The Money editor of The Mirror newspaper has finally sold a home he first put on the market in late 2016 - but after one year, six months and 29 days he has got £111,500 less than the initial valuation given by his agent.
James Andrew has written in today’s Mirror that in order to sell the flat - which had more than 20 viewings - he spent over £4,000 buying the freehold, in addition to spending several thousands on repainting and carpets.
But Andrew’s story isn’t one simply blaming the agent - his is a chronicle of “bad luck, a bad market, buyers changing their minds, hold ups, legal issues and more.”
“We looked at online estate agents, to save on fees, as well as traditional high-street ones – and eventually decided to pay more to get more from a high street agent” writes Andrew, who doesn’t say which firm he chose.
His property was a two-bedroom, two reception room apartment in Clapham, south London, and he says he chose the agent on the basis that he valued £30,000 above the second-highest.
“By the time the photos were in and the brochure ready it was the start of January. Our first viewing was arranged for just a couple of days after the flat came on the market and all looked well” he says.
In March 2017 - around three months after the property went on the market - he cut his asking price by £50,000.
Andrew realistically describes how the additional stamp duty surcharge on additional homes, the phasing out of landlords’ mortgage interest tax relief and other measures - including uncertainty caused by Brexit - added to the torpor of the market and reduced the possible landlord market which might have been interested in his home.
In addition, the surprise early summer General Election last year added to the hiatus.
At the end of last summer, Andrew was more aggressive at price-cutting even than his agent.
“We cut another £50,000 from the asking price - £30,000 more than the estate agent first suggested – and this time it worked. The new price went live in October, almost a year after we started the process, and the first person to view it after the reduction put in an offer” explains the editor.
Although that was £20,000 lower again, Andrew accepted but he soon found it was too early to celebrate.
The buyer backed out just before Christmas and “we were back to square one.”
By January 11 this year had accepted a new offer – this time £12,000 under asking price – but that carried a condition from the buyer that the deal be done by April.
Andrew then rejected the conveyancer offered by his estate agent (he objected to “referral fees of hundreds of pounds flowing from the lawyers to the estate agent”) and instead chose a cheaper firm with a ‘no sale, no fee’ guarantee.
“While we saved hundreds compared to some firms, and the lawyers did the work, it wasn't done fast. They simply didn't respond to emails, from the buyer's solicitor or us, for days or even weeks” he writes.
In the end Andrew commissioned and paid for a fire report, gas safety report, FENSA certificate and an electrical PAT test to satisfy the buyer’s legal side.
Then, less than a week before his April cut-off date, Andrew went to his solicitor in person - only to find a range of forms had either been omitted by the firm or incrrect ones had been completed by Andrew himself.
“We missed our April deadline” Andrew admits.
Finally, having luckily been granted an extension by the purchaser, all the paperwork was gathered together and - despite a last-second hitch requiring other flats’ freeholders to sign a document - everything was ready.
He writes: “Finally, on Monday June 18 - 575 days after instructing the estate agent, having spent £672.80 on lawyer fees, £4,000 on redecorating, £1,944 on 18 months of storage, £4,708 on the freehold, £179 on safety certificates and not having had a holiday in a year - we were sold. The sale price finished £111,500 under the first valuation provided by the estate agent, they received £12,840 of our sale price in commission.”
Perhaps predictably, Andrew concludes his lengthy piece by saying “I’m never moving again”.
But he does not blame the agent, nor even the conveyancer - although, if you ignore the sluggishness of the housing market, it seems that conveyancing was the area where most of the pitfalls and panics happened.
Instead, it’s an interesting story of how complicated an apparently simple sale can become, and how slow it is - partly because of buyers and the market, but also because of ‘the system’.
What’s your view on this?
You can see the full, lengthy article here.