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First time buyers in London – sound familiar?

Buying a home is expensive. Even more so in London. And then of course there is the process which is enough to bring you to tears. Here is one young couple's experience which has left them wanting to make house buying fairer. Here here!

Three years ago we were making the last arrangement for our wedding and getting our itinerary full for an exciting year off travelling in South East Asia. We had worked very hard to save up for both and having a flat to rent out in London meant that we could have our mortgage paid and a place to come back to.

One year out of the country became two as we worked for an educational NGO in the region. We loved every part of this time away but we knew that we wanted to come back to the UK. And the biggest shock coming back was the property market.

While a lot of friends moved out of the capital with their young families, we wanted to stay in London. And being keen cyclists, moving further out meant more time on the roads and in the rain. So with house prices rising monthly, we found ourselves looking to buy and sell soon after and while settling back, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford within zone 3. And the house hunting ‘journey’ begun.

While selling was straight forward, buying took much longer than estimated.

Emails with properties, calls from agencies and open days with dozens of other potential buyers queuing became a weekly routine. Every Monday we had to make a guess on how much more than the asking price we should offer for a property. Most of our offers were outbid and some were accepted, but not for long. Sounds familiar?

We’ve had offers accepted in writing on three different properties, only for the vendor to renege on the deal each time.

House number one was just two doors down from a popular school. Our offer was accepted and had instructed our solicitor to start searches. A few weeks later, the vendor decided to remarket the property at over £20,000 higher than the agreed price, and beyond our budget. Thankfully we did not lose much money that time. Incidentally, the vendor continues to remarket the property, betraying another buyer after us, just before exchange. It’s now on the market for £90,000 (almost 20%) more than we agreed, eight months later.

House number two cost us money and time. The vendor assured us there was no chain as he was moving to a family home. He accepted our offer two days before Christmas, a nice early present. But then the aggressive agent consistently hassled us, insisting that we take up their offer to act as conveyancer and mortgage broker, in order to prove we were ‘serious buyers’. We declined. But when we hit a small hitch with our mortgage, he insisted we quickly arrange a home-buyer’s report, in order to demonstrate that we were serious about buying the property.

Unfortunately, by March, when we were ready to exchange, it became apparent that it was not going to be easy. One week the vendor and his estate agent would reassure us he wanted to sell, the following one he changed his mind.  In the meantime us buyers were on hold and all boxed up. The sale never completed and we lost time and money. 

Four months on, the market had gone up and we found ourselves looking at houses £50k-£90k more. While we didn’t want to let our buyer down and feeling completely unethical about the whole process, after days of debate and frustration, we felt the only option was to ask for more money for our flat.

Our involvement with house number three was at least short, if not particularly sweet. Offer accepted in writing but a week later got a call back to say that vendor changed his mind and will sell to somebody else.

Leading us to house number four. With offer accepted, we had yet again instructed and paid our solicitor to get work done asap as our and our buyers mortgage had only weeks left before expiring. The pressure was on. But once again, three weeks on and vendors asked for another £10k. Tears and frustration overwhelmed us while the estate agent, knowing it is unfair, was incapable to intervene with fear that the vendor will remarket the property with a competitor.

Wanting this misery to end and be able to move on with our lives in things more valuable and important than the housing market, we borrowed more money from the bank and family and we are now in the last part of arranging exchange and completion. But until we get the keys in our hands, who knows?

We believe that the law needs to change to stop greedy vendors, make the process fairer and transparent, be ethical and humane in a market where everything thinks of profit.

If this rings true for you and you want to see change to the way the housing market operates, you can support Ben Haley and Asimina Giagoudaki by signing their petition here

 For helpful advice on buying your first home see our guides…


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