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:

Is there any point to estate agents?


Since taking our house off the market recently, I’ve been wondering what exactly it is that estate agents do. Maybe they:

  • Arrange a HIP: ignoring the fact that HIPs are a completely pointless waste of time and money, I got mine sent to the agent in the first place.
  • Market my house: we had one advert in the paper, and I think describing the leaflets as brochures is pushing it a bit. There is Rightmove, but I prefer alternatives like ononemap myself.
  • Find me a buyer: I’m pretty sure I could have found a buyer last year on my own, but now the market is on hold none of the estate agents seem to be having much luck finding them.
  • Communicate: it’s a long process and regular updates and clear communications are essential… I’m just not sure they manage it.

When the market has settled/sunk to rock bottom, we’ll be putting the house up for sale again (hopefully before the pointless HIP has expired and they have to make up the same rubbish again). Despite my doubts, I expect we will probably use an estate agent again: it was very useful to have them doing all the viewings, and while I might not think Rightmove is the best site in the world, a lot of people do use it. (If only I could add my own house.)

It will be tricky choosing a new agent though, mainly because most of them seem fairly hopeless. For example, one agent, who we were already registered with, sent a compliment slip asking us to call quoting reference ML1, yet didn’t seem to really know what ML1 meant when I phoned. They’ve been sending the same slip ever since… sometimes twice a day! We’ve got quite a collection now:

We get the message!

Another agent, who originally wildly over estimated the value of our house, phoned randomly to gloat about how many viewings he had for an almost identical house. Viewings don’t always mean sales though and it still hasn’t sold! Frustratingly, one of the best agents, who we found while looking for houses to buy, doesn’t sell houses in our area. Bother.

Still, the way the market’s going we won’t need a new estate agent for a while, and there could be less of them left to choose by then.

T-Minus 6 days…


…and counting!

After recent experiences trying to sell a house in the current market we’re thinking of giving up for the time being to see how sharply house prices end up declining. If the only offer we got is representative, house prices are set to drop like a stone this year. The offer didn’t seem completely unreasonable either: we only had one second viewing, and we’ve had no new viewings at all this week. It turns out that ours wasn’t the only house our would be buyer had made an offer on, so any actual offer we get could be even lower, and take a while to get.

Plan A (move house) was somewhat doomed after mortgages for first time buyers dried up the week after we put the house on the market! Plan B is to take the house off the market and see how low prices are going to get. Buying the next house for less is quite appealing. On the off chance that anything dramatic happens to improve things or our estate agent suddenly finds a buyer (their phones have been playing up recently so it’s not completely impossible) we’re giving it a few more days… hence the countdown. It’ll be quite nice not having to keep the place viewing ready all the time!

Even only managing such a short way through the process, I’ve been amazed about how much difference web 2.0 technologies have made to looking for properties since I bought my current house… and how completely estate agents seem to have failed to embrace it! It sounds like it isn’t just estate agents either, although Cerys did have a set of ticks an crosses she could monitor!

Looking for a new house


Moving phone company turned out to be too confusing and difficult, so what we’ve decided to do instead is move house. Much simpler! Hmmm, I suspect Cerys might not agree, so this could be a bit of an adventure! Just had the first valuation today, which confirmed our theory on what to sell for, and financial adviser was at Hursley today anyway by some amazing coincidence, which confirmed our theory on what we can buy for. (So that’ll be a shed in Winchester and half an extra bedroom in Southampton!)

Two more estate agents coming round this week and then we have to decide… should we stay, or should we go? (Look out for us at house buyers anonymous if we do decide to go for it!)

As for phone companies… anyone would think that moving is a rare event judging how badly most companies cope with the whole process, so I fully expect a broadband blackout if we do move, in which case 3 PAYG broadband looks like a tempting offer… but that’s planning ahead just a little!