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Once upon a time, not so very long ago, people hunted for a home very differently. While their choice would certainly centre around their core criteria (number of rooms, overall size, access to work or schools, etc), the final decision would ultimately come down to a single defining question: do I like it?

Yes, we know it sounds crazy, but it really used to happen. People would actually base their decision to buy a property on whether or not they got a good feeling from it, and whether they thought they’d like to live there. At dinner parties everywhere, people would say: “It just felt right” and “We knew we wanted it the moment we walked in the door”. Madness.

Today, the picture is very different. Today it’s all about future market value, realising untapped potential and locating the next area to go big. It’s an interesting sign of the times that, when showing someone around a property, we rarely hear anyone exclaim the immortal words: “Oh my god, I love it.”

Perhaps it’s fear of being drawn into the evil estate agent’s web of skilled negotiation tactics and devilish mind control: keep your emotions hidden and you’ll be safe from their charms; avoid enthusiasm at all costs, or it’ll cost you; and don’t be fooled by their smiles and pleasantries… once they’ve got you in their claws, there’ll be no escape and you’ll end up – oh horror of horrors! – in a home you adore.

So what’s going on?

First, the rise and continued popularity of TV interiors programmes has heightened people’s awareness of design and had them realise that, in some instances, a property can be transformed with not a lot of work and lifted from a bit depressing, to really rather nice. That’s a good thing, particularly where busy people are concerned. The word “potential” used to be lost on city types because they were simply too busy to think about the idea of living in a building site and coming home to dust central after a very long day at work. So to demonstrate how a reasonably small effort can transform a property that is otherwise a perfect match is a wholly positive thing.

But it’s the change in affordability that’s had the most dramatic effect on the way people relate to property. Particularly in London, where really the only people who can afford to get themselves onto the property ladder are those earning good money in the city (whether legal, financial or otherwise), perhaps it’s no wonder that hardcore rational analysis has replaced feelings and emotions as the driving force behind decisions.

And we are in a time of mass information, and of mass information being the order of the day. Everyone is armed to the teeth with mass information. New train lines, future regeneration, infrastructure improvements, historic house prices and projected growth areas – often delivered with dramatic headlines and anxiety inducing predictions – all form part of a decision that, let’s be honest, is a really big deal.

None of this is wrong, and we’ve absolutely no objection to people getting maximum financial benefit from their property making decision. But we hope it’s not at the expense of one of the best feelings there is: the joy of moving in to a home you truly love.

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Bolton-Road
Sometimes, even Christmas has to wait.

The sale of this property in Willesden Green had been agreed some time before the festive period, but it was over this usually joyous time of year that problems arose on the sale.

A summary of the story is the vendor was advised by other agents to ask £2.1million for their property. After a while having no luck we were asked for our advice and it was our suggestion to get the price below £2million and go to market at £1.9million. Within a short space of time we found an interested party, but they were unwilling to go any higher than £1.75million. The owners already had a property in mind that had, for them, fortunately not sold during their unsuccessful period on the market. And when someone has their heart really set on their next home, they do become more flexible on the price of their existing one.

And so a sale was agreed and everything advanced in somewhat hunky-dory fashion, until the full structural was carried out. Although it didn’t reveal anything majorly wrong with the property, it did highlight a number of repair issues resulting in the buyers seeking a further reduction of £50,000.

Now, it doesn’t really matter what you say about a property having been overpriced in the beginning. When someone has had their property on the market at £2.1m (through being advised to do so and having their hopes unnecessarily raised), then reduced their asking price to £1.9m, then accepted an offer of £1.75m in order to secure their next home, and then been asked to reduce by another £50,000, there is no way on earth they’ll avoid the sense of money haemorrhaging away, even if it was never actually in their hands.

So there was a sensitivity to be dealt with and it is to the sellers’ credit how they kept their cool and responded rationally and constructively. It would be totally understandable for someone to seriously throw their toys out of their pram at this point, perhaps feeling cornered with the threat of losing the house they are buying and at a point so close to exchanging contracts. But they didn’t do that. They never lost sight of the main objective: to move home. A lot of people lose their sale at this point because they can’t see past the money, so a good lesson here.

The buyers were holding fairly firm on the amount of their reduction but we did manage to negotiate it down to £45,000, agreeing a final sale price of £1,705,000. There was quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and I think the only day when there was no communication over the sale was Christmas Day itself, with the new price being agreed on New Year’s Eve. Even by our standards, we worked damned hard on this one!

Contracts were exchanged on Friday 13th January – lucky for some! – with completion set for late February. The sale has actually given us inspiration for another article about how to manage the pitfalls of price reductions and other problems – and indeed how to pre-empt them – so do check back here soon for our next piece.

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