The evil chain that stole my dream home – House hunting in a pandemic

Part 2

When we started house hunting in March 2020 it was a ghost town.

We had agents at our beck and call and were spoilt for choice. The houses that were on the market had been there for a while, no real haste and vendors were happy to get people through their doors.

As the months progressed we took our time, looked around and didn’t make any real commitments.

Once the Chancellor made the stamp duty holiday announcement in July 2020, everything changed dramatically!

We noticed that as soon as a house came on the market, it was gone within 7 days.

I was set up for email alerts and was quite quick to book viewings, but before we could get through the door, the house had been sold subject to contracts!

A trend that was quite apparent was that home movers were making the most out of this stamp duty treat.

The stamp duty holiday meant that people could use this time to size up, relocate and make money! (Equity)

Let’s bear in mind that we were in the thick of a pandemic and forced to stay indoors for the foreseeable. If your 24 hours, 7 days a week is going to be your home, then it may as well be somewhere you feel comfortable and love being.

We saw city lovers opting for properties in the country/the outskirts of the M25 due to the flexibility of working from home and not having to commute in to corporate inner city offices. Not forgetting to mention that you get a lot more for your pound outside London.

What you’d spend on a 2 bedroom London flat, you could buy a 4-5 bedroom house with generous garden space outside London.

Ultimately the housing market was booming, it was the right time and everything was working in every home owners favour.

UNTIL we were all reminded time after time that we are in a pandemic, people are dying and services aren’t running at their usual speed.

Our chain fell apart because the upper upper chain had a Covid fatality and the middle chain participants had quite a bit of strain placed on their relationship due to lockdown Covid side effects.

All in all house hunting in a pandemic is not for the faint hearted.

Resilience, empathy and speed are key.

Chains fall apart, people let you down, but our lives are priceless and as long as we hold on tight to those, we have all that we need!

Join me next week for, “The evil chain that stole my dream home – No chain, no pain. New builds”

The evil chain that stole my dream home – Background Story

Part 1

In this series I will be detailing the personal experience of trying to buy & sell property throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 weeks ago I shared disappointing news on my Instagram I had received a week prior. 

My husband and I were in the process of selling our flat and buying a new family home with a garden in acknowledgement of our son turning 1 and the need to size up. 

This all fell through 1 day before exchange was due and 2 weeks before completion was due.

Many had questions, many were scared, many didn’t want this to happen to them, so here we are.

Enjoy the 4 part series.

March

In March 2020 we put our property on the market. A week later the country was placed in a lockdown due to the rapid spread and threat of the COVID-19 virus.

This was not a great start to a journey we thought would be quite simple given my background and the fact that we’ve bought a property before with ease.

Everything was bought to a dramatic holt. No movement.

May

Things began to ease and we started to house hunt and made Offers on 2 properties – these were accepted. Now we just needed to find a buyer for our flat. Fast forward a few weeks – we lost house 1 because we took too long. With the seller being on haste, she sold the house to a chain free first time buyer for a lesser amount.

The second house was still in the works and both the agent and seller were patient with us.

July

In July 2020 the Chancellor announced the stamp duty holiday. This was great news for us. This stamp duty holiday meant that our expenses were to be bought right down. We then understood that we had more money to play with. It was a matter of, do we look for bigger houses? Or continue with what we had been looking at, presenting more deposit bringing our mortgage down/doing a more luxurious Reno job. 

August

At this point we’ve had around 5 viewings. No serious offers and everyone commenting on our slightly dated kitchen. 

September 

Aware of the stamp duty holiday potentially coming to an end in March 2021, we started to house hunt in September 2020 with the hope to exchange contracts and complete on our Sale/Purchase around December 2020 – January 2021

October

The second house we had made an offer on in May had been sold at this point due to our lack of a buyer. We were okay with this as we wasn’t too keen on all of the works the electrics needed. The house was a detached Edwardian home and needed a full rewiring (alarm bells).

Later this month we had a buyer! We began to give up hope until this lovely man came for a viewing with his business partner, shook hands with my husband and determined a gentleman’s contract had been made. 

We began to scramble because we no longer had a house we wanted. We immediately started to view properties, short list and then we found the one!

It was beautiful, had a drive, garage and a newly fitted modern wood burning fireplace.

We made an offer, it was accepted and the rush was on!

Days later our solicitors couldn’t get hold of our buyer and he advised that he was no longer looking for an investment flat as he had previously only dealt with houses due to leases bla bla bla. 

This was very disheartening and meant that we were now causing delays for the house we were buying.

November 

The agent that was orchestrating  our purchase of the house was great and quickly helped us find suitable buyers. We had viewings after viewings and eventually accepted an offer with the condition that things had to proceed quite quickly. 

December 

Searches had been paid for. Leasehold paperwork had been paid for. The solicitors we’re going through the motions and satisfying as much as they could.

Everyone in the chain was getting itchy feet. Things were dragging and our buyers were taking their sweet time. Eventually they got their mortgage sorted, searches back and we all awaited exchange/completion dates. Given the festive season, we knew this wouldn’t take place until the New Year

January 2021

COVID-19 was lurking. Some in the chain became victims and there were layers knocked off of the upper chain – this meant that it went from 6 parts to 4 parts.

It was understood by all parties that completion had to take place 2 weeks after the exchange of contracts due to the top of the chain’s situation.

14th January – the day before the anticipated exchange of contracts. We receive a call from the agent letting us know that unfortunately the sellers of the house we were hoping to buy are no longer proceeding for personal reasons. Everything fell apart. 

FAQ’s

What is the Stamp Duty Holiday? 

On 8 July 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a temporary stamp duty holiday that cut the rate of stamp duty to zero per cent for all properties £500,000 or under until 31 March 2021.

What is Stamp Duty?

Stamp duty is the tax governments place on legal documents, usually in the transfer of assets or property. … These taxes were called stamp duties because a physical stamp was used on the document as proof that the document had been recorded and the tax liability paid.

What is a Chain?

A chain is a series of linked house purchases which are mutually dependent for a successful outcome. Your chain consists of the person you’re selling a home to, and the person you’re buying from.

Join me next Monday for post 2 of 4.

There will be a New Post every Monday of February 2021

8th February 2021 – “The evil chain that stole my dream home – House hunting in a pandemic”

15th February 2021 “The evil chain that stole my dream home – No chain, no pain. New builds”

22nd February 2021 “The evil chain that stole my dream home – Recovery. What’s next?”

How does Equity work?

The concept of equity is quite simple and in practice is a great way to see a return from an investment.

Whether you are purchasing a family home or a buy to let property for rental purposes, the location and aesthetics of the property are crucial for its potential.   

E.g

2016
Purchase Price £220,000 
Mortgage Attained £198,000 (10% Deposit)
4 Bed property bought just outside of the M25 
Walking distance from station
Local supermarkets not far
Good school catchment area
En-suite Bathroom

2020
The same house sells for £300,000
The Mortgage balance has been decreasing repayment after repayment for the last 4 year
Mortgage Balance (guesstimate) £188,000 (Dependent on interest rate)

This means that on the property you bought for £220,000 in 2016, you have made £80,000 as the value has gone up by this much across the 4 years.

When you sell the property for £300,000 you will clear the remaining Mortgage balance of £188,000 and be left with £112,000

You will then have other fees like solicitor fees, capital gains tax (on the *gain, not the sale price) and if you sold your property before the fee free period on the Mortgage product you are locked in to, you may have to pay an exit fee.

*The gain here is £80,000

All in all, worse case scenario you are left with £90,000. That is a profit of £68,000 when you take away the £22,000 deposit you initial invested for the property.

This is why many people buy properties well outside of London, fix them up and then sell them on. The money that can be made is mind blowing. However, that is only possible if you get it right!

Next week I will be speaking about what questions to ask and what to look out for when you go for a house viewing.

My property has been valued at £0 because of Cladding – HELP!

Stay away from flats with ACM material and/or flammable cladding.

Think with me: If you are having difficulty obtaining a Mortgage to buy it, you will have difficulty Remortgaging and selling it!

You can usually spot the flats that may cause you issues with a naked eye. 

A flat with cladding

If the surveyor that goes round to value your property is cautious of the material on the exterior of the building, this hesitance alone causes a delay for you. 

This delay is caused as you will be required to prove that the material on the exterior of the flat is not flammable. This is in the form of a fire report that the Estate Agent, Managing Agent or vendor should have. 

Valuers have become increasingly concerned, because Advice Note 14 means the owner has to say the building’s material is fully safe, which is very difficult to do while the building waits for inspection results and while everyone waits for the government’s cladding test outcomes.

Surveyors and mortgage lenders are requiring building owners to demonstrate that cladding meets Advice Note 14’s criteria. If they can’t, the properties are valued at zero.

Most building owners cannot immediately provide these assurances, so they are having to get trained professional engineers to carry out lengthy and costly checks, holding up sales, purchases and Remortgages.

If you’re currently suffering this issue as a Home Owner Remortgaging your property, then the best person to speak to regarding this kind of report is the leaseholder/the managing agent. If the building hasn’t undergone a fire and risk assessment since the Grenfell tragedy, then this is probably currently in the works and you will not be able to do much until you have the results of this report back.

Grenfell Tower

It is extremely inconvenient and disheartening, however you have to understand that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of buildings nationwide that have to adhere to this new advice note since the multiple lives lost in the Grenfell fire due to the deadly flammable materials used on the block of flats. 

As you can imagine, a surveyor is not going to deem your property as suitable security for a Mortgage if they cannot prove that it adheres to relevant legal requirements. 

Advice to those wanting to Remortgage a property with cladding issues Stay with your current lender and do a rate switch. This is simple, you choose a new product from their latest Mortgage product range and avoid going on the variable rate. A valuation is not required for this. You can make this kind of switch in branch, over the phone and sometimes online.

Advice for those wanting to Buy a property with cladding issues
Avoid avoid avoid. Don’t do it. Walk away.