Are bolshie buyers bullying vendors?


I SUSPECT I may have to invest in a flak jacket, 24/7 personal security staff and a couple of heavyweight minders. My old banger will have to be bullet-proofed and I’ll have to move in to a bomb-proof underground bunker, writes Isabel Morton

Why? Because I dare to suggest that there may be a ray of light at the end of the long dark tunnel we find ourselves crawling through.

The mere mention of anything other than doom, gloom and depression may bring forth a deluge of rage from the many who have not yet “seen the light”. And indeed, most of us have yet to have the pleasure of seeing so much as a flicker let alone anything more defined. Yet, it is only when things appear to be at their absolute worst that virtually imperceptible signs of hope will emerge. (Strong green shoots pushing up from cold dark soil, through a carpet of rotting leaves, etc.)

Talking to a number of estate agents a few weeks ago, they almost reluctantly admitted that they had experienced an unexpected little flurry of activity, which started about 10 days before Christmas. (And no, they hadn’t been drinking, as they can no longer even afford to drown their sorrows.)

Discounting the sudden activity as a touch of seasonal insanity, they returned in January fully prepared to curl up and hibernate at their desks until spring 2010 at the earliest, but were astonished to find themselves regularly disrupted from their slumbers by the unexpected sound of their telephones ringing. Not exactly an avalanche of enquiries, but enough to distract them from the boredom, biting their nails to the quick and pulling out what’s left of their hair.

Since then apparently, estate agents have had precious little time to devour newspaper reports of banking scandals or entertain each other recounting hysterically amusing stories of the good old days when they staged dramatic weekly events called “auctions” where people bid insane prices for very ordinary properties.

It’s at this point, however, that we must return to the image of estate agents biting their nails and pulling out clumps of their hair. Boredom, however, is no longer the problem. It has been replaced by something far worse – the “you’ll accept my offer and be damn glad of it” brigade, aka the Bolshie Buyer.

This is a new breed of purchaser, recently emerged from the aftermath of the economic crash and now being cultivated and encouraged by endless helpful newspaper articles (mine included) advising them on how to bargain and batter vendors into accepting the most paltry and pathetic of offers which bare little or no resemblance to the already severely reduced asking price.

Having read every word published and having armed themselves with every trick in the book, they march forth intent on buying the property of their dreams for a pittance.

They know that it’s now a buyers’ market. They’ve been told to cut at least 25 per cent off the asking price and then some. They’ve been advised to negotiate, bargain and then beat the vendor into submission and acceptance.

And, as they’ve nothing to loose and everything to gain, they aim high and make appointments to view houses, which heretofore would only have entered their Lotto-winning dreams.

It’s at this point that even the most hard-hearted amongst you might perhaps feel an ounce of sympathy for the diplomatic estate agent and the exhausted vendor. The former must politely decline an offer of less than half the already twice reduced asking price, and the latter has had to present their property for viewing on five separate occasions to enable the potential purchasers to bring everyone from their granny to their best friends for an inspection.

But it gets worse. Bolshie Buyers invariably presume that every property on the market today is owned by a separating couple, both recently made redundant, whose lives are threatened by heavyweight debt collectors and who will be endlessly grateful for any offer they might receive regardless of how it might relate to the asking price.

What’s more, they assume that the vendors are obliged to accept their “generous” offer, which was “made in good faith” and can become extremely aggressive if it is declined, however politely.

Invariably, it’s the estate agent who bares the full brunt of the Bolshie Buyers’ anger but, on the odd occasion, both the property and its vendor have been “stalked”. Stories of thwarted purchasers setting up camp in their car, which they then park directly across the road from the house of their dreams, are not unusual.

Least I cause you to take fright and put you off the entire process, let me assure you that there are actually some civilised property transactions being conducted these days.

And some which are slightly unorthodox, others somewhat unconventional and a few which are truly unbelievable. But more about all that anon…..

Talking Property