Wednesday, 22 October 2014

My Help to Buy Scheme Experience- Getting Informed

In May 2014 I bought a house. That still feels really odd to say and extremely grown-up, but I actually managed to buy a cute little 3 bedroom semi-detached house in Berkshire, England.

My partner and I saved hard for about 2 years before we had anywhere near enough money to consider it a suitable deposit for anything larger than a wheelie bin round the back of Tesco carpark, so when we reached that £10k 'indabank' mark it started to feel pretty real. However, we both live and work in Berkshire which meant that when we started looking at areas and properties we felt were right for us we were pretty much crushed. We found 2 bedroom flats for £230,000 and 2 bedroom houses for £260,000 which of course when you're working off the standard deposit amount of 10% equates to us needing about £23k in savings. The solicitor fees equalled about £6000 and the "other bits" (land searches, house insurance, life insurance and other mandatory bits of paper) added another £2000 to this shitstorm equation.

Call me a basic bitch, but I don't exactly have 31 THOUSAND POUNDS sat in the bank. I probably don't have 31 pounds in the bank for the majority of the month. I was pretty sure that I was destined to rent crappy flats with broken boilers until my dying days.

2 months later The Guardian made me aware of a new government scheme launching called "Help to Buy". This is a government scheme (yup, I was also apprehensive) where you essentially apply for an equity loan. This means that you save up a 5% deposit (5% of the value of the asking price for the house) and the government puts in 20% of the purchase price as an equity loan. An equity loan is defined by Wikipedia as "The term used to describe additional borrowing, normally secured as a subsequent charge, as a top-up to the amount a home owner/purchaser can borrow from a main mortgage provider". Essentially, the equity loan removes a lot of the risk for the mortgage provider (typically a high street bank or building society) and means that you are required to save up considerably less for your property. There are still a lot of surplus charges (those pesky solicitor and search fees) but that £23k savings pot turns into a much more realistic £11.5k which by this point was pretty much what we had in the box under the bed.

The Help to Buy site ( has posted this handy little graphic below for your eye-pieces:


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cold Calling; dirty words or untapped business gold?

I work in IT. I'm aware of how much of a sweeping statement that is and how little it means in terms of a tangible day job but the reality is that most people wouldn't be interested in the nuts and bolts behind the technology I sell.

I spent 2 years of my life cold calling, and I mean hard cold calling. I'm talking 90 calls a day that are all tracked on a spreadsheet somewhere and all recorded so that my manager can pick a call and play it back to his hearts' content. Cold calling is a hugely soul destroying job when it is your whole job.

The company that I worked for had a plan for their new hires- do about a year of solid cold calling (every day, 9-5, 90 calls) and slowly you'll start to build up a rapport with a few key people at a few businesses that would become customers and begin to place recurring orders with you so that your role transitioned from a cold caller and more into an "account manager". This was the golden snitch, this was the dream and this kept us all sat at our desks hammering the phones waiting for that one call that would change our lives into one where we could sit and watch the dollar roll in.

The reality is that when a company posts a job description that says "Tele-Sales, Cold Calling, New Business, Phone Monkey" the only people that apply are na├»ve graduates or college students that give it a whack for a very low salary and leave after about 6 months or when they realise they are sitting on the sofa at night hating the thought of the next day, whichever comes first.  As a result, more and more companies are hiring on the pretence of building up your own business- I used to hear the words "This is your business" on a daily basis. Cold calling was my business, the hard work of gaining trust with IT Directors was my business, dealing with difficult refunds and complaints was my business, hitting my gross profit target to keep my job was my business, but that golden snitch that represented that dream day job was distinctly none of my business because for around 75% of us this never materialised. Instead, people grafted for as long as possible and then moved to pastures new with a pretty impressive brand on their CV and the ability to proudly state "I have done my time cold calling, I won't be doing it again because I am now in fact an important and respected account manager".
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