing to stake their liability insurance no-claims on Easi-Form. Eventually we found one, sent out another pile of money, and got back a report saying “Seems fine”, which took a few weeks, by which point it’s August 13th.

Then we sent it on to the mortgage company, who took a couple of weeks, and said “Why is only one of your names on this? There are two of you.” Which had been true of every report so far, but we got the Structural Engineer to add my partner’s name to it anyway, and sent it back. It’s September now.

A couple of weeks later, the mortgage company’s structural engineers came back and said “… we need more specifics about where it is and isn’t fine, and how much it might cost”.

The Structural Engineers bumped this up the chain until it got to the guy whose name is on the masthead, who added a basic cost for refacing all the walls in the next ten years or so and sent it back to us, and I sent it to the mortgage company, who sent it to their structural engineers.

Who, after a couple of weeks, came back with “Seems fine”.

By this point, it’s September 24th.

7: The Cult in Arboriculturalism or, Attack of the killer trees

While this is going on, the mortgage valuation report also came back with a request that we get an Arboriculturist to examine the various trees around the property to which, right, fine. It turns out Structural Engineers and Arboriculturists take their holidays at the same time, and finding a single one in Oxfordshire willing to look at a happy apple tree in the back garden and some distressed lime trees in the neighbour’s was more complicated than we really needed. Eventually I sent an email to everyone within 50 miles on the Arboriculturist Association website – the slightly easier to spell trees.org.uk – and got a reply and, eventually, a report.

That one was £540.

It said “Seems fine”.

*sigh*

8: Horse Dentistry or, A Gift Freely Given

Because I’d not had the money in my account for very long, and it had appeared very suddenly, I of course had to go through proof this wasn’t money laundering. The Conveyancers sent – by post, how quaint – a request for my parents to sign effectively an affidavit that they didn’t expect a financial return on the money and it was a gift. Sadly the bit of paper my parents received was to prove someone *else’s* financial situation.

Second time lucky, the Conveyancers sent the right letter next day.

9: Contractual Obligations, or An Avalanche of Paperwork

I have so many bits of paper at this point. Most of them in both PDF and wood-pulp form. I have reports of the flooding in the area (Seems fine), the original land reservations and boundaries (Seems fine), reports on freehold limitations (an Oxford College has Views on what we do with the externalities of our property, but that’s pretty normal for Oxford) and potential forced-purchase reservations (If Churchill Hospital needs to expand, it can go through us). I have Land Registry forms, mortgage insurance forms, life insurance forms, loss of income insurance forms.

The Estate Agents start to worry. Someone up the chain is trying to leave the country and needs to get their affairs sorted before October 14th (This is, I later learn, a Brexit thing). They might pull out if we don’t get this sorted, and suddenly everything shifts into high gear.

10: Numerically Conflicted or, Your Exchange Service Has Crashed

The Conveyancers and the mortgage company work out their differences, and we get the contract packs in order. They send out the documents on Monday to arrive Tuesday, be signed and returned Wednesday, ready for checking and Exchange on Friday. Tuesday arrives and the documents don’t. Post to this house has never worked especially reliably, which is why I suggest they send me the documents to print out and sign. They say no, it has to be paper. Okay then. The Estate Agents phone me every couple of hours to see if the post has been yet. It has not.

Wednesday dawns, and the post arrives mid-morning. The document pack isn’t in it. The Estate Agents are slowly turning purple, which is actually pretty on-brand for them, and remembering the events of Horse Dentistry above – though it was nearly three months prior – I phoned to ask exactly what address they’d sent it to, betting dollars to donuts they’d sent it to the new flat.

Nope. They’d invented a new address out of the house number of our destination with the street and postcode for our current place. I called upon my Boy Scout Training of ringing complete strangers doorbells and asking them for things (the 90s were a hell of a time) and rescued the documents complete with “Not At This Address” label ready to be given back to the postman.

This is the point I also realised that the bottom of my conveyancers’ emails had changed, advertising their brand new office with a brand new address. This, I realised, may have an effect on where I should send the damn documents. So I phoned their reception and asked, and got a brand new address I’d never seen before as the contact address.

We got them signed and witnessed thanks to a nearby friend, Kay, who helped at short notice, then I got them to the Actual Post Office and sent them posted – registered, signed for, next day or I’ll flay you alive service.

I also transferred 10% of the total cost of the house – just over half my deposit – by tapping at my phone for a bit, because the future is terrifying occasionally.

The next day the Estate Agents stopped asking if the documents had arrived with us, and instead phoned every hour to see if our Conveyancers had. They were also phoning the Conveyancers every hour. And the mortgage broker. And I assume – and kind of hope – each other. Eventually the conveyancers admitted that yes, they had arrived.

Also arriving that day: The second set of documents the conveyancers had now sent to the right address.

Friday they started phoning and telling me that the conveyancers hadn’t validated them yet! They were very insistent that this could take ages, and one single mistake could invalidate this whole process and give us no time to exchange or complete! THIS WAS A DISASTER.

We completed on Friday. It was fine.

11: Domino Rally or, Running In The Shadows

We were, as first-time buyers, at the bottom of a chain. At the top was someone trying to just liquidise their assets who was, as mentioned, in a tearing rush. In between was a series of people who needed to, in sequence, get the stuff out of their old house, hand over the keys, receive the money for their old house and then pay for the new house. A lot of this happens on trust – we’re already contracted to do this – but with the twitchy guy at the top of the chain the person managing the chain was in turn very twitchy. During the week between Exchange and Completion everything went very quiet as the conveyancers shuffled paperwork in the background.

I transferred the rest of the deposit, asked if I needed to do anything else (“No”, they said) then popped the remains of the inheritance into a savings account (by, again, tapping on my phone. This time sitting by the Thames). This was also a mistake.

Friday, 16:45, I got an email from the conveyancers titled “COMPLETION STATEMENT SENT” with a bill of nearly £4,000, which needed to be paid in cleared funds before completion could happen on Monday.

I had forgotten about the Conveyancer’s fees and also Stamp Duty (Which doesn’t apply to First Time Buyers for the first £300,000 of your purchase, but did for the remaining £50k). Because my savings account is a “Next working day” for transfers, I was mildly screwed. Eventually I took out an instant £5k loan though Monzo, used it to pay the fees, and then paid it back in full from my savings account on Monday.

12: Our House or, Our Castle and Our Keep

Monday was still tense. Nationwide took their time releasing the funds, and the Estate Agents were on their anxiety symptoms again at the point where we both got a message at the same time.

In fact, the Agent was on the phone to me to see if I had a better number for the Conveyancers when he got a call on the other line which he thought might be them. Putting me on hold, he answered them and then after a short while phoned me on another line (while I was still on hold) to tell me the good news.

It was a confusing day.

Tea. Yesterday.

I finished up my meetings for the day, and then me and fyr took the bus to the Estate Agents to pick up the keys, and from there to our new house. We took with us the traditional kettle, teapot and the mugs I’d bought for this purpose back in 2012 two moves ago, and we sat in the new house and had a nice cup of tea while finding out what keys went in what things.

Then I wrote on the wall.

Appendix: Where Does All The Money Go?

Okay, I’ve been in two minds about doing this, but I think it might be useful for people, so here we go. There might be cheaper or more expensive ways of doing all these things, prices are a guide only:

  • House (3 Bedrooms, North Oxford): £350,000.00
  • Stamp Duty: £2,500 (First Time Buyers rate)
  • Land/Water/Utilities Searches (performed by Conveyancer): £192
  • Land Registry Fee: £135
  • Conveyancer Fees: £952.00 (That’s hiring fee plus various expenses)
  • Arboricultural Report: £540 (Required by Mortgage)
  • Mortgage Broker: £500
  • Mortgage Fees: £999 (Was added on to, and then garnished directly off, the mortgage payment without me ever seeing it)
  • RICS Building Survey £550 (Mortgage included a cheaper survey, but I doubled up because I was – rightly, it turns out – paranoid)
  • Structural Engineer Survey £510 (Required by Mortgage)

Costs coming up:

  • Full service moving (Pack & Move): £900
  • Getting a sparky to check the house isn’t going to burn down: £500
  • Replacing the locks on the doors whose keys no longer work: £60-200 (Should have checked this one)
  • Wiring the place for network (because better now than later): £550.

More New House Adventures – the new series from the writers of New Flat Adventures – coming soon.