If you’ve ever tried to sell a property in England, you’ll know it’s a nightmare. I can’t think of any other market where the whole transaction is based on trust and no money down. And there’s so much money involved, it’s unfathomable how our system even operates.
If you’re a seller, you have to accept an offer on faith. You have to believe the estate agents are telling you the truth and they’ve done their due diligence on a potential buyer.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been told an offer was cash, have pressed the agent to ensure they’ve seen sight of funds, and then weeks down the line discovered the buyer has for some reason opted to take out a mortgage.
Every time I’ve left the deal. Cash is cash. If you lie at the start, I don’t believe you’ll make it to the end.
The set-up is key. I’m not a fan of wasting time and the whole “will it, won’t it exchange, complete” saga gives me a nervous tic. The stress of wondering on buyers’ strategies and manoeuvres and last-minute gazundering is enough to give you PTSD.
The only way I’ve managed to successfully get through the sales process multiple times and not lose my head is because I use a solicitor who copies me into all communication.
For me, this level of transparency means I always know where I am in the process, and I’m a demanding seller. Once an offer has been accepted, I expect searches to be started within 48 hours. If they’re not, I want a good reason why not. Serious buyers take the process seriously, and that’s the only people who I want to do business with.
Last year felt like a window of opportunity to downsize. As a landlord of two decades, I’d been looking to exit some properties.
With increased tax hikes, interest rates, regulation and the threat of economically unviable net zero enhancements, I knew I had to shape up the portfolio if I wanted to future-proof the business.
Of course, when you have a plan, you also have to expect some things won’t go according to plan, that’s precisely what happened to me.
We’d agreed the sale of a three-bedroom house some months earlier to a first-time buyer. The property in question had been a former rental I’d owned for 18 years. When the tenants gave notice, I took the opportunity to sell up. In those 18 years I’d only had two wonderful tenants, and the property still looked great.
The conveyancing seemed to take forever. I understood there were delays on the searches, but the solicitors were being interminably slow and citing various backlogs and logjams. I was getting frustrated by the process, but I was told there was nothing more I could do than wait and be patient. So, I did.
A few days before exchange the agent popped round to check the house, only to discover the upstairs bathroom sink had fallen off the wall and flooded the property.
When they called me and sent me the photos I sat down in shock. My once beautiful property was destroyed. Water had been running unattended for something like two weeks. The kitchen ceiling had collapsed, the kitchen units had gone black with mould, the wooden flooring was all warped.
The whole ground floor was awash with water. My immaculate turnkey now needed a new kitchen, bathroom, electrics, boiler, flooring, plastering, decorating – oh and drying out.
There would be no sale to the buyers, they didn’t even want a price reduction to continue, they were out. I fully understood.
The situation was set to get worse: I was not insured. Because the property had been empty for more than 30 days – and I had forgotten to inform the insurers – I was not covered by this freak accident.
Now left with a doer-upper rather than a move-in ready home, we took £20,000 off the price and listed it as a renovation opportunity. We had plenty of viewers, but the feedback was always the same: “it needs too much work”.
I considered taking it off the market and doing it up myself, but having committed to other projects, I didn’t have the time or headspace. The agent and I tussled with what further price reduction should be offered, while I also explored the option of auction.
The email from a “we buy any house” type company to the agents was out of the blue. They were offering £36,000 less than the original asking price, and said they would complete the sale in seven days (seven actual days, not working days).
They said they’d seen the house and didn’t need to send a surveyor. I spoke to my solicitor who told me he was familiar with the company and he had experience of how quickly they operated. I managed to squeeze another £2,000 out of the house buying company and within a week the deal completed. No faff, no fuss, just money.
I have since learned the “houses for cash” buying market has no regulations. I got lucky with the company I used because my solicitor was familiar with them, which gave me some feeling of security. But I cannot say this is the case for all of these companies.
With the changing market conditions, I’m sure increasing numbers of sellers will be looking to utilise the services of these quick sale places.
My advice: do a lot of research. I got lucky with the company I used. They offered a below market, but I believe, fair price. They didn’t suddenly try and drop the price at the last minute, but I’ve heard these tactics are rife. Always consult your solicitor about any offer and if in doubt, walk away.
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