Stressed? Of course I am, I am moving home...

A survey last year (by found that buying or selling a home is THE most stressful experience in modern life. It ranked higher than divorce, losing your job and even bereavement. So how do you take out as much of the stress as is possible? Jamie Langley has these calming words…

Buying a new home should be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. Instead, it all too often ends in tears – even after weeks or months of growing anxiety and frustration.

So can all this be avoided? I’d love to say “yes”. But even a very good estate agent can only affect those things within his or her influence.

A poor agent, however, can really add to the problems – and even cause a deal to break down… the all too common occurrence that is said to be the biggest single cause of stress.

So let’s look at what can go wrong. And remember, this doesn’t happen to everyone…many deals go through simply and smoothly. But forewarned is forearmed.

1The last minute price haggle…

It’s an all too familiar scene: a price is haggled over and eventually agreed, the “Sold Subject to Contract” signs go up. Then the building society’s surveyor comes in and the valuation comes up short. Cue a last minute demand for the price to come down. But remember, building societies only do these surveys to cover their rear ends: they will want to be 110% sure they can get their money back if the borrower defaults.

That means they will regularly value a property at considerably below what would generally be considered a fair market price (which, when it boils down, is what someone is prepared to pay for it).

The building society valuation is only critical where there is relatively high percentage loan to value borrowing. The purchaser needs to be reminded that this is the case and his/her professional advisors should also be giving the same advice – if they are being professional...

This is where a full survey comes into its own, because it looks at a property’s value on the open market.

2. You’ve got a damp spot...

Often more problematic is where a building surveyor comes in on behalf of the purchaser and reports a list of cracks and damp spots, as not to mention ageing electrics, again sparking a demand to lower the asking price.

Finding faults is what a surveyor is professionally obliged to do. But does this mean that you can expect to dock off money for every cracked tile? Reality has to play a role here: every house has faults - and the older the property, the more you’re going to find. The question that has to be asked is: have these defects already been factored into the price?

If the answer is “yes”, then it’s not reasonable to lower the price.

If, however, it’s a bigger issue that hasn't been factored in and is likely to need fixing as soon as the person moves in, or prevent a sale further down the line – then that’s the time to negotiate. The same holds true of a legal issue that gets unearthed in the searches or by the solicitor.

Of course the best solution to all this is honesty up front. I would always encourage my vendors to be totally transparent about what will only come to light in the run in to a sale: why hide and hope when it’s only going to come back and bite you further down the line?

If only the whole property business operated like this, it would be a much simpler place to do business… and create less work for the solicitors and surveyors as well as lower bills for those trying to buy or sell a home.

3The Mexican standoff…

Of course being honest and helpful won't stop the purchaser who likes to take the macho approach and demand a last minute drop because, well, they think that the vendor might blink.

If you have been doing your job as an agent you may well see this coming, as you do get a sixth sense about the people you deal with.

And this is where the vendor’s agent really has to earn their corn – talking directly to the purchaser or their solicitor and persuading them that the price agreed is a fair one and that your client has alternatives – and that their purchase is predicated on the price agreed.

I do get extremely annoyed that some solicitors seem either blasé or even complicit in this approach: the process of buying and selling a home is stressful enough. But it’s a tough world – which is why you do need a tough (as well as an honest) negotiator in your corner: buying and selling a property isn’t for the faint hearted!


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