Buying a House by Greater London, UK


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This posting is going to be a long read in itself so I’ll keep my intro short.  After going through the tangled experience of buying a home in the UK as an expat, specifically near Greater London, I wrote down the following for a friend who needed an overview of the process.  My disclaimer is that all that follows is based solely on my (one-time) experience, I am by no means an expert or qualified on the topic.  I am posting this in the hopes that it will serve as a rough guide to anyone interested.  This UK government page can be helpful as well.
Remember, buying home in the Greater London area of the UK takes an average of 12 weeks.  In that time, lots of things can go wrong.  Additionally, both parties can pull out of the purchase before the exchange of contracts.  Keep that at the back of your mind before committing to anything involving fees.
Garden of a house by Greater London

Garden of a house by Greater London, UK. Stepping out of Greater London is automatically Going Greener. And also, backwards in time, don’t kid yourself.


  • Sign up on the big websites/real estate agencies and set up property alerts.  I used Rightmove, Zoopla, and I also checked the agencies Diggins & Co, Connells, Haart regularly.  They are business sharks, don’t be played by them, but by all means use them to gather infos.  There might be some smaller, local agencies that cover just your area of interest.  The customer service I received from the smaller agencies was better, they were more relaxed, personal, and pressured me less.
  • Zoopla has the register House prices, if you put in a post code, you can see the property history, and prices around your preferred object.  I used this as a compass to see what our neighbours’ house cost, and it helped me in setting my max price for bidding on the house.
  • Do house viewings as much as you can, just to get a general sort of idea of what the price/object/neighbourhood relation is.  So that when you decide for an object, you’ve had comparisons before.
  • Watch out for double glazed windows or not, age of boilers, condition of heaters.  I was surprised the energy efficiency standards in the UK are like 30 years behind those of other Western European countries.  It can save you lots of money.
  • Some agencies can put you on a “hot list”: you get a text message as soon as a house is in on the market, and can view it even before it’s put online.  This happened with my house, I was the 2nd one to view it, half a week before it was online.

Mortgage & Other Expenses

  • Check your credit score with,, if possible.  I tried one of them once but failed to get results because it asked me for my past home addresses in the UK for the last 3 years (I didn’t bother trying out the rest).  Some lenders require you to live in the UK and/or EU for at least 3 years, so when you talk to them, make sure to address the topic of your immigration date so it won’t be an issue when you do the mortgage application.  Checking out your credit scores is recommendable because it’s what the lenders also see about you.  You might have everything set, but once you make the mortgage appliation, your credit score is rubbish and you will end up with a denied mortgage.
  • Real estate agencies employ brokers which have a pool of lenders, their offers are of course limited.  Whole market brokers are better because they can look at the whole pool of lenders available, their product range is much broader.  Both of them have fees, the cheapest I found was 250GBP, maximum was 500GBP.
  • Mortagages usually go for 2, 3, and 5 years with fixed interest rates.  The interests are lower for the 2 years and then rise progressively.  The idea is that if you get a good/bad interest rate you can renegotiate, and/or change your lender after the end of the 2, 3, 5 years.  There are also tracker rates which are variable according to the lender’s will, and loosely based on the Bank of England base rate.  It’s a bit of a gamble whether you get a good deal or not, so it really depends on how big is your deposit, your income, and how much you can afford monthly to pay back the mortgage.  I made my decision based on my salary and how much I already pay for rent in this area.  This determined the bid I placed on the house, and the lender, plus interest rate, that I chose.
  • Taking out a mortgage usually involves an arrangement fee, evaluation fee, etc.  Your house bank might have a good deal for you, if you have at least 10% deposit (mine didn’t, my deposit is only 5% so my house bank wouldn’t offer me a mortgage), and they won’t ask for the extra fees mentioned above.  I was lucky and found the Post Office offered mortgages (by chance, I went to post a letter and the lady asked “Are you looking for a mortgage?” Like I had my desire written on my face).  They are loaning me 95% of the house price.  They don’t take arrangement fees etc. because the mortgage specialist is directly employed at the Post Office, and not indepent like other brokers.
  • Mortgage agents will ask you for your previous addresses, it’s useful to have your old rental contracts at hand.

Mortgage Process

  1. Decision in Principle

    – like a verbal agreement, only worth information for you, not binding at all.

  2. Agreement in Principle

    – commitment of the lender that they’ll lend you the funds.  Kind of guaranteed that you’ll get the loan, except you’ve lied horribly about something, it’s just like saying “cool, these guys are good to go”.  Mine is valid for 6 months, I’ve heard others are 3 months.  If it expires before you buy a house, you can get a new one but mortgages advisors have told me it will leave a trace in your credit score.  Not a very bad thing but something to avoid.  Definitely not to do 3 or 4 times, then it’s bad.  Some lenders do an agreement in principle that leaves no trace (Soft Trace) on your credit score (Halifax I think it was).  You can get an agreement in principle from one lender and decide to do the mortagage application with another, it’s non-binding for you.  If you are in a hurry to place an offer but aren’t sure what the best deal overall is for you, then you can chose to get an agreement in principle from a lender that leaves a soft trace on your credit score, and then chose another lender for your mortgage application.

  3. Mortgage Application

    – here it gets serious, it’s the last step of the lending process, it’s asking officially the lender for the funds that will be transferred to the house seller.  It’s what you do once you’ve successfully negotiated for a house, at the same time, you assign a solicitor to your buying process.

  4. Stuff the Mortgage Specialist Wants From You:

When mortgage brokers talk to you, they will ask you for:

-P60 Tax revenue paper
-will prefer you to have a joint bank account if you’re married or applying for a mortgage with your partner
-bank statement of the past 3 months
-latest council tax bill
-last 3 payslips
-I also showed them my old rental contracts but can’t remember if this was required or not.
  • Don’t forget the extra costs involved in buying a house in the UK!  Stamp duty, surveys, searches (drainage water search, environmental search, and some other I can’t remember), and solicitor fees.  Visit this stamp duty calculator for calculating extra costs which helped me set my maximum bid.  To be on the safe side, I orderd a RICS HomeBuyer Report (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors).  This is a more in-depth survey of the home.
  • When choosing your solicitor, ask them if they work with your lender and vice versa.  Some lenders don’t approve of a solicitor for whatever reason, just clarify both parties are good to work with each other.
  • Solicitor: better choose one that has the policy of “fees only payable on completion”.  If the house sale falls through because one of the parties drops out of the chain or for whatever reason, you might have to pay the whole fees if you don’t look closely at their offer.  Some of them only charge for the work they did, prefer these ones.
  • Leave room for any insurances you might want to add, such as Critical Illness Cover, Income Protection, stuff that will insure you in case you can’t pay back the mortgage.  Mums also can be insured, if something should happen to you as a mum, your household will be financially affected too, so there’s an insurance for that.


  • If you are a First Time Buyer and End of Chain, you are the best, golden buyer a seller can dream of!  Flexible, with no other history of mortgages and debts, virgin, pure, pristine.  Use that recklessly to your advantage when negotiating, that’s your leverage!!
  • Set yourself a maximum limit and stay tough, don’t overstep it.  It’s easy to feel the heat of the agent and think, “oh, just 2k higher, just 5k higher”, and in the end, you’ll find you waaay overstepped your max.  And you’ll  be paying your mortgage until you die.  Don’t.  Pay it until you retire, you don’t want your home repossessed when you’re senile, and with no income except your pension.
  • Once you find a place, don’t let your hormones, dreamy side, imagined realities, etc. get the better of you (I did, several times…), don’t think with your heart, aka, ooooh the cosy area here, our kitchen there, the cat’s pillow there.  No, it’s a business transaction, you might want to sell the house in a few years, and it has to be a sellable item and attractive to other buyers too.  This bit might be redundant but I’ll mention it anyway because I did get carried away a few times, although I was sure I was being COMPLETELY rational.  If you are reading this, you’re probably an expat, chances are you will move on in a few years (think BREXIT).  Or you are interested in the Greater London area, your job might take you elsewhere soon.
  • Research the object, try to find out how long it has been on the market.  If it’s been 4-6 weeks DO NOT bid the asking price, they should be reducing it.
  • Market prices: agents cover each other, don’t trust them.  When a house was for 330k, I asked another broker from another agency if the price was justified.  He said yes.  I later found out it sold for 295k after being reduced to 310k.  Don’t believe everything they say, even though they might belong to different companies, they will cover each other so as not to ruin each others business.
  • Assume for every price you see for an object that is new on the market that it’s been overpriced with approx. 20k.  Sellers need to have room to go down on their price if they don’t get any offers.  The objects that have good prices go away in a matter of 1-2 weeks because obviously, buyers know when the price is justified.
  • Look for what I call the “Golden Threshold”: there is a magical boundary in house value where you get a HUGE difference in house quality once you cross it.  It’s a ridiculous increase in quality for a comparatively small price difference.  E.g., here in this region by Greater London, it seems to be 400-450k.  This means that houses that cost around 250k-300k are absolute crap, they have to get lots of renovations, and are good only for investments, or if you want to live in a building site for months first.  Then, 300k-350k are pretty decent, 375k is still OK, just slightly better, the improvements are still progressive according to the price.  But suddenly, at 400k upwards you get really, really nice houses, huge gardens, or new kitchens, an annexe or something of the sort.  So, for a difference of 25k you do a huge leap in quality and you are suddenly in another league.  There’s like a disproportionate improvement even though you can’t see this price difference between say, 325k and 350k.
  • Normally, you can bid on a house with an Agreement in Principle.  However, if you choose a mortgage broker that works with the agency (even they are freelance and not tied to the agency), or another one that has worked with them previously, for example my Post Office mortagage specialist has worked with the agency selling the house before, things can be sped up and easier.  They just called each other on the phone and my bid was accepted.  So if they know each other, you probably won’t need the Agreement in Principle.  Here, everyone has their own style, I found that they don’t all follow a strict code in the selling process.  Maybe it’s village life, but, if you are interested in a house, ask the selling agent what they require from you before placing a bid, it might be less complicated than you think.  The house is now online marked as “under offer” although the agency has nothing from me, only my mortgage specialist’s word that I’m a good buyer.  I do have to add that I talked to the mortgage specialist extensively beforehand, and showed him my payslips, bank statements, etc.  Once I assign the solicitor this Thursday and apply for the mortgage, then the property will get taken off the market.

I will try to keep this blog updated with the results of the house buying process.  Maybe I stumble on some other stuff that can be useful.

©Kenna Lee Edler






A Shrimp Cocktail of Loneliness


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By the Poolside

Poolside with a Shade of Homesickness, Loneliness and Fun

Food for me is home.  “Food”, by which I mean the authentic savour of home-made Honduran tamales, yuca con chicharrón, Gambian benachin rice, fufu with beef stew, and German bratkartoffeln (perhaps German food a bit less).  That and only that is what I call “food”.  Because when I eat it I am reminded of my kitchen in Comayagüela, my clothes, hair and skin drenched with the smell of boiled maize flour and burnt charchoal because the water was ‘gone’ and I had to shower for my friend’s birthday party with the water from la pila, in which little bits and ingredients of tamales had fallen into.  Benachin rice, it carries the taste of dry Saharan dust blown into our house from the monsoon winds.  German food brings unhappy memories which is why I have no real words associated with it but nevertheless I will include it in my repertoire of homes.

My definition of food is therefore a conglomeration of happy, less happy moments and every shade of feeling in between.  It is by no means something associated with gourmet and taste.

So there is one more kitchen that is also my home.  This genus of food has a repertoire of species of dishes which are, to my knowledge, international and thus homeless per se.  Because they have been forcefully planted in a new region regardless of their environment, some haven’t grown any roots.  They almost always have an overall bland, vapid, and distinctively undistinctive taste.  These sad dishes are at home in the Country Club of Tegucigalpa, the Bungalow Beach Hotel in Banjul, just as much at a Belgian seaside restaurant.  The menu available at poolsides is my favourite species, I recall having countless such tasteless dishes while enjoying an empty pool all to myself.  Its repertoire includes the standard Club Sandwhich, with white bread whose degree of bad quality and insipidness depends very much on whether the country it is being created in has white bread at all.  Let us not even begin to dwell on the quality of its ham or bacon.  Papery and salty Fried Potatoes, too dry, too thick, too burnt.  The Cheese Omelette with the overpriced but cheap yellow cheese, accompanied by the ubiquitous Vanilla Milkshake.

And now for my favourite of this unhappiest of lists: the Shrimp Cocktail.  While savouring its blended mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard I had a sudden certainty.  I became aware that its ingredients were all imported.  I was priviledged.  The whole cocktail, in its long tall, thick glass, belonged all to me.  From the first delicious, fat shrimp on top to the last drop I could scrape with the long spoon beneath the lettuce leaf.  I had no duty whatsoever to share it with anyone, and no one to share it with even if I had wanted.  I was lonely.  It was a new dish, nothing at all like my enchiladas, my taquitos and arroz con sopa the frijoles.  I was homesick.  I savoured the coolness of the sauce with the sea taste of the shrimps while the afternoon sun sparkled on the empty pool water.  The loneliness made the pool water smooth like a mirror.  I was not thirsty, not hungry, not cold.  I sucked at the last juicy shrimps, soaked in the now watery sauce.  I tasted the loneliness even more.  It was a bright, quiet afternoon of pleasure and fun, with no wants at all.  I thought this to myself and forgot everything with the next dive, the warm water washed away my thoughts.  They resurfaced again only many years later, in my senior year, in the middle of a party night.  Between drinks, friends, darkness and laughter, I tasted the exquisite saltiness of my shrimps and wondered about its similarity to the salt in our tears.

©Kenna Lee Edler

Colonialist Imagery


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Colonialist imagery Michelin man

Michelin Man, “Arabic Makeover”


I took the above picture at the Amazighe Heritage Museum, the Berber museum in the heart of Agadir,  Morocco, in 2008.  It is a simple, easy to understand example of how colonialist (not quite colonial, I consider the terms not always interchangeable) imagery has become a natural, unquestioned, and frequently also unchallenged, feature in the imagery of our past and current everyday life.

The Pervasiveness of Colonialist Imagery

The Michelin logo undergoes an Arabicization.  He is localized for the region targeted by the advertisement by wearing what is considered North African local dress.  A combination of slippers, a white, long keffiyeh, obligatorily held in place either with an agal or fez, seems enough to comfortably place the brands Renault and Michelin in the North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, all simultaneously and without any distinction from one another.  Also, the localization of the advert is irrespective of the actual dresses of the region, e.g. the Moroccan djellaba is markedly different from the dress portrayed by this particular image.  The arabized Michelin man that welcomes the viewer presents a fabrication of Arabian North Africa.

Why do I categorise it as colonialist imagery?  Note that in the eagerness to portray the “(Pan)Arabic” Michelin Man, further details were added to the logo’s accustomed expression and character.  The figure’s eyes are droopy, the corners of his eyes point downwards.  A lighted cigarette hangs from slightly upturned lips.  With these added subleties, a reading from the perspective of colonialist imagery gives him the traits of a smoking, good natured albeit sleepy/slow/lazy Arab.  This image is a colonialist image per se because it carries the message that all of the aforementioned traits are faithful representations of all the peoples of the countries listed in the advert.  It goes beyond being a representation as it conveys the sense that attributing these traits to these peoples is true and therefore rightful.

The Legacy of Colonialist Imagery

The omnipresence of images like these in our visual history have clearly contributed to the way we see certain groups in our present, which is very much alive with stereotypes and categorization of ethnic groups.  It is important to dismantle these projections and not to leave them uncontested in the fabric of our present.  I hope these 399 words have helped to disrobe the Michelin man from his arabicized wardrobe.

©Kenna Lee Edler

¡Misión: salvar mis hondureñismos! Ayúdenme plis, porfis :)


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¡El título lo dice todo!  Adoro mis hondureñismos pero se me van olvidando por el desuso.  Decidí hacer una lista de las palabras y expresiones que más me hacen sentirme como en mi casita y entre los míos.  Están todos invitados a complementar mi pequeño vocabulario catracho.  Y como el vocabulario del caliche es tan rico, extenso y variado, no encontré más que separarlos por categorías.  Con el tiempo, estaré revisando este posting para ir ampliándolo.

Comunicado: ¡¡Hoy sí papá!!


-tamales, nacatamales, nixtamales, tamalitos de elote, tamalitos pisques, montucas, mantequilla crema, mantequilla rala, tustacas, rosquillas, pastelitos de perro, rosquetes, polvorones, nucitas, pupusas, baleadas, frijolitos fritos, capirotadas.

Insultos (¡¡jeeej!! que salen del mero mero corazón, papá):

– comemierda, malparido, pendejo ese, jueputa, cabrón, toro fuego (?).

Insultos (especialmente para los que son unos inútiles):

-maje, muela, inútil, inepto, pánfilo, zángano, mantenido, pedazo de alcornoque, cipote(-a) este(-a), metiche, chigüín, manos flojas, manos tullidas, manudo(-a), pánfilo(-a).

Pronombres (llenos de cariño para los compadres/ comadres más cercanos):

-maje, compa, comadre, loco(-a), chava, man, alero(-a), güirrito(-a), cipotillo(-a), mamita, mamacita, papito, papaito, muñeco(-a), babosada.

Descripciones de gente y de USA:

-es un culo, indio de agua dulce, flaco(-a), gordo(-a), negro(-a), gringo(-a); los Yunaite


-Silbando en la loma; mañana hago mi casa dijo el gavilán; el vivo a señas y el tonto a leña; atenete a Santa Quiteria y no te subas al palo; juegos de mano, juegos de villano; indio comido, puesto al camino.

Si llegan a encontrar esta página, ¡por favor dejen un comentario con vocabulario que quisieran agregar!

©Kenna Lee Edler

Unconscious Versions of Blatant Racism


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"Use Original Parts" campaign, Honda

The Facts

Some years ago (approx. in the second half of this millenia’s first decade) Honda brought out the first “Use Original Parts” advertisement campaign, created by the Garrigosa Studio in Barcelona.  The message is quite clear and straightforward: use authentic spare parts on your Honda, everything else will seem unnatural, unauthentic, is unthinkable, in short, it simply cannot exist.  To bring the message across, they presented human male faces morphed with animal species.  The animal muzzles of an elephant, camel and a pig were neatly placed into where the mouth in a human face would be.  (The campaign’s prints were found on Trend Hunter Marketing and Kruzer.  Visit the pages for more of the campaign’s images.)

The Question that Stares you in Your Face:

Is it Racist?

Why, just because a man who is coincidentally black is associated with an animal that is stereotypically from the African continent?  It could all be a coincidence.  Moreover, there are lots of elephants in India and Southeast Asia too, you know.

First Glance, First answer: No.

Now let’s look at some more of the images, seemingly the most popular of the campaign:

"Use Original Parts" campaign, Honda"Use Original Parts" campaign, Honda

Second Glance, Second answer: No, but…

…something about the sequence of these images bothered me.  I saw two others but these three struck me.  I immediately had some thoughts and concerns about the message underlying this campaign and scoured the internet for further possible information but was unable to find any criticism on it.

The Conclusion: It’s an Unconscious Version of Racism

In other words, racism in disguise.  While I cannot find anything specifically racist about each picture, I can definitely point my finger at it when I see the collection of them.  Each animal is connected to the ethnicity of the male face in question in a culturally stereotypical fashion.  In other words, the images recall in a viewer with a Western mindset concepts that are dangerously close to pre-established stereotypes in our culture.  Why can’t the Caucasian man have an elephant’s trunk, the Middle Eastern/ Maghreb a pig’s nose and the black man a camel’s muzzle?  Is it only about favourably blending human skin colours with piggy pink, sand brown and greyish black?  If the message of the campaign is to alienate us from an unnatural, uncanny human/ animal combination, then surely mixing human and animal skin colours would be even more beneficial for bringing the message across.  The campaign as a whole, therefore, has a very silent, very dangerous way of perpetuating racist assumptions about ethnicities.  A perfect example of an unconscious version of racism.

In our time and age, it is unquestionable that we are surrounded by images on a daily basis.  I find it very unsettling that we are increasingly taking these environmental imagery as a given.  More often than not, we consume them uncritically, become blunt, and/ or ignore some of the subliminal messages implicit in them.  At a second glance, most of these images (mostly belonging to ad campaigns) carry culturally questionable messages that can only be deciphered if cross-referenced with other aspects of reality.  Underlying these images are often assumptions concerning stereotypes, prejudices and distorted images of reality.  Beware of what enters your thoughts through your eyes.

©Kenna Lee Edler



Fractured Colours of the Self

769376688964_1743466818_oLet’s start simply, from the beginning.  My mother is of cinnamon, in the sun she turns the colour of hot sugar caramel becoming hard candy, or gets as freckles the hue of the dark patches in the inner part of cinnamon sticks.  My first beloved, best friend was tall, taller than anyone else, with midnight skin, and with a lot of patience, he kept me safe from venomous snakes and plants.

My first silly, temporary crush was only milk with sky eyes, so that was soon forgotten when the other boy came along.  He was coffee and milk on the outside, but with eyes dark, hot, evil and delicious like coffee’s deep roasted beans.  The rest is just history, I was befriended, wooed, hated and amused by honey, emerald and muddy river gazes.  Protected and educated by more caramel, lime, and yellow sand skins.  My outer shell may be just white but my inner self is fractured into a spectrum of colours, each of which belongs to one of those who made me be today.

©Kenna Lee Edler

Reposting: Literal translation or The Danger of Getting Lost in Translation


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An old article I once wrote, to be found here.

I’m reposting it in it’s entirety in case the link is no longer available:

©Kenna Lee Edler

Not too long ago, in the late eighties, the direct translation of a marketing campaign for an airline advertising their leather seats made it into the Hall of Fame of literal translations into Spanish.  The literal translation of the ad “Fly in Leather” politely invited its first class Spanish-speaking passengers to “Fly Naked”.  PR and advertising agencies have come a long way since then, as shown for example by the strategic translation of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign slogan “Yes We Can” in the recent past; the Spanish translation revealed political, economic and cultural awareness as it alluded to an already well-known phrase among politically active Latino voters.

In today’s globalized world, straight translations of marketing slogans might determine the success or failure of multilingual marketing campaigns.  At best, they can cause amusement among the target language’s consumers but at worst and more importantly, they expose the degree of cultural disconnection of a brand towards its intended target audience and this can have long-lasting, negative results.  The marketing scenario described above is one of many that can result from literal translations.  Anyone relying on a translation has to be aware of this most common pitfall among translators.  But how does one avoid the dangers of literal translations and losing crucial messages in translation?  The answer lies in the range of multifaceted skills a professional translator has.  Having expert knowledge of a language is only just the foundation of a translator’s job; translation is really about the ability to communicate meaning in spite of differences that may exist between languages.  Ideally, language skills are complemented by other essential skills involving a target language: cultural/ historical awareness of the community of speakers, mastery of the language’s grammatical & linguistic rules, knowing how to use and where to find reference material, literacy in online research and last but not least, courage to use creativity in language.  After all, languages are alive and incessantly evolving, just as its speakers.  Do you want to know more on how to avoid literal translations?  Visit our pages on Direct translations and Literal translation to learn more!

©Kenna Lee Edler

A February Sunday in Istanbul

So, here are a few impressions of my week in Istanbul (besides day long working).  On a very sunny but bitterly cold morning I stepped out with my friend to Istanbul Modern, which has in its permanent exhibition drawings from Turkish painters.  It’s incredible to see old painting techniques of Europe reflected in painting with Turkish motives, for example, impressionist views of the Bosphorus, cubist illustrations of people around a chai table…

Van Gogh happening

Then, we rounded up the day with a visit to a neighborhood on the European side right beside the Bosphorus.  It was Sunday night (and still cold) but the place was buzzing with families going out to dinner, couples meeting, friends hanging out.  We had delicious keskul (a kind of almondmilk pudding?) and sütlac:

Just a perfect day!

©Kenna Lee Edler