Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A tale of two markets. The agonising story of our first sale.

A few weeks ago now we finally exchanged contracts on the sale of our first project.

I cannot believe how long its taken to sell this little studio flat in SW3. Literally months.

Anyone who tells you the Prime Central market is a doddle clearly knows diddly squat. I had read the PR headlines and, as a result, rather assumed the world would be queuing round our elegant Chelsea garden crescent to make outrageous over-the-asking-price offers. They weren't.

Actually, that's not quite true. Within 24 hours of our original agent being hired, we did have an offer at the full asking price. But after that offer fell through we had months when almost nothing happened.

We added another agent. Dropped the price (considerably). Still nothing worth discussing.

The agents all said how wonderful the flat was (well, they would, wouldn't they). But of actual offers there was a severe drought.

We thought about pulling it off the market for the summer, but it hardly seemed worth the bother. Would anyone actually notice? Would it really make any difference?

Then, in August of all months, a couple walked past the Knightsbridge agent's window and took a fancy to our flat.

'Walk-ins' as the trade calls them are usually regarded with immense suspicion. These days nobody looks for a property on the street; they look at screens, portals and agents' websites. Only bored tourists, nosey-parkers and fantasists walk in off the street and ask to see a property.

So it took quite a bit of convincing by our buyers to get the agent to take them seriously.

Eventually they were permitted a viewing. And they loved it. Or at least, the wife loved it.

The husband thought it was far too much for one room (and he comes from Hong Kong where prices are as ludicrous as London).

Not surprisingly, their first offer was way off.

We and they hummed and harumphed via the smooth talking agent, and eventually the offer grudgingly nudged up £25k. Still not enough we said. And that's where it seemed to stall.

The buyer went off abroad for a while, the conversation petered out and any optimism I felt went with it.

A week later I was persuaded by a different agent to take an 'exclusive sneak preview' of another 'opportunity' on the same road as ours.

It was so 'exclusive' that I found myself outside the flat with six other potential buyers and an embarrassed agent who hadn't got the keys.

I fell into conversation, for want of anything else to do, with a very pleasant couple who seemed as disinterested in the viewing as I was.

Within minutes we discovered that they were the potential buyers of my flat, the front of which we could actually see from where we were waiting.

It transpired that they'd just landed from a few days in Geneva, and only as the plane's wheels hit the runway back at Heathrow had the husband admitted to his wife that their offer on my flat had been turned down.

The wife wasn't best pleased. So, after a cursory peek at a dreary little flat with all the other 'exclusive previewers', we retired to my flat - the one they'd hoped to buy.

We clearly all got on, and after a bit of haggling shook hands on a price £25k up from the one I'd rejected.

Before exchange took place, we then had to contend with the idiotic posturing of the buyer's solicitor who was about as pragmatic as North Korean diplomacy. This held things up for weeks as we argued about wood floors, building control and the managing agents paperwork.

More important than all this detail however is the wide difference between the perceived state of the PCL market and the reality.

A Knightsbridge agent just published a report proudly boasting that their sellers were achieving 97% of guide prices. Well, in our case the agent achieved around 85% of the original guide price....and it took four months and my help to achieve that.

Not quite the booming, fast moving market we're led to believe.

Oh, and by the way, that other flat on our street I went to see is still on the market after two price reductions. And the agent for that flat said (with a straight face) that we had to see it that day in August as it would probably sell within HOURS.


PS. Some might think that this piece runs counter to my previous blog about buyers being the dodgy ones, not the agents. Not at all. The agents I mention here are all perfectly honest, good guys. Just a little too quick to believe their own and others' hype, sadly.