The BBC News website’s article, The Secret Agent, about dirty tricks and scamster estate agents makes depressing reading. Anyone who has bought or sold property knows that it’s an extremely stressful experience.
It also reminded me that I’d never blogged about the estate agent hell we had when we were trying to complete the purchase of our lovely little house.
I mentioned at the time that C James weren’t exactly on the top of our top estate agents list, but never actually spoke about the worst of it.
Everything had been going along pretty well – our solicitors were very helpful and attentive, and everything seemed to be fine on the vendors side as well. Then we started getting calls from C. James telling us that we’re not moving fast enough and that the vendors were threatening to pull out.
The blame (we were told) was because our solicitor had gone on holiday for a week. We spoke to our solicitors who said that everything was under control and as paperwork was flowing, we didn’t worry.
There were a few similar incidents until we were close to exchanging contracts. We were literally days away from exchange. We’d followed all the instructions and had sent the money off (in the form of a cheque as I recall) to our solicitors so that they would have it ready to transfer. All was fine.
It was a very bright and sunny Friday and I was on a Project Management course at the time, learning all about Gantt charts and such like, so was away from the office (we were doing the course in a room at the Thistle Barbican) and had my mobile turned off.
It being lunchtime, I turned it on to see if there were any messages.
There were two frantic messages from C.James. Why had we sent a cheque? The vendor of the person who was selling the next property in the chain wanted their money today else they’d pull out. What were we playing at?
It was lunchtime and being first time buyers, I was a bit edgy. I phoned Catherine so she could get on to the solicitor, whilst I made arrangements to rush as fast as I could to Old Street where the nearest branch of the Halifax was, in order to try and make the payment.
I spoke to the course instructor who wished me well, and I dashed off, extremely stressed.
I’d got to Old Street when I spoke to Catherine – she hadn’t got through to the solicitors at that point (they’d been out to lunch), but had been on to the Halifax. It was past the cut off point for same day transfers. It was tough. The money wasn’t going anywhere.
I started wandering back the long walk to the Thistle Barbican, arrived back at my course feeling a little hot, sweaty and fed up.
Catherine in the meantime had got through to the solicitors. They told us all were fine – no one was threatening to pull out, and that everyone was happy. It was all nice and smooth.
But what came next was more revealing. The solicitors told us that the woman we were dealing with at C.James was off on holiday that very day. If we’d got the money transferred on that day, she would have had her commission that day. Sure enough, it turned out that she was going on holiday, and whilst we obviously don’t know what were motives were, we do know that she didn’t go on holiday with her cut of the cash in her pocket.
We were very lucky in that in the main, our house purchase was very smooth, very straightforward. There were only three parties in the chain, and our solicitors (a company called Harris Cooper Walsh who we got them through a website called easier2move.co.uk) were always wonderfully helpful, nice and efficient.
However it would have been a far nicer experience had we not been put under unnecessary pressure and stress. Next time I’ll be wiser to these things. But no one should be put under this stress in the first place.
And given these things are not isolated occurrences – almost everyone I know who has bought property has had a traumatic experience with it – it raises the serious question of why no one seems to think that tidying it up, is a good idea…
Others may have had brilliant experiences of C.James. I can’t speak for them. I only know what I saw of them. My experience of C.James in 2004 has left a mark. When it comes to selling this house in the future, they are one company who won’t be getting the job.