People in England used to say moving house is one of the most stressful events in life after the death of a spouse, and divorce.
That must have been the days when people still had job security, this was still a peaceful world, and there were no mobile phones for us to lose. However, when I was selling my flat in England to come to Taiwan, I still found the whole process very stressful.
In England, it typically takes about three months, if you’re lucky, from finding a buyer and agreeing on a price, to completing the transaction. If this straddles over Christmas or the summer holidays then expect a delay as there is always a party involved that is away on holiday and things have to wait till they come back. In my case, I found a buyer in October and completed in March, that’s FIVE months!!
Put simply the stages of buying /selling a property in England are
- Agree a price with the buyer
- Ask your solicitor to start all the legal paperwork
- Exchange contracts
Sounds simple right? Here’s what happened in reality.
Having shook hands and agreed on a price with my buyer in October 2015, we immediately instructed our solicitors to start the paperwork. This period takes up the majority of the time, I’d say probably around 90%. During the entire stage 2, neither party has to sign anything to bind us to the transaction，and the buyer doesn’t have to pay a single penny deposit. This is the biggest problem with the legal process when buying a property in England. (Scotland has a different and better process.)
During this stage, either parties can pull out at any time. Christmas is always a risky period due the stress of Christmas and family gatherings. My niece sold her flat before Christmas some years ago, and after New Year was told by her solicitors that the buyers had backed out as they were getting a divorce! In my case, it wasn’t as bad, but still extremely annoying.
During these few months, my buyer come back several times with their tradesman to prepare for some works they wanted to do after completion. Although I was was busy myself with packing and everything, I was happy to let them drop by. Towards the end of the legal process, the buyers obnoxiously took advantage of my situation to leave UK, and asked for a £5k reduction! Normally I would have told them where to go, but given my circumstances, I eventually agreed to a £2k reduction, demanded that we exchange contracts in the next two weeks and banned them from returning till after completion. This is what I call stressful!!
Stage 3 Exchanging Contracts finally came. That is legally binding on both parties and a deposit must be paid at this point. Stage 4 Completion normally follows two weeks later.
Changing the price post agreement happens often in England when the property market is on the rise. Gazumping is where the seller decides to sell to someone who offers an higher price, leaving the original buyer in limbo. Morally this is wrong, but sadly this is still legal in England, causing about 18% of transactions to fall through.
Do you have a similar problem in your country? Have you encountered any stressful situations when moving houses?