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Buying a home – has your experience been as bad as mine?

Homebuyer stress

Everyone knows that moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do. This anonymous author reached breaking point when she was ‘gazundered’ by her buyer and then the removal firm failed to show…

The last time I moved home, I vowed it would be the last. I had the usual stresses – finding a willing buyer and a dream home to move to – but that was nothing compared to when our buyer slashed his offer price at the last minute.

Known as ‘gazundering’, his action meant an entire chain of homebuyers was about to break. Further up the chain, various families couldn’t drop by the amount our buyer was asking for.

The family we were buying from was devastated, as they knew it meant we couldn’t meet our agreed offer, which in turn meant they would have to go through the entire process of finding another buyer. They’d already had two previous offers drop out.

Can an estate agent save the day?

As myself and my partner sat, head in hands, we felt sick as we realised we were going to lose the money we’d spent on solicitors and house surveys, plus the home we’d fallen in love with. But then a suggestion to save the day came from the estate agent who was handling the property we wanted to buy.

His own agency, plus anybody willing up the chain, would chip in a couple of grand each. That way, each party would only have to drop by a relatively small amount, our buyer would get his full discount, and everyone would still move.

It worked. I cannot describe the sheer relief we felt, knowing we wouldn’t have to start from scratch again.

Moving house stress gets worse

That relief was quite short-lived, though. Despite me ringing the removal company on four separate occasions to check they’d got the correct date (as I knew they’d written it down incorrectly the first time I gave them our details) they managed to get it wrong.

In fact, come call number four, they even joked with me about how they’d never get it wrong as I’d phoned them so many times.

I didn’t think it was possible for the moving house stress to get any worse. Oh, how I didn’t laugh when they didn’t turn up on the morning in question. And when they did eventually show, it was with a small lorry, instead of the large lorry I’d requested.

Several angry phone calls later, including from the removal men themselves who were brilliantly supportive, another lorry arrived. We moved in, and we’ve been happy in our home for over a decade.

Time to do it all over again?

So now, over ten years after vowing that would be the last time we’d ever move house, why are we wondering whether it’s time to move again? Perhaps our bad memories of the moving process have faded, or maybe it’s human nature to want change at certain points in our lives?

So go on, tell me your own moving stories. Do you have one worse than mine? What moving house tips would you give to anyone planning to move – and would you advise me to do it again or not?


For one person to cause so much distress to so many, seems almost criminal. Presumably he/she was able to do this without encountering any legal claim, or by being sued for misdeed. This would seem to be something the legal profession and government and Which should look at. If an offer, made and accepted, is then revoked, this should have repercussions to the revoker since it has repercussions to everyone else amounting to many thousands of pounds. Is this fair? If not, why is it allowed and when can it be stopped?

All that work, worry and stress would have been avoided if, when the buyers offer had been accepted by the vendor, it became legally binding, which prevents gazumping and gazundering and therefore broken chains. The present system is archaic, downright fraudulent and unfair and in dire need of reform.

Hi Beryl, what a really thought-provoking comment, I’m sure there’s lots of people who would agree with you. I just wanted to make you aware that we’ve made this comment the ‘comment of the week’ – and you can see it on the Conversation homepage. Thanks 🙂

I suppose it’s all to do with exchange. Until that happens, nothing is binding. Some years ago W? campaigned for the things that take all the time – surveys, etc. – to be done by the seller so that once an offer had been made verbally, exchange could move to within a week of the offer.

I also wonder if an agreement could be drawn up that made an offer made / received binding on both parties to certain maximum – say, 5% of the total price?

Realtors across the pond are qualified to draw up an agreement following acceptance by the vendor of the buyers offer, which then becomes legally binding. A deposit is then paid by the buyer which can only be recovered by a lawyer in exceptional circumstances and involves litigation. Realtors in BC are required to undergo a 6 month training course in property buying and selling, followed by an exam at the end before qualifying.

It is not unusual over there for a vendor to ‘help’ a younger first time buyer out by offering to pay a portion of the deposit if the vendor is looking for a quick sale and a buyer with nothing to sell, which could be replicated here in order to prevent first time buyers going into rented accommodation.

Maybe the British psyche needs a little gentle persuasion to carry out such an altruistic gesture where everyone ultimately benefits – except maybe landlords of course if the demand for private rented property is eased when they would be required by local councils to lower their fees in order to fulfil an enduring need for social housing.

Over the Channel – as opposed to over the pond – we paid 1000euro as the binding deposit which was less than 1% of the asking price. They could have asked for 5% but in this genteel backwater much is done on trust.

The vendeuse had to provide reports on the property. These have to be renewed each year. They ran to about 80 pages each but do not deal with the overall structure. They cover lead, asbestos, certain insects, sewerage, electrics, gas etc.

You have ten days cool-off when you recieve the contract and the reports. This can be quite quickly after making an offer say within a week. Sign and return and then await completion. Suing for failure to complete and retention of the deposit being the penalties for default. In our case as the property was vacant we could have moved in within 2 months. We stretched it into January to make the move easier.

We bought chain free but in the UK this is very much complicated by the need to create chains. There used to be some flex in the system when Banks provided bridging loans to allow chains to be effectively shortened. I think this is an area where much could be done to ease up the market.

Offers are made at the outset, prior to surveys, searches and all the other necessary checks, so views on the purchase can change as information is uncovered. It may be a seller’s pack could deal with some of this, but I would not rely on a seller’s reports as a buyer spending a vast fortune; I’d expect any responsible buyer would still go through “due diligence”. I doubt any mortgage company would approve a loan without verifying for themselves the house valuation either.

I sold my first house and the buyer then found difficulties getting the full mortgage they wanted. My choice was to abort the sale, and prejudice the purchase of a house we had found, or agree to a lower price. We did the latter, and our agent chipped in a substantial part of his commission in redress.

I don’t see a simple way of dealing with house sales to avoid the uncertainty while we have dependent chains, and while desirable houses are in short supply. The best suggestion I have seen is to sell your house at your leisure, without a specific purchase in mind, and be prepared to store your possessions and rent short term while you find your new house. The advantage you have to any seller is the lack of chain and pretty well assured finances.

Surveys and searches can be organised very quickly and turned round within a week. The solicitor’s excuse of blaming any delays on the local authority no longer holds water as most councils have geared up to respond quickly with computerised search results. It is the funding that seems to be the most difficult aspect with the longest timescale.

Up to a point the estate agent has an obligation on behalf of the seller to make sure that the buyer is “ready, willing and able” to proceed before being introduced to the seller. There are well-established work-arounds for problems thrown up by the searches and surveys that sellers are more or less bound to accept but they should not be faced with a funding shortfall if their agent has been diligent. Perhaps that is why agents are sometimes prepared to make amends for a chain hitch. I doubt an on-line only agency would be so obliging.

That would only work if your buyers were not already stuck in a chain which could result in them pulling out of proceeding with the purchase of your property unless of course they were first time buyers.

Renting before buying just adds to all the stress and expense of a second move in a relatively short space of time with the added cost of storage, which at my age is not really an option. My potential buyers purchasers were already in rented accommodation and were nearing the end of their existing rental agreement so had to pull out of the sale, my buyers a young couple refusing to go into rented. breaking the chain.

There is no simple or straightforward answer under the present system, which allows people to hold you to ransom at the last minute when so much is at stake in an unregulated and unlawful property market.

As I said, Beryl, I don’t see a “simple way”. One of my family has been in the position where two of their sales fell through but, as they were not immediately needing to purchase, they were able to persist until a buyer completed, as they have just done. A little stress, but more disappointment at the time.

Many people cannot afford one decent house, let alone have the luxury of owning two. Depriving the market of a potentially-available house for an extended time simply adds to the crisis. However, I can understand the reasons for doing it in the current market, with prices generally rising above inflation.

Until the state – national or local – builds enough starter and family homes to rent, subsidised for those who deserve them, then I cannot see the housing crisis – both availability and price – being overcome. Equally, people need to consider moving to an area where houses are more available and affordable and that also requires places of work to be better sited, probably by state incentive. There is no point in having too many houses, we just need to aim to keep up with demand.

I decided to avoid stress and bought a house before selling my home. It was made possible because I don’t live in an expensive area and I had a lump sum from my retirement. I carried on living in my previous house while I did some work on the new one, including improving the lighting and redecorating a study with purple walls. It was completely stress-free and I think it helped to be a cash buyer.

I bought before the additional SDLT on second homes but nowadays it would be necessary to pay this and reclaim it once the original home is sold.

In November 1996 we were moved by a bad remover and received two vans from two separate locations at the same time. We had three small children and moved on a Saturday, whilst I was also getting regular calls from a nurse to tell me that my Mother was dying (about 150 miles away) and would not see the day out. I could not drop everything and go. It doesn’t get much worse than that.

When the vans had gone i drove full speed to my Mother’s house and found her mercifully still alive, but unconscious. It was a comfort that she seemed to revive a little on hearing my voice. She never regained consciousness but lived on for a couple more days.

Just goes to show, a good agent will go over and above to help a sale go through, yet everyone one to go with the cheapest quote they get! It’s your biggest asset!

Denise Clark says:
7 December 2017

Well Beryl, my advice to you is be careful of buying a ‘Fleecehold’ property especially if you are considering a new build home. Most builders / developers now sell ‘fleecehold’, they call them freehold but they have loads of expensive permission fees for just about anything you can think of, ex. Change of carpet £150 to ask if that’s ok, add a conservatory- £150 to ask permission then if they grant it you pay £5500.00 to the developer and it goes on and on,unknown increases year on year . And also do not buy a leasehold house or flat, you’ll have all of the above plus you will pay ground rent which increases dramatically so much so that lenders will not lend on the property. You do not own anything when you purchase a lease, you do not own the property and you do not own the ground it’s on, you own the lease for the term left on it. Good luck anyway!