The failed purchase

I first put in an offer on a place just before Easter. It was one of those places which had a guide price between a range and I put in an offer towards the bottom of the range. It wasn’t in particularly good condition and I’d have gone in lower, but I knew the owner had recently rejected one offer so I thought I’d better not go in right at the bottom.

The house was on the market through Purplebricks, which is a new breed of estate agents with an online focus. On their website you can follow properties and if you do, it notifies you if a viewing is booked or an offer is made. That’s quite a cool feature, but in general after my experience with this house, I’m not a big fan of their model.

It’s great to be able to book viewings online, although I prefer doing the actual viewing with an estate agent rather than the owner (which is mostly the case with Purplebricks) – it’s easier to ask certain questions when it’s an intermediary rather than the actual owner. But, on the other hand, obviously the owner can give you more information about the property itself.

Anyway, I made my offer through the online portal and someone else made an offer at the same time. An estate agent called me and asked whether there was an leeway in my offer and I told him the highest I’d be willing to go. Suddenly before I knew it, he was saying that was my new offer, which wasn’t exactly what I’d been saying, but I went along with it as I knew there was another offer.

Then it went silent for nearly a week. Except for one call from the estate agent to ask if I’d heard from the owner. He was the only point of contact between us so I don’t know quite why he was asking that! But eventually he phoned to say my offer had been accepted, which was quite exciting!

I got on to my mortgage adviser and sorted out a solicitor (I went onto moneysupermarket, entered my details and chose the cheapest one with the best reviews). My mortgage adviser has been great and really efficient throughout this whole process and he soon has my mortgage application submitted and a survey booked.

And it was the survey that caused the whole thing to fail. The surveyor valued the property at about £20k below the offer I’d made. This meant that the bank wouldn’t lend me more than that valuation. My mortgage adviser told me I could appeal if I could find evidence of similar properties sold nearly for my offer price. So I looked. And it was a revelation. I hadn’t looked at sold prices before (you can see them on Rightmove and Zoopla) and I realised that places were selling at well below the asking price.

That made me pause and I decided to go back to the seller and ask to renegotiate. I messaged the estate agent I’d been dealing with when I made the offer, but he told me I’d need to speak to the post-sales team and have me the number of a call centre. I phoned them and explained and they said they’d speak to the seller. And this is where I really don’t think much of Purplebricks. All their call centre did was to forward emails between me and the seller. They gave no advice to either of us and had no idea about the market where I was buying (it was a nationwide call centre). I’m fairly sure a local estate agent would have advised the seller that she needed to negotiate – unless she can find a cash buyer, the bank won’t lend the amount she wants to get for that property to any buyer.

But she refused. And at this point I’d received the write up of the Homebuyer’s Survey I’d commissioned – and it wasn’t great to be honest. I knew the house needed at bit of TLC but there were so many problems identified in the survey that I was worried about how I’d ever afford to put them all right. It stopped seeming exciting and started to feel like I would be overpaying for a house with a load of of problems – and the bank wasn’t willing to lend me the money anyway!

So I pulled out. I’d spent £500, which I was never going to get back, but I’d learnt a lot in the process.


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