Next month marks the two-year anniversary of trying to sell my dad’s flat, ending up in a short chain which fell through at the last minute yesterday.
While it was a long time on the market, to be fair to my agent, we have been trying to sell a retirement flat in a warden-assisted block that has around five others on the market at the same time, is only open to over 60s and won’t allow rentals, so there is a small captive audience.
Since April 2018, we have missed Brexit deadlines, changed prime minister, held a General Election and missed more Brexit deadlines.
There was a further hold up when my dad died in October 2019 so we had to wait for the probate process to complete.
Some agents may easily reach for the excuses rulebook and cite any of the above when explaining why the property hasn’t sold.
No one could have foreseen the latest excuse, though. If you had told me two years ago that the property market would be effectively shut down because of a virus that was sweeping the world, I probably would have told you there was more chance of Boris Johnson becoming prime minister.
I, like so many sellers I have interacted with on Twitter over the past couple of days, was so close.
We accepted an offer on my dad’s property in October, just days after he passed away, and then agreed to proceed once probate was granted, which came in January.
This is where a lot of conveyancers and property management companies may have a lot to answer for.
Since January, our buyer has been waiting for a property information pack to be sent on his own sale to his conveyancer.
This finally happened at the end of last week and we were all set to exchange yesterday.
That was until Boris Johnson addressed the nation to effectively put us on lockdown. All non-essential travel and work is essentially prohibited, and Propertymark has been told this also includes agents.
Even removal companies are likely to turn off their engines and collapse their boxes.
To make matters worse, our buyer’s buyer was scared by the announcement on Monday evening as she is going into hospital for an emergency operation and is worried about whether she will come out alive.
So our eventual exchange and completion may now hinge on her surviving an operation and not catching coronavirus.
It is a stressful situation but I am at least lucky that it is not my own property or move that has been scuppered.
Agents must be facing making tricky calls and having tough conversations in the coming weeks and months as they try to get transactions over the line or at least to exchange with a delayed completion.
Your firms may not be deemed essential by the Government amid the coronavirus outbreak, but the decisions and agreements you get from buyers and sellers in the coming months may well be the most crucial to the survival of your business, your career and the public’s housing aspirations.