Day 365 in the big leaky house


Well, it’s been a year since we finally moved (and it’s not far off five years since we first tried!) so now seems as good a time as any to grumble about the whole process. Hopefully there will be marginally less cursing a year on but if you’re an estate agent, look away now.

Photo © Andy D’Agorne (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Actually, to start with one positive, I’m pretty sure we’d have lost our buyer before completion without our estate agent on the case, especially towards the end when they were getting increasingly twitchy. Perhaps there is a point to estate agents after all?

One of the reasons that our buyer was getting so twitchy was the length of time the whole process took. There were a few big delays along the way although, surprisingly given our usual decisiveness and the slow market, we did find somewhere to buy pretty quickly. So quickly that we were asked to appear in the estate agent’s newsletter. It’s just a shame that purchase fell through. Annoying it fell through because the solicitor discovered that the description of the house wasn’t entirely accurate: it had one parking space, not three. What’s more annoying is that it was being sold by the same estate agent we used, they knew parking was high on our list of priorities, we specifically confirmed with them that there really were three parking spaces, we lost money on the purchase, and there’s pretty much nothing we could do about it. Finding out that the vendor had put the house back on the market via a friend who noticed on Rightmove, instead of hearing from the estate agent first, was a pretty low point in the process. (And if you think they fixed the description before putting it back on, think again.) Maybe we’d be better off without estate agents after all.

The second purchase was only marginally less bumpy, mostly due to the vendor’s exceedingly poor choice of solicitor. Even when we finally made it to moving day, they didn’t release the keys until 4pm- thank goodness we were at the start of the chain! On the subject of solicitors, their solution to everything seems to be an indemnity policy. So just in case some nasty legal thing happens, like the church wants money for no apparent reason, you should pay for protection…. isn’t that extortion? It’s lucky we didn’t end up buying a house with a shared driveway because covenants seem to be another legal mine field.

After the event we also discovered that the survey was erring towards fiction in places. It seems to contain details which you probably couldn’t get from street view, although I still wouldn’t be surprised to find out no one had actually been to look at the house in person. I’ve always thought surveys were a bit of a rip off, but this one wasn’t really worth the paper it was printed on.

I guess that’s more than enough moaning, suffice to say that we aren’t in any hurry to move again! By the time we do inevitably move again, I sincerely hope things have improved. Here are a few ideas that might help, some more crazy than others:

  • Home information packs were an expensive waste of space but it would be useful to simply have the full deeds, with covenants, available with the estate agent before a house being marketed.
  • Both parties should deposit money when an offer is accepted, and perhaps even lenders if they’ve agreed a mortgage. This would need to be well defined and universal, with arbitration for any disputes that arise if a sale falls through, otherwise it’s just a distraction/another legal cost.
  • Quite sensibly buyers and sellers cannot use the same solicitor, but there is also a massive conflict of interest if you buy and sell through the same estate agent. (Avoid it if you can!) In fact, estate agents working for the seller seems increasingly backwards to me. Why not simply register a house for sale, and use buying agents instead? Without the traditional estate agent working for the seller there might also be less opportunity for passing the buck- solicitors could be wholly responsible for the smooth running of the sale process instead.
  • Does anyone really think it’s right that parish churches should still be able to demand money for upkeep? We should put an end to that little racket.
  • Instead of indemnities for everything, couldn’t we do better at making it simple to address problems in title deeds and covenants?
  • Perhaps you should get something in return for that stamp duty, like managing notice of house sales (so buyers and buying agents can still find houses easily without estate agents), title deed/covenant adjustments, arbitration services, etc.

There’s a good discussion with other ideas and examples from other countries in the comments on the “House buying process suffers withdrawal symptoms” post. Unfortunately there are probably just too many vested interests for any real change.

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Intermission


At the risk of stating the obvious, I’m having a short summer break from blogging, mostly due to an ongoing project to buy a new house. That’s not exactly been going smoothly, so when we do eventually move I’m sure there’ll be a few posts on the subject! Until then I’m wondering whether to blog at all, and perhaps stock up a few posts for a new season, or just stick to the odd short ramble. Here are a few bite size updates from the last few weeks for example…

It seems a bit like I’ve spent every spare minute on Rightmove but investigating house locations has been the perfect opportunity for a spot of mapping; after initial success with Open Street Map, I’ve made a few more edits. I did think the map was pretty complete where I live but on closer inspection there are actually quite a few details missing.

I’ve also spent a bit of blogging time playing with Google+ instead. Meh. I think the most interesting thing has been the discussions around using your real name, but that issue is not exactly unique to Google+.

Exploring the Android Market looking for apps that will work on the Joggler has been a welcome distraction. Need to add a few more to that list, including my new favourite clock. I’m impressed with how well the Joggler has taken to it’s new life as an Android device, but it is somewhat tied the wall, so I’m seriously tempted to buy a ‘proper’ tablet. I’m sticking to my dumb phone so I want something portable enough to make it out of the house on a regular basis. For a budget option the Andy Pad seems like it might be worth a look, except that I’d want to try before buying, and now there are rumours about a Samsung Q mini tablet/giant phone, except that’s not going to be cheap at all!

And we’ve been on holiday to Germany, which was much more fun than any of the above.

Need another holiday already though!

Not moving house


We’ve been trying to move again the last couple of weeks, with even less success than last time if that’s possible. Ok, so the first problem was of our own making: sell before you buy. Ok, we knew it was probably a bad idea, but we had a look round a pretty good house in the road next to ours and decided to give it a go. To stand any chance of getting a buyer in time to put an offer in we used the same agent, which was also the agent we’d used last time so they already had all our details ready. Sadly we just missed out, with two other people offering above our maximum. Bother.

By some amazing coincidence a house we’d been interested in before came on to the market almost the same day as we lost out. After having a look round we still liked the location but weren’t quite so keen on the house, but in another strange twist an almost identical property came on the market in another road which was much nicer. So nice house in worse road, or worse house in nice road. We put an offer in on the worse of the two houses, based on a fair bit of investigation on what it’s really worth. Sadly that offer was rejected to today; we’ll be keeping a look out for what it sells for in the end… if it ever does sell that is.

We weren’t actually planning to try and move quite so soon anyway, so unless something new materializes in the next couple of days, I think we’ll have to let our buyer go and take the house off the market again. There are just too many problems trying to move at the moment:

We live in a really nice house in a very good location

Well of course we would say that when trying to sell our house! It’s true though. Even houses costing far more don’t offer that much extra apart from the tiniest of extra rooms. Surely floor area should make more of a difference to house prices instead of simply the number of rooms. Thanks to Eastleigh’s absurd planning rules for parking spaces, which seems to be just over one space allowed per house, our current house has better parking than a lot of bigger houses. Of course that reduces traffic enormously… erm, not.

There are no first time buyers

Despite putting our house on the market slightly below the estate agent’s valuation, there was practically no interest. Only a couple of first time buyers and some investors. First time buyers can get mortgages, but they need deposits again which, as Sarah Beeny points out, is a good thing over all. I still think house prices are a touch too high as well (it looks like I’m not the only one). Interest rates can only go one way from here and the only thing that seems to be keeping prices up at all is…

There are no houses

There is barely anything coming on the the market. Well, apart from the house we originally wanted, and the house twins. Even so, one of those was probate and the other has been on the market twice before recently. Since we have a buyer, we’ve been looking around for other places to buy but what’s out there is either not much better than the place we’ve got, or is over priced.

Estate agents are a pointless as ever

In some cases I think they are actually making things worse in their current role. A percentage commission is little incentive to get the best price for a vendor at the best of times, but with such a low turn over it’s even less important than getting a sale. They also do all they can to get money through other services; despite already having an independent financial advisor, I had a pretty hard sell from one estate agent which it turns out was actually enticing me to borrow more so that I could make a higher offer, instead of just telling me that our first, best, and final offer had been rejected. Isn’t that the kind of thing that got us in to this credit mess in the first place?

Many of the things I mentioned the last time I questioned estate agents are now possible using Sarah Beeny’s free Tepilo site. It’s still pretty new and I don’t think Tepilo will sell your house on its own just yet. If you do want to market your own house though, I think it provides a very professional looking place to host your details. While your property won’t appear on Rightmove, it will find its way on to other sites like Nestoria. As far as we know, we didn’t get a single viewing through Rightmove anyway, which is actually pretty surprising. If we don’t end up moving this time, I’ll certainly be using Tepilo again, and hopefully it will have gained even more momentum by then.

So, does anyone have a three bed house to sell? If so, get the details on Tepilo and send me a link!! If not, I think we’ll be giving up and enjoying our current house for another six months or so.

Updated:

Location, location, location


I discovered a very nice alternative to Rightmove for finding houses on the web this weekend. As the saying goes, the three most important things to take in to account when looking for a house are location, location and location, so using a map to find properties for sale seems like an obvious choice:

http://ononemap.com/

I like maps anyway, so I’m hooked. It also beats Rightmove with support for RSS feeds. How can Rightmove not have a feed? Maybe I’m just missing it. Still, there is one tiny problem with OnOneMap: it doesn’t have as many properties on it. Even our house isn’t on there, although I’m planning to pester the estate agent on Monday to see if I can persuade them to give it a try.