Trying To Buy A House In London Review: “And Here Is Plenty Of Space For Hiding A Corpse”

I spent most of Saturday going in and out of stranger’s homes. No, I haven’t joined the Manitowoc County Police Department. I’m looking to buy a house.

Purchasing a house anywhere is likely to be a challenge, but London is a whole other proposition. I recently called it “Boxing Day Sales meet eBay”, but I think that does a disservice both to eBay and the morons who rush to DFS on December 26th (if that’s actually possible). When buying his place a number of years ago, my friend Tony said it was, and I quote, “the worst thing I have ever done in my life”. And he’s not one for exaggeration.

It’s just not a fair competition. It would be one thing to be going head-to-head with the thousands upon thousands of others struggling to make their way on to this hugely inflated market place. But throwing investors in to the equation means you’re always losing a fighting battle. You may think you’re on to a winner, but an investor is always lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. While you are planning for how much you can afford and what your best negotiating tactic might be, they’re offering asking price on the spot without even thinking. You want to match it? They’ll go higher. When they can rent the place back out again in no time, more than covering costs, then yeah, they’ll probably go higher.

You might get lucky and find a vendor who doesn’t want to sell to an investor. They love their house, and don’t want it to turn in to a money-making venture for a greedy, economy-destroying parasite. Maybe it’s been in the family forever, they’ve built a home that they are proud of, and they want to keep it that way.

Fear not, for the investor will find their way through, like p*ss between floorboards.

No matter how much you may want to sell to someone who loves your house like you do, the second someone waves some of that sweet, sweet, barely-legitimate cash in your face it’s hard to turn down. What would you do if an investor offered an extra £2,000 than the first time buyer? £5,000? £10,000? You might want to turn it down, that kind of money is hard to say “no” to, and they know that. So what’s the alternative?

Find a place even an investor wouldn’t touch, obviously.

I felt good about one of the five properties I went to see on Saturday. It seemed to have few redeeming features, but that would only mean that investors wouldn’t bother checking it out, right? This one would be ours for the taking.

I arrived to be told by the estate agent that they were running over and they had to show the people currently looking around the flat to a property around the corner. I had another viewing at 12pm and it was already comfortably after 11am, but they assured me it wouldn’t take long. They even suggested this property might be interesting for me, given it matched our criteria and price. Naively I agreed, and waited for the other viewers to make their way out. All fifteen of them, apparently.

On arrival to this mystery property, it became clear no-one had lived here for quite some time. Probably Fred West, given the decor. I didn’t dare touch anything on the presumption it was a matter of time before the property would be used as a crime scene.

Oh, also, there was no water or electricity, so to view the windowless bathroom we had to use the torches on our phones. Yeah, that wasn’t creepy at all.

From here, the mass crowd of us were ushered in to the one, solitary bedroom.

“We’re actually looking for a two bed property” I tell her.

“This one does have a dressing room, though. Build up a partition and you’ve got two rooms”.

Two questions:

  1. The dressing room was less than a foot wide. Is this a room for those 20 cm people from the tube?
  2. Who wants a “partition” between bedrooms?

I left. Obviously.

As I walked away, I caught the questions being asked of the estate agent. “Is there a service charge?” “Does it come with a parking spot?” “What are the neighbours like?” (murderers, obviously). People were actually CONSIDERING BUYING IT. Is this what the London housing market is doing to people? Forcing people to consider buying a flat Charles Manson would think was a bit creepy?

How much would a place like this set you back, you ask? Given it’s in the arse end of Zone Three, with poor transport links, and not a convenience store in sight? £300,000.

Yeah, that’s right. Three hundred thousand pounds.

So what can anyone do about this?

Clearly, the Government aren’t going to do anything substantial about this (no matter what they might say). So you kind of just have to keep going, hoping and praying that something goes your way. Eventually it will, and it’ll be worth it. You just have to believe that every other place you went for and missed out on was for a reason.

Because it’s currently owned by murderers, probably.

Buying a house in London Rating: If I suddenly stop posting for a while, it’s because they found my fingerprints in that flat. Send Ken Kratz.

Side Bar: We have since had an offer accepted on a flat, from an awesome vendor and helpful estate agent. So it is possible, if a little frustrating to get there.

Check back every Monday and Thursday for the latest reviews.

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