I had never visited a for-sale house before. Even when my parents were moving from their flat to the house we currently live in, I was too young to have any recollection of it. I was hoping that I’d feel at ease when looking around, but safe to say she was a hopeless estate agent…
The Frugal Frenchie
I had been looking on Rightmove for absolute ages. With graduation dawning and no solid plans (not confirmed ones at least), I was debating the idea of buying to rent for a few years until my boyfriend graduates in 2021.
I had set myself a tight budget and had rather generic criteria as to what I was looking for. Ideally under £100k – don’t worry I was looking up north, would have no search results where I live – a minimum of two bedrooms, no real work needed and ideally a garden and parking space.
A lot of the results I was getting were for either holiday homes, homes that needed a lot of work done, or homes that looked very dark and gloomy. I’m honestly not a picky person, but I need light. If you need a light on (or even when editing photos you can’t make it look light), then that house is not up my street.
I found a nice one in a South Yorkshire town. It was listed for £85k, freehold, newly refurbished, had two bedrooms, an accessible attic, parking space, a garden and (bonus) a new conservatory. I had seen so many previous properties around this price range but none of them stood out to me. I had limited myself in budget drastically because I knew that I’d find a nice property way out of my budget and then have high expectations to compare to.
I sent a generic message to the estate agents on Rightmove consisting of my details, availability (I just happened to be in the area, 4 hours away from me, but I wasn’t there long) and that I’d be interested in viewing the property.
I happened to be on the third floor, in the quiet zone of my uni library when they rang. It had the location written underneath so I picked it up. Not sure about you, but I personally get super nervous answering or making phone calls. I end up tripping over my words, I always have to pace and I sweat a fair bit. The lady was very sweet though. She asked me what I was looking for, what my position was financially (not very specific), what my plans were following university and whether I’d like to have a meeting with the financial advisor. I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to one yet, it just happened that between finding the listing and visiting the area, everything just happened quickly.
She sent me a confirmation email over, with three other properties I may be interested in (I wasn’t, they were too dark) and the details I’d need for the financial advisor.
The night before
The listing for this particular property happened to be on both Zoopla and Rightmove. I’m not sure how familiar you are with the two websites, but they both contain different information about a property. I quite like how Zoopla provides the information in a more user-friendly way: being able to see the listing price history amongst other things. With Rightmove, however, I much prefer browsing their website, as I find the search process easier.
The night before the viewing, I decided to make sure I had read through all the information available on both websites. The price history, sold listings in nearby streets, the history of the property, how long it had been on the market etc. I believed this to be helpful information in case aspects of the property would argue otherwise. It turns out this property had been on the market for over 6 months, and every few months it had gone down 5k. It was initially on for over £100k. This was high above the average for that particular area, so I assumed it was because of the recent refurbishments. I thought it odd though, that it had not yet sold considering how stunning it was.
As further preparation, I decided to google good things to look out for or to ask when attending a house viewing. I downloaded some helpful questions, an infographic of things to look out for, and made my own list of questions. I personally don’t know much about the type of things that could cause problems in a house, so I would strongly recommend this. We had also sought the advice of my boyfriend’s uncle, who came with us and spotted those things that we may not necessarily think about… like the roof? I couldn’t even see that when I looked out of the window I’m so short!
I knew, of course, the reason that one visits properties is to avoid being tricked by good photo editing or good, misconstruing photography. I was fully aware of the possibility of finding some big fault or an obstacle that would make us hesitant in buying it…
From the very beginning, I should’ve known the woman was a bit strange. I had no experiences with estate agents, so had no idea what to expect, but I found myself giving looks to my company as if to say “Is this normal?” We parked up outside the front door and waited. There was a car with two people inside it on the road opposite. A lady was in the passenger seat and there was a random guy as the driver. We were slightly at a standstill as to whether it was them or not. Then, she got out of the car and came to the driver’s seat and asked my boyfriend’s uncle if he was here for the house viewing. Although he said it wasn’t for him, we confirmed.
She shook our hands and led us to the front door. When you walk in, you arrived straight into the living room. There would’ve been a fireplace in the corner and to your right, there was a staircase. I’m not even sure if you could’ve fit a sofa anywhere in there.
She started by saying “As you’ll have noticed, they’ve taken the carpet out here unlike in the listing pictures, but it will be put back before any buyers move in.” Ok, interesting…. We stood there in silence after her little speech. She stood next to us and just waited. Awkwardly we thought, let us lead the way to the kitchen.
This was the most glamorous room in the house. It was brand new, new cupboards fitted, walls freshly painted. Yes we did check; even the boiler was brand new. It was lovely and airy, had room for a dining room table, and looked out onto the conservatory and the garden. So far, so good. It looked exactly like the pictures did and I could see myself preparing meals in there. Still, she said nothing. She didn’t even say something generic like “This is the kitchen.” She just stood there, but when you’re limited to what you can see, it makes for a very awkward atmosphere. It wasn’t like she even left us alone to discuss, so we were just opening cupboards and checking out the new oven just to fill the time.
Next, we walked to the conservatory and the garden. The fence would’ve needed a bit of doing, and we were debating what we would actually use the conservatory for, especially considering the privacy issues of onlooking neighbours and that was about it.
The upstairs is what caused the most discussion and hesitancy. The property advertised 3 bedrooms, but I would barely call it 1.5. What they had done, is they could not get the full size of the rooms on their pictures, so they took it without showing where the door was located; thereby making them look a lot bigger. Furthermore, they had claimed all three rooms as bedrooms, but you had to bare in mind storage space. One of them, you could barely fit a double bed in there, let alone a wardrobe. In the other, you could, but you had to walk through that room to go upstairs into the converted-loft room. If you were to turn that into a guest room, you wouldn’t really want somebody walking through your room to do so?
Storage was a massive issue. Neither of us have particularly tonnes of belongings, but as home grows, you end up collecting stuff. We were debating whether we could put an office in the conservatory, but in the “heat” of summer, putting a computer or books there are probably not the best ideas, due to sun bleaching or overheating. Then again, you can’t put food in there or make it a bedroom. We could have made the smaller bedroom a storage space, but then, when we started a family, we would have no place for a guest room.
The bathroom was small, but it had a bath and “moving space” so that didn’t particularly bother me. The corridor, however, was crazy. We are both fairly small, but stood shoulder to shoulder would’ve been a tight squeeze. Unless we had everything flat packed, you couldn’t have fit anything in there.
This hadn’t put me off completely, however. I was just debating the £85k asking price. I started asking the estate agent questions, to see whether there was already interest in the property or any previous offers. She replied with a question! “How long has it been on the market for?” I replied, since September. “Oh, I imagine it has had interest then….” What kind of response is that? I was trying to ask what the buyers were like and whether there was leeway etc. She knew nothing. Had it not been her property, that’s fair enough. Just apologise for the real estate agent not being there or at least research public information that I even knew. I shouldn’t have known more than her…
Safe to say, the next day when I missed their call, I wasn’t in a rush to call back. We decided against the property and I left with a sour taste in my mouth from the hopeless estate agent.
I didn’t realise how long this post was, but I hope you don’t mind my little diary post. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Was this normal from an estate agent? Did I do the right thing?