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Who Wrote These Stupid Rules Anyway?


When you want to buy a house in Scotland it’s easy. You have a look around the place and if you like the price, you make an offer through the estate agent. If the seller is happy with the offer and agrees to sell you it then that’s it. It’s legally binding. You have to buy the house and the seller has to sell it to you. You then go and get a mortgage, then agree on a move-in date, wait until then and move in. Simple, quick and effective. And that’s how house buying should be.

But I live in England. Things are different down here. It starts out the same way as in Scotland. You have a look around the house, make an offer and the seller accepts (assuming they’re happy with your offer). Now, that agreement is not legally binding so you can back out at any time and they can decide at a later point to do any of the following:

  • Decide to not sell the house any more.
  • Decide to add 10,000 on to the price.
  • Decide to sell to somebody else instead, who may or may not have offered more money.
  • Paint the house pink.

Okay, that last point is fairly unlikely. But the main point is that nothing is certain at this point in the process. So you go and get yourself a mortgage offer and get the deposit together. All set? Well, not quite. The seller may be in a chain. This means that they’re buying a house from someone else who may need to sell their house before moving out and so on. At any point, anybody in the chain can drop out and the whole thing breaks down. Contrast this with Scotland where you’ve already agreed the sale and there’s no backing out.

So, before you can actually buy the house, the seller has to have sold their house, and the person they’re buying from has to have already sold theirs, and so on. And all this can take quite some time. And, I stress, can break down at any time.

Luckily for me there is no chain involved and I should (fingers crossed) get into my new house in the next 3 weeks or so. But seeing how this system works compared to my native country’s makes me wonder why the hell it has to be this way. There’s uncertainty all the way and nobody trusts anybody else. It’s just plain stupid, and it’s not as if there’s no alternative. It’s also fantastically slow. Even though I’m not in a chain, it takes a damned long time to get anywhere in the process. You can nag everybody involved as much as you like but it seems to have little or no effect. Why aren’t they using modern technology to manage the whole process? I mean, come on, we live in the 21st century!

Okay, I feel a bit better now having got that off my chest. But I’ll say this much. Should it fall through at this stage for any reason, then I’ll be getting decidedly Braveheart on their asses…

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

13 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Ah, yes, the real estate chain. In my hometown during the boom years, that sort of thing was distressingly common, and I’m told it’s still happens fairly reguarly in San Francisco. Even so, based on your description, the US system sounds more like Scotland than the UK. (Although there is generally nothing in US real estate contracts forbidding pink-painting. Although a buyer playing hardball can add bits requesting that the house be painted pink, or any other colour … but that’s another story.)

    Good luck with the house! Prepare yourself for some nailbiting over the next three weeks, but just remember, it’ll all be worth it in the end — really.


  2. well it will be worth it as long as the market doesn’t crash….

    we pulled out of buying the house we were going to, living in london and paying 219k for a one bedroom flat just seemed a bit silly….

    time to move to the sticks (for that and other reasons)


  3. It’s a nightmare!!!

    I was buying from someone who was moving into an new house – the developer who was building the new house threatened to put up the price by 5K if dates were not met…. needless to say the slow legal process screwed up, I cancelled my survey to save a potential 300 if the sale fell through.

    Turns out it was all a bluff on the developper’s part and it went ok in the end – but his off the cuff remark filtered through via Chinese Whispers and delayed things another few weeks.

    It’s a crap system and for once Scotland have something better than us. Well their hills are better – but that’s nothing to do with the Scotts but geology.


  4. One doesn’t come to John’s Adventures to read swearing!

    On the subject of U.K. house prices, turns out I should have bought a house 40 years ago.

    I’m 29.


  5. John,

    You are talking bollocks – again. I was also under the mistaken opinion that our system is better than their’s. Having been through the process north and aouth o’ the border, i’m not so sure.

    It was more nail biting this time around thats for sure.

    By the way – looking forward to seeing you soon, good luck wiv da haas…



  6. You’re only saying that because you made a packet going from the south to the north! Plus, I like ranting now and then.


  7. Oh, I didn’t expect you to remove the swearing from the article John, you dirty melon farmer! I was only joking…


  8. Oh, but I have to take my readers comments seriously! Actually, I only changed it to see if you’d notice – I’m not sure how worried I am that you re-read the article and spotted it…



  9. You didn’t seriously think that I re-read the article, did you? Ctrl + F and “f*ck” was sufficient…


  10. On the one hand I am sorry to hear of people’s bad experiences but on the other hand I don’t feel quite so alone.

    My husband and I recently had the misfortune of being second from the top in a chain of four.

    The week of exchange dawned with a two week completion to follow (in fact we should have moved two days ago). Yes, as you guessed, the bottom of the chain pulled out. (Or as I call him “the bottom of the food chain!”)

    So all hell breaks loose, mainly from me, and it turns out that although my vendor and I were aware of the dates no-one else was!

    Oh, my buyer knew when the completion date was and was happy about that, but didn’t have a clue about exchange. Can you believe that? He was happy to complete in two weeks but never even asked his solicitor what should happen and more to the point, his solicitor never told him. It’s not like he hadn’t done this before, after all he must have bought the property he was selling.

    Anyway, although this is a nightmare in itself there are also other implications which some people fail to realise. Some being:

    My husband had given notice to the agency he works for and now has no job. Yet we still have a mortgage to pay and the usual living expenses in the meantime.

    The house we were buying has been put back on the market and is a case of first come first served, even though we have spent at least 1000 on two surveys, searches etc. This money we have borrowed and so still have to find it to pay back.

    Although our buyer still wants to buy our house, he still has to find another buyer for his. When he first put his offer in on our house we were aware that he had a property to sell but we shook hands and waited for him to sell.

    We have played this straight and fair all the way down the line.

    We are left with a buyer who is not in a position to proceed and are now having to go through the process of showing our house again.

    We have had to drop the price of our house in order to attract a quick sale.

    We may not now get our dream house which, in my mind, I have furnished, decorated etc.

    We have no income at the moment and so are in debt.

    In a situation like this we know there is no comeback on anyone, even if you know that some of the so-called professionals are, at least in part, to blame for not keeping a close eye on the proceedings and not advising their clients accordingly.

    This only happened two weeks ago and I am still in shock. I have had to see the doctor because I am suffering from an asthema attack which was probably brought on by stress and I am taking medication just so I can breathe!

    Still, I am the eternal optimist, although goodness knows why, and every day I hope someone will want my house (or my buyers house) and we can get on track again before we lose our dream home.

    At the moment I feel that nothing will ever change if no-one takes a stand. This house-buying, chain encouraging, life ruining system has got to be addressed. If all eventually goes to plan and I get my situation sorted out, I feel that I want to try to do something towards changing the system in England and Wales and maybe bring it more in line with Scottish law.

    If enough people lobby their MPs and take up the cause maybe one day house buying will be a dream and not a nightmare!

    By the way, our house was on the market for 4 months when we got our buyer. He then took 3 weeks to get a buyer and we then put our offer in on our dream house.
    With all buyers and vendors in place and apparently happy it took 3 months to fall through. Did you know that personal searches can be turned round in 24 hours!?

    It seems that the only thing that needs to take a little more time (but certainly not 3 months!) are the mortgage lenders, but once they are happy with the valuation survey it should be a breeze!



  11. Having previously commented I must actually apologise to my buyer. When I wrote about my experience it was very fresh and painful. I do realise that it was not, of course, his fault at all – he was equally let down by someone at the bottom of the chain.



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