These are just some of the messages we received when we announced we were looking to move. If someone had told us we would be selling our house at the beginning of 2020, we would have probably told them they were mad too! We had no intention of selling; in fact, our only plan was to finish off the remaining Jobs, Tasks & Chores.
Everything happened so quickly, and at times we did question our own sanity during this process! However, I would like to think, even though we probably had lost our marbles to swap our 1930s fixer-upper for a run-down Victorian Cottage – there is a method to our madness! This is what brings us to write this blog post.
Back in August 2020, our Mortgage Broker – Gavin Burrows of FiftyNine Financial – got in touch to say our 2 year fixed mortgage was coming up for renewal and that we should start looking at our options to see what deal we could get from the mortgage lenders. When asking us about our current position, one of the questions that came up was how much our property was worth; well, we didn’t know as it had never been valued, probably because we had never seen ourselves selling – certainly in the short term anyway. We had a rough idea of house prices in our area – like most people – we looked at Right Move every month and had an idea in our heads that the house was probably worth somewhere between £450-£475k due to what other 3 bed semis of a similar size (extension included) sold for in the area we lived.
To have a more accurate picture of what the house was worth, we contacted 4 reputable estate agents in the area and asked for their valuations on the house. This is what they said at the time:
“It’s a lovely house, and you can see you’ve done a great job bringing this up to date; however, if you don’t mind me saying, you’ve probably overspent on this house. You won’t get back what you put in.”
“Wow, just wow. What an incredible job you’ve done. I saw the before pictures of the house on Right Move, and oh my, what a transformation. Kudos to you both for creating an amazing home. I can see this selling for over £585k.”
“The house is great, and it looks immaculate, but looking at what we’ve sold houses for, I don’t think you will get much more than £485k for this. I’ve been walking around thinking, can we get to a five (£500k), but I can’t see it, I’m afraid.”
“It’s a wonderful house and decorated to the highest standard, and I don’t think you would have any problem selling this. We would market it for £475k.”
So as you can see, quite a difference between estate agent 2 and the rest. When I told the other agents what estate agent number 2 had valued the house, their faces were a picture. “No chance”, Estate agent 3 said… “They have got that wrong, I’m afraid, it’s a nice house, but it’s not worth that”
I called Estate Agent 2 and shared the other valuations with him, and he believed they had it wrong. They had done what all estate agents do (including ourselves) and just valued it based on Right Move data that they normally use to base their valuations on. All the agents (apart from agent number 2) had presented us with a Right Move print-off, and they used it as a way to explain their valuations. Estate Agent 2 refrained from doing the same thing. In his words, he said he had seen something more, something that could sell at a premium due to the finish and look that had been created. He spoke about finding one buyer, and he described the buyer as someone that would be maybe downsizing and would be happy to pay a premium for a house that they wouldn’t have to touch, a ‘turn key’ house as he called it, a buyer who could move their furniture in and live happily without the hassle of extensions, renovations and the rest.
We purchased the house for £390k and have spent roughly £130k in total, bringing it up to its current standard, so a total price of £520k. That means if we sold it for £475/£485k, we would be making a substantial loss overall; even at £508k, we wouldn’t gain back what we spent. Maybe Estate Agent 1 was right, and maybe we had overspent on this house, however as it was our home, and not a ‘flipper’ or something we were aiming to make a profit on, it was irrelevant. However, what if it was worth somewhere between £580k-£600k?! That would mean we had made a decent return on the house, and in fact, every penny spent was well worth it. The reality was until we listed it, we would never know its real value. As they say, “a house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it” So that’s what we did, we went against the rule of thumb and went with the agent that valued our house for the highest amount, not just that, but the agent that believed in our home and valued the time and effort that had gone into creating a beautiful space. We listed the house at £585k, and I’m sure it raised eyebrows! Unnamed sources told us stories of people who had questioned the listing price “they won’t get that” “if their house is worth that, then ours is worth xxx”, “our house was only valued at xxx, and our house is bigger than theirs!” (Rolls eyes…)
We didn’t need to sell, it was never our intention to sell our home, but if the money was right and the house could sell at £585k, then we would sell; we would be mad not to. It would mean that we had enough equity to put down a 15% deposit on a new house (that was the minimum mortgage lenders required at the time) and use the rest to renovate it. If it happened and we found a buyer prepared to pay a premium, then great; if not, we stay at the beautiful home we had created and enjoy it for many years to come.
Obviously, we weren’t in a proceed-able position at this point, so even if we did see something, it was unlikely the seller would accept an offer from us; however, that didn’t stop us from seeing what was out there! Over the course of the next 6 weeks, we would see all kinds of houses (and bungalows) and the more homes we saw, the more we were adamant that we would only sell our house for the asking price. We were not prepared to negotiate on the price as we didn’t need to. We were looking at houses £100k more expensive than what we were asking (albeit in higher price banded areas); however, some of these houses would need at least £150-£200k spent on them, and it would be doubtful you would get that back. Those of you that were following us at the time would have seen on stories our journey to finding a new home.. we took you to an amazing bungalow in Berkshire that had lots of surrounding land and huge potential; however, it was situated in a bizarre location, next to an old garden centre that had been closed for 4 years and recently had plans by the owners of the land to convert it to a storage facility – something which the council rejected – the land around the house was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Every property we would see, I would look into the surrounding areas (as best as I could given the information provided on Right Move) and look at the street views, search for similar houses that had sold in the area to see what the potential of the property was. I (Ross) do all of the searching and make the bookings; Ian turns up at the properties I book the viewings for; lucky for me, Ian trusts my selection process. There was a beautiful Edwardian house we saw in Reading that had potential, but it was located across the road from the university car park, which was floodlit at night and would probably light up half of Reading! Parking around the house would have been a nightmare for family and friends as it was permit only and no chance of them even using the car park across the road, unfortunately. So the search continued, but after viewing over 20 properties, none of them was better than what we had, so it was a case of waiting to see what came onto the market.
6 weeks after listing the property and several viewings later, we still had no solid offers on the house.
Maybe Estate Agent 2 was wrong, and the others were right?! I was reminded by the estate agent that we were looking for that one buyer, the one he described, and he believed there was a buyer out there; they just hadn’t discovered the house yet. We decided to leave the house on the market for another 6 weeks and stopped searching/looking at other houses until we would find ourselves in a proceed-able position. Estate Agents were getting stricter with the people they were letting to see properties anyway; the first question on any call was whether you were in a proceed-able position, so it was best to wait and see what happened with our house first. Another 4 weeks had passed with hardly any additional interest in our house. The estate agent called us and asked if we were willing to reduce the asking price, which we both quickly rejected. We said we would give it until the end of the 12 weeks contractual period with the estate agent before taking it off the market and putting this experience to bed. Then out of the blue, we get a call from the agent to say that someone wants to view the house; they are a cash buyer relocating to the UK from the US. It almost sounded too good to be true! Anyway, the lady came round with a friend to view the house, and I could tell within 5 minutes of her being inside the house, she had already fallen in love with it. They commented on things that no one else had mentioned; they were actually looking at the house and not the items inside it. She left after about 30 minutes (the longest anyone had spent at the house), and within a few hours, we had a call from the estate agent to say she would like a second viewing. It all sounded positive; however, we had been here before, so we didn’t want to get hopeful of someone putting in an offer. We had also conditioned ourselves that we weren’t going to move and were going through the motions. The lady came back for her second viewing on a Friday and this time with a family member (an estate agent funnily enough!) and a tape measure. If you’re bringing a tape measure, then you’re looking at this house seriously. It then dawned on me that this could be the buyer we had been looking for; this could be the person that forces us into deciding on something we thought wasn’t going to happen. I messaged Ian to say that we needed to have a serious talk about moving; it was like the past 11 weeks we had been living in a bubble, assuming it would never happen. Therefore we didn’t really need to think about it seriously – this all changed with one bloody tape measure!
Over the weekend, we discussed the possibilities/scenarios of what might happen, the lowest offer we would accept, what we would accept as part of the proposal (inclusion of the oven, fridge freezer, etc.) and what offer we would be happy with. We wanted to be prepared should this lady make an offer and not mess them around.
The weekend passed, and on Monday afternoon, we had an offer. £570k, but they wanted all the extras, which were part of the full asking price (the oven, fridge freezer etc.); however, we rejected the offer. A day later, we received another offer, this time, it came in at £580k. It was a great offer and one we seriously considered given what the other estate agents had valued the house, however for us, to include all the extra items that we were prepared to leave behind, it would need to be full asking or nothing. A risky move as the excitement of finding another project and moving suddenly became a reality again, and for the first time, we actually wanted to move. We took a couple of days to mull over the offer on the table, but after careful consideration, it was rejected.
Finally, after a long two days of waiting, we got a call from the estate agent to say an offer of full asking price had come through.. unbelievable! Without hesitation, we accepted the offer, and we had agreed to sell our amazing home. It was a weird feeling; it still didn’t feel real and probably won’t until we actually move; however, the time feels right, and the excitement of a new chapter begins!