Thursday, 19 April 2012

The power of indecision

"What would you do?" I have lost count of the times I have been asked this question by people buying property, particularly if something "comes up" which means that what they thought they were getting isn't quite what they are getting as a result of defective or prejudicially drawn documents, unco-operative freeholders, missing planning consents, removed walls, or a combination of those things.

"Would you buy it?" Or more usually: "Would you buy it if you were me?" I do conveyancing, not out of body experiences. "I just need your 'off the record' view." By email, preferably of course.

What is really required of course is a plug in decision machine, attuned perfectly to the needs and desires of the pluggee, which will produce a judgement which the pluggee can ignore just the same.

In the absence of such a device, maybe this will assist.

First question. Will the problem affect your enjoyment or use of the property?

The Lease says: "No pets", and the managing agents don't like little Fluffy the loveable cat. No problem as long as you can bear to leave your snuggly friend in the hands of the taxidermist.

But if you hate cats, and Fluffy belongs to a neighbour, what's the problem?

We all hate carpets, but sorry, "you need to keep your floors carpeted." That's fine if you don't mind your friends laughing at you, and you can control your asthma with drugs.

And on the other hand, if you live in the flat under the man who does tango in stiletto heels, carpets might not be quite so risible.

You are buying a flat with the intention of letting it out. the Lease says that you need to get written permission for each time you let it. There will be fees to pay - perhaps £800 or more, each time; and delay. Is it a good idea to buy the flat for letting?

On the other hand, take the same facts, except for the fact that you intend to live in the flat. No temporary residents might well be a good thing,

A key wall has been removed without any building regulation approval. The seller refuses to have the council round to inspect. Will an indemnity policy be the solution? Will it protect you if the roof falls in on your head? You decide.

Second question. Will it make selling your property more difficult? You should bear in mind that the harder a property is to sell, the less money it will realise. Is that obvious?

Imagine, if you will, a large room. A very large room in fact. It's filled with all the people who are looking to buy a property.

You stand in front of them behind a powerful microphone and one by one you list the attributes of your property. After each announcement, people will leave. They don't want your property.

After you have announced that the property is a flat on the second floor, has no garden and is in Penge, only a few people remain. "No pets", and leashes strain as owners are dragged out. "Lease only 75 years." Just a few faces remain to look at you eagerly. A man with a parrot on his shoulder is gently escorted out by an attendant dressed in white.

You mention that letting needs permission, and that it could do with a bit of paint, and suddenly you look down, and there is one person left. You announce the price with trepidation.

She laughs at you. As she leaves the hall to you and, you alone, you can see Fluffy's beady eyes staring at you through the window.

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