Jane put down the phone with a huge smile on her face. She raced outside to Sue, in her excitement tripping over Fido, their brainless dog, saying, “We’ve got it!”. They danced a celebratory jig before reality kicked in.
Jane said “Oh, and the agents want to know what solicitor we are using, they said they know someone that is cheap and suggested it would be easier if we use them”.
Sue retorted “but we don’t know if they are any good” .
Jane was keen to go with the selling agents’ suggestion but Sue had checked a few internet reviews and some didn’t make good reading. Sue discovered that some agents don’t always recommend the best solicitor, they are often driven by corporate targets and can receive incentive payments. Sue suggested they ask friends and relatives for recommendations, after all this is the biggest purchase of their lives.
Jane & Sue rang a few solicitors. Jane was keen to go with the cheapest quote but Sue pointed out they must not be swayed by a low headline figure. Sue spotted “add ons” in the small print which meant the so called low cost firms were not as competitive as they first appeared. In the end they decided to use a long established local firm, Eldridges, who gave them a clear breakdown of precisely what it would all cost.
Before they began house hunting they had had their mortgage agreed in principle and they quickly completed the application form, hoping the lender would not down value the house they hoped to buy.
They met with their solicitor, Nigel, early on. They were asked to bring in their passports to prove who they were, something that Jane thought was unnecessary because she remembered Nigel from school: he was the spotty geek who always sat at the front of the class.
Jane did not understand why Nigel asked them so many questions: which of you is providing the deposit, will you be paying the mortgage instalments equally and what will happen if you fall out, or die? Nigel even suggested they make Wills (Nigel never had a reputation as the class clown!) . Fortunately, Jane waited until they had left Nigel’s office before asking Sue why the solicitor had been concerned about their laundry, was it because the house had a built in washing machine? Sue hooted with laughter as the penny dropped. “Oh Jane, he was explaining about the Government’s Anti-Money Laundering Regulations, which is why I told him I would bring in all the paperwork we have to show where our deposit is coming from. Don’t you remember the money from your accident claim, when you tripped on the pavement and the money from my investment policy? Thank goodness we both kept it all!” “Oh dear”, Jane thought, “when do I confess that Fido might have eaten mine?”.
But Nigel was really good: he went through all the paperwork with them and kept them fully informed at every stage. He sent Sue & Jane the Local, Drainage and Environmental Search results and explained what they meant. Nigel explained the vital stage of “exchanging contracts”, which is when the purchase becomes a “done deal”, with no going back. Nigel gave them ample notice of when he would need the ten per cent deposit which is payable at exchange of contracts. He advised them to ensure they had all the purchase money under their control before they committed to buy.
Jane was surprised to learn that Josh, her 18 year old son, from a previous relationship, who lived with them, was being asked to sign a form for the Mortgage Company – especially as he never got out of bed before lunch time, let alone earn enough to help buy the house!
Nigel, understanding that Jane and Sue were animal lovers, gave them helpful advice as moving day can be very traumatic for pets. He suggested they put their cat, Sylvester, into a cattery overnight and arrange for Sue’s Mum to take care of Fido during the actual move. “Removal firms are very careful but open gates and doors can allow beloved pets to escape in all the excitement and confusion.” Nigel told them of a recent change in the law, which makes it compulsory to update address and contact details for Fido’s microchip.
Nigel also advised Jane and Sue not to give notice to quit their current, rented, house until they had exchanged contracts, to avoid becoming homeless. Nigel arranged the timing of it all to suit Jane and Sue so they did not double up on rent and mortgage payments. Brilliant!
Finally, completion day arrived. Sue & Jane learned that was the day the house became theirs and they could collect the keys from the selling agents. It was also the day they would have a huge mortgage around their necks! They had taken Nigel’s advice to pay for a Postal Redirection, to ensure vital communications reached them, and to change the locks on the doors as you never know who might have a key to the property.
After introducing Fido to his new home and unpacking a few essentials, Jane and Sue cracked open a celebratory bottle of champagne. They had taken just a few sips before they heard a dreadful commotion in their new neighbour’s garden. A weary Sue shouted to Jane, “You left the gate open, you idiot, and Fido has ————–!!”
Whatever could Fido have been up to in the neighbour’s garden? Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Marian Friend BA (Hons) Law TEP SFE. Solicitor with Eldridges
All characters in this article are fictitious, including Nigel, but Eldridges have many conveyancers just like him – and without the spots.