More pain than gain when it comes to buying my own home
This column is usually somewhere you can find some explanation about what’s going on in the property market but instead, for the next couple of weeks I’d like to describe what I’ve encountered in the field when buying a property of my own.
As I write this, I am within hours of completing the purchase of my home – or at least I think so. Early on, I had been warned that it wouldn’t be a fun experience, but as the sceptical sort, I tried to ignore this advice. Frequently, I was told that old saw about how moving house was almost as stressful as suffering a bereavement in one’s family. How I scoffed.
And how wrong I was. Leaving aside the matter of prices and affordability, the whole process has certainly been gratuitously stressful. One example is still fresh in the mind: the other day, at the last minute my solicitor discovered that the service charge I would be paying at the flat was going to be twice the amount I was originally told.
To add to this, I have also discovered that the lease is for a shorter period than I was first told and that there are thousands of pounds worth of repairs and decorations that need to be done to the place.
Now, to be fair, at least the place wasn’t falling over, and I suppose these costs were small in comparison with the overall price, but they nevertheless made the purchase less attractive than when I put my offer in.
The Catch-22, of course, is that with my lawyer having by now done a certain amount of work on the transaction, I have already incurred costs that mean it probably wouldn’t be worthwhile to pull out.
To discover these things at the last minute means the market is not working properly. When people are paying for something, they should be able to know exactly what they are putting their money towards – and if not, the seller should be prepared to sell at a discount.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Home Information Packs, saying that, although the aims of the scheme were laudable, it might struggle to get off the ground at all in its current state. The Government has already backtracked on its original proposal that all sellers will have to commission a Home Condition Report (similar to a survey) for their property.
Now, a number of critics are calling on it to get rid of the entire scheme. I strongly urge it to resist these demands. The market clearly needs a mechanism whereby buyers – and, for that matter, sellers – can avoid these unpredictable costs. The problem is that the Government’s current plan was badly organised, and with nine months or so left until its introduction, too much is still shrouded in confusion.
There are also still too many question marks over who is to carry out the energy-efficiency tests and how much they will cost. But my last-minute panic would not have happened if the seller had had to provide a pack with this information in it. I would have known about the extra costs when putting in my offer.
Likewise, I see no reason why sellers should have to pay for a survey before selling their homes, provided the scheme is well-organised. The introduction of Home Information Packs will not necessarily transform the market, but it might just mean those long, drawn-out few months between putting in an offer and getting the keys might be less stressful – and maybe even shorter. Þ edmund.con[email protected]graph. co.uk. Edmund Conway is Economics Editor of The Daily Telegraph.