Thursday, 25 August 2016

Arch Enemy with Soilwork - Southampton Engine Rooms - 24/08/2016

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Temperatures once again soared across Britain yesterday and so the mass of sweat drenched bodies seen leaving the Engine Rooms would’ve been forgiven for their state. However, the heat is only a miniscule reason for the motley, dishevelled crew who made their way home. Soilwork and Arch Enemy had provided them with an unforgettable evening and I for one was still picking my jaw up from the floor long after the last lick of guitar had left the stage. 

Arriving in time to see Soilwork start their set was a stroke of luck and slightly baffling, main support starting before 8pm? What’s going on here then? Could this mean an early curfew and therefore an earlier time for a less than spring chicken Dave to be tucked up in his bed, that would be glorious!
Soilwork are an awesome live band who really throw their all into what they do. “Stabbing The Drama” is still one of my favourite songs and seeing them close on that was special for me. The rest of their set was packed full of the ferocious melodic death metal that their fans have loved from the second these Swedes plugged in the amps back in 1995. The heat inside the venue did seem to be holding the crowd back from really letting themselves go, that was until frontman Bj√∂rn "Speed" Strid asked, in the politest way I have ever seen at a metal gig, for a massive circle pit before they ripped into “Tongue”. This got the crowd whipped into a frenzy and they offered a response to the energy being dispensed from the stage. This carried into the next song “Overload” which turned the Engine Rooms into a bounce-fest!

Escaping outside for some fresh and (slightly) cooler air I really started to get excited. I have never seen Arch Enemy put on a bad set when I have seen them in support slots or on festival bills, but this was their own headline show, something I have wanted to see for many years. 

The entrance instrumental “Khaos Overture” gave me goosebumps and I had a feeling that this was going to be special. As soon as “Yesterday Is Dead And Gone” erupted from the stage until “Nemesis” faded from the speakers, there was nothing but ‘Pure Fucking Metal’ belted from Alissa White-Gluz and the band. Speaking of Alissa, Arch Enemy have definitely found the perfect replacement for Angela Gossow in her. Guttural, growling vocals and a superb stage presence that allows her to instantly control the crowd. Not to mention the dazzling blue-green hair that is whipped around like a colourful tornado.
This set was, for me, almost perfect. No room for “Rise Of The Tyrant” or “Leader Of The Rats”, however that takes nothing away from a list of songs that went from belter to belter without leaving the crowd a second to recover before the next was brutally ejected from the stage. Listening through the set as I write this I am constantly stopping and just disappearing into the memories from the gig. The run into the encore of “No Gods, No Masters”, “Dead Bury Their Dead” & “We Will Rise” is just a thing of beauty! And, as my friend I attended the gig with pointed out, Arch Enemy are very good at writing lyrics that would be amazing if added to a tattoo design you had, if you’re into tattoos of course. Chants of ‘Arch Enemy’ rang out from the crowd until the band re-emerged to huge cheers as if they were taking their place atop the Olympics podium, which is one way to describe how incredible they were last night. Ripping into “Blood On Your Hands” tore away any residual energy had been built up in the crowd whilst the band were off stage. Leading into an elongated version of “Snow Bound” as the bridge between the last two songs provided the guitarists the opportunity to show off their skills, and what skills those are! Knowing there was only one song left I was glancing at the clock to see whether the earlier train would be a possibility, and it was, until “Nemesis” rose up in a fury on the stage. There was no way I was going to be leaving until this gig was put to bed. 

To put it simply, Arch Enemy were jaw-droppingly, face-meltingly, downright superb. There is nothing I could say about that gig that would do it true justice. On the walk away from the venue, still in complete shock & awe, the only word that I could utter was…..fuck.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

In the midst of house buying

Welcome to the second part of this house buying set of blogs.

At the conclusion of part 1, my house hunting had taken a swerve due to the mortgage amount I could get from lenders. And I had decided that looking at the Help to Buy – Shared Ownership Scheme would be a way around this issue.

After a bit of looking around, I managed to find a 2 bed property under the Shared Ownership (SO) scheme and booked a viewing. 

It wasn’t quite the love at first sight feeling I had with the original property I had viewed a good few months before, however I was very impressed with the size, location (ish) and feel of the property. One drawback being the fact it had no lift for a 2nd floor flat, meaning my leg workout would have to step up, get it? Stairs, step up…alright I’ll get my coat!

There was an idea that once I found a place that my friend, who is currently renting, would move in and help towards the mortgage and bills. Whilst being able to save for his own place as it would be cheaper than he is currently paying. Once I had thought about this property and decided that I would be interested in going ahead I took my friend to view the property. Although there were a couple of reservations to address, he was fairly happy to live there if everything went through ok. 

So I went back to my mortgage adviser and we got the ball rolling. He was happy that the amount I was looking for would be affordable with my income and advised me to instruct the estate agent to take it off market; this is one of the more fun parts of house buying, getting to tell the estate agent that you are going ahead with the purchase and not to show anyone else around “your” house. One thing you will likely need to do when buying a Shared Ownership property is to sign up at ‘Help to’. If you are asked to sign up, make sure you get all the information from the estate agent as to who runs the association on the property you are purchasing. All I was told was, “you need to sign up to this and give them info”, not the best direction I have been given when they are asking for all of your financial information and you’re unsure who will be viewing it! 

Everything was going in the right direction, everyone had the paperwork they needed from me and, after sitting down with the mortgage advisor for a few hours of trawling through the list of lenders until we found one that could support me with my finances, I had a mortgage illustration (this is basically a draft of a mortgage offer. It lays out the repayments, charges etc if you ended up accepting that mortgage.) 

So I was quite happy with how things were looking, until four days later. Yes just four days had passed before the first snag appeared. And when I say snag it was pretty much a derailment of the entire situation. The mortgage lender decided to change the mortgage details and offer £10,000 less than before, there are certain times that it feels like the wind has been knocked out of you and this was certainly one of them! Made slightly worse when my mortgage advisor asked if I could make it work, financial help from family; promotion at work etc. To which I kindly responded that he was not going to be getting a positive answer from me seeing as we had already stretched my finances to the limit to get the original offer in. There was never an explanation as to why the lender changed their mind on how much they could lend me either. 

That left me with the choice of:

Looking at other lenders to see if another offer could be accepted – this wasn’t overly viable as the original lender had been (I think) the 12th best option from the list of lenders. So the deals I would be looking at wouldn’t be of great benefit to me.

Or to drop the idea of getting that property.

I’m sure you can guess which option I took.

And so once again, I was back at square one and searching for a new property.
The one saving grace was that all the troubles happened before I had spent any money on solicitors’ fees or anything, so I hadn’t lost out on any money – just a bit of my sanity as things seem to be coming together only to unravel again just as quickly.

They do say that every cloud has a silver lining and there was soon to be a glimmer on the horizon of my property purchasing journey.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

I'm off to buy a house

Entering the world of house buying is a rather scary prospect.
Mortgage, variables, interest, solicitors, surveys, terms, advisors, lenders…..just a number of words that are thrown your way in a short space of time.
This blog, and the following 2, are about my experience, good & bad, of purchasing a property.

There are a number of ways you can get your journey to being a home owner underway (to name a few);
View properties to get an idea of the type of home you are looking for.
Speak to an advisor to see how much you are likely to see as a maximum mortgage lend.
Decide on the sort of property you want (1/2/3 bed, house/flat etc.) and look at prices in the area/s you wish to live.

After moving back to my parents’ house after my third stint of renting away from home, I looked at the money I had spent on renting to just end up back where I started once again and realised what a waste it had been. So I made the decision that the next time I moved out it would be to buy my own place. The jouney had begun.

After saving for a while, I was in a bank and speaking with an advisor about my account, when I was  asked if there was anything else I needed help with. Deciding to make the most of this, I asked if I could have a chat about mortgages, I was then passed to a colleague who looked at my finances and gave me some figures which that bank would be able to offer me. With thanks I left with “some” knowledge towards my first mortgage.

Some time later I found a property that looked great in the advert with an unbelievably low price, I called to book a viewing and went to see the place that weekend. To say love at first sight is pretty much how it went! The place was incredible and the price they wanted for it was amazing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in a position to be able to afford it, but I did have a bar set for subsequent places I viewed. I still need to have a look at how much it eventually sold for and if there were any issues found on survey as it was an absolute steal!

After some more saving I started to look into places with a bit more gusto! I had decided that 2016 would be the year I moved out and jumped onto the property ladder, now I just had to find my first home.
Viewings came and went and, to be honest, I was beginning to lose hope rather rapidly. It’s amazing how many places that need “Tender Loving Care” would be better serviced with a wrecking ball. I know estate agents want the sale but surely they can look at a place and tell the seller that some things need changing.
Just a quick list of some things to look for when you are viewing properties:

Damp: I saw a few properties that had visible damp and damage from previous damp. And to be told that “all old properties will have damp” is utter baloney! A house that has been cared for will stand the test of time. Plus the fact that mortgage lenders will have a hissyfit if they discover damp when they carry out their viewing prior to offering you the money. I have friends who bought a property which had a damp issue and had to pay in excess of £2000 to get it fixed before the lender would give them the full amount they asked for.
Space: Sounds simple enough but check the kitchen for cupboards/drawers, the living room for putting sofa, chairs, tv unit in, bedroom for bed, wardrobe, drawers/dresser.
Interior: Check for cracks in the walls and windowframes. If it’s double glazed (and I hope it is) is there condensation in between the glass, this could show that the insulation has blown. Check that taps work at a good pressure and the hot heats up quickly, to show a working boiler.
Area: Try to view the property a few times to get a feel for the area. Is there a lot of traffic? Is it near a pub with a late licence? And try to go at different times so that you can see how much light the property gets in the morning/afternoon, if the weatherman is friendly then you may be able to see it in rain (check for leaks/damp/flooding) & wind and in the sunshine.

Now that my house buying was picking up speed and I was looking at more properties I decided to go and see a mortgage advisor. This is someone who will basically do the hard work for you (albeit for a fee) and guide you through what is essentialy just a lot of jargon and effort as you approach mortgage lenders and try to get the money needed for a property.
The person I spoke to asked me a lot of questions with regards to my incomings and outgoings to get an idea of how much I would be able to afford and fed this into a database. He then applied the same info onto lenders websites to see what offer they would potentially return with. It turned out that I was looking at a pretty measly sum of money, in the grand scheme of things (60k would be a lovely Lotto win!), even with a fairly nice chunk for a deposit.

So I headed back to the drawing board with an idea of the sort of house prices I could look at.
This is when I started looking into the fairly new concept of Shared Ownership. A scheme aimed at helping people who will struggle to get onto the property ladder whilst not having to fall into the renting trap.
Basically, you buy a portion of the property, usually in 25% increments, and pay rent on the rest. Making it more affordable on the mortgage as you only have to borrow a smaller amount, although you must remember that lenders will take into account the rent portion as an essential outgoing which affects your finances and the amount you will be offered.

With this new tactic in place, the hunt was back on…