‘We began to wonder if the cottage was really for sale at all’

MOVING ON: Three weeks before the move date, Cliodhna O’Donoghue’s downsize project begins to unravel

There was almost daily contact with the selling agent, my solicitor and surveyor as we tried to resolve this mess in time to meet the moving in date.

There was almost daily contact with the selling agent, my solicitor and surveyor as we tried to resolve this mess in time to meet the moving in date.

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We had spent eight months trawling the south Dublin residential market before we came upon a lovely home in Shankill that met most of our criteria and exceeded other. Our delight, however, was soon cast in doubt by the surveyor’s report.

Three weeks from the moving in date, our surveyor uncovered that the land boundary on the official land registry map indicated a much larger garden area than in real life. There was also no compliance certification from an engineer, or architect, who had worked on the massive extension to the old cottage. In contrast, we had all of this prepared before our property went on the market for sale, along with revenue, RPT, and local authority charges receipts. Instead, the vendor’s solicitor “declined” to provide the documentation we needed.

Almost daily contact ensued with the selling agent, my solicitor and surveyor as we tried to resolve this mess in time to meet the moving in date. Some 48 hours before our supposed big move, we were still unsigned on our new home and we discovered the vendor had not even begun packing. The vendor’s solicitor was not returning calls, or mails, because he was at a conference with no email access for several days. Really?

Caretaker’s agreement

My suggestion that we move in on a caretaker’s agreement until the matter was resolved was rejected because the vendor wanted a contract signed and large deposit paid over first. But we could not sign a contract without the boundary issue first being resolved, or at least evidence that it was in train. It was a vicious circle.

To exacerbate matters further we discovered that the site included ownership of an adjoining laneway used by the public to access the village and the Wicklow Way walking route. What would be our liability if someone hurt themselves in this laneway?

And only the vendor could get the boundary redrawn, but when we asked to speak to him this was denied. We began to wonder if the cottage was really for sale at all. Perhaps he was just testing the market.

It is impossible to communicate the level of stress and upset we endured. It is quite maddening to be so helpless and vulnerable. Because of this inefficiency we would have to fund storage and then pay the same again to have it taken from storage and sent to our new address. This was costing us dearly.

Gut feelings

Finally I had enough and wanted to pull out of the deal. Something was wrong, maybe the cottage was not meant for us after all. I place a lot of store on “gut feelings” and right then my guts were at best queasy. My husband provided common sense: “This will pass,” he said, but I drew the line at his suggestion that we would look back on this and laugh.

I communicated to the selling agent how I felt. To her credit she pulled out all the stops, again. Communications resumed with a flurry of compromises and promises on the part of the vendor. He also suggested we meet to discuss these. It was as if we had not sought a meeting several times over the preceding weeks. I was so cross I nearly didn’t go.

But I am glad we did. We met a pleasant young couple who seemed as troubled as we were by the whole scenario. They blamed poor communications with their advisers for the mess. Though initially we were distrustful, this dissolved quickly following our discussions. Kindly they provided their large shed and a bedroom to store our belongings and, as a token of their remorse, they gifted us household items we admired. Before I knew it my rock of sense was bargaining about the fridge, TV and shed.

Ultimately we were delayed by 10 days while the boundary was being redrawn, but the deal went ahead and, in the end, we didn’t have to pay double removal costs. Though this was agreed only the night before our proposed move, before that I could not tell the removal company whether to bring the two massive truck loads to our new house, or storage.

In those few months we had aged a decade, lost weight and almost killed each other. Buying was much more complicated than selling, but we had accomplished our objective at last. We had sold our home seamlessly and found another less easily. But, importantly, we had survived the process and now had funds to invest in a replacement pension scheme. We can also fine-tune the cottage to our personal tastes.

The whole process was difficult emotionally, as well as physically and financially. It seemed relentless and overwhelming at times so we are very glad it is behind us now.

Now we are eagerly looking forward to a future full of new challenges and joy in our new abode. It’s like starting all over again and is exhilarating because this time around we should be a bit wiser too.

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