How I bought a house the week before Christmas and completed before the Stamp Duty deadline

No, I wasn’t buying cash.

No, I wasn’t buying at auction.

Yes, I did need a mortgage.

Yes, there was a small chain.

The doomsayers (if you read the mainstream media), said it couldn’t be done.

It took me precisely: 7 weeks and 6 days from offer acceptance to sale completion.

Oh, and that was during the Christmas and New Year break when the solicitors were closed for two weeks.

And I guess I should mention, but I think you’re already aware, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and there’s this great frenzy to complete before the Stamp Duty holiday which has caused a logjam up and down the country meaning most purchases are taking approximately 20 weeks to complete.

How did I do it?

What’s the secret to my success?

Good communication.

Excellent people.

Lady Luck.

I cannot stress enough how important communication is. It is everything. And when I say that, I really mean it. I communicated everything with every person, even if maybe on the face of it, they didn’t need to know it.

And I don’t just mean emails, they are second rate when it comes to making sure shit happens. If you want to get things done, you pick up the phone and talk to people and then send an email after the conversation to recap your conversation.

There’s nothing like emphasis.

That meant from the offset the estate agent and solicitor were looped into every stage of what I was doing. They got informed when my mortgage application had been submitted. They got informed when I applied for searches, they got informed when the survey was booked, when the survey was back, when the searches were back, when I made a cup of tea. You get my drift.

All of this I did to ensure they were aware of progress and could ensure their vendors were also doing the same. Call it chivvying along, call it healthy competition but really, who wants to be the one left behind?

Regular updates means nobody ever forgets who you are and what you’re buying. And that means it keeps everybody else on their toes to make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain.

The pressure trickles down and around the chain.

The estate agents I was buying from then applied pressure to the estate agents who my sellers were buying from. And if there’s anything I’ve learned about estate agents, is that they like a good old fashioned pissing contest.

Just add some fuel.

So the other thing I did differently, was the legal work.

Most of the time you apply for searches and do all that sort of gumpf after you’ve got the survey back. With a huge bottleneck at local councils and a likely surge of yet more requests, I decided to switch the order of things.

We applied for the searches before we’d got the surveyor’s appointment and before my mortgage application had even been approved.

The potential downside to this line of action was if the survey was unfavourable, I would lose the search fees and be liable for any legal work up to that date. The upside was if the survey was fine (which I was anticipating), then I would be ahead of the game by some six to eight weeks.

That, I knew, could be the difference between making the transaction happen before the stamp duty holiday ended or not.

The downside was losing a few hundred quid. The upside was saving several thousands.

I wanted the property and believed it would pass, so I pushed ahead.

The searches were back within days. I have to admit; I was astonished given the delays I’d read about in the news.

And the survey? Well, unbelievably that also got booked in pretty quick. From the time of my mortgage application to the date of the survey, it was just over three weeks. That is exceptional going when you consider Christmas and New Year was also in that intervening period.

It then took twelve days from the date of the survey to the mortgage offer.

But, I have to confess to being organised when I submitted my mortgage application. I didn’t fanny about and spend days oohing and arrhing about the rate and getting my paperwork together. The decision was made and all relevant paperwork submitted that same day.

If you’re going to hit a deadline, you have to prioritise to make stuff happen.

Of course, things were going too swimmingly and even I thought that.

I called the estate agents to touch base on I don’t remember what, maybe general pestering, to discover they had all come down with Covid and had closed the office. It was by sheer chance I’d managed to catch the boss.

I told him to focus on getting better and to give me the vendor’s number. We would sort it out from here.

And this is where Lady Luck comes in (although she’s been sitting on my shoulder since the start, but it was here she really made her presence known), because, what you won’t know, is that when I called the estate agents to discover the entire team was ill, was only three days after those same estate agents were meant to show me the property again for me to do some final measurements.

As it was, on that day, the estate agents were so busy, they had asked the vendors of the property to let me in instead.

And so it was, I met the vendors for the first time, struck up a rapport and avoided, as it later turned out, coming into contact with an agent who later tested positive and who’s meeting would’ve meant I would’ve had to self-isolate – in the worst case, could’ve potentially given me Covid and made me sick.

Take nothing for granted.

As I say, everything had been going swimmingly, so swimmingly in fact that we were due to exchange last week.

But then the vendor’s solicitors, having agreed a completion date, went AWOL. They didn’t answer my solicitor’s emails or calls and everybody was rather stumped.

So I asked the vendor to pop by their solicitor’s office (which was local to them) to find out what was happening.

It was in darkness.

So, doing what all good desperate people do, they banged on the door.

Nobody answered, but five minutes after their visit, they got an email which they sent to me which simply said:

>not today

>we’ll contact you when we’re ready

Which I have to confess was a curveball I hadn’t seen coming.

The last few days have been a bit stressful, not for any other reason than the fact the vendor’s solicitor was refusing any sort of communication with anyone.

Then suddenly yesterday they sent an email and said: ‘we’re ready’.

And so, that was it, I have no idea what they were doing, and I guess in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter: because I’d bought the house!

So there, dear readers, is the story of how I bought a house the week before Christmas and completed before the Stamp Duty deadline.

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