Saturday, 20 August 2011

How difficult can it be to buy a house?

We live in a rented house which we did with a view to purchasing it. After living here for while we've come to the realisation that, as nice as the house is and we have loved living here, we would not be able to afford it AND make good all the neceassry repairs. So, we set things in motion to purchase somewhere else.

Being as we're not as young as we once were, financing a deal would be quite hard for a shorter term mortgage. We employed a financial adviser to assist us and back in April he had secured for us a deal in principle. Now the fun starts!

The house we found and wish to buy has been without occupants since November 2010 although it is fully furnished. The owners have fallen on hard times and need the money so you'd think there would be some urgency in selling it (not a repossession, but I feel it was getting close).

I guess with no chain in either direction and a need for money this is about as simple as it gets.

We put an offer on the property, and after a bit of the usual haggling, the offer was accepted.

A couple of weeks pass by as we find a solicitor etc. With that in place we formally apply for mortgage. That, out of necessity, incurs a survey. Nothing wrong with that as it assures us the property is sound anyway. With all that happening it brings us to our holiday in May. Good, we thought, when we come back from holiday things will be in place and we can get our lovely home. How wrong can you be? The surveyor, acting on behalf of the Building Society decided that £4000 should be retained pending certain repairs to be undertaken.

Given that the property is over 110 years old I didn't expect it to go without a comment or two. The Surveyor required an Electrical report and a Roof report to be undertaken. I can understand that he wasn't a qualified electrician and the roof is, well, just old! But in his survey it wasn't those items that was causing the retention... No, that was down to "sub-floor ventilation needs improving". Ho-hum. As the roof needed a report prepared I contacted a friend of mine who runs a Construction Company. I asked him to produce an unbiased report of both the roof and the sub-floor ventillation and also an estimate to make good any problems. His report stated that the only way the ventilation could be improved was the addition of one extra air brick - he issued a value in his estimate - the princely sum of £30. We sent the reports (more of the Electrical Report to follow) back to the Building Society and the retention was removed. So, first failure of The Professionals!

The electrical report. It is not a concept too far removed from any person with some knowledge house wiring that it's a good thing to have a supply of electrictiy with which to test (I know there are ways round this but at least the safety trips can only be tested with a genuine supply). First obstacle. Because of the financial situation of the Vendor the Electrical supply was ony available via a Key Token which has to be kept "topped-up" with funds. This way any bad debt can be recovered and no further debt incurred. Who has this key? Enquiries made to the Estate Agent revealed that it was with the Vendor. Arrangements were made to have the key delivered and topped up with adequate funds on it to recover the outstanding debts! This took 5 weeks! No typo - FIVE WHOLE WEEKS! Anyway, the tests were completed and the results forwarded to the Building Society as peviously mentioned.

This brings us into other areas of this much protracted adventure. Building Societies need referrences from all sorts of 'official' bodies, especially with regard to Finance! So, I wasn't surprised to see that they would enquire of my Employment status. What I wasn't prepared for was the number of times they did this ... that is; the enquiry. My company saw fit every time they replied not to include the requested reference number. Actually, when they did get it right my employer failed to include an all important part of my income! This fiasco continued right up to 8 days before the exchange of contracts! Second failure of The Professionals!

Whilst on the subject of references I'll just include the (still ongoing) medical report for Life Insurance cover. As you can imagine getting further away from youth makes health riskier. So, quite simply, the greater the risk the more you pay. However, as all companies are after your business, it pays to shop around. This was done by our Advisor and set up getting quotes from two companies. We take the cheapest. Well, that started at the same time we applied for the mortgage. Requests were made of doctor and the report is then returned. It's worth noting here the Doctor gets paid for furnishing these reports. We had one quote within 2 weeks of applying the other, well, the Doctor has been reminded twice after phoning at least five times (I'm also aware they receive a reminder letter weekly from the Insurance company as I receive a copy) and as of the time of writing has STILL not returned the report to one company. Let's face it - it can ONLY be the same. We are no different to the same doctor if you get my reasoning. The Doctor has already written it for goodness sake! Third Professional failure!

Whilst all this has been taken place - more to the point - has NOT been taking place the Building Society have closed the case. No enquiry as to what was happening or anything like that - just closed it. Our advisor was absolutely furious! Fortunately, we persuaded them to create a new case but with no charges. I should add - in that time their interest rate had increased by 0.2% Thanks! Fourth Professional failure!

How are the innocents doing in all this? We're just plodding along being pleasant to everyone and putting it down to experience. Anyway, we're not the type of people to create too much of a fuss. Errors happen and as long as we ALL learn from the mistakes all is well and good.

Now we come to the Estate Agent. I know the property market is severely depressed but being that desperate to complete a sale should not result in unethical practices. I REALLY fell out with the Vendor's agent when he kept saying that he was doing all he could to conclude the transaction. It came to a head when he was pressuring our advisor to get things going! I blew my top. The office would constantly cover for him saying he wasn't there or was busy on calls. Any dialogue that took place was between him and Marianne. Bless her. She just asked why he wasn't talking to me about the issues! I could go on about him but the worst instance was his constant refusal to listen. I asked him at one point to let me know when it was my turn to talk! Arrogant little (insert own expletives as appropriate). Fifth failure of The Professionals!

This brings us to the beginning of August and we receive an urgent email on a Saturday evening (yes - I know, I did write Saturday) informing us the Vendor would like to exchange contracts next Friday (12th August) with a completion date of 19th August. Apparently he loses an option to exchange contracts the same day if this doesn't happen. This is the first time we've heard anything from the Vendor and came as a complete surprise that he even had a desire to buy somewhere else. The request made to us was, can we do it? ... Well, yes we can, we've been trying to do it for ages! Exchange of contracts was right down to the wire last week - the reason being the vendor couldn't be found. He's been around when ever we tried to get other things done, usually responding to his Agent within an hour. I'd started enquires at lunchtime but at 16:50 no response from him... even his solicitor couldn't find him. At 17:10 exchange of contracts took place. (Interestingly the Vendor's solicitor described either the Vendor or his Agent as "a most obnoxious person"). Not just my thoughts then! Anyway, excellent news - things are finally happening.

So we await the day of completion. Now, with all this behind us you'd think that there was very little left to go wrong ... read on!

Before you do - let me notify you of one tiny part of the contract - the property to be cleared of all rubbish on the day of completion, that includes a broken down, off the road, Defender 110 Landrover! Becasue of this we drove over to the property on Wednesday evening to see if any progress had been made. Wow! The Landrover had gone, there was a skip (dumpster) full of rubbish and the Vendor was there with a private hire van! This is going to happen.

These were taken at 10'ish the day after "completion" - so I suppose this is in breach of contract. Who knows anymore?

Thursday evening was a sleepless night. Don't know whether it was apprehension or excitement. Either way I didn't get much sleep, nor did Marianne. I decided to take the afternoon off so we could collect the keys together and go to our new home.

With all the buzz that was going on I enquired of my solicitor as to what was happening. Is everyting ok? She had just contacted the building society and the money been released at 11:00 and should be in account within the hour. Good - nearly ours then!


We had exercised extreme patience (I guess you have too if you've read this far) and didn't bother a soul until 15:30... then our patience (probably mine) wore thin so I called our solicitor....


"Your money has been transferred to the worng account. We can't find it anywhere nor can the banks involved - I'm afraid we will not be able to complete today - maybe Monday or Tuesday".... speechless.

I wish I'd have asked where shall we live now? But we still have 4 weeks rent left owing to us so I felt confident about a roof over our heads so the degree of emergency was dissipated. Not ony that - I truly was SPEECHLESS!

The Professionals' failure number six!

Up to this point I have to say our solicitor had been brilliant and I take my hat off to her; she took the blame for this failure when in fact it was the secretary that incorrectly entered the account number. Still - it SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. Marianne and I should be playing houses not feeling wretched as we do right now.

Every step of the way through this sorry mess we have been compliant and (I think) very pleasant people but we're now at our wits end. It would seem "The Professionals" are just bumbling, incompetent idiots. No wonder the UK is going to the dogs. Just need something to give us a bit of confidence in human nature again.

Thank you for getting this far - but I needed to vent!