Warlingham Close – Part 2

Do Not Be Fearful & Be Careful of Too Many Voices

Before I continue from last week’s blog post, I would like to share a bible verse.

Proverbs 11:4 KJV says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety”. We will get back to this later but let me continue from last’ week’s post – my offer had been accepted and now the house purchase starts.

Choosing my Solicitor

Using the Yorkshire Building Society conveyancing tool and after much research on reviews and scoring, I decided on solicitors (Ronald Fletcher Baker LLP) to use. There was one particular lady who had received a lot of positive reviews online; I, therefore requested for her to lead on mine when I contacted the firm and she was assigned. I was however, told it would have been cheaper if I had come to them directly. Not sure how true this is now.

Later in the process, she had to leave my case due to an unexpected family issue and my case was finally assigned to a partner at the firm who also after getting the first lot of money taken from my account then transferred my case to a junior solicitor.

  1. Why would I pay the same for the service when the charge rate for a junior solicitor is less than that of a partner?
  2. The constant passing of my file to others started to infuriate me.

They commenced searches on the property after I had completed and sent purchase questionnaire and supported paper-work over. I have included a list here if you want it.

Whilst they commenced the formal searches, I also started my own searches using readily available and free online resources inc Environmental Agency Flood Risk Tool, Geological Survey Map for ground conditions etc. A full list of the tools I used can be found here.

Flood Risk Issue

By the time they sent their first search responses in, I had already figured out that the property lay in a medium risk flood risk area and had started checking impact on insurances etc, I had also reviewed the floord risk assessments and alleviation plans for te Medway Council and noted that there was nothing in particular assigned to that part that the property fell in. I contacted the local council who confirmed that they had not included Rainham and although this had now been done, they weren’t expecting the final report until December when the house sale would have completed.

I also contacted Southern Water if there had been any incidents of flooding in the area and they lady was kind enough to give me data but due to GDPR etc couldn’t provide further info.

I started panicking and then started talking to people. The medium flood risk meant a maximum water depth of 300mm. The Principal Drainage engineer at my company confirmed that with the kerb and door height this would not present much risk especially if it had never been flooded from storm run-off.

I still wasn’t comfortable. Shared it with my cell leader and pastor at church. My cell leader said she had dreamt about something bad and my pastor just gave practical advice – do you think it is likely that when you come to sell, someone would also raise the same questions as you have raised

I also dreamt that there was much confusion about the house and the vendor had agreed to sell it to me. You can read about the dream here.

I went back to the agent and asked them to request for a reduction in the price to cover for this issue. I was now revising my offer to £236k as I had originally plan.

Geo – Environmental Issues

The Solicitor finally sent through the other results and I noted that there was a cavity in quite close proximity to the property. My research showed that this could have a detrimental effect on the property. This property was also founded on a chalk bedrock etc. I will not get into exact details here but much of Medway is founded on chalk.

I called the solicitor and enquired what the impact of this was. The junior guy told me that it was not up to them to advise which for me confused. I could easily go and pay to get the searches done myself if they cannot provide value. I know they are not geotechnical experts however, based on their experiences with conveyancing, I expected some guidance e.g. if we need to do anymore searches. He did say I would have to pay for further searches

I, therefore, took the initiatives to contact the search providers themselves, who took time to explain the exact location and proximity of the cavity, the type and its effect on the property. Found out it had actually been built on 20years prior by a new housing development and likely to be covered but not sure if there were fissures etc.

I also saw that the original conveyancing quote that requests for additional seaches as a result of the previous were allowed at a free charge. Taking a screenshot and highlighting this, I sent it to the solicitor and demanded that they do their due diligence.

At this point, I was getting frustrated and angry at the behaviour of the junior solicitor who kept referring back to me for things they should be advising me on.

I still hadn’t received the results of the local authority and council searches. In the interim I had used their planning portal to garner as much info as I could for the surrounding area including any pending planning implications especially with adjacent properties as these may have an impact on the property I was planning to purchase.

Mortgage Process

I was so keen on buying this property that after much research on interest rates, I had approached Yorkshire Building Society to start the mortgage process. I had visited their offices in Fleet Street and agreed a mortgage rate and received an illustration.

“Do you think the price is a blessing from God?”

– A friend asked me.
The most poignant question which has shaped much of my life now

Building Survey

I booked a building survey through a company based in Ashford Kent. I think it was a two-man team because it was a challenge to get through to them once I had paid the survey fee. They demanded the full payment before the survey was undertaken. Finally got through and put them in charge with the agent who arranged the survey date.

The survey was undertaken with the vendor in attendance ad the report sent to me after some chasing up.

On receipt of the report, I immediately noted so many discrepancies and caveats; the latter of which was in my opinion a way to remove any responsibility from the surveyor. The report was in no way representative of the RICS template. I noted that although I had paid for a full building survey, I had actually been offered a condition survey. I requested the conveyancer to cease all work until we had closed out these issues

I did pay for a full building survey because of the interior structural changes made to the upstairs space and the evidence of some cracks I had seen on the property.

I sent a list of my comments to the Surveyor expressing my disappointment and copied in the agent.

With a structural engineer friend in attendance, we paid a visit to the property (22 Warlingham Close) to assess these issues. I was surprised to see the agent in attendance when we arrived. We took our time to take all measurements and check everything the survey had picked up. I was quite happy that none of the major issues the surveyor had picked up were correct. Yes, the issue of Japanese Knotweed and any planning issues had to be dealt with as part of the conveyancing process.

At the end of the meeting, I agreed with the vendor the sale can progress with completion and exchange set for first week in October 2019 pending receipt of the council’s docs but had made it clear we would need to negotiate on the flood issue.

I got back home and sent the solicitor an email to progress. Also sent the agent an email for a price reduction to account for the flooding issue whilst we awaited the council searches to be returned.

I was still in a tassle with the solicitors to get the extra searches ordered; was displeased with their responses and raised it with one of their senior partners.

All this time, the flood risk issue was getting me stressed. I had also visited the property with two female friends to look at the neighbourhood. One of them who owned a new build 4-bed detached in Strood told me that the area looked bad because of the houses across the street and Tilbury Road would have been better.

All this time, I had bought furniture and furnishings to fit my new home, had moved out of my rental because earlier in the year I had felt a tug that it was time to move.

When the agent came back to say that the vendor would not reduce the price of the home and coupled with the search issues and lack of council responses I reluctantly pulled out of the sale.

A friend asked me a question when all this flood risk bruhaha was ongoing. He asked, “Do you think the price is a blessing from God?”. I thought about it for a moment and answered “I know £4000 doesn’t make much difference however, if it was £236k, I would have seen it as a blessing”

I had plans for this home and had to pull out because of information (not the lack of per se but the confusion and timeliness with it all and the knowledge that I would have regretted paying £240k for a home I knew was worth £236k.

The vendor was quite upset and sent me a text saying that he had lost a lot of money because I had pulled out. The latter part of his text I didn’t believe because he said the vendor was in no chain and was waiting. I had also offered to give him all outputs of my searches to make their next sale quicker.

A few months later I saw on rightmocve.co.uk/sold house prices that the property had sold for £235k. So…I was right all along! Was disappointed that I am not in a home by now, yes. But there are a few takeaways, I will share with you.

What Are My Takeaways

Warlingham Close taught me that I could trust my instincts on house prices. After all I had viewed enough and done enough research to know what properties should be sold for.

  1. Whilst most agents do not support liaising directly with the vendor, remember that with the lack of Buyers’ Agents here in the U.K., very rarely will an Estate Agent watch out for your affairs. My suggestion is, if you have contact with the vendor, use it but always keep agents in the loop to maintain a semblance of professionalism and fairness.
  2. Prior to putting in an offer, use all the tools available here and others you may know to inform the offer.
  3. Your solicitor will not make the decision for you however, they are required to provide and explain as much information to you to make an informed decision.
  4. For those who are engineers like I am, Put Your Skills and that of your colleagues to good use. Question, research but know every house has some risk and it is up to you to make an informed decision
  5. Undertake a building survey – it is useful for your price negotiation and may also be requested by mortgage providers and/or insurance providers. It will also help you choose the right building insurance and undertake works.
  6. On relationship levels, not everyone you ask for advice on the house-buying journey has knowledge. Sometimes their advice is based on fear and lack of knowledge
  7. Do not listen to too many voices – my recommendation – a spiritual/godly counsel (your spouse or prayer partner or trusted pastor),
  8. Do not be fearful. Trust your guts and the informed decisions you had made. Remember I always wanted to offer £236k and hesitated due to fear. Guess what!? The house finally sold at £235k. So I was right all along.

Next week, I will share another case study with new learning experiences. Subscribe to get notified when it goes live

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