Buying a House 2 – Estate Agents
It’s taken me a while to get round to doing the second part of the story telling how Catherine and myself ended up owning a home, but here goes… part two sees us going to the estate agents.
It’s a rare person who has ever gone near an estate agent who has something good to say about them. Which didn’t exactly make me feel good when, just after Christmas, we decided to get on the house hunting trail.
House Seeking Missile
Living around 12 miles (and an hours tube ride) away from the place we were looking to buy didn’t make life too easy, so I started scouring websites like findaproperty.com and Right Move both of which allow you to contact estate agents online to arrange viewings.
Of course just because the website allows you to, doesn’t mean they’ll bother to get in touch back. So you phone. But the person you need to speak to is out of the office, or talking to someone else. So someone takes down your name and number, tells you they’ll phone back, and promptly throws the number in the bin so that you never hear from them again. Or a myriad of other infuriating results, which wound me up so much that I ended up writing an entire post about it in February..
The Great and the Good
Even when you could get to speak to them, they promised to phone back if they got anything but rarely did. Kudos then to Josh at Kingleigh Folkhard and Heyward‘s Tooting office who did actually phone us with new properties when he got them, and was a very helpful bloke, and to Ellisons’ Wimbledon office who did stick to their word and put us on their mailing list. Shame neither of them had anything that we liked.
Pretty quick we extended our search to include Tooting as well as Colliers Wood. As the weeks dragged on, we even started looking at completely new areas like Ham, Northolt and Greenford – all of which promised afordable properties but had some major drawback – Greenford was too noisy thanks to a major road, Northolt was just plain awful, and Ham’s affordability was mainly due to the fact that there was one bus and no tube.
After seeing several mid-terrace Edwardian maisonettes, gave up on them up as an overpriced and far too popular – even ones that needed about £40,000 of refurbishment, cost a fortune. We saw conversions, flats – even one place above a shop. Nothing was right. Tooting was a nuisance as every estate agent seemed to have the same five properties on.
It was getting very depressing. I’d be checking the various websites almost daily looking for anything new. But more often than not, there was nothing there, or what was, was already under offer. Even worse were sites like that of estate agent ludlowthompson.com who claimed to be fantastic as running their agency via the web. When I did log on, everything was under offer – except there was absolutely nothing to say this which is why I got a terse email saying so. Impressively for a company supposedly taking the internet seriously it took them several days to say so.
Most estate agents were incredibly brusque and un-helpful. Over progressive weeks we phoned and emailed a multitude of estate agents and saw something like 13 places. We saw a couple which were good bar the location (too far from tube) and we saw a lot that were to be quite frank, awful.
…and the ugly
And seeing as we’ve mentioned two top estate agents, let’s mention the worst one we dealt with. C. James in Colliers Wood.
Ironically they got off to a good start – they responded to email requests for starters. But as we dealt more with them, things rapidly degenerated.
The staff ranged from the dis-interested to the down-right patronising if you dared tell them what you didn’t want (there was a reason we couldn’t want to live in Mitcham – not that they’d have taken any notice of it if we’d told them). Getting hold of them on the phone was impossible, and their attempts to arrange viewings… Urgh. Even when you went round a place, they may have not been there at all – they just siddled in the shadows and didn’t know anything about the property when asked.
The whole outfit was incredibly infuriating – not least because of their diabolical service, but because their prominent location near Colliers Wood tube station meant they had the majority of the properties in the area. If you wanted anything in the area, you have to go to them.
Towards the end of our hunt they booked us in to see somewhere on a Friday night, only for us to traipse all the way from work to their office to find out they couldn’t get the keys and hadn’t bothered to call us. Can you come back tomorrow and we’ll try and sort it out? <sigh>.
The ugly provide a duckling
We did – the place looked good on paper so it was worth traipsing out again. But before we left that Friday they showed us a sheet with a new addition. It was in an area we had tried to avoid – it looked a bit naff when we first went round it in November, but with the benefit of hindsight, we’d probably set our standards too high initially and it was better than many of the areas we’d also looked at more recently. I said yes (Catherine looked unsure as I recall) and the following day we came down.
Needless to say the place we’d wanted to see was pretty crap (everything too small, living room puny etc). But the place we opted to see at the last minute…. Well that was the very place we’re living now.
Most people say you can tell straight away. And I think I did. On the platform of Colliers Wood station we discussed it. We went and wandered round the wonderful Borough Market and discussed more. We had a pint in the Market Porter and discussed some more. And decided to put an offer in. Ironically the incompetence of an estate agent brought us just the right place.