Buying a House, Part 5

This blog post is the fifth in a series about buying our first house. In the third post in the series, we’d contracted some lawyers and applied for a mortgage, and in the fourth post we asked for help with the upcoming move. If you feel like we weren’t telling you the whole story, that’s because we weren’t: some of the bits we can now reveal were things that we needed to keep close to our chest while we were negotiating over the sale…

Things were continuing apace with our new house purchase, and that was the way that we wanted it. We’d had an offer accepted, applied for a mortgage (of which we’d been provisionally accepted already; this was just a paperwork affair), and our solicitors had gotten started with the searches and drafting the contracts. So long as the surveyor’s visit didn’t turn up any problems, we were on a roll.

Our new house in Kidlington, just North of Oxford.
Our new house, up in Kidlington.
Courtesy Google Maps.

Unfortunately, a few things did seem to be conspiring against us. The first was that the two sellers – a married couple who were in the middle of what appeared to be a… messy… separation – didn’t seem to be very communicative either with one another nor with their solicitor: or else, their solicitor was incredibly slow at relaying information back to our solicitor.

One of the existing owners talks to the surveyor as he inspects the conservatory.
I made a point of visiting the property a few times, to see how things were progressing. On this occasion, I got to meet with our surveyor and one of the owners.

This posed a problem, because Ruth, JTA, Matt and I had already arranged with our letting agents that we’d be vacating our current house by the 5th of August. We’d left two clear weekends of possible “moving” time, but they were rushing up fast. Before the exchange of contracts, we couldn’t really let the sellers know how important it was that we complete the sale in a hurry, or else we’d be in a very weak negotiating position (and they’d be free to move the goalposts, knowing that we were running out of options). On the other hand, we really wanted to push to get the last couple of issues sorted out as soon as possible.

A front door with a hole, boarded up with plywood.
Yeah… that’s gonna be a problem, mate.

This ties in to the second thing that conspired against us: there were two particular issues with the house that we didn’t want to go ahead without resolving. The first was that the boiler hadn’t been serviced in a long time, so we insisted upon a gas safety inspection being carried out before we would exchange contracts. The second was that the front door was more “hole” than “door”, believed to have occurred during some kind of fracas between the owners (did I mention that their divorce was a little unpleasant?).

A list of items for sale, with prices: wardrobes, drawers, a cooker, washing machine, and fridge/freezer.
The sellers were keen to re-home a number of pieces of furniture along with the house.

The gas safety inspection got sorted out after a while, but we went back and forth over the front door for what felt like an age. Who should repair it? Who should pay? We were told that the sellers were having cashflow problems and weren’t sure that they could pay for the repair of the door prior to the sale, but we weren’t happy to agree to the sale without a commitment that the door would be repaired by the completion (our insurer, answerable to our mortgage lender, wasn’t keen on us moving in to a house will a hole in it): we were at an impasse. So when the sellers produced for us a list of furniture they’d like to offer to sell to us, we noted with some suspicion that the total value of the furniture was remarkably close to the value of the quote for the repair of the door: clearly, they planned to offer to give us the furniture for “free” in exchange for not repairing the door.

A pair of large wardrobes.
The sellers were particularly keen to sell us this enormous pair of wardrobes, but -m for the price they were asking – we weren’t biting.

Which might have been fine, except for the fact that we didn’t want about half (by value) of the things they were offering. Having been living in unfurnished accomodation for several years, we’ve already got a sufficiency of wardrobes. We were keen to take their appliances off their hands (including a gas cooker and a very large fridge/freezer), but we weren’t willing to buy something that we didn’t need just so that they could find it easier to repair something that they broke! We made a number of other offers, such as lending them the money to repair the door (which they’d be able to pay us back following the sale), but they weren’t keen.

A faux leather couch.
Given that at least one of the sellers was a smoker, we didn’t really want to buy any soft furnishings from them, such as this sofa. Besides, we thought, my dad’s house already contains a perfectly fabulous couch that nobody’s using!

We put into place our emergency plan, and made arrangements to go and start viewing rental properties, in case we ran out of time and needed somewhere to live. JTA and I played “good cop, bad cop” with them in a spectacular tag team, leveraging this situation as a threat to pull out of the purchase entirely… and just like that, they caved. Within a day or so, their solicitor had agreed to the terms of our contract, and the sellers agreed to sort out the front door prior to completion of the sale, and we made sure to get it in writing. Our solicitor had already requested the money from our mortgage lender, so we agreed upon a completion date later in the week.

Piles of boxes - mostly full of board games! - at our old house.
Gradually the kitchen, hallway, and living room became completely full of cardboard boxes.

We popped open a bottle of prosecco and celebrated the successful exchange, and redoubled our efforts to fill our house with boxes, prior to the move.

4 replies to Buying a House, Part 5

  1. Probably more commonly occuring than you might think. Except when my sale completed, my solicitors acdidentally gave me the (divorcing) couples marriage certificate. Great. Glad you are all moved!

  2. Buying a new property is a good idea but before doing payment you must know about every aspect of the property, solicitors are good people to do these kinds of things as a property solicitor can help you a lot while buying a property.

    • That’s true, David. However, I’ve removed the link you added to the solicitors you were trying to advertise, because this discussion’s better without the advertisements.

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