I cherish my intercontinental friendships
We talk it over continental breakfast
In a hotel in East Bumble-wherever
Somewhere on the sphere, around here
Happy new year!
If I ever make noises about voluntarily moving house again, please stop me. As long-time readers will know, we moved into a new home in September 2010. As time has gone on, we’ve outgrown the place; while it was fine for a first house our family has grown and it was starting to feel a little bit cramped. So in January we decided to sell up and move to somewhere a little bigger. This is a rough timeline of how things went:
Spend the weekends fixing up a few little niggles with the house (repainting, plastering, etc).
Engage a number of local estate agents to evaluate the place for a sale. I have an idea of price in mind, having checked out the local market.
Estate Agent 1: Quotes about 7% over what I’m expecting for the house. Also quotes the lowest agency fee.
Estate Agent 2: Quotes about 3% less than I’m expecting. Offers me a fee that’s bang on what I’d expected to pay
Estate Agent 3 (Who sold us the house in the first place): Quotes about what I’d expected, but with a much higher fee.
After some deliberation, we go with the second agent, Paul Graham Estate Agents, but set an initial price of what Estate Agent 3 had suggested, on the basis that we’ll drop it if we get no interest after 4 weeks.
House is launched onto the market, with about 10 viewings in the first weekend. We go out and view a half-dozen houses in the local area that fit our budget. One of them stands out as being somewhere we want to call home, and we intend to make an offer on it as soon as possible. Unfortunately none of the initially interested viewers want to buy our place. We drop the price to what was suggested originally. Immediately Estate Agent 3 gets on our case suggesting our chosen agent isn’t getting people through the door. Nope, that’s not the case, it’s more that the house isn’t easy to sell, in part because it’s set back from the street and people want houses with driveways at the front, and in part because it needs redecoration (really hard with young children around).
After watching it for months, the house we fell in love with sells. And the day after? At last, an offer, after more than 30 viewings on the house, and for slightly more than we’d have accepted as our bottom price! Unfortunately our buyers haven’t sold their flat yet so we don’t have a complete chain, but the estate agents don’t think it’ll take long to sell. We start looking at houses again and settle for a different one. We’re split between two of similar ages, one of which is newly refurbished, and the other which isn’t, but is also significantly cheaper. While we’re deliberating, the cheaper one sells. So that’s our decision made. I chase to find if the chain is complete yet and it is, so we put in an offer which is accepted. Hooray, we’ll be moved soon!
The lawyers take over. We appoint a solicitor with a local, but large South-East England firm of solicitors, MW Solicitors. Our sellers appoint a different local firm. Our buyers appoint an online conveyancing company who seem to be very cheap. A deadline of 15th September is set for completion by our sellers who want to get their daughter into a specific school in September 2018.
All the searches and surveys come back to my satisfaction, so I transfer the balance of the 10% purchase price to our solicitor ready to get exchange going. There have been no further enquiries from our buyers’ solicitors, so she thinks they’ll be ready to complete soon too. Time to get quotes from removal companies. I’m most impressed by Arnold & Self, so when the time comes they’ll get my business.
Our buyers aren’t ready to complete after all – their solicitors have been sitting on paperwork for months! We reply to their enquiries same-day and, at the end of the month, find out that everyone else in the chain is ready to move, and so long as there are no more delays from slow solicitors, we’ll be exchanging soon.
Bad news. Terrible news. The buyer at the bottom of the chain drops out, placing the entire chain in jeopardy. We’re pretty distraught, as are our sellers who are now in danger of missing the deadline for school applications. We agree to give it a week to find a new buyer, and one is found in only three days. We still need to wait for all the legal work to be done again, but the new buyer is aware of the tight time frames (mortgage offers expiring and school places vanishing) and agrees to work to it.
At last, everyone is ready to exchange! Except that they aren’t. There’s a missing deed of covenant for the ex-local authority flat at the bottom of the chain, and because it’s been paid for by cheque (hello once more, useless online conveyancing firm), it can’t be released until the cheque clears. After a fraught few days in which I threaten to turn up to the council’s office with the money in cash, just to get things moving, I’m relieved to find out that fortunately this won’t be necessary and we’re finally ready to exchange everywhere.
It’s a fairly long chain, so we need everyone in it to agree exchange quickly to get it done by close of business. Unfortunately, there’s a snag. Everyone agrees to exchange on a deposit of 10%. Then at the last minute, we find out the buyer at the bottom can only transfer 5%, the remainder of their purchase money being mortgage funded, will we agree to that instead? Er, yes, we suppose so. But getting everyone to agree by close of business is impossible, so…
Exchange Day, take 2
This time we’re done and dusted and exchange takes place by lunchtime. We’re finally, really moving house, in only eight days. About bloody time! I call the removals company and, miraculously, they have availability for us to move on the following Friday. We call in to see the soon-to-be-ex owners of our new home to take some measurements, then go out curtain shopping. Cut to…
The house is all packed up, in a combination of a Transit van, a Luton and a great big removals truck. Half the furniture was taken away the day before, ready to be delivered in the afternoon once we have keys. After a brief look around our home, we head to the estate agent and hand over the keys, then go to Dotty’s Teahouse for lunch.
Our solicitor phones to let me know our sale has completed. “So I’m technically homeless right now?” I joke with her, and she agrees, yes, I’m homeless, and I’ll have to live in my car for the next twenty minutes or so.
An hour later: We still haven’t completed on our purchase. After wandering around the area for a while, we drop into the estate agent on the off-chance they’ve heard something. They haven’t, and neither have the sellers’ solicitors, even though ours are clear they’ve sent the money, so they can’t release the keys to us.
Two hours later: Still no sign of the purchase money. This is getting pretty worrying now. Our solicitor’s accounts department is on the phone with their bank trying to find out where my money is. Suddenly the jokes about being homeless really aren’t funny. Eventually the money re-appears, back with our solicitor at around 4:15, but it’s way too late to transfer it again the same day. We genuinely have no home to go to. We’re told to find a hotel, and that our expenses will be covered. Still not ideal, but at least we’re not on the hook for the rest of the chain’s costs. I head to the house and tell the removal men to go home, taking my possessions with them. We’ll have another go at moving in on Monday…
A weekend in a hotel and finding things to do with the kids aside, it could have been worse. I drop Sleeper Jr. off at school and explain to his head teacher that he’s not had a restful few days due to the issues we’ve had moving house. On the way back to the hotel, I get confirmation that the money has been sent, again, and an hour later, there are a set of keys in my hand. A few hours after that, the first truckload of furniture has arrived, so we can start moving in.
The next day the rest of the furniture arrives. We’re finally well and truly moved in, living in Boxworld. Later, I find out that we completed on the last possible day for our sellers to get their daughter into the school they’d wanted. I’m very glad I didn’t know that ahead of time, it could only have added to the stress.
Until, of course, on the Sunday evening, a loud noise alerts me to something terrifying in the house, and we have to get everyone out as quickly as possible. But that’s another story, about the kindness of strangers…