When things go wrong, they can go very wrong indeed. From disinterested agents involved in the chain, buyers without the money, illusive solicitors and onward sellers threatening to withdraw, this long running saga almost had it all!
Selling a house is not easy. Sure in some cases things can go smoothly but in this day and age there's more regualtion than ever, the conveyancing process is much more indepth and following the housing market crash in 2008 lenders have become risk averse and scrutiny on would be buyers has become a painstaking process.
When Mr and Mrs B sold their lovely three bedroom semi-detached home in a Lawford, Manningtree on the open day we held on their first week on the market (FEB 2019) everything was looking great. We had great footfall and had an offer which was solid from a cash buyer (cash from sale) who had sold to a buyer with nothing to sell. Little did they know it would take them TEN more months to exchange and that they'd be exchanging on the 2nd January 2020 and moving, today, on the 3rd January.
At that point, none of us were quite prepared for the obstacles that were thrown at us throughout the sales process.
At first, all was well and they were able to find and secure the property of their dreams, a newly refurbished bungalow close to the sea front in Holland on Sea. Progress on their sale and purchase was as expected and after 8 weeks their own sale and purchase was pretty much ready to go and our attentions started to turn more to their buyers related sale which needed to catch up - this is when our trouble began.
Our buyer, having sold through an internet only estate agent that claims to offer a 'full agency service' at a fraction of the fee (you probably know the one...) and having already been paid upfront, it was clear that this 'agent' had no interest in progressing their related sale. The 'local property expert' was always unavailable or unresponsive to both myself and his own client(!). Alarm bells started to sound as we waited and waited for news of the buyer at the bottom of the chain's mortgage offer. After weeks of chasing we digged and we digged only to find out that this internet agent had never had sight of proof of funds (finance) that this buyer could not get a mortgage for the purchase price and actually needed to sell a flat in order to be able to buy our buyers property.
In this day and age of Anti-money laundering regulations this situation was beyond belief and our buyer, who I spoke to personally almost every day for ten months, took action to remarket her property. Thankfully she had a desirable property in a good area near to a main-line station to London, so it didn't take her long to resell - at this point we had already invested five months into a sales process.
My clients were sensible, they were at the mercy of third parties but valued the offer from their buyer and all the effort she had made to progress things even without sucess. A new buyer was introduced and, low and behold, full financial diligence was run completed and we had a new first time buyer! We were up and running again!
Despite putting everything back together the owner of the property at the top of the chain had had enough. It took great effort and much negotiation just to keep that property secure to my clients. Threats of withdrawal or that he was going to rent it out intead were consistent and unhelpful. This process was stressful enough for my people without having to deal with the emotions of potentially losing where they wanted to be through no fault of their own.
We had to approach this new chain differently. We recognised where it had gone wrong and we needed better communication. We were never going to get that through the internet agent so, with my buyers help, we had the contact details of her new buyer and, eventually, his solicitor direct. We cut out the middle man and our agency went from managing just our sale to managing our clients onward purchase and our buyers related sale too. We just had to take control.
This new buyer was great, he was a first time buyer, a bit naive to the process as he had never done it before but it was clear he was motivated. Searches and mortgage valuation survey were completed quickly and we were encouraged that we were on the right track. We started to try to plan a completion before Christmas for two reasons, to try to keep the property they were buying happy and, let's face it, they had been waiting to move for 7 months by this point so we wanted to press! We wern't quite ready but there was no harm in having this conversation, by the start of December all we were waiting for (again) was the mortgage offer for the first time buyer.
This mortgage was issued to our delight on the 2nd December and we all started to get excited for the imminent exchange! Surely it was about to happen, the buyer had signed all his paperwork and supplied his deposit - signs that we really were on the last leg... We waited and waited... but unfortunately instead of the exchange happening it went deafly quiet for days...
What transpired was that although we had the mortgage offer, the address on it included the property's ward and this did not match, word for word, the property address registered with Land Registry! It took the solicitor acting for this buyer ten further days to raise this with the lender and we were told that a simple amendment was needed.
This was not the case, what transpired was that Barclays insisted on issuing a new mortgage offer in full. We chased this every single day via the broker and solicitor hoping that we could complete by Christmas and have our clients all set for the new year in their new home. Each and every day on the lead up to Christmas we were told it was going to be 24 to 48 hours, truth be told it took Barclays two full weeks to amend this offer and issue it to the solicitor. Many many deadlines came and were lost.
The situation was intense! Not only were we despearte to exchange ourselves, on his solicitors advice, the first time buyer gave notice to his rental on the 3rd December 2019 and was going to be homeless on the 3rd January 2020! It was now Christmas and two of the solicitors in the chain had shut until Jaunary the 2nd! On the 28th December I had a message from this first time buyers lawyer that they had the amended offer and that they had requested funds for the 3rd Jan BUT they could not offer exchnage until the 2nd January. Talk about tight!!!
At this stage it seemed like mission impossible to not only convince the chain to hold on with such short notice but to also raise removals for everyone.
Somehow, we did it. This was a huge team effort from everyone involved. Our buyer and our seller had their lives on hold, they lived out of boxes over Christmas but still remained objective at the end of the process. Whilst we did so much work for them, without their cooperation and their trust in us this was the most unliklisest of conclusions and we pulled it off together. I didn't need to call them to confirm the exchange on the 2nd January, I am sure they heard my delight accross town when I got the call myself in the office.
The moral of the story? Sure, things can go smoothly but sometimes things are thrown at you that you just cannot forsee. You need skilled and motivated people to represent your interest at all times, people who are proactive, motivated and not afraid to be the point of contact through difficult times. If things seem to good to be true, they often are. Choosing your agent is an investment in your future and in the chances of success of realising that future. Don't leave that to chance.
Now, there is a big gaping hole in my day to day work, I feel a bit lost not chasing this every day, responding to messages in the evening and I'll miss talking to our buyer and our seller truth be told we grew close. Truth also be told I should enjoy this lull as some other catastrophe normally fills the space of the one you've sorted out quite quickly!!