I never want to sell property in England again (Part 4: Last Minute Stress)

Background can be found in: Introduction, Part 1: Finding a BuyerPart 2: Formalities of Selling 
and Part 3: The Waiting Game

We got an email Thursday afternoon from our estate agent. The buyer just found out she was going to have to pay 1,150 for some cladding work being done on our building. She was upset we’d not been forthcoming with this information, and what were we prepared to contribute toward this. Mark and I were immediately confused. We’d read all the paperwork sent to the buyer’s solicitor, and none of it mentioned payment to cover the works. We’d explicitly been told at last year’s AGM (where all the flat owners in the building get together to review the financials, discuss problems and work to be done, etc) these works would be paid out of the reserve fund (which we contribute to each month along with our payments to the managing agent). We hadn’t heard anything about this supplemental payment. Where had the buyer heard this nonsense? The estate agent told us the buyer’s solicitor read it in the ‘section 20 notice’ (the official info that goes out about any major works) from our managing agent. We read and re-read. Nowhere did it mention requiring an additional payment from the owners. We ultimately deduced her solicitor saw the total cost, divided by the number of flats in the building and (wrongly) assumed it was yet to be paid. Considering the cladding project started about a month ago and none of the owners were notified we’d owe extra money for the work, it seems perplexing that anything would be collected for it later. Still, the burden fell on us to disprove her assumption. We contacted the managing agent immediately, but of course our main contact was still on holiday. Another employee there was meant to look into it, but didn’t bother getting back to us that day or the next.

Friday morning, her solicitor emailed ours to proposed a date for completion. She didn’t mention the cladding, so we guessed she’d realized the error of her assumption, and didn’t bother chasing the managing agent. We were, however, annoyed the buyer was originally happy to complete mid-July, her solicitor created 2 weeks of delays by not getting enquiries in sooner, and now she was trying to delay even more. She and her solicitor didn’t reply for the rest of the day, thus delaying exchange until at least Monday. Mark and I left for Munich Saturday morning rather disgruntled by the buyer’s behavior and lack of communication. We strongly considered backing out of the sale, because the buyer and her solicitor were being such PITAs. We didn’t want it to come to that (or have to go through this process all over again), but we at least didn’t fear the option, because we’d make a reasonable income from renting the place out, even after paying someone to manage the rental, and based on the most recent flats listed in our building, could sell it for even more in 6 months or a year.

Of course, of all the hotels we booked for this trip, the one in Munich was the only one without a free wifi connection. We intermittently visited cafes and Starbucks to get a free wifi hit, check emails and chase the estate agent. Monday afternoon, we finally heard the buyer was stalling until she knew about this 1,150 (if we’d known Friday this is why she was stalling, we would’ve been pushing for an answer from the managing agent then). We sent another email to the managing agent, where our main contact was now back. Within a few hours, she replied and confirmed it was – as we knew – to be paid from the reserve fund. We forwarded the info straight to our estate agent and solicitor.

By the following morning (Tuesday), we’d still had no response from the estate agent, but our solicitor promised to chase the buyer’s solicitor. It was basically our last day to exchange contracts without dragging the process into August (which would’ve required more hassle of paying August utilities, council tax and management fees, and then having to arrange a refund for the apportioned period of the month) Finally that afternoon our solicitor emailed to say he’d exchanged, completion was to be 31st July and we were done.

It was a massive relief, but after all the hassle, all the opacity of the process, all the frustration, it was quite anti-climactic. We are so irritated by how protracted the process was and exhausted from the chasing that had to be done in the last 2-3 weeks, it is hard to be excited. To think with all that effort, things could easily have fallen down at the last minute with no penalties. To think we were only just able to book our US travel in the last week, because we didn’t know if we’d need to be around for further chasing or document gathering. To think, ours was meant to be an ‘easy’ transaction, because she was chain-free and was only getting a mortgage for about 60% of the purchase price. Certainly, it has made us reluctant to ever want to buy or sell property in the UK again!



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