Agents criticised as vendor still packing up hours after completion leaves house ‘like a skip’

Buying agent and property commentator Henry Pryor has expressed his disgust on Twitter about the state in which a property had been left for his clients by the vendor over the weekend. He has also criticised the agents.

He posted pictures of the £1.6m London home he sourced for a young couple and their six-month-old baby.

Pryor also complained about the delay of more than eight hours between the agreed completion time of 9.30am on Friday and when the seller finally vacated the property.

He said: “As the seller was leaving under the sad circumstances of a divorce and it was in their gift to do so, my clients gave her a few hours’ grace. However, she crashed through the new agreement and was still packing up at 5.30pm leaving a bomb site behind her.”

Pryor said that, while his clients were ‘getting twitchy’ they had been fortunate enough to have access to a property round the corner where they were able to wait.

“Had they been sitting outside in a removals van for eight hours with a small baby, it would have been a totally different story,” he said.

The family ended up collecting up the keys their property the following afternoon – Saturday.

Pryor said that, having managed more than 1,200 property completions, it was first time he’d encountered a situation of this kind. He placed the blame largely with the seller’s estate agent whom he declined to name.

“Completion is a big part of their job,” he tweeted. “Handing over keys, checking the property, ensuring it is secure, checking that what’s there is what was agreed.”

James Mackenzie, head of Strutt & Parker’s country department, agreed. He told EYE: “If an estate agent is doing their job properly, they will make people aware of the logistics of vacating a property in plenty of time, as well as their moral responsibility to leave it in a decent, clean condition.”

He added: “Especially if you are moving in the same area, it’s likely kids will go to school together and it will come back to haunt you.”

But other Twitter users who had waded into the debate argued that completion matters were “down to the lawyers, rather than the agents”.

Natalie Bradley, solicitor at conveyancing firm Stephensons, said: “When you exchange contracts and agree a completion date and time, most people are able to meet those timescales – but it’s not uncommon for that to slip slightly. In this case, there is usually some leeway provided by both parties.”

Where the delays are too long, it could be feasible for a buyer to sue the seller for late completion and seek redress, she added.

“However, this would only amount to interest for each day the completion was delayed, so in reality it is probably not worth the costs of pursuing such a course of action.”

Bradley added that if the delay lasts for two weeks, the purchaser can usually seek to rescind the contract and request for their deposit plus interest to be returned.

Pryor added that buyers should find out the day and time the seller has booked removals and aim to avoid completing on a Friday as businesses can be closed over the weekend.

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  1. Property Poke In The Eye

    These things do happen now and again…

    1. MarkRowe

      Is it not Henry’s job to check these things on behalf of his client? They’ve paid him huge sums of money to make sure the purchase of the said property is fully managed and ready for them and their six month old baby, right…?

  2. devonlondoner59

    This happened to me… arrived from Surrey to Devon with a baby, three toddlers and three dogs, to find vendor still moving out (she was doing it herself car load by car load from a 6bed barn).

    she left the cupboards full of old cleaning products, a flea infested rug, pee stained mattress, bbq and bench in garden and a range oven in the garage which she cane back for a few weeks later and she also too the curtain hooks from the sitting room when we agreed for her to leave all the curtains.

    It was a farce, which I can look back in 7 years later and laugh about.

  3. GeorgeOrwell

    Henry ?
    You’re talking nonsense!
    Stop headline grabbing  
    Here’s a thought,
    “Henry Pryor, unprofessional enough to post photos of someone’s house online, to SHAME them, yet you acknowledge she (your word Henry, SHE?!!), is going through a divorce (which although NOT an excuse, may explain the circumstances that the lady finds herself in).
    YOU Henry, are a Hot Air Balloon

    1. NewsBoy

      Spot on.  Prior after a headline – again. I’m really not sure this is something I would be terribly interested in reading about and as PIE to think before posting poor self promotion for HP.

      By the way, this sort of thing is completely out of the control of the agent and usually down to poor planning by the seller. Unfortunately conveyances are often at fault by just telling their clients to take their time and sit tight as there is NEVER any comeback after the event.

  4. smile please

    How in anyway is this the agents fault?

    Prior showing how little he understands the role of an agent.

  5. mmmm

    Why does Pryor get airtime?

    1. Robert_May

      18 posts and counting…. 19, that’s why

  6. coleface

    How can that be an agents fault? Awful scenario that almost all agents will have experienced more than once in a career, but not one we can control in any way.

    The logistics of an agent inspecting every completion is not factored as a cost (imagine if PB had to do that) and even if we did inspect and discovered a bomb site what control do we have to rectify it?

    We can’t exactly call the ex owner and expect them to come back and clear their mess up, if they are that morally flawed to do this in the first place.

    We can’t physically remove them.

    So short of viewing every completion and then organising and paying for a clean if it’s not up to scratch, even though we have no control whether it is or isn’t, this is a scenario people do to each other.

    And like gazumping or pulling out late from a sale, blaming the agent for lack of morals in buyers and sellers is an all too easy dig that plays to stereotypes that often are totally unfair.

  7. AgencyInsider

    I have a vision of Mr Pryor, with the vacuum, a la Freddie Mercury wanting to break free.

    It’s going to be difficult to unsee this.

  8. TwitterSalisPropNews

    As a conveyancer, we repeat the same advice to selling clients in at least in 4 separate places/staghes in our communications, the fact that they need to be out by about noon, leaving a buyer a chance to move in.

    Almost a condition of them receiving their sale proceeds.

    I assume estate agents – as conveyancers are not even local to the property most times – are on hand over the phone a few times that morning, and probably the previous few days – having already and continuing to give the reminder they have only until noon, as they will be posied to hand over the keys.

    A joint effort by conveyancer and agent.


    1. PeeBee

      “As a conveyancer, we repeat the same advice to selling clients in at least in 4 separate places/staghes in our communications, the fact that they need to be out by about noon, leaving a buyer a chance to move in.”
      As a conveyancer, you should be advising your client that they provide vacant possession to the new homeowner once cleared funds are received and legal completion has taken place – and not before.
      You cannot guarantee, regardless of what has been written into the Contract, that this will happen at any time of the day, as that part of the process is completely out of your hands.
      And as for what now seems to be the ‘norm’ – of simultaneous exchange and completion – you don’t even have the comfort of a legally binding agreement until the deal is essentially done – lumping more stress again on the customer.
      In over four decades of homesales, I would estimate that 80%+ of completions I have been involved in have been effected after 2pm.
      That would have been an awful lot of ‘homeless’ people sitting in cars and vans for two or more hours waiting for access to their new homes if you had been their conveyancer…

      1. TwitterSalisPropNews

        You really do experience poor conveyancing.
        Use us, our clients know when to be out.
        Align with quality conveyancers – even after over four decades, it’s not too late
        As for the article, responsibility is in the following order:
        1. the seller (to be out)
        2. the estate agent (as they handle the practical side…and the keys!?)
        3. the conveyancer – they may only handle the legal side, and not be anywhere near the property, but they can make it clear to be out … about noon

        1. PeeBee

          Ahhh… such wit!  And how it shines…

          …nothing like a shining wit (credit: Rev. William Archibald Spooner) to start your day – or end it yesterday, in this case.

          I would have replied then – but there were soooo many ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ being added to our little conflab that I didn’t want to interrupt your flow at that time.  Nothing worse than seeing a red mist and hitting a ‘Like’ for that damn insolent PeeBee when you really meant to stab at t’other button…

          You must have been too engrossed in your completions to post during normal hours.  All that telling people to vacate their properties by “about noon” ( as if “…about…” is some kind of get out of jail card that makes your ridiculous instruction somehow okay…) – whether or not the monies had been received – and to be banging on the door demanding access to their new homes that they didn’t legally own yet for exactly the same reason…

          I’ll stick to the local solicitors and conveyancers that I have happily recommended for years, thanks.  Ones where I know I can expect good conveyancing – or they don’t get work passed to them.  Free of charge, I add.

          I have the feeling you wouldn’t appreciate the pressure I have been known to put on conveyancers to pull their fingers out and do the chuffing job their clients pay them to do.

          Thanks in advance for the ‘Dislikes’ to this post – hows about you go for it proper and give me a dozen or so.

          Three’s hardly worth the effort…

  9. Emmersons46

    This is a reminder that the property transaction process is a very human event and how each party acts and reacts is part of the process.

    Managing the parties’ expectations is essential but sometimes things happen for all sorts of reasons and a certain amount of empathy and calmness is required.

    More often its a party having packed and loaded a van, sitting outside their new house whilst the bank process the transfer  of cash and everyone is waiting for completion, demanding that he get to move in (like you might try to insist upon occupying an hotel room before it’s ready).

    Empathy and good manners-essential elements of all property transactions.

  10. revilo

    “Completion is a big part of their job,” he tweeted. “Handing over keys, checking the property, ensuring it is secure, checking that what’s there is what was agreed.”

    Really?? Since when did a sellers agent do this??

    Maybe, as a buyers agent with a ridiculously early completion time (whoever completes at 9.30am??) Mr Prior could have been more proactive in communicating with the buyer and sellers solicitors to ensure the seller was fully aware of the need to pack up the day before and vacate by 9.30, if that is what was agreed, instead of blaming everyone else?

    The sellers agent is not responsible for the actions of his cient!

    And as for publicly posting pictures? Surely Mr Prior should know better than this!

  11. smile please

    Surely Pryor as the buyers agent should shoulder some of the responsible with the logic he is using.

    He should have made sure the property was ready for his client. I hope they withhold part his fee.

  12. Essjaydee51

    With monies travelling through the banking system via a solicitors client account to another solicitors client account and on a Friday (lots of completions, so a slower process) there is NO WAY you can agree a 9.30 completion, never in 34 years have I had a time booked for a completion, it is not the agents job to make sure the home is cleared nor clean but we are there as the moaning post if it isn’t and we do try to help save the situation as everyone’s stress hits the high spot Pryor is just trying it on and passing the buck as per, our job is to chase solicitors for their permission to release keys as and only when they have ( between the solicitors and the banking system) received the money, it is the moral duty and pride of the sellers to leave their old home in a state of cleanliness, it is, unfortunately, the agents task (not job) to take the flack when this doesn’t happen.

  13. Andrew1337

    What kind of idiotic underatanding does this man have of estate agency?

    1. Completion is nothing to do with an estate agent.


    2. An estate agent isnt in control of their clients actions.

  14. Hillofwad71

    Often happens with vendors who think they can escape a 4 figure Pickfords bill by hiring a transit van as they are only moving around the corner

  15. Estate_Agent_Memes

    Who the heck agrees a completion time of 09.30. Completion never (hardly) takes place before lunchtime. Often later, depending if the solicitor decides takes a lunch hour!

    Where has Henry added any value here? He’s showing off he’s acting as a buying agent (waste of money) and yet he’s not checking that his client’s property is suitable for completion. We all know it’s legally binding upon exchange and there is no way they exchanged and completed on the same day by 9.30 AM?! Sounds like the hot airbag took his money and ran.

  16. NotAdoctor32

    In a desperate bid for self-promotion, HP has only made himself look like a fool.

    I pity anyone who pays this man a fee to do a job for him if he has this little understanding of the home moving process.

    I wonder if he offered to help his fee-paying buyers to clean the house up?

  17. J1

    Henry darling; surely you have some marigolds ????


  18. Slizzie24

    As s Conveyancing solicitor, I am sorry to say that I find across this scenario far too frequently.   Even last week, I completed a transaction at eleven o’clock and my client was not able to access her new home until three o’clock despite the contract stating that the latest time for completion was one o’clock.     It is important for agents and lawyers to appreciate that it is not the time of the handing over of keys that affects the clients moving experience ; I spoke with my clients removal guy and he told me that it would take a good four hours to take all her furniture and belongings from the van into the house.  He was only engaged by her to five o’clock which, if the completion had gone as planned, would be alright but as it was, and because I had served notice to complete, the decision was made to offload as much as possible and in particular the items she needed and the remainder of her items would go into storage.  The removal guy would not be able to deliver them back to her until this Monday due to other removal commitments.   
    And I served the  notice to complete to protect my client.   And guess what?   I am difficult and awkward and in the words of the agent – everyone needs to be more accommodating
    Lawyers need to make sure of two major things.   Firstly, that the seller in any transaction understands that legal completion occurs when the monies are received by his or her solicitor.  That is the point when the ownership of the property is transferred.   The contract is drafted so as to give a deadline , usually one o’clock and lawyers and agents need to make sure that the seller understands that , provided monies are received by that time, then they have to vacate, whether or not they have the keys to their new home.    There is always going to be a point when parties in a chain are technically homeless , waiting for monies to be transferred.   
    Secondly, the keys have to be released when monies are received.  There is no waiting around at the old house to get the keys to the new house.  Monies received; keys released.  We do , as lawyers, appreciate that moving house does not fit in perfectly with these requirements and do not serve notice without giving it thought and deciding whether or not it is in the right thing to do in the circumstances.   However, when you know that your client’s monies have been used further up the chain and everyone is moving,  serve a notice to protect your clients position.   It is not about being awkward      Would you go to a car showroom, hand over the money, and let the dealer keep the car and the money?

    1. flockfollower102

      At the risk of exposing my ignorance of the legalities of the exact ‘time’ of completion, if you are going to put a time on the contract, then surely the buyer has a legal responsibility to meet that as well. No complaining that the money is moving up the chain, the banking system is slow, the solicitor is on lunch! Does that mean the buyer is in breach? What penalty do they accept?

      The whole conveyancing system is fundamentally broken and no longer fit for purpose. Conveyancer’s coming on and quoting the rights and wrongs of someone not being ready to move out on time show how they do not understand the humanity of what they are doing. Until the whole system is reviewed and corrected (unlikely to ever happen as there are too many vested interests in the status quo), we will always have to deal with these situations!

  19. Rhino


    Having just entered my 40th year of selling property in the same town, I have probably encountered everything HP describes – and worse, so nothing surprises me – but what annoys me is the suggestion that we as agents are in some way responsible. We can and do often remind/advise vendors after exchange of contracts, the process for completion and try to make suggestions to ensure as smooth a transfer as possible – but still problems can arise.




    What is more worrying is that the industry (not the profession I entered many decades ago) has been experiencing this problem for ever and its generally felt that completion day causes the most stress in the moving process. It never ceases to amaze me that in our part of the world where many (often elderly) purchasers are travelling over 100 miles to move to their new home, complete this logistical nightmare with so relatively few problems – although it is often thanks to numerous phone call from helpful agents and some accommodating solicitors




    I can never fully understand why with all the technology and everything else available, that we, the lawyers, bankers and insurance industry (who are only too willing to offer lucrative Indemnity Policies for what seems every eventuality) cannot come up with a solution where you legally/financially complete one day and move the next. Couldn’t there be some form of ‘holding bank account’ and insurance policy to protect the people and the property over the intervening 24 hours?




    Perhaps Henry’s time might be better spent using all his years of experience and media and industry contacts to lobby for some total overhaul of the legal transfer of property in this country so that he and we don’t encounter the problem he has described



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