I’ve been looking for a flat to purchase recently. I’m not an absolute moron; I realise this makes me very lucky to be in a position to potentially own a property of my own, especially in London. So I guess this post is a little “my diamond shoes are too tight”, but whatever! I need to vent.
“It’s so exciting!” people beamed at me when I told them my boyfriend and I were looking to buy a place together. I have since found the exact opposite. It’s been a tedious, arduous journey, which has wasted a good year’s worth of Saturdays looking at depressing hovels in suspect areas of North London.
Without further ado, here are my top five (or should that be bottom five?) annoyances. Estate agents look away now!
1. Kirstie and Phil
For those not in the UK, Kirstie and Phil present a long-running British TV show called Location, Location, Location, where they find house hunters their dream home for under their budget over the course of three days. Not only do they find this gem for the house hunters, they also normally get an offer accepted under the asking price without a hitch. I now laugh a hollow laugh in the face of this.
Phil and Kirstie (aka Kirstie and Phil) have given me – and I can’t think I am alone in this, guys – unrealistic expectations of what house hunting was going to be like. They don’t deal with pushy, sleazy estate agents on the the TV show. They don’t show them rushing about between appointments on a Saturday on London’s public transport. They don’t show the awkwardness of staring down other potential buyers at open days. THAT is house hunting in London, not skipping about tree lined streets in Crouch End weighing up options in a gastro pub over a chilled glass of Sauv Blanc. There is no time to weigh up options – someone else is going to steal your dream flat, so you have to go, go, go!
That’s before I’ve even got to the prices. London house prices are high, but as we’ve only been looking in London we kind of have grudgingly become accustomed to the fact you wouldn’t get a garage for quarter of a mill. When I watch L, L, L, lovely couples are scoring three-bed properties with gardens for £150K. OK, it’s not in London but it’s still a bit gut wrenching and makes me want to break something. But I still watch the show, of course – who doesn’t love P & K? They’re just so delightful.
2. Open Houses
In our area of London there’s probably one reasonably-priced flat that comes on the market per week. Or so it seems. Estate agents are inherently lazy – I learned this early on – and so they pack in as many viewings in on a Saturday morning as possible. “You must be there at 11.15,” they say, claiming they have another viewing at 11.25. You arrive and there’s 10 other couples awkwardly shimmying past one another in a flat the size of a postage stamp, while the more pushy viewers (me!) vie for the agent’s attention to ask about ground rent and other tedious money-wasters.
They will then tell you as you leave “Offer in on Monday”. Meaning most people who have viewed the flat will put in an offer and it’ll turn into a bidding war. All this while the agent kicks back, having only had to stand in a tiny flat for a few hours one Saturday mentally counting his commission*.
3. Estate Agents – especially a well-known agent rhyming with Moxtons.
Estate Agents have been the bane of my life since we’ve been looking. They send me properties that are £100K over our budget, they call and leave 20 voicemails during office hours then go for lunch for two hours when I’m actually free, they tell me my dreams are futile and I should settle for living in a bog.
The absolutely worst agent, who have consistently come up trumps in the “I’m the world’s biggest twonk” competition all estate agents seem to be competing in, is Foxtons. Here are some classic conversations I’ve had with them:
Me: I’m looking for a one bed for £[budget]
Foxtons Twonk: Yeah, can you increase that by £100K?
Me: Um, not really?
Foxtons Twonk: Just that that amount tends to be what most people get for a bonus and so they’re just spending their bonuses on properties buying in cash.
Me: [Hangs up]
Foxtons Twonk: I’ve got this GREAT property to show you! Can you come see it RIGHT NOW?
Me: Great, can you send over the details?
Foxtons Twonk: Well why don’t you just come see it without the details?
Me: Because I don’t want to waste my time if it’s not suitable. Can you send them over, please?
Foxtons Twonk: Well we have a policy of never sending out details. We find it tends to confuse people. We’d really rather just show properties without them seeing the details first. So shall I meet you there at 1pm?
Me: No. I’m not going without seeing the details.
[Cue circular conversation until we’re both worn out and give up]
Having said that, our current agent is a brilliant gem.
4. Getting to Viewings
I live in London and don’t own a car. I also work, so can only really see properties on a Saturday. This tends to mean that over the past eight months, Andrew and I have spent our Saturdays careering around London, looking at depressing holes and battling public transport in between each viewing.
I now know North London’s bus routes surprisingly well and can tell you the fastest route on foot between the Emirates Stadium and Stokey. The late buses, the suspended overground services, the buses on divert (who knows where you might end up, but chances are it’ll be 3 miles from where you wanted to be). It’s horrendous.
I envy those people who chuck money away owning a car in London, as it’s been the one time it would’ve actually been useful.
5. Everyone Else
House hunting has turned me into an intolerant ball of anger, which I hate – so perhaps it’d be more accurate to say number five is myself, but that seems a little emo. Anyway…
– There are the other a eleventy billion people who are househunting. Hate them. They keep buying the flats I want.
– There are home owners. Hate them. How do they own a flat and not me? How did they do it, those evil house buying wizards?
– People from out of town. Hate them. Don’t need to know how much my budget would get me in Scarborough. I don’t want to live in Scarborough.
– People who say “oh it’s so exciting”. See top of article, read to end for reasons why.
At the end of it all, there’s a delightful house-buying process to go through, which I am currently enduring. More on that another time…
*There might be more to estate agency than this. I’m not convinced, but there might be.