Daily Mail: Buyers Be Warned
Fri 31 May 2013
Gazumping is misery for house buyers. I should know-it happened to me last week. And it was cold comfort to find I am part of a growing trend. My cash offer on a flat in north Kensington had been accepted, i was planning a moving in party. I had sold my flat, bought 25 years ago, and this new purchase was to be a part time base for our student offspring and an investment. It had taken weeks of finding, trudging up grimy staircases to eyries with 'second bedrooms' fit only to be cupboards. It resembled something of an achievement. immaculately carpeted stairs, beautiful furnishings in shades of silver-grey and slate, posh bathrooms and smart roof terrace. When viewing a property, first impressions seem more potent than plain facts. This flat spoke of London sophistication in contrac to my normal role as harassed multi -tasker at our Warwickshire farmhouse.
After some negotiation, the vendor, a property developer, formally accepted my offer and my solicitor set to work to tie up the loose ends. Despite various glitches we soldiered on, keen to exchange quickly although it emerged a further 4000 would be needed for work on the communal area. Plus, the roof terrace had been developed without planning permission. Alarm bells rang when despite our 'agreement' and assurances that the flat was now off the market, the vendor continued to show it to buyers. Our suspicions were confirmed when his solicitors ignored our messages for several days then revealed that he had recieved a higher offer and would only proceed with the sale if I paid an extra 30,000 when i refused declaring that we already had a firm agreement and that he was behaving disgracefully, he reneged on our deal, even though i had spent several thousand pounds on surveys and legal fees. As we had yet to exchange contracts, i had no recourse for compensation or legal redress. No amount of fulminating against the perfidy of property developers would ease the frustration of losing my ideal flat.
With rising prices in an increasingly feverish London market and foreign investors piling in, convinced it is safe haven for their money, growing numbers of would-be buyers are having the rug pulled from under them, often on the point of exchange. Rollo Miles, of estate agent John D.Wood says: 'Gazumping is common-place as there's a lack of stock and good mortgage rates which are encouraging people to move. High demands means that if the property comes to the market at the right price, someone will be let down. 'To avoid be gazumped, purchasers should offer a fast exchange, request the property they are buying to be taken off the market, offer a non-refundable deposit and move like the wind!'
'It's not nice, but it's a sign of the times,' agreed Natasha Voyatzis, of Marsh and Parsons. 'The lack of the good quality stock in London, particularly up to 1 million mark, means people will often over-bid on a property that's already under offer to try and secure it. 'The agent is legally bound to present any offer they recieve to the vendor-and its the vendor's decision on whether they stick to their guns with the buyer whose offer they've already accepted. 'The moral aspect is difficult. If the new bid is 20,000 or 30,000 more than the exisiting one, that sort of money can make a big difference to someone's life and can be hard to resist'. Too right! Me? Im back on the flat-hunting trail.