Autumn is a busy season for us; the level of activity has shot up and all my “call me in September” buyers have resumed their searches. This morning I have to review my Saturday - the two open houses and 14 offers as a result. Offers range from 20 per cent below to five per cent above asking price, and I am faced with the task of explaining to under-bidders that, just because you can “move quickly”, doesn’t make your offer of £200,000 below the asking price attractive. My advice of: “Pay the asking price or more to secure,” has fallen on deaf ears.
I spend the morning pushing paper from yesterday’s deal — the buyer wants a five-day exchange. The vendor is in a great position with six under-bidders circling like vultures in anticipation of a slip-up. The pressure is on and I’m stuck between angry buyers who missed out and my angry wife on the phone with an anniversary issue.
I don’t know who to fear more and calm the latter when I announce plans for our first wedding anniversary at the weekend. I do a third viewing in the afternoon at a property where the prospective buyer wants to bring his eight-year-old daughter. As delightful as the daughter is, the constant: “Why is this room so small and dark?” and: “I don’t like this house,” doesn’t help to seal the deal.
Lo and behold I receive an apologetic call on the way home explaining that even though they like the location etc, they’ll not take it any further. Never work with animals or children.
It’s an early start as a City type wants to view one of the best properties on our books before work. Registered up to £3 million, my favourite line from him is: “It doesn’t have to be perfect — I’m only going to use it a few times a month as I spend most of my time in Monaco.” Today is also the day the deal from hell is set to exchange.
Riddled with title and lease issues, we get past the final hurdle with all in order, only for the vendor to demand another £300k. I wouldn’t have been so devastated had the property not been on the market for over a year with eight agents, receiving only one offer.
I have a valuation today on a house near Holland Park. I arrive a little early and after a few knocks at the door still get no answer. I turn to leave only to be confronted by the vendor who I vaguely recognize, but can’t be sure of who she is… She has now moved across the road and bought the next door house as well to stop somebody else carrying out extensive building works.
We get on with the valuation, but after a short while she becomes more and more familiar to me and I am driven to ask a little more into her background. Turns out she grew up in South London and went to the same secondary school as me! She boils the kettle and we settle down to a coffee and some good old school gossip. I’m always surprised at what a small world we live in…
Fridays are good days in this industry. An unwritten rule in the world of solicitors seems to make it the main day for exchanges, meaning you greet the weekend with a smile on your face. And we’re on for a big week, which is great after three years of volatility.
On the way to meet one of the scariest buyers I have ever dealt with, I calm my nerves by putting in some calls to the lawyers to make sure everything is ready for my current exchange. My buyer has flown in from Russia, so I arrive early to make sure all is in order. When I pull up I see he’s already there with his translator and slight panic starts to set in. I discover that the vendor has locked three of the locks but only given us two keys.
I contact the vendor trying to convey the urgency and after 10 minutes of chaos and near heart failure, all falls into place and I show the buyer around. On my way back to the office I get a call from the lawyers. My current exchange has gone through… the sun comes out and I forget the near-catastrophe of the afternoon.
David Huggett is an associate in the Kensington office of Chesterton Humberts (chestertonhumberts.com)