Jessie Hewitson, Property & Money writer, The Times with a cautionary tale as published by Savills.
I have just bought a flat in Crouch End in north London. Put like that, it sounds so straightforward, but in reality it took nine months, swallowed all the spare time and cash my husband and I have and caused such astonishing stress that I’m surprised a vein in my head didn’t pop.
There were many reasons for the stress – the lawyers, the lawyers! – but a significant one was the fact that we bought without estate agents being involved. At first, we were delighted with this arrangement. It meant we weren’t in a competitive situation so we could afford a flat we never thought within our reach. We also preferred the option of speaking to the buyers about any queries or issues in person, without the help of a third party, like the civilised grown-ups that we are.
This worked beautifully for the first three months. Then even more months clocked up and everything became more fraught – problems with the mortgage, the lease, the rear fence, the lawyers arguing and blaming each other. Eventually we wished to God there had been a third person involved to relieve me and my husband of having to make awkward phone calls at 8pm after a hard day’s work.
The whole experience was a painful lesson in the true value of estate agents. Not only do they act as a buffer between buyer and seller, they soak up our stresses, strains and the temper of all parties. By absorbing the anger and listening to the frustrations of the buyers and sellers – or more likely holding the phone away from their ear as they mentally count their commission – they keep sales on track.
For us, somehow – and I still can’t believe it – it all worked out. Mostly because our sellers were such fundamentally decent people and because we overcame our inbuilt reluctance to hassle our lawyer and I pestered her to within an inch of her life to get the job done. She’s moaning now about what a pain journalists are, no doubt.
Jessie Hewitson, Property & Money writer, The Times