It’s here… the moment you’ve all been waiting for. THE meeting!
SIDE NOTE: this is likely going to be the most underwhelming post after all this build-up, so sorry if I’ve got your hopes up! But I’m just giving you a true account of how things are going down in this horror show of a homebuying journey! It’s also going to be a LOOOOOONG one, so put your feet up and make sure you have the bottle with you, as you’re going to want to top up your wine glass.
From my previous post, you’ll know the vulnerable state of mind I was in prior to THE meeting. When somebody completely ghosts you or continually fobs you off, your mind goes into worst-case scenario mode, and you start to think up all sorts. Or maybe you don’t? But I do. I was catastrophising and not in a good place, I was really, really anxious. But the meeting was happening, so I had to pull myself together.
Choosing Your Finishes
When you are choosing your finishes on a new build, there are a host of “add-ons” that you can choose. Built-in dishwashers, spotlights, fitted wardrobes, dressing tables, built-in washing machines, that sort of thing. As my sister creatively put it, it really is a real-life build-a-home.
While I won’t bore you with specifics, the finishes we wanted totalled more than £10K, would need to be paid for during the meeting where we choose them, and this money was non-refundable under any circumstances. The meeting where we chose them was A WEEK after finding this out! We weren’t even close to exchanging and we definitely didn’t have that sort of money saved. We looked at Will in sheer horror when he told us this, and explained that we had assumed we could pay upon completion of our sale with the proceeds from there. He informed us that given our situation, he would speak to management and do what he could to delay our payment, but that we would definitely need to pay before exchange and should know that the money is non-refundable.
We had to sign an agreement to confirm that we understood that this money was non-refundable, so no matter what would happen with our house sale, even if it were to fall through, this money would NOT be returned to us in any circumstance. We knew that even with his kind extension, we would need to pay BEFORE we exchange, which felt like a huge risk as our buyers could pull out at literally ANY time.
In the week leading up to the meeting, all we could think was that if we wanted to keep the house, we would need to pay this money imminently. We were hyper-conscious that we had no indication whether our buyers were even going ahead (see previous post) so decided to do whatever we could to lower the costs. We had to pay something but we wanted to try and keep it to a minimum, so we removed anything that wasn’t deemed essential and we got our costs down to £6K. We thought long and hard about what to do here, it was still non-refundable, and we still had to lend the money, but the only option we had if we wanted this house was to act on sheer faith that it would all be OK, and explain to my parents who were lending it to us that if it did all go tits up, we would pay it back as soon as humanly possible.
Friday before the meeting
You’ll recall from my last post that I was expecting to hear something from the estate agent on this day as to whether we even still had buyers, and whether if we did, they were in agreement with the April 25th exchange date. But as expected, we heard nothing.
6pm arrives, we get a phone call. It was Will’s colleague over at the development (who we were meeting as Will was away), telling us we had to rearrange our meeting the following morning, could we do Sunday instead? Sunday was mother’s day and we had plans to visit mine in Liverpool overnight on Saturday, and then James’s on Sunday, so we hesitated a moment whilst we thought about how to rearrange plans. We were met with an attitude of “it’s Sunday or nothing”. We had to change our weekend around but figured the house meeting needs to take priority and we can work the rest out.
Saturday before the meeting
Unbeknownst to me, the day before the meeting, we received a letter. James intercepted it and, judging my fragile state of mind, hid it from me. He told me en route to the meeting the following day when his time was up and I had to know.
The letter stated that our exchange date, the infamous fucking exchange date that has caused us so much grief, had been changed. It wasn’t the 25th April, but the 18th April (!!!!!!!!!!!!).
It was already a stretch to consider an exchange on the 25th, what the hell would we do with a week less?
He reassured me that we wouldn’t be doing that, we were NOT losing a week when 5 weeks was already difficult enough to meet. This was THEIR mistake, whether it was on this particular letter or the date they gave us originally, and it would be OK. We had everything in progress – contracts, solicitors, every man and his dog who is involved in a house sale, and they were all working to the 25th April. We have signed legal documents that say 25th April, so we would be working to this date and it would be FINE.
Unconvinced, I accepted what he said but all I could think about was that we might as well give up now. Ever the optimist in times of stress, I just couldn’t see how this was going to work. We had had zero contact from our buyer or estate agent, and now we had to knock off a week. Stick a fork in me I’m done.
Sunday – Meeting to Confirm Our Finishes
We arrive at the rescheduled meeting to be greeted with basically a grunt from this guy we’d never met. The room was already filled with an inexplicable tension, which I found quite odd given that he had caused us to reschedule our entire weekend at very last minute, without any recognition at all.
From start to finish this guy made us feel like a complete inconvenience. Despite the fact they were getting A LOT of money out of us, it was like everything we did was the bane of his life. I don’t know whether his issue was working on a Sunday or whether life had just been unkind to him, but for someone whose job it is to sell homes, he was bafflingly rude.
The whole point of this meeting was to choose the finishes and go through each room’s details, highlighting where we wanted things like aerials and plug sockets because they put them in the world’s most stupid places and if you want them moving to a more convenient place, you have to pay.
As we were finalising our choices (we had already pretty much decided on them prior to the meeting and just wanted to confirm a few things) he made it clear that we were taking too long. I literally took out two different samples and was comparing them with different worktops to check we were OK with what we had chosen, when he tersely informed me the next meeting was due in 2 hours. 2 HOURS. I thought he was joking – we must have been there for 5 minutes tops at that point! The reason we were there was to CHOOSE these things, it was literally the whole point of the meeting! But I was so on edge now and the vibe in the room was so loaded, that I quickly confirmed them and sat down to proceed with the rest of the paperwork.
The Final Cost
As we went through our choices for each room, it became apparent that EVERYTHING was an inconvenience. Whatever we asked for was the WRONG choice and met with either a sigh or a sarcastic, blunt remark. At one point, James mentioned we would like the TV aerial halfway up the wall instead of close to the floor where it currently was on account of the fact we would like a TV on the wall and not on the floor. The guy just looked at us straight and said “no”.
Confused, we asked what did he mean? Here’s how that conversation went down:
- Rude Guy: No.
- James: No?
- Rude Guy: No.
- Me: *sitting baffled, trembling and almost in tears*
- James: What do you mean ‘no’?
- Rude Guy: No you can’t do that.
- James: But we don’t want the TV on the floor…
- Rude Guy: – interrupting – Then you need to pay extra to get it moved.
- James: So we CAN do it… we just need to pay for it?
- Rude Guy: Yes you need to pay extra.
- James: OK, so we’ll pay extra…
It started to get uncomfortable. Why didn’t he just say that we had to pay for it, like everything else we had to pay for? Why would you say something isn’t possible when IT CLEARLY IS?!
The rest of our selections were met with as much energy and enthusiasm as a stroppy teenager being asked to clean their bedroom, and we were just continually told “no, you’ll need to pay for it”. When we said “OK, we’d like to pay for that”, it was met with another huff and puff, as though WE were the problem. They were getting daft amounts of money from us to move a plug socket that didn’t exist yet to a different place, but apparently, WE were the inconvenience. At this point, we realised this guy is just a dick.
How Do You Want to Pay?
You’ll recall from earlier that we were supposed to pay during this meeting but Will had confirmed we would have some flexibility and he would call us when we need to pay. This obviously hadn’t been communicated to his colleague. GREAT.
He asks us how we want to pay, and trembling, I advised him we weren’t paying today as Will was liaising with head office to give us some extra time to get the money together (and confirm we have a sale LOL but I didn’t tell him that bit). He just glared at me and said “you need to pay today”.
So I started panicking more because we don’t have £6K just lying around in the bank and I didn’t want to call my parents who were being kind enough to lend us it to say we needed it NOW after only asking them days before. Plus there was the slightly gamechanging issue of whether we still had a sale. I apologised and explained that there was no way we could pay today as the agreement we had with Will had led us to believe this wouldn’t be required today, and we would therefore need time to get the money together.
After some back and forth, he became more exasperated with us (we’re an inconvenience remember) and told us FINE, sort it with Will.
PHEW. Lucky escape.
The Exchange Date
In the mound of paperwork we had to sign, he handed us a document that contained the exchange date of 18th April and asked us to sign to agree to it. Here’s how that conversation went down:
- James: Well actually, we wanted to talk about this today. I received a letter yesterday with the date of 18th April, but it’s not correct, the date should be 25th April.
- Rude Guy: Nope, it’s the 18th.
- James: No, I have signed a contract, everything is agreed and in progress for April 25th. We agreed this date two weeks ago, and I received this letter yesterday with the incorrect date.
- Rude Guy: Well Will has given you the wrong date from the start. The date is 18th.
- James: OK, but we cannot make that date. I have instructed solicitors, applied for a mortgage, and everything else based on this date.
- Rude Guy: Well… what do you want me to do?
- James: I would like you to change the date on this paperwork and honour the date of 25th April on account of us being told this weeks ago and having everything in progress to meet that date.
- Rude Guy: The exchange date is 18th, is this going to be an issue? Are you not willing to exchange by this date? (are we not willing to exchange by this date? Like we were in full control of our circumstances and were choosing to be difficult!)
- James: (at this point becoming increasingly exasperated by this guy’s attitude) I have signed a legal contract that states our exchange date is 25th April. I have planned my entire house sale and my mortgage around the 25th April. It is not acceptable to come to us two weeks later on a Saturday with a date of a week earlier and expect us to sign something the next day when I haven’t had any chance to get my affairs in order because it is a weekend. It is also not my problem that someone at some point in this company has given me the incorrect date, and I will NOT be doing anything before 25th April, you cannot reasonably expect us to agree to this today, on a weekend, when we have no way to contact our solicitor or anybody else.
- Rude Guy: Well, you need to exchange by 18th April, so take it up with head office if you have a problem.
- James: Don’t worry mate, I will be taking it up with head office.
- Rude Guy: You do that.
- James: I will be, don’t worry.
I’m borderline hyperventilating at this point.
Partly because we now have FOUR weeks to push a sale through and all that comes with it, and partially because I can see James, my lovely, gentle, never angry husband just sat having a stare out with this guy and for the first time in my entire 12 year relationship, I thought he might punch this guy in the face.
If This Were My Site…
It was at this point he began to explicitly say that we were inconveniencing him.
He asked us how far into our sale we were, and as I fumbled to look at the dates, he asked “less than 6 weeks?” which I knew for sure we were, so I said yes.
He then highlighted that if this was his site (he manages another site and was just covering for Will) that he wouldn’t have even taken us on. He doesn’t deal with ‘people like us’ who are so early into a sale and in a chain, it’s a waste of everyone’s time, he prefers to work with first-time buyers. SIDE NOTE: ALL I have heard throughout this journey is “if you were a first-time buyer this would be easier” or “we only accept first-time buyers to view this house” or “we can’t accept you because you have a property to sell”. Jesus fucking christ. We already KNOW we are not first-time buyers, I get it.
At this point, I looked at him in disgust because he was actually being outright rude now. Sensing my disdain, he asked how many people are in our chain and I said two, us and them, to which he confirmed “that’s better I suppose”, (oh thanks!) but reiterated again that he wouldn’t deal with people unless they were 14-16 weeks at least into their sale, and that Will should never have agreed to take us on. If this were his site we wouldn’t have even got through the door.
James was FURIOUS by this point, and I was just shocked that he was saying this to us when we had already paid a reservation fee, been transparent about our situation from the start with nobody else seeming to have an issue, and he was just about to happily take £6K off us 5 minutes ago. We were baffled thinking had Will made some sort of mistake taking us on? Did we really have no chance like this guy was suggesting?
After some more back and forth, this guy having to have the last word on EVERYTHING, we began to proceed but what the guy had set was really eating me up, and this was where I put my foot in it.
I shouldn’t have said anything…
I KNOW I shouldn’t have said it, but I hadn’t slept for a week and I was an anxious mess at this point. The uncertainty was killing me and I just needed some concrete answers.
I asked innocently “what happens if our buyers haven’t exchanged with us by 25th April?”
It was a perfectly reasonable question – we did need to know after all! But it was like I was bate. I had given him a way in to say EXACTLY what he wanted to say to us (like he hadn’t already!)
When I had asked James this question the day before, he highlighted something that in all my angst, I hadn’t considered. If we can’t exchange by 25th April, we will have still paid for the finishes, we will have paid our reservation fee and we will visibly be proceeding, doing all that we possibly can to push the sale through. If they were to take the house off us and put it back on the market, they aren’t going to find somebody who can move any quicker than us, because they would be starting from scratch. Even a first-time buyer would still need to get everything in order which takes time, so it is in everyone’s best interests to continue with us. We could just pay another reservation fee if need be to keep them happy. So I felt somewhat assured, but less so after I asked the question. Here’s how that conversation went:
- Me: what happens if our buyers haven’t exchanged with us by 25th April?
- Rude Guy: what do you mean ‘what will happen?’ You’ll lose the house.
- Me: But if we lose it and you put it back on the market, won’t we still be in the best position? We’ve paid all the money asked of us, we’ve got our solicitors working on it, isn’t it going to take more time to go through this process again with another buyer?
- Rude Guy: It doesn’t matter, it will go back on the market.
- Me: OK but isn’t that risking taking longer? The reason we are acting so quickly is because you say you need us to exchange on 25th April, but if you put it back on and go with another buyer they are not going to meet that deadline either… we will be miles ahead of anybody because we have done all the legwork, so can’t we just pay another reservation fee and keep going? Isn’t that in everybody’s best interests?
- Rude Guy: (clearly fed up now) This is how it will go. We will put the house back on the market with an added £10-£15K on the price, so it doesn’t matter how much work you’ve done or what you’ve paid already because you’ll lose all that anyway, it’s in our best interests to get more money and a reliable buyer, so putting it back on the market would end up getting us money. It is in our best interests to lose you and go with someone else even if it takes longer because we will get more money in the long run.
He kept going on about how there are better buyers out there and it would be in their best interest to go with them, but they wouldn’t be required to exchange on 25th April, because they’d be paying more money for the house than we would. So basically they would be happy to drop us and be flexible with the exchange date in favour of more money. If it came to it, they would allow someone else to have longer to exchange but not us, despite us being the ones that have paid a wedge so far. It just didn’t make sense.
I couldn’t even think straight at this point, so I couldn’t even see how nonsensical this all was. Obviously since all this happened, I reckon the guy was just lying through his teeth because what he was saying was absolutely ridiculous. I also felt like we were being punked, surely somebody could not be this rude?! This had to be a joke, surely?! WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!
It just didn’t seem fair that we would agonise over whether to take a gamble and pay all this money, then pay all this money and lose it because of things BEYOND our control, and then lose our dream home over a date that is just too soon to do anything with, and somebody else just gets to move into the home we have designed and not pay for anything?
It was just too much and I was on the verge of tears by this point with frustration, anger, and sadness.
One Final Question
I asked one final question I had been considering, which would have been a colossal risk and we would never have done anyway, but I needed to know.
Could we exchange on this house without having our buyers exchange with us? If we could somehow get hold of the money we needed to exchange on this, could we do it before we had confirmation of exchange on ours?
I know it’s a ridiculous risk that nobody in their right mind would ever consider, but I wasn’t in my right mind and I was just seeing what the deal was.
The answer was – you guessed it! – a straight no. The developer wouldn’t put us in such a risky position because they care about us (HA!!!!) and it wouldn’t be fair to do this to somebody because it would be game over for our life if our house sale fell through. He proceeded to reiterate how the only option is for us to exchange by 18th April (LOL) or they would drop us and go with a more reliable buyer and get more money. But for what it’s worth, he thought we had no chance with this and again, Will should never have taken us on. It was highly unlikely we were going to proceed with this sale and we were basically wasting everybody’s time.
I could sense that lovely, non-violent James was about to deck him, and I realised it was time to leave.
We just sat for a moment, defeated, dejected and spent, trying to make sense of everything. We had only gone to choose the finishes and had somehow left feeling as though we had just lost our dream home!
We felt it was now as good as confirmed that this was going to be the case. We were naive but we weren’t idiots. There has been no contact from the buyer, no surveys, none of the stuff that should have been done by now if we were to have a shot. The estate agents are fobbing us off, and now we had just FOUR weeks to turn this around instead of the five that would already have been a stretch.
Time to call it a day
It was time to call it a day. It was one thing putting down £500 knowing we could lose it, but £6K of my parents’ money was another matter. The idea was we would pay this back upon completion of our sale, but we weren’t willing to just throw it away on a house that we clearly had no chance with.
We decided we weren’t going to pay for everything we had just chosen when it looked as though we had no hope anyway of making it to exchange anyway. We were frustrated at how we’d been treated but we were also just plain sad.
As we left the office and made our way through the development, I didn’t even want to go and look at the progress of our home like we had done excitedly every other weekend. I felt sick. I was consumed and completely engulfed with sadness. He had made us feel SO small and SO inconvenient when all we had done was try with everything we have to push this sale through to this point. We had done everything asked of us, and I had spent every day for a week trying to get answers to no avail. I was in victim mode and the whole thing just felt so unfair.
We drove home, me in tears, James infuriated by the guy’s attitude, worried about how to proceed and upset at how the whole thing had gone. If the rest of 2022 so far hadn’t already been a complete horror show, it would likely have been our lowest moment of the year. We felt utterly defeated.
I felt numb as we drove along the beautiful country roads I’d dreamed about walking our dog on, all the loveliness of the area suddenly felt like it was rubbing salt in the wound, and I just wanted to get home and hide. The nausea I’d been feeling for days up to that point suddenly became overwhelming, and I just wanted to go home and curl up in a ball.
We didn’t have much energy to decide on a plan of action, but we agreed that one of us would call the estate agent at 9am on Monday morning and the other would call the developer’s head office to query the exchange date. Though admittedly, it didn’t even feel like there was any point at this stage. I began to remind myself that it really would be OK. We will almost certainly lose this house, but there would be other houses (I tried not to think about how hard it had been to find this one) and at least we weren’t finding this out after putting all that extra money down. We are so lucky to have each other, we are so lucky to have our families, our lives, our health, and we are so fortunate to have a roof over our heads, so although things felt really shit now, it really would be absolutely OK.
I would allow myself to sit with the sadness for today, and tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow brings a new reason to keep trying.
And as luck would have it, there would be a reason to keep going after all!