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Shaky property completions in Jersey’s Royal Court

Purchasers can be left homeless and the effect of the broken link then ripples down the entire buying chain.

The news has recently been full of reports of property prices being hoicked up at the last minute, leaving buyers with a dilemma; stick or twist? By this stage the purchasers are committed; have no option but to move; and then get asked for more money. Other problems that can impede completion include last minute price reductions or a vendor pulling out of the transaction. Purchasers can be left homeless and the effect of the broken link then ripples down the entire buying chain.

Last minute price changes

The possibility of a vendor asking for more money for a property at the last minute cannot be avoided. Thankfully I have not come across this scenario, but if I ever do, I would advise my client that such a request may not reap a positive reply and try to dissuade them from doing it. In reality, it would be unlikely that a last minute demand for more money could be complied with. Purchasers (particularly first time buyers) are often reliant on the help of a mortgage. Any last minute change in price would likely need the bank’s approval, which could not happen immediately.

What I have witnessed is another purchaser coming forward offering more money after a deal is already agreed (usually through a different estate agent). The vendor is not legally locked in to selling to the first purchaser and prefers the new higher offer, so they decide to sell to them instead. This happens but it is thankfully rare.

Last minute reductions

More common than last minute increases are last minute reductions. Such reductions may be to take advantage of a committed vendor (especially one that is highly motivated to sell, for example divorcees) or more likely to do with a defect in the property. A defect in the fabric of the property may have been revealed and, despite promises being made to rectify the problem, the issue cannot be fixed. It might be a structural problem; it might be a defect in rights of way; or rights for services to the property. The solution may then be to reduce the selling price and the buyer can then use the money held back to correct the problem.

Last minute collapse

More often than not, buying a home is a trouble free experience. However, it can sometimes go wrong. Under the current system in Jersey, either the purchaser or the vendor can pull out of the transaction at the last moment. There are no financial penalties other than the money already spent on legal fees and surveys up to that point. It may not occur often but unfortunately it does happen. The vendor may have a change of heart and, despite the purchaser’s investment in researches and legal costs, the vendor decides to withdraw the property from sale. The reason behind the failure of the sale may, however, be nothing to do with the vendor; particularly if he is in a chain of transactions beyond his own sale. The chain will only be as strong as its weakest link. So, for example, if a last minute technical hitch occurs with even just one of the transactions in the chain, the chain will break. Usually that would delay the completion until the following week, but the chain may fall apart completely.

Solution

Buying land or a home is not purely a commercial arrangement. Yes, there is a commercial aspect to it (money is changing hands in return for the property) but there is also a human emotional investment that goes with buying a new home. Both aspects run more smoothly if there is good communication between all parties involved, be it lawyers, lenders, agents or clients.

At Viberts, we pride ourselves on communicating with our clients and all other parties every step of the way to guard against any last minute dilemmas or undue pressure. As probably the most significant purchase you will ever make, we want to help you get it right, not to come unstuck at the eleventh hour.

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