It’s a while since I wrote a blog about Rhiwderin. This isn’t one of my usual hiking blogs either. As the title suggests, it’s a health warning about what happens when you agree to sell your house to the wrong people. People who tell you they want a quick sale and take eleven months to buy your house. People who turn out to be rather less truthful and nice than you believed them to be.
Once upon a time there was a couple who lived in Rhiwderin. They loved their small, friendly village and had lots of friends there; however, they had a dream to live in a warmer climate where the woman’s asthma would improve and they could hike throughout the winter months.
We could sell our house and live abroad, they thought.
For months the couple worked hard on making their house as nice as it possibly could be. They redecorated the rooms, renovated the downstairs toilet with a brand new suite and fitted new windows throughout. They changed the light switches, bought new lampshades and repaired the garage roof. It was hard work but they felt they owed it to the new owners for the house to be as perfect as possible.
Their little house went on the market with Purplebricks on September 16 2018 and immediately there was lots of interest in it. After two weeks, they agreed a sale with a local couple who seemed very nice and wanted a quick sale. We’ll call this second couple the Jenkins, shall we?
First impressions can be deceiving, however, and it turned out our couple were too trusting by half. When the Jones told them they wanted to complete the house sale on November 16, they believed them and booked a ferry to leave for Europe the following week.
But the sale didn’t happen on November 16, or on November 23 or even on November 29. It didn’t happen before Christmas as the Jenkins promised – or in January. Week after week, it went on not happening, despite the many promises of the Jenkins.
There was a problem, you see. For months, the Jenkins’ buyers had ‘forgotten’ to mention one tiny little detail: they owned a leasehold flat that they had not sold. And they could not buy a new property until they had sold it.
This is where our story gets a little bit complicated but I’ll try to keep things simple.
Our adventurous couple were getting a little bit worried. They had nowhere to live after March 31. It wasn’t as if they could return to Rhiwderin because they had given away all their furniture and belongings. Besides, they were in the middle of sorting out all the paperwork that Brexit has made necessary if you want to live in a different European county.
The Jenkins still wanted to buy the house in Rhiwderin but they couldn’t sell their own. Everything ground to a standstill.
Understandably, our couple were starting to get a little concerned. They had left for Europe when they did because the Jenkins had wanted them out of their house on November 16, then November 23 and then November 29. Then before Christmas and then in January.
It was now deepest winter in Wales and the poor little house in Rhiwderin stood empty and unloved, its heating coming on automatically twice a day to keep those stone walls from freezing.
Eventually, our couple made a decision. If the Jenkins were not going to buy their house, then it was going back on the market.
Despite being empty for so long, the little house once again attracted lots of attention and praise. One man wanted to buy it then changed his mind. Then a family came to look around and they liked it very much. The couple breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps the little house in Rhiwderin would become someone’s home again by springtime.
The Jenkins, however, did not like this new chain of events. They did not like them one little bit. They kept contacting our couple with promises that they could not keep. On March 4, our couple told them they were selling the house to the family and that was that.
More problems lay ahead. The family who said they loved the little house seemed to forget that there was more to house buying than making an offer. You have to provide ID to your solicitor, pay for searches, arrange a survey, etc. They did none of these things. A month passed, nothing happened.
In the meantime, the Jenkins refused to accept defeat. They were determined to have the little house for themselves, come what may.
One day in the middle of March, Mr Jenkins telephoned our couple and said he would pay more money for the house if only they would change their minds and sell it to him. He had a cunning plan, you see. He wanted his original offer to remain the same and pay the extra money separately after the sale had gone through. If our couple agreed to sell their little house to him, the sale could go through in two to three weeks.
The extra amount was very small in terms of the overall price, but it would help with the rent they had not expected to be paying over the spring and summer months.
A new mortgage application would just delay things, he pointed out. Our couple believed him when he declared he was an ‘honourable’ man.
They were foolish and naive. They did not think about the stamp duty that Mr Jenkins would not be paying on the extra amount. They should have insisted Mr Jenkins made his final offer via Purplebricks. They were just happy that their house sale was finally going to happen and they would not be homeless for much longer. Besides, it was Mr Jenkins who worked in the financial industry and knew about these things, not them.
And so the Jenkins were back in the picture, having gazumped the family buyers who had forgotten about their offer. They understood that most house sellers need to accept the highest offer, especially when an additional ‘carrot’ is the promise of imminent completion.
Alas, this cautionary tale has not yet quite reached its conclusion.
For just when everything was looking hunky dory, the Jenkins’ buyers pulled out of the chain. After nine months, the doctor woke up one morning and decided not to buy their house after all. It was a simple change of heart. Like deciding to not to have that second cup of coffee after you’ve made it.
You can imagine how distraught everyone was. The female half of our couple rang Mrs Jenkins to commiserate and listened sympathetically while the other woman cried down the phone. ‘We are better off without the evil doctor,’ she told Mrs Jenkins.
And at first it seemed she was right. The Jenkins soon found new buyers for their home and this time it really looked like there really was going to be a happy ending.
Unfortunately fate had more upset in store. The house buying and selling process in England and Wales is archaic and the introduction of computers has slowed down rather than speeded things up.
Where once solicitors’ letters dropped onto the doormat, emails now swirl around, buyers talk to each other on social media and an atmosphere of utter confusion is generated by all concerned. Thanks to technology, the house buying/selling process now takes an age, rather than the previous six to eight weeks.
But I digress. This time the sale was definitely going to happen, it was just a question of when? Did anybody have a clue? Apparently not. Every week there was another delay, then finally when everyone seemed ready to move (literally) there was more uncertainty about which day was actually going to be convenient and another week passed.
On the eve of exchange of contracts – the momentous moment after which nobody can back out – the couple thought about Mr Jenkins’ proposal. Shouldn’t we check he still meant what he said, they asked each other? After all, it was now over five months since he had made his offer of the additional payment.
So they phoned Mrs Jenkins (although they suspected she put them on loudspeaker so Mr Jenkins could hear too). She was clearly affronted they felt the need to ask. They were honourable people, she reminded them.
The little house was so happy to know it was finally going to be lived in again. Our adventurous couple were very very sad to say ‘farewell’ to the home they loved, but they believed the Jenkins were a nice couple who would look after it well and love it as much as they did.
Contracts were exchanged and the house sale went through the following Monday. The couple had planned to celebrate but after eleven long months they were just emotionally exhausted.
They awaited a message from Mrs Jenkins to tell them when she would pay the extra money her husband had offered. Nothing came.
After a week, the couple sent a nice friendly message to their buyers asking when they could expect the payment.
It was at this point that they learned the Jenkins were not honourable people at all. They had no intention of paying a single penny more to our couple. They said some very unpleasant and untrue things in their message, which upset the couple a lot. They pretended they had never offered the extra money which secured their purchase.
The couple realise now they were very foolish to accept Mr Jenkins’ revised offer without telling their solicitor. Property law is not the same as other law and the agreed price between buyer and seller must be written into the contract.
Mr Jenkins probably knew this all along. It’s likely he never had any intention of paying the money. His sole aim was to gazump any other buyers.
What makes the couple saddest of all is the knowledge that their lovely little home now has such unpleasant people living in its rooms. They left items of furniture and soft furnishings in the property for the Jenkins to enjoy; now they wished they had taken everything with them.
Readers, please let this be a cautionary tale.
Never believe buyers who want to do ‘deals’ behind your solicitors back; however, plausible their reasons seem.
Do not get too friendly with your buyers because, believe me, they may use your relationship to manipulate you into agreeing with their plans.
Above all, keep a record of every single conversation and what was said and agreed. Then email a copy to your solicitor.
Finally, bear in mind that some buyers have a sense of entitlement. They may lie and scheme and tell you anything to secure your property for themselves. Your property is legally yours until contracts are exchanged. If your potential buyers do or say anything that make you feel uncomfortable, you have every right to pull out of the sale.
Our couple are trying to hold onto their dream, but they also have a very nasty taste in their mouths. Perhaps those people who insist they are ‘honourable’ are the least honourable of all.