Sean Mallory moved house lately and in true curmudgeonly fashion tells us what it has been like.
Generally, moving house is a challenging experience – a euphemism if ever there was one! What can make that experience highly stressful is being caught in a chain. A chain is where there are linked multiple buyers and sellers and all interdependent on each other .... hence the name chain.
Unfortunately and due to an innocuous decision to move to a bigger space we found ourselves falling into the latter category, that of the real estate chain.
There are two opposing poles in the housing market – those who are selling and those who are purchasing – and both are fraught with their own nuances.
We zealously adopt each position at varying times throughout the process and unconscious of playing both roles, we heavily personalise our criticism of those in the opposite pole and especially vent our frustrations on the process ‘managers’ i.e., the estate agents and the solicitors.
We were about to discover this paradigm as we entered the dark realm of the real estate market!
Selling – the Vendor
What purchasers need to fully grasp is that when you make an appointment to view a house the Vendor and after initial pleasantries, is not interested in becoming your best mate nor are they interested in your career choice, how many kids you have, what age they are or even your dog’s name...none of the idle chit chat. They are only interested in selling you their house and will only reluctantly enter in to a conversation in order to enhance their sales potential. Every other aspect of the conversation is irrelevant!
So having watched Phil and Kirsty's Location Location Location for several years, the tips and tricks of selling one’s home came in to play. The fact that the show is staged, played no reason in the real world!
Like a bird of paradise in its attempts to attract a mate, decluttering, tidying and a greater effort spent on general house work are suddenly thrown in to overdrive as the Vendors, try to present their home in the most attractive manner and thus make it highly desirable and hopefully lead to a potential sale.
Kid’s toys, clothes removed off radiators, dressers are swept off unopened and opened mail, papers, books, pens, keys and other bits of unwanted paper and assorted knickknacks are stored out of sight.
Cupboards and drawers with their overly stocked contents, bulge at the intrusion of these alien objects. All to attract the potential buyer.
Then came the crunch. Decluttering and tidying were the simple side of selling. We now were compelled by law to prep the house for sale.
As the selling began we were informed by our solicitors that Regularisation certificates for all past structural work carried out in the house would have to be obtained. Building regulations are there for very logical reasons and would have to be complied with. After all, who would wish to purchase a house structurally altered by DIY Dave and his cowboy mates!
As well as that we had to have a Gas Safety certificate for our conversion from oil to gas central heating and a Gas Safety certification for our LPG gas installation (bottled gas to the cooker which we didn’t convert to mains gas when we converted our heating from oil to gas...involved too much in costs at the time.)
Drawing up a list of the changes we made to the house I rang the Council's building control department to find out what the certification process involved. Unusually, they were extremely helpful and advised us to list all the work we had carried out on to one application, using additional A4 pages where necessary and detailing as much as possible. This would reduce our cost down to one assessment visit by a surveyor.
For instance, to write that you blocked up a door was not sufficient, you had to write what access it affected and access to what points in the house. Application in and a few days later we were informed of the date and time of the Surveyor's visit to assess our unauthorised work....anxiety was the norm.
While waiting on the above we organised for a plumber to do the gas inspections and these were to be carried out a few days after the Surveyor's inspection.
Speaking of which, the Surveyor came and went. Everything was in order EXCEPT the step from the patio doors out to the back garden. He needed to be able to place at minimum a 10” footprint on the top step and he couldn’t. Regulations are regulations and the steps would have to be rebuilt! We couldn’t have the new owners tripping and falling down the steps every time they went out to the garden, now could we.....well....we managed never to trip once in the whole 12 years we were there!
So, thanks to the Council's advice the certificate couldn’t be issued as I had put everything on the one application, even though all the other work was fine, so the sum total had to pass for it be issued. Makes perfect sense but when you are severely hindered by budget these little trials can be quite costly and frustrating.
On arriving home from work and discussing this and how much it was going to eat in to our budget our hearts sank. The Surveyor had left his number to ring him when the work was done and he would arrange another visit to assess the work.....more money!
In a fit of pique I rang the Surveyor to ask him what exactly needed doing. After a lengthy discussion I twigged on to something that he said, for the life of me which I can’t recall now, and I asked him did the step need to be permanently fixed or could it be mobile. He replied that it didn’t need to be permanent but why would you have a need for it to be moved? All it needed was for it to support a 10” footprint. So I enquired that if I went out and bought a step would that do and he said yes but where would I be able to purchase a step that exact height....mmmmm.....after further discussion he, may be through his own frustration, told me to go out and buy a 4”x8” length of timber and build it up with feet to the correct height.
Armed with this cheap option, I set off to my favourite ‘man store’, B&Q. Nothing in the timber yard would suit. Dejected as I was walking out I looked up to see arrows pointing to the garden centre section and I thought that maybe there is something in there that would suffice. Low and behold a fence post exactly that size!!!!! I purchased it with a few other pieces of fencing panels for the step feet and headed home. An in-law joiner quickly put it all together and quite a nice job it was too.
I then rang the Surveyor who decided that it would be easier and no cost for me to send him photos of it. So I placed it against the existing step, placed my foot on it and took photographs and sent them off and 2 days later my certificate arrived in the post – hurrah!
As for the gas, while the step fiasco was going on, the plumber came out and examined my gas central heating installation and stated that there were a few things needed resolving before he could issue the certificate....it just wasn’t meeting the regulation standards. Now the frustrating aspect of this was the fact that he did the original install!!!! But what could we do so we had to go along with his proposal. After that I asked him to assess the LPG configuration and he said he would have a look and tell me what needed doing but he couldn’t do the work as he no longer held the ticket to do so...there was so little work in it that he didn’t bother renewing it as the cost of the ticket wasn’t covered by the work anymore.
This was even more frustrating as the reason I rang him and asked him was because he could cover both. So I had to look for another plumber with the correct ticket to do so. In the meantime the first plumber informed me that the bottle gas set up was a serious health and safety issue as the hoses hadn’t been changed in 10 years and are supposed to be changed every 5 years (hoses are date stamped), the positioning of the bottles was too close to a drain, the regulator wasn’t working properly and the gas hob needed replacing as the off notch on the knobs didn’t match the off markings on the hob itself.
So, when the knob was turned to turn off the gas it didn’t stop exactly at the ‘gas off’ hob markings and went slightly past it....fine for us to use as we are used to it but for someone new coming it would not do as they would think the gas is off at the markings when it isn’t....too dangerous.....bloody great!
So we had to go out replace the hoses and reposition the gas bottles at least 1.5 metres from the drain. Manufactured gas is heavier than air and if the bottles leaked it could drop down in to the drain and move along the street underground presenting a potential explosive catastrophe in the street....this would involve moving the bottles and moving the regulator which would also quite possibly mean re-piping the connection to the hob. After more serious thought I looked on Amazon and from a plumbing supplier purchased 2x 2 metre lengths of hoses and used these. Thus, in replacing the hoses we also were able to distance the bottles away from the drain and as for the regulator a few twists and turns fixed the leak.
As for the hob, it would have to be replaced and the LPG plumber would have to fit it. A replacement was bought and it arrived without key component screws and the bloody LPG fittings!!!!!! Ringing the manufacturer, they sent them out at a cost or £30. Unknowingly to the purveyor, their kits only retail with natural gas fittings.
So butchering our old hob for other components the LPG plumber was able to install the new hob and issued the certificate while amusing at the length of the hoses which he had never seen that length before.
Now keep in mind that while this was going on so was the step issue. All done, the certificates were handed over to our solicitors. We were set to really begin the sales pitch!
The house having been on the market for several months with only the odd potential buyer or more commonly the overly inquisitive person calling (nosey shites to you and me), lead us to believe that may be our home wasn’t that marketable after all. Doubt of sale began to creep in and Phil and Kirsty were denounced as carpet bagging lying bastards.
But eventually the market roared and after much haggling, extensive negotiations, and toing and froing on the phone, actually it took about 10 minutes to agree the sale, we had a buyer, aka the purchaser. When you have only one offer in on your house after several months you jump at it but try not to sound too eager! Phil and Kirsty were forgiven and extolled for their profound wisdom.
So, provisionally armed with a budget and a reversal of roles, we set off to find our new home as potential buyers.