The Most Controversial Room in the House

The Caterpillar's Tooth

Finally!  A successful day in the kitchen!  My experiences with this section of the house have been less than encouraging, so today’s victory really is something to brag about.  I lack the patience and forethought of a decent cook, so I avoid this room as much as possible and generally put up a fight when anyone asks me to do something there; it’s pretty controversial for my mom and me.  However, today it was unavoidable.  My mother asked me to bake some fudge brownies for a gathering tonight (no pressure), so I did.  She brought the leftovers home and I have to say I did a pretty good job, even if the second batch was a little gooey at the bottom.  Still, I am of the opinion that brownies are very difficult to ruin, since I hear Chocolate is delightful in all its forms.  Lucky for me!  😉

Following is a…

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Tips to buy property in Sweden

homesacrosstheworld.com

Here are some good news if you’re planning to buy property in Sweden:

  • There are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in Sweden.
  • House prices have fallen considerably in 2011.
  • The real estate transfer process is easy, swift and quick.

So, looks like it’s the right thing to  buy property in the biggest Scandinavian Nation. However, you could visit there on a holiday and check out… After all it has been reported as the 7th best country to live in!

Here goes my tips for you…

  1. Agent. Most house hunting, negotiations and preparing relevant papers are managed by real estate agents. It’s best you appoint one for your self.
  2. Deposit. In Sweden, there is a norm that the buyer places 20% of the property price as deposit, as soon as the buying price is agreed upon.
  3. Conduct a survey. It’s a common practise in Sweden. A friend who had recently moved to Sweden recommends that it’s best to hire the services of an independent surveyor, who will do a profession job of it.
  4. Hire a solicitor. Though it;s is not a must, it’s definitely advisable to hire a legal person to carry out all your legal work. It eases your work and helps a great deal to have a professional work at legal issues.
  5. Deeds of Title. You have to apply for this within three months of the sale transfer. the deeds of Title will need to be submitted for registration.
  6. Charges and fee: Stamp duty is charged on the registration of Deeds of Title at about 1% of the purchase price. Agent fees are approx. 3.5 % and are usually payable by the seller. You also have to pay the property tax, wealth tax and so on. Do find out and be prepared.
  7. All the best

Hey, by the way, I assume you will follow my standard instructions diligently — RESEARCH. It’s a must.

Much Love and happy house hunting,

MILO

P.S: Follow me to my next post: Property Buying tips in Switzerland

Hot tips to buy property in Germany

homesacrosstheworld.com

I have decided not to give you ‘top ten tips’ to buy property. Simply because, in some countries the process is rather simple and there may be less than ten important tips to give you. While in some countries, there are so many things one has to keep in mind, that my top ten may well spread across to top twenty!

Let’s see what Germany has to offer…

  1. Research. This is not a new tip, by any means. But, I will keep reiterating the same thing. Reasearch, reasearch and more research. First of the location — find out as much as you can about your neighbourhood, how far it is from your basic requirements. for e.g., houses in Berlin offer great value for money. Homes in Munich are most expensive, while Frankfurt, being a financial center, offers a large choice. Next – a value estimate. Research on the price of the property for. It would be best to have it verified through a surveyor or an estimator. Decide between urban and rural property.
  2. Inspect the property. This is a must. Get it inspected thoroughly. This can be done by the real estate agent or broker you wish to appoint. Any renovations, damages, etc., need to be looked for. Check the heating systems, and make sure they adhere to the standards set out by the government.
  3. Annual Meeting Minutes. Get hold of some of the minutes of annual meetings between owners/ members in an apartment. Study them. It may sound a bit odd, but this gives a peek into the real situation at the apartment. You’d probably get to know some details that you might otherwise not know. All problems related to the apartment or the house itself will definitely be reflected in these reports and you will be aware of any future expenses, repairs or other work that need to be done.
  4. Employ a solicitor.  You will need one for several processes through the buying stages.  First, a contract will have to be drawn up, once a price has been agreed upon, by the solicitor. You can request that the contract be translated, in case you are not 100%  fluent in German. Furthermore, remember that all terms in the contract are variable, so you need your independent solicitior to negotiate well. Once the initial contract has been drawn up, there is no cooling off period, like in many countries.
  5. Multiple Agents. It’s definitely better not to sign an exclusivity contract with any one real estate agent. (This is an important advice, as read on another website). Also, a friend recently shifted to Germany and said that she found more options for apartments to choose from when she engaged different agents. Not only that, she strongly recommended that it’s bets to figure out the commission to be paid — how much and who pays! Of course, this also means you have to be alert as to pay only that agent that got you the house first!
  6. Costs. Remember that apart from the price for the property, you will have to pay the Notary fee, registration fee, taxes as applicable, and the administrative fees, etc. So be prepared.
  7. Down payments and loans. Some websites advice that you keep 20 per cent of the total costs aside as down payment. Do check with you banks regarding finances, interest rates and repayment terms.
  8. My best wishes to you.

That does it. Important tips in seven points! Do remember that these are just my tips. You have to however, follow the systems in place in the country you wish to buy property in!

Love Always

Milo

P.S: My Next Post: Property Buying tips in Sweden

Tips to buy property in Portugal

Welcome back. Portugal was Ninth on our list of Top Ten countries with a healthy work-life balance. If you are looking to relocate to foreign shores and are considering Portugal, here is what you will need to know….

Before I plunge in with the do`s and the don’t and tips to live in this stunning country, you must know that just as in any other beautiful country, holidaying is all heavenly and fun, but living there is simply another ball game. You have to be practical and realistic about relocating to Portugal. No No No… I am definitely not putting you off, or scaring you. Being prepared is a good thing, don’t you agree? And, who better than I, your good friend, MILO, to prepare you?

Here we go….

A few good things:

  1. A great place for retirees. The government of Portugal has recently introduced a ten-year tax exemption window of opportunity for foreign retirees. Those who want to retire abroad to live in Portugal can enjoy a reduced cost of living. (Watch out this blog — I will dedicate an entire post to retirement in Portugal, on a future date.)
  2. Best golf courses in the world. So, if you are a passionate golfer, this piece of information might give you an added push to choose Portugal. Of course, you have to stock up on the money as well!
  3. Fabulous Weather. It’s just for the beautiful weather alone, that Portugal is very popular, especially among Britons, to settle in.
  4. Affordable property prices. Apparently, finding a good bargain for a property is easy in Portugal, if you are not looking at some mod luxury resort type of a house, that is!
  5. Good healthcare systems. It’s easy to get medicines over the counter. The system is far more sophisticated than many European countries.

Now for the Hot tips:

  1. Preliminary contract for sale. In Portugal, execution of this contract, called the Contrato de Promessa de Compra e Venda, is the first step. This initial agreement is a legally binding contract that sets forth the conditions of the sale. This is later legalised by presenting in the Notary Office. This contract is legally binding on both sides and breach of this, attracts a fine, or forfeit of deposit, as the case may be.
  2. Important Documents: Ensure that the following documents are available:
  • a) A Habitation License for property constructed after 1951
  • b) Certified insertion in the records of the Land Conservatory
  • c) A detailed “Caderneta Urbana” from the Tax Office
  1. Government Licensed Estate Agent: It’s very important to use a licensed estate agent. S/he is bonded by the state by means of an insurance cover and this proves helpful when there are disputes!
  2. Always use a lawyer. This is true of property buying anywhere abroad. In Portugal, too, this is most practical in order to act for any legal matter on your behalf. A document named ‘Procuração Publica’ is prepared with all the required details, which is then signed by those granting the ‘power of attorney’ in the Notary Office, and registered in the Notary. This official document can also be created in the Portuguese language outside Portugal in a Portuguese Consul in a foreign country. It can also be created in a Notary in the language of the country concerned, in which case, the document must have the Seal of the Notary and an Apostil attached. An official translation into the Portuguese language will later be necessary.
  3. Fiscal Number. In fact, this should be the first thing you have in place — A Fiscal Number, also known as Numero Fiscal de Contribuinte. It’s a must for all nationals and foreign nationals, wishing to buy property in Portugal. It’s easy to obtain from any tax office at a nominal fee. It’s also called a Tax Card.
  4. State Payment. Just before the purchase, you will be required to pay the CEMI, a state payment which can be carried out in a local tax office, closes to your property. The amount depends on the nature of the property and there may be cases when the buyer is exempted from paying the same. Your estate agent and lawyer should be able to help you out on this.
  5. Completion of Sale. Once the above procedures are complete, the act of sale can be done in any Notary office. You could also complete the purchase of your property at the Conservatória do Registo Predial (land registry office) through a fairly new system called ‘Casa Pronta’.The completion of sale is often called the ‘Escritura’ which refers to the title deeds of the property.
  6. Registration of Property. Once the full payment is made and the documents are in place, you will need to register your property, in order to legally make it yours! Once you have registered, you might have to notify the local tax office regarding change of ownership. Your appointed lawyer will, of course take care of all these.
  7. Final Touches. We have reached the end of the steps involved in buying property in Portugal. However, as I always say in all my posts, do your research well. Talk to locals, read up, make new friends, and… learn the language. Portuguese is rather complicated but it’s worth knowing, especially since you plan to live in the country.
  8. Best luck to you.

Hope that was of use to you. I have taken loads of help from friends who live in Portugal, some informative websites and other reading material. A big thank you to all those who helped put this together. See you soon.

Much Love,

Milo

P.S: Coming up next: Property buying in Germany! Achtung!

Top Ten Tips — Buying property in France

Top Ten Tips — Buying property in France

Welcome to my hot tips for buying property. Our chosen country is France, this time. Refer to our list of ten best countries to live in, and you will find France on the tenth!

My top ten tips:

Before we begin, I must tell you that buying property in France is fairly straightforward. Also, there are no restrictions on foreign ownership. Therefore the process maybe a simple one. Still, there are some things you have to bear in mind.

1.     Know your French. And know it well. Half baked knowledge of the language is dangerous. Better still, simply get assistance in translation.

2.     Select your region. France is a huge country. So narrow down your search to which region you might want to invest in. (for more info on regions, do look up one of our earlier posts –‘Knowing France’ – a three part series). Also, you must make up your mind whether you want a town house or a country house.

3.     First, only a verbal offer. Remember, not to sign any paper or hand over any money, till you are in front of the notaire to process the sale and purchase contract. If possible, do some research and appoint your own notaire. Do ensure you clear your doubts and ask for advice from your notaire. A notaire’s fee is fixed by law and is non-negotiable.

4.     Research. Do ample research about the property that is of interest to you. Ask questions, make a couple of visits before you get to the ‘notaire’ stage. It might also be extremely useful to go through all the taxes you might have to pay — agent’s fee, notaire’s fee, land registrar’s fee, VAT, registration fee, and so on.

5.     Preliminary Agreements. Once you have decided on the property and agreed on the price, you will need to sign a preliminary agreement with the seller. You will also have a seven day cool off period, during which time, you have the right to change your mind. This time is best used for structural survey and other inspections, if required.

6.     Buying property with French mortgage. Mortgages are cheaper in France and offers a whole lot of tax advantages. If you do opt for mortgages, ask about conditional clauses and incorporate them.

7.     Vendor obligations. Be sure to know what the vendor has to provide to you before the sale. The vendor must provide a number of stautory survey reports. Get clarification and help from your notaire on this front and do not go by the report alone. The vendor is also obliged to make a number of stautory disclosures, which you must verify in front of your notaire.

8.     Laws for unmarried, married and group of people. There are different laws and conditions, you must know and bear in mind. Ask friends, legal experts and read up.

9.     It’s all about wits.  It’s often noticed that when you buy property in your own country, you keep your wits about you, but when it comes to buying property abroad, you lose track of where you left it! Often, it’s your wits that come to your rescue or help you in a situation. Basically, you must remain calm and be able to think clearly without confusion.

10.   Loads of luck. 

Much love

Milo

P.S. A million thank you to several informative websites and my French friends who helped me draw out a comprehensive list.

P.P.S: Our next post: Tips on buying property in Portugal. See you there 🙂

Top Ten Countries to Live In

I scanned through several studies to bring to you, the ten best countried to live in. In what way are they the best? They are the ones that provide the healthiest work-life balance.

The OECD — the International Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, drew up a cmprehensive list of countries that offer the healthy and safe work and life balance.

Here are the top ten from there….

Number 10: France

  • Only 9 per cent of working people work very long hours, i.e., more than 50 hours a week.
  • Employement rate of women between the ages 25 to 54 years is well above the OECD average.
  • The study shows that there is enough quality time spent devoted to leisure, family and personal care.

Number 9: Portugal

  • Only 6 per cent of working people work very long hours, i.e., more than 50 hours a week.
  • High women employment rate.
  • There was much time spent on leisure and personal care.
  • Most families in Portugal were one child families

Number 8: Germany

  • Gender pay gaps were well above the OECD prescribed average.
  • Just 5 per cent of working people work very long hours, i.e., more than 50 hours a week.
  • Again, time spent on leisure and personal care was well above the prescribed norm.

Number 7: Sweden

  • People in Sweden spend 65 per cent of the day, i.e., about 15.5 hours in a day, on personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socialising, entertaining, pursuing hobbies, etc.)
  • Only one per cent of working people work very long hours, i.e., more than 50 hours a week.
  • Women employement is high.

Number 6: Switzerland

* People in Switzerland work 1640 hours a year, lower than the OECD average of 1739 hours.

  • Only 6 per cent of working people work very long hours, i.e., more than 50 hours a week.
  • High rate of women employment.

Number 5: Belgium

  • People in Belgium work 1550 hours a year, one of the lowest rates.
  • Almost 16 hours a day are devoted to personal care and leisure.
  • only 4 per cent of the working people work long hours.

Number 4: Finland

  • As the report says, The Finnish model of work and family reconciliation stands out in international comparison because of the manner in which it provides choice to parents with young children. Finnish policy reduces barriers to employment by ensuring all families with young children have access to a subsidised childcare place.
  • Approximately, 15 + hours a day are spent on leisure and personal care.
  • High women employment rate.

Number 3: Netherlands

  • One of the lowest rates in OECD, people in Netherlands work for about 1378 hours a year.
  • In the past two decades, the rise in female employment in the Netherlands has been rapid.
  • Only one per cent of the working population work long hours.

Number 2: Norway

  • Only 3 per cent of the working people work longs hours.
  • Again, people in Norway work about 1407 hours a year — much much lower than the OECD’s prescribed norms.
  • The employment rate of women with children: 79 %

Number 1: Denmark

  • As per the OECD report, “Denmark ranks first in participation in childcare services and also boasts the lowest child-poverty rates.”
  • Only two percent of the working people work long hours.
  • The employment rate of women with children: 78%

A word about the OECD. It’s an International organisation with 34 member countries across Europe, Asia-Pacific, Northa nd South America.

So, the above study pertains only to those member countries. Nevertheless, it’s a good guide to decipher where we might want to live.

There we are! So, which country would you want to live in?

Watch this space. We will bring you tips on how to buy property in each of these countries — the dos and the don’ts.

Enjoy browsing for homes across the world,

Love

Milo

P.S: Coming up Next: Tips on and Process of buying property in France.

Tips and Advices – A day with a Kitchen Consultant (Part 2)

Milo’s day out with the kitchen consulant continues….

Okay, I can see you are back to know more about my day. Initial planning questions done, the in-depth aspects became more and more interesting. Are you ready to go?

The Work Flow Chart

You do remember I told you about the sequence and flow of work in a kitchen, right?

I know what you’re thinking… It’s all about basic activities in every kitchen –preparation, washing, cooking and storing! What other flow could be there! I had the same question too! So did our client. “The design has to make for the smooth integration of these basic activities,” explained JSK. “A good kitchen design ensures that one does not have to retrace the steps too often while performing normal cooking activities!”

That answers your doubt.

Okay, so there were a few points to be kept in mind:

  1. Smooth functioning of activities without much to and fro.
  2. No doors en-route to interrupt the flow.
  3. Make the sequence of kitchen work, logical and economical.
  4. Ensure minimum distance between work areas (platforms, sink, cook tops) and storage areas.
  5. Oragnise clutter.

Once you understand these points, it’s rather easy to make a rough sketch of a design of sorts in your mind.

The Layout

Did you know that there are six basic types of kitchen layouts? With distinct features of its own, each design can function efficiently within the given space and size.

You kitchen consultant will be the best person to tell you which one you should pick. However, you must know what these layouts are.

The U shape:

  1. Ideal for a large space.
  2. As the name suggests, platforms run on three sides, forming a U.
  3. Gives a lot of work and storage space.

The L shaped:

  1. The platform runs along two perpendicular walls.
  2. Very common in many parts of India, and cities like New York.

The Straight Line:

  1. All the work area is set against a single wall.
  2. Most suited for narrow spaces.
  3. Looks sleek.

The Galley:

  1. Work platforms on either side.
  2. It is an ideal layout in terms of efficiency, for many.

The island:

  1. Requires a lot of space.
  2. The island can also be used as an informal dining area.
  3. Works well in a commercial kitchen.

The peninsular:

  1. Good for a large space.
  2. It has a unit free on three sides.
  3. One side is perpendicular to the wall or to the other kitchen units, which can be used as a breakfast counter.

That brings us to more important aspects like lighting, ventilation, storage and others. See you soon with more on these aspects in our part 3.

 

I’d love to hear from you…

Give me your comments, feedback, feedback and doubts, and I’ll get back to you…

Milo