Tuesday, January 08, 2013
Happy Families - Tuesday
I drive through the soulless early eighties executive estate. This era hasn’t worn well. The mock Tudor timbers are flaked and rotting where they haven’t been maintained properly. Any original windows are tired, with the paltry-gapped double-glazing blown causing condensation or ugly fogging to the glass. There are not enough parking spaces and the pavements are littered with teenagers’ first cars. A battered and rusting selection of Ford Kas, baby Peugeots and Renault Clios are strewn on either side, making it hard to navigate the tight corners. Some of the larger homes have double garages but the majority have narrow single units where the parents’ cars never make it inside, let alone their grown-up children’s motors. Children who’ll be at home until close to their fortieth birthday if the average age for a first time buyer climbs much higher.
This is a matrimonial dispute and I’m meeting first one party, then straight after the second. These are notoriously frosty affairs, with any business to come a long way off at best by the time the lawyers have battled over who gets what. I know what these homes are worth, but I’m betting the two parties won’t agree with me. I have the evidence, it’s available on-line and I’ve completed on two houses in adjacent roads in the last few months. Of course at this vintage, many of the homes have had new kitchens and bathrooms installed and a fair majority have replaced the developers cheap window units. Some will sport unsightly conservatories on the back eating in to the already parsimonious plot sizes and one side of this road, with the south facing rears, is more favoured but I can still get the price about right. Not that some competitors will be so honest. Overvaluing is still rife, with the less professional practitioners inflating figures just to get a sole agency and a for sale board - and more importantly control of the marketing.
‘We’re going to need to be quick mate.’ Says the man as he looks anxiously at his watch. He is late-forties and driving a cheap model BMW. I’m clearly not his mate, so he wants something from me. It doesn’t take long. ‘Can you put the price in writing and make it as low as possible.’ This rarely happens without a reason. ‘I’m thinking of buying her out.’ Explains the man as we finish the cursory tour. The house is unloved and only the two kids’ bedrooms show any sign of attention. That’s if you call flat screen televisions and Play Stations a mark of affection. If they really cared they wouldn’t be separating. Despite all the self-help bullshit about it being best for the children to go your separate ways, it’s a lie. I know.
The key scrapes in the door and I rise to greet the soon to be ex-wife. It has been an uncomfortable ten minutes perched on the couch waiting alone in the loveless house, just the ticking of a clock for company. ‘I suppose he’s long gone.’ Says the spurned woman icily, as I make my introduction and just stop short of apologising for having a penis. She doesn’t take long. The smile is unconvincing she’s clearly a bit out of practice.
‘Could you make your price as high as possible?’ She urges. ‘And I need a copy to my solicitor.’ This is why we now call these exercises market appraisals, not valuations. If they want to go to court to argue the figures they should get a formal valuation from a Chartered Surveyor. The surveyor will charge a fee, then come in to my office and ask what the house is worth.
‘How long until I get your letter?’ Probes the woman, then she can’t help herself. ‘Only I want the cheating bastard’s bollocks on a plate.’ Momentarily I wonder if I’ve missed another chunk of female-focused legislation. Some corrective law that gives positive discrimination in favour of women wanting a scrotum-sac trophy along with the house and half his pension. I feel a tightening in the nether regions and resolve to hang on to my own home and balls and to stick to fantasy - or the free trial sessions on-line.
It’s a hard job.
Matrimonial and marketing advice, far cheaper than a lawyer - in property e-book: