It’s drummed into us that we should own our home, it’s a very British thing and our French neighbours don’t have the same obsession.
In France they seem far more sensible with their attitude towards owning property. In the UK and on Jersey, our property market is broken, yet most of us see owning a home as the ultimate measure of success, a true demonstration of adulthood. We stand smugly on our Welcome Home doormats, ushering people into our abode, telling them that we own the very bricks and mortar, that this roof is ours. Yet, it’s never ours until that mortgage is paid off. Until then that house, that mortgage, is like an anchor, holding us down and stopping us from moving on. If we aren’t careful that anchor can become an albatross, sending us all a little house loopy.
Crazy Property Prices
The average house price in the UK is £209,971, in London it’s £478,412 and in Jersey it’s £534,000 for a three bed house. Those prices are why we have decided to step back off the property ladder. We simply can’t afford to buy. This doesn’t worry me, I feel strangely liberated. These high prices means that selling in Jersey and the UK is now incredibly stressful. We have an outdated way of selling houses and high prices, this leaves the buying process open for exploitation.
The problem with trying to sell a house on Jersey is that the high price of property drives people down an avenue of unscrupulous practice – gazundering. This is becoming more and more common. In Jersey you exchange and complete on the same day in court. Up until that point the person buying your house can simply walk away. There is nothing down in writing that ties them to your house. Another strange quirk of the property market on Jersey is that you don’t show potential buyers round your home. This is down to the estate agent. You are also strongly advised/forced to leave your home. Therefore, your buyers never normally meet you. In my eyes this makes it easier for the practise of gazundering to take place. If your buyer has never met you then they don’t form that emotional connection with you.
It’s much easier to rip someone off when you have never shaken them by the hand.
That was certainly the case with our first buyer who, with two weeks to go, turned round and told our estate agent he was paying too much. He wasn’t, he was just greedy. However, the fact he had never met us or our family meant he felt he could play that game. The property market made it too easy for him not to play that game.
Failing The Buyer
The Jersey property market leaves the seller vulnerable. You end up questioning every move your buyer makes. Why do they want to come round again? Are they telling the truth when they say their solicitor has told them to test the appliances? When our second buyers pulled a similar stunt to our first buyer we didn’t know what to think. They appeared upfront and explained that they had underestimated the moving costs and solicitor fees and, therefore, were a bit short. They explained they needed some money off. This happened a week before we were due to move. We reasoned that they could be telling the truth. We had heard of other houses falling through because the purchasers hadn’t taken into account the stamp duty. However, we were fuming. Our initial thoughts were – your miscalculation, your problem. However, we were now at the point of moving with just one week to go and we weren’t sure if we were mentally strong enough to go through it all over again.
An Impossible Position
In short, we stood to lose more if we walked away. We felt like they had over us barrel and we agreed to their terms. We resented our buyers for the awkward position they had put us in. To go through gazundering again was heartbreaking. Then came the news that their solicitor had told them to come round and test the appliances on the day we were due to move. Given that our solicitor had spent ages constantly chasing their solicitors and getting no response, we didn’t know what to think. The move had already been delayed a week due to paperwork and now this. Again, we felt powerless and we had no choice in the matter. We had to let them round. This time I refused to leave though. That, as it turned out, was the best thing I could have done. The estate agent was late and when the couple turned up they were lovely. I showed them round, they seemed really genuine and clearly liked the house. That immediately put my mind at rest and I was confident then that the house sale was going to go ahead. If I had been allowed to meet the couple before I would have worried less. As I showed them round I was able to tell them why it was a great family home and why we had loved living there. The fact that I had been denied that previously is why I think it took our house so long to sell. It wasn’t an easy house to sell, it was different and, therefore, if you don’t really know the house, how can you sell it?
A Broken Market
The Jersey and UK property market is broken. I am relieved to have stepped off that ladder. The law needs to change so that sellers and buyers are protected. We need to see prices agreed and stuck to. Gazundering and gazumping needs to be made illegal. Buying and selling a home isn’t just about bricks and mortar, it’s a dream. When you are buying and selling dreams, emotions run high. New laws are needed to stop those dreams becoming a nightmare.
The property market on Jersey has left us feeling a little disillusioned. It also nearly broke us. I’m not sure I will ever be able to go through it again.