Being a buyer and a seller | Who would do it??

Being a buyer and a seller: who would do it??

Toby Brown

Having been selling homes for over 16 years now and having bought a couple too personally, you would think that I would be immune to the stresses, trials and tribulations of the buying / selling process.

Well, Faye and I had a little boy last year (Henry) and already had our beloved Baxter (cocker spaniel). At the end of this summer, we decided to move from our flat to a house with a garden and basically pretend to be grown up at last!

What could be easier? We had a lovely apartment overlooking the river, which we had refurbished to a good standard, within a development with outstanding landscaped gardens and lots of shops and transport amenities nearby.
We weren’t aiming for a record breaking price; just one to sell fairly and enable to move quickly…oh and I’m an estate agent too so could control the marketing, listing and viewings myself.

Well that was July 2021 and by November 2021 we had only had three viewings and zero offers, even after a price drop. We pinned our hopes on a couple of houses to buy, but weren’t proceedable so no offer we made was taken seriously.
We were in the great land of limbo: already moved on in our heads but not in person.

Finally in Spring this year we agreed an offer with a cash buyer willing to pay a decent price, and we quickly went out hunting for houses. Despite originally thinking of moving out of London, then to Fulham, we ended up making an asking price offer on the first house we saw in Southfields.
It is a different market altogether for houses out of zone one! Within ten minutes of viewing a house and being ushered out, another buyer was lining up to make an offer.

So that all sounds good doesn’t it. Finally on our way. What could go wrong?

Well, our buyers solicitor decided not to ask any questions to our solicitor for about a month. Standard practice for a lot of solicitors. Don’t move a muscle until you’re fully instructed and have all 24 AML boxes ticked, and money on account, and certainly don’t even acknowledge the other solicitors until you have applied for and got local authority searches back, (which never come up with anything negative anyway in our area of London so are completely pointless anyway).

There’s where the stress begins in full. We’re being chased on a daily basis from a rabid and stereotypically shark like estate agent as to when we are exchanging, and whilst we have been on top of our solicitors to get all questions over answered, we are being held up by a solicitor we can’t control.

We’re also being held up by the monstrous mortgage process. After the 48 personal and financial documents requested by our broker and after chasing myself on a daily basis to book the valuation in, 6 weeks later we still have no valuation booked in.
This frustrates the owner of our house rightfully, but isn’t managed well by their estate agent who just gives us threatening WhatsApp messages to say his clients are getting to the end of their tether and are on the verge of selling elsewhere. Nice. No wonder estate agents have a bad name in general.

Finally we do have the dreaded valuation which can rock the boat at the last minute if the valuation doesn’t stack up. This is something I was genuinely worried about as I’m convinced I have just paid the highest £/Sq ft price on the street. The estate agent wasn’t able to offer any comparable sale evidence to prove me wrong here.
It goes well however and the mortgage is approved….well, not until the fat lady sings and the offer is received in writing by my solicitor.

Faye and Henry and I are off on holiday so sign all our documents before leaving in preparation, but low and behold the estate agents memorandum of sale had my solicitors details wrong. The broker took them for being correct and had submitted them to the bank. At the last minute the mortgage offer was delayed due to an address being wrong. A 2 minute job to correct? 6 days was the delay as it turned out, with multiple chasing calls, emails to broker and constant talks with the bank, all whilst Rabid estate agents knock at my door to say ‘are you going to exchange today?’.

Meanwhile, my buyers solicitor has finally started some work and were nearly there on the conveyancing front. But right at the last minute, his dutiful solicitor recommends he has a full structural survey on our 7th floor riverside apartment, in a building with an NHBC guarantee only built 15 years ago.
Surveys generally hold up deals by another month and after that month, usually they end up in a price chipping bid procedure.
Luckily I am well aware of this and managed the situation myself, getting him to book a surveyor I know who came the next day and could have the report back in 2 days. This was still another worry at the last minute which could have rocked my boat on the other end by delaying further.

We’re finally on completion day though 8 weeks later (realistically the minimum time a sale takes nowadays), and we have the movers pack up our stuff in the flat. The piano has been taken separately and we’ve transferred all the money over to make sure the move goings swimmingly well. We can collect the keys from our beloved estate agent at midday...

The piano arrives first but completion money has mysteriously not been received by the vendors solicitors of our house. I’m a trusting sort of a bloke and have already given the keys to my buyer without officially completing, and without funds in my solicitors account (but have a proof of transfer).
My vendor is not so lovely. The piano and van won’t wait any longer and drive off with my piano to do another job, and charge me £75 for the privilege. My van, wife, child, dog and in laws are camped outside the house for 4 hours, waiting for confirmation to be received for the funds we have sent and have also sent proof that they are in the solicitors account. Good times!

Finally we get the word and our courteous estate agent WhatsApp messages me the code to the lock box outside the house which contain the keys with a wholesomely sincere ‘congrats’ too. Cheers mate: I will definitely use you to sell the house one day and recommend you to all of my neighbours: NOT.

We move in and discover the kind owners have left a massive scrape mark all over the kitchen tiles from when they removed the sofas, and all walls and carpets are severely stained and marked.
The only white good left was the fancy Range cooker but the oven door is broken. The patio doors don’t have keys to open them and the toilet upstairs is continually flushing.

Still we were in and fish and chips sitting on boxes full of books that evening never tasted so good.

What an ordeal though and one which made me truly realise, even after all the years I have been selling houses, what a truly stressful process it is to move home: especially when it’s with your family!

Lessons learnt:

  1. As an owner, be prepared to sell.
    This may seem a strange thing to say but with so many box ticking processes to go through at the start of a sale, you need to be on your A game even before you agree a sale, to make sure the ball is in the buyers court as soon as possible.

  2. Checklist for sale
    - Instruct and put solicitor in funds
    - If you live in a block of flats: get in touch with managing agent to instruct and pay for your LP1 management pack to be prepared
    - Fill in your TA 6 , 7 and 10 forms
    - Be ready and patient to answer all and every question quickly.
    - Insist that if a buyer wants a survey and valuation they book this in within the first two weeks of agreeing a sale: easier said than done but set down the ground rule early.

    Then you have a chance of selling within 2 months. The chances of the deal falling through is greater by every day that passes.
    Past 2 months and your chances go from 85% down to 60%.
    Past 3 months and it’s 50:50.

  3. Checklist for buyer
    - Get your solicitors instructed and in funds and do your AML asap.
    - Do the same with your mortgage broker. There will always be another document to send to your broker as I sadly experienced personally so proactively get this clear from the start with your broker so delays don’t happen later on.
    - Get your survey and mortgage valuation booked in asap and chase then for the reports like Mo Farah.

  4. Checklist for both buyer and seller
    - Keep a constant and clear updated conversation line going with all parties especially via estate agents as to where you are and what your expectations are.
    - Nothing raises stress more and frustration higher than the sound of silence.
    - We all do this naturally though and just expect everyone is in the picture and singing off the same hymn sheet. Rarely this is the case and as a seller that’s why it’s very important to instruct an exceptional and experienced estate agent to handle your sale, and alleviate as much of that stress as possible and proactively problem solve before mountains form out of molehills.

    I didn’t get that experience with my estate agent but have told this story to my whole team and very much hope we deliver this service to our clients. I think it’s the reason why vendors who know me are willing to pay higher fees to TLC fact.

    Many agents can get a buyer to say yes: few can consistently get the yes to translate into completion and money in your bank.

    TLC’s conversion rate from sale agreed to completion of sale is 86% according to Rightmove.

    Our nearest competitor in our area only had a 50% conversion rate.

    So in brief summary: be prepared and be proactive. Pay more; get more and ensure your sale goes through….oh and try not to move too much: it’s undeniably too painful a process to do too much !

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