London is, without a doubt, property hell and I’ve only been in it for two weeks. We have friends who went through this trauma for two years. I’m already shaking with both fear and rage when I see an estate agent calling now. I didn’t get it, I didn’t get why people said buying a property is so stressful but I see it now. It’s oh so very, poisonously clear.
Initially we thought we’d go through the Share to Buy scheme. We filled out endless forms and allowed councils to scrutinize ever minutia of our lives to see whether we were, in their eyes, eligible. We were, we made the cut! Acceptance! Hallelujah! We went to see teeny flats that were so small you couldn’t stand next to someone without feeling claustrophobic. Luck would have it that they had a delightful two bed, two bath in Wandsworth Town. Excitedly I handed in our application and we waited weeks and weeks and weeks to hear if we’d made the cut. Over in Wandsworth Council people looked at our forms and judged us. Judged us for working part-time and being lazy bastards. Judged us for not being key workers and not giving back to our society. Judged us for not having a child out of wedlock on our measly salaries. Once judgment was passed we were pipped to the post by a couple who had the cutest bloody baby you ever saw, she works double shifts as a nurse in A&E whilst he rushes into burning buildings to save nuns, probably. Those assholes.
It was then, with wrists strapped in supports thanks to an onset of form filling RSI that we decided to take our money to less scrupulous pastures; the farmyard that is just down the road from the slaughterhouse. No one minds taking over your pen and rolling you down the hill to be made into bacon. Welcome to the London property market.
You start out window shopping on Zoopla or Rightmove saving properties you like and then you go and see them and realise you really need to pay attention to floorplans; a 467 sq ft one bed with a shower that you have to crouch in is not really £299,950 well spent. The smell of some places really tested my British reserve, one cannot let on that one is disgusted. I found myself hiding behind doors to sanitize my hands and weep. Finally we drove up a hill, that I would resent having to walk up daily, to a maisonette. Three floors, beautiful condition, 695 sq ft, possibility of extending into the loft… Small bathroom at back of the house next to the kitchen but despite this flaw it’s a beauty. We put in an offer, we panic, it’s a lot of money but we went lower than the asking price. This may be our first rodeo but we know not to appear to keen. A few days later we’re asked to counter, we go up £5,000. We get priced out by a private buyer but our agent isn’t giving up, he’ll shake every last penny out of our moth ridden pockets (that’s not a metaphor, we have a moth problem). But wait, another offer has come in at £12,000 more than our last one – are we in? Can we do it? WHERE DOES HE THINK MONEY COMES FROM? And I’m annoyed, I don’t want to be hassled any more, or given false hope anymore, because I loved that little Victorian maisonette, it felt like it could be our home. However, it has begun to educate me, the London property market is insane, for every offer you put in, someone will come in with a higher one. Forget asking prices, it will go for more. For instance…
After my maisonette heartbreak we found another one: ground floor garden flat, original wood floor, Edwardian, bedroom that opens onto a garden, two reception rooms, good condition, pretty residential street, 5 minutes from a station that’s 20 mins to Victoria and 2 minutes from a Tesco. We ask to see it but it’s under offer. “Why is it listed as available?” Don’t they know that I spent two hours planning how to fit in a second bedroom but still have access to the garden? “We only take it down when it’s sold.” Well sod you and your cruelty. At least give me the chance to play your sick bidding game. All that false hope! All that perfectness just out of my grasp. And it was below the big old 3% stamp duty! Wait, what? It went for considerably more? Of course it did.
Another flat near Tulse Hill had an open day and they had 10 offers by the end of the day. It went for more than its asking price, but I doubt that surprised you. Surprised the hell out of me though. I thought it was already over-valued. In fact, the only property I thought was well priced was the Edwardian maisonette but clearly I was wrong.
Our new strategy is to find a property that is 25% below our max, but we’re not sure if they exist anymore. The only flats that are out there now remind me of the rooms in my halls and their only redeeming feature was the sink in the bedroom. Sadly the boys who lived there the year before had used them as urinals, at least now I can place the smell from the flat we viewed that was above some shops.
Just like when I take reluctant trips on the underground I am now sharpening my elbows. As soon as a property comes onto the market we’ll pounce but, if they hold open days, like the Americans have taught us, I don’t know if we stand a chance. It’s basically all America’s fault. It quite literally seems like the prices are rising by the week and we don’t have the finances to keep up. I’m also not happy about adding 25% to an extortionate asking price and we’re already looking close enough to Croydon, thank you very much. We need to have some principals in this vicious market, I just hope we actually get to join it.