Archive | February, 2013

Outbid But Not Outwitted

27 Feb

So after much fanfare, excitement and “yippee-ness” I got outbid.

That is the heart-breaking simplicity of buying property at auction: you win or you lose.

There’s no in-between, there’s no negotiations and pondering over whether the seller will take a higher or lower offer – you put your hand in the air and whoever keeps it there the longest wins.

Anyway, I’ve cut to the chase – I’ve told you the end, at the beginning…but there is more to this story:

Until now, I have kept the property in question under wraps – but here it is:

Bloomsbury flat for sale

It’s a top floor, one bed flat located in Bloomsbury in dated condition.

It was a probate sale (although the sellers’ hadn’t yet got probate and had entered it into auction for sale), it came with minimal legal information, it had an extra fee payable of 1% of the hammer price to the sellers,  (for their legal costs) and it came with the potential of an eye-watering estimated major works bill of £12k for the replacement of the heating and hot water system.

If I had not fallen in love with the flat I would have run a mile.  But love does not work in such logical or rational ways.

And so I took the alternative tack – I did whatever I could to try and secure the flat.  I tried to offer before auction (which was not of interest due to the sale being by executors) and then when I found out about the potential £12k bill for the heating replacement I knew I had to try even harder.

I knew I had to get myself onto a level playing field.  I felt it was my “duty” to let every other bidder know about the potential bill.

So I emailed the auction house and seller’s solicitor prior to auction about the potential £12k bill.  I got no reply.

Ignoring me, will not work.

So I called in reinforcements: we will call him “Mr D”.  Mr D is a seasoned property expert and experienced auction buyer.

Let me set the scene:

The auction is being held in a Central London location in a function room which fits approximately 150 people.  At the front of the room is a raised stage area with a rostrum which is where the auctioneer stands.  The auctioneer is flanked by auction house staff who are on the look out for potential bidders.  The rest of the room is full of rows of seats facing the front – rather like a cinema, but with function room chairs.  Along the walls, people are standing to survey the action.  The room has a bustling-quiet. All eyes and ears are on the auctioneer.  If you talk, it’s only because you have to and you whisper in hushed tones.  The auctioneer is the only one who is “allowed” to talk audibly.

There is an air of impatience – two previous lots have been hotly contested and the auction is running behind time schedule.  There is also an edge of anticipation and nervous energy.

My lot is about to be called next.

I feel physically sick.

I am shaking.

I scan the room to see who else may be here to bid on my lot. I look down at my upper bid price.  I remind myself I am not to bid a penny more…

Mr D is stood to my right, Mr I (I had extra reinforcements) is stood to my left.

The auctioneer is about to start the calling of bids for my lot.

Mr D waves his arm in the air to attract the auctioneer’s attention.

The auctioneer is looking the other way and does not see Mr D.

The auction house staff see Mr D is flailing his arm further now and nudge the auctioneer to grant Mr D the “right” to talk.

Mr D’s cut-glass, booming tones reverberate around the room:

“I am very sorry, I was not here for the introductory announcements.  Please can you tell me if there is any further clarification on the potential £12,000 bill which has been estimated for the replacement of the heating at this flat”.

Every face in the room turns to look at Mr D.

This is a rare occurrence.

NOBODY ever normally talks to the auctioneer, let alone questions him.

The auctioneer issues a steady reply: “I do not have any further information”.

Mr D persists: “I received an email from the contracts manager that these works are estimated at £12,000, that is a lot of money”.

The auctioneer fixes Mr D with a firm gaze.  “I do not have any further information, the legal pack has been available and you should check that”.

Mr D continues: “I have checked the legal pack and there is information contained that the works will happen, but the costs are not there”

The auctioneer unwavering: “The problem with works in these communal blocks is that you don’t know when or if the works will ever happen, it may be 5 years, 2 years or 6 months.  I do not have any further information, but if you are not sure then I would advise you not to bid”.

“Thank you, it’s just such a lot of money, but I understand”.  Mr D concludes.

Unfazed by such a rare interjection, the auctioneer begins the calling of bids for the lot.

All eyes return to the auctioneer.

He calls for an opening bid.  There is a muted silence.  A pause.

Then a hand is slowly raised and the bidding commences at £300k.

Within minutes the price has reached £364k.  There is a slight lull, before another bidder enters the fray.

At £374k the bidding slows. I turn to face the wall.  The bidding has now gone over my limit.

And then it starts again.

At £382k the property is about to be sold.

At this point I should leave the room.  I should exit.

But I call the other half who is at work.  “It’s about to be sold at £382k, shall I bid?” I urgently whisper down the phone while watching the auctioneer.

“What, but that is over our budget!” He exclaims.

“I know” I reply, “but we really want it and it’s about to be sold – shall I bid?”

“Yes, OK, I’ve got to go I’m in a meeting” Click. The phone goes dead.

I raise my hand in the air and bid £384k.

Straight away the other bidder (stood at the opposite end of the room) comes back with a higher bid.

It’s now £385k.

This is now over over budget, over retail price and makes no sense.  I really should leave the room.

The auctioneer turns to me and fixes me with a questioning stare.

Mr I, to my left is in a trance – he is caught under the auctioneer’s spell.

Mr D to my right, shrugs his shoulders and whispers: “If you love it and you really want it, bid one more…but this guy is going to bid again, you are NOT going to buy this.  He is going to go all the way.  But bid again, just once, to know you will have no regrets”.

I raise my hand and bid again: £386k

Immediately the other bidder retaliates with a higher bid: £387k.

I look over to the other bidder at the far side of the room.  I study him.  I think he’s Chinese.  I can’t say for sure.

But I know he’s here to bid and buy at whatever price.  And I cannot do that.  I will not do that.

I signal to the auctioneer that I am out.  And I leave the room.

I cannot leave quickly enough.

The excitement, the hopes, the dreams, the ‘what-ifs’, maybes and all planned-for and hoped-for things are not going to happen. Well, at least, not for now.


Today is another day and the start of another new adventure..

YIPPEE!!! Today It’s Property Auction Sale Day

26 Feb

property auction day

I know it’s sad, but I have been counting down the “sleeps” till auction day – although I hardly got any last night!

So today is THE day.  Today is the THE day when I will find out if I am meant to buy this flat in London.

I did have a slight *wobble* late yesterday afternoon, but luckily my friend Wise Brown Owl Claire set me straight.  I’m sure she even muttered some Shamanic verses about “feeling it her bones” that I was destined to buy this flat.  Although, I could be making it up…(wishful thinking is a powerful force!)

So anyway, today is here and now I am about to set off to the auction room.

And I know it’s sad, but after all these years I still get butterflies.  I still get stressed.  And I still get auction nerves…

Or maybe it’s just the fact that for the first time in all these years of buying property at auction I am about to buy (or try and buy!) a property for me.  This is not a straight investment.  It is for me.  And this really confuses the issue.

I have got my forms of ID, I have got my proof of address and I have got my cheque book. I have become OCD with checking my handbag that I have everything I need.  I keep writing and then re-writing my bid limit.

Now I feel I just have to leave.

I just need to make my way there.

If I am up to it (and I promise you I will try) I will twitter live from the property auction room…

Wish me luck and fingers and toes firmly crossed



OMG: This Is A MAJOR Major Works Bill!!!

25 Feb

OK, I have already admitted how I have lost my head on this London flat.


While I may be wearing my heart on my sleeve, I haven’t taken complete leave of my senses.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of research, research and yet more research.

Buying property at auction can be a minefield and you have to know what you are getting yourself into to ensure when you bid you’re happy you’ve bought!

So true to my own advice (yes, I practice what I preach!) I have had the legals checked, had the surveyor’s report and done all the estate agent comparables.  I’ve also been talking to some of the residents and owners who currently live at the block to find out more.

And it’s this more which you always need to know about.

Because this more is sometimes what you don’t know about until its too late.

property auction pitfalls

So while I have been talking to my (hoped-for-would-be) neighbours I have learned about the heating replacement programme which is planned for the block.  The flat has a communal heating and hot water system which is due to be replaced shortly by the freeholder.  Now while I knew these major works were on the horizon (the letter had been included in the legal pack), what I didn’t know was the anticipated cost of the replacement per flat.

Given it costs around £3k for an entire new central heating system in a house, I decided that was a fair estimation to work with.  But, when I spoke to the owners I got a shock – they informed me the cost was more likely to be around £6-10k per flat.


property auction pitfalls

That is a heck of a lot for FOUR radiators! Admittedly, they’re connected to a mains boiler – but still you get my drift.  That is way more than what I ever would have expected to pay as a “contribution” for this sort of works.

And so it has preyed on my mind about these costs – which have never been verified and which no further information has been provided by the seller.

Concerned with the potential size of the bill, I therefore decided to take matters into my own hands and contact the Contracts Manager who was overseeing the works to see if I could get a better idea of the costs involved.

As luck would have it, he understood my desire to plan my future budget and he replied to my question with an estimated cost for the replacement heating works.


My jaw FELL OFF MY FACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I looked at the email again – perhaps he had put the comma in the wrong place?

Really, did he really mean to write £12,000 as a contribution to the heating system for a 1 bed flat – I could rebuild the flat for less than that!

So I called him.

I just had to ask him “Are you really, seriously sure about your figure of a £12,000 contribution per flat towards a gas central heating system?”

“Yes, really” was his reply.  “It’s estimated at £12,000 per unit”

“Seriously” I challenged him: “Are you sure?  I just need 4 radiators – that seems a bit pricey….?”

“Yes” he replied again: “Those are the estimated costs of the communal system.  This system will last 25 years and in that time if you had your own domestic boiler you would probably have to replace it 2-3 times and so this makes economical sense in the long term.  Remember, though this is an estimate and once we have properly consulted residents we will know if that price will go up or down”.

“UP???” I heard myself squeak…

Oh my Lord, I think to myself, is this a gold plated boiler?

So I say to him: “Listen, I understand about this communal system and all, so what I am thinking, is that maybe I could just opt out – I will just get my own system, as I don’t think it’s going to cost me quite as much and I feel I could budget better”.

“No, you are not allowed to opt out” He replied.  “If it is decided we are replacing the communal system then every owner must contribute and must pay”

“I see” I replied – although I didn’t really see – because I still could not fathom how the replacement of central heating in a one bed flat could possibly be estimated at £12,000 – even if it is anticipated to last 25 years!

Shocked by my discovery I called my solicitor who I could hear choking on his morning cornflakes. “How much for the central heating system?!” he spluttered down the phone.

property auction pitfall

“I know” I acquiesced “I do believe it would be cheaper to fit a commercial wind turbine on the roof – however I doubt my lease permits that”.

So what to do?

Well, the easiest thing would be to build the £12k estimate into my bid price.  As of this moment, I should now bid £12k less.  However, if I do this I think I will scupper my chances of auction success.  The fact is: very few people will have gone to the effort of finding out the actual estimated figure – the majority will make an individual estimation which I doubt very much will see them planning for a £12k contribution.

So I have a quandary: I am now in possession of information which adversely affects the price I was going to pay for the property…but it’s information which most other people will not know.  Which means they’re likely to bid more for the property because they don’t know about the size of this potential bill.  Which means I am more likely to get outbid…

What am I going to do?

Honestly, I just don’t know.

I cannot decide how best to quantify the potential estimate of a £12k bill – will it really be £12k in the end?

And if I bid £12k less than somebody else and they win it will I regret it…or if I bid the same as I was going to and I end up with a £12k bill (or higher) will I regret it…and what if the actual bill ends up being much lower than the estimate…?

I guess it’s all about probabilities…maybe I should just flip a coin?


When Rational Becomes Irrational: My London Love Affair

22 Feb

I admit it: I have lost my head.

I have become so besotted with a property I can no longer think straight.

I cannot believe how this has happened, it is not rational, logical or sane.

So what’s the story?

Well it started Sunday 3 weeks ago.  I just happened to see a photo of a block of flats in London.  I cannot explain it – I just knew I had to live there.

That’s it.

That simple.

So I called my friends and I informed them I had found the property of my dreams and I was going to move.

Admittedly, they were rather taken aback – I knew nothing about the property and had not even seen inside – but there I was declaring I would now up sticks and move, lock stock and barrel.

buying a flat in london

Now I have been thinking about moving house – especially after selling the lettings business and the amount of paperwork I have to store.  And I really could do with a larger house.  But I just haven’t found what I am looking for; I did find a house which made sense, ticked all the right boxes and was on budget…but it didn’t “feel” right.  Somehow it just didn’t feel me, it just didn’t feel like the right next step.  I seriously, tried to talk myself into buying that house because it “made sense” but I just couldn’t do it.  My heart was not in it.

Until now.

Now I seem to have set my heart on a one bed flat in London which is HALF the size of our current house.  It is insane.  It is madness.  And it’s going to cost DOUBLE the price of the house we saw previously which was DOUBLE the size of our current house for HALF the size of the current house!

I know this is seriously skewiff thinking.

buying a flat in london

Shall I also admit at this point I’ve even been contemplating butterfly wallpaper? Maybe not.

So I’ve spent the past few weeks lining everything up – getting the mortgage application in, organising the survey, getting the legals checked and getting all my ducks in a row so that I am ready to buy.

And then yesterday morning me and the other half had THE conversation about the flat.  Of course, for the past few weeks, “the flat” has been the only topic of conversation – but it’s always been about the good bits, the fun bits, the “won’t this be the most excellent idea in the world” to do bits.  And it was only yesterday morning when we had THE conversation which was the realistic one – the one where the other half said to me:”Sam, are you really sure you want to live in London?”

“Of course, I do” I exclaimed

“Really” He questioned me: “Are you totally sure?”

And then I wobbled slightly.  I admitted I was slightly nervous about the amount of noise, people and pollution – but really that was part and parcel of living in a city and so I had to get over it.

But I did feel a slight hesitation in my voice.

He left for work.  And he left me thinking to myself: “Really Sam, do you want to live in London?”

buying a flat in london

And so there was nothing else for it – another viewing had to be booked.  And as luck would have it they could take me there and then.  So I quickly got ready and dashed for the train into London.

As I was sat on the train looking out over the green rolling fields of Hertfordshire I felt my heart lurch as the landscape soon transformed to towering blocks of flats and unending shades of grey and red brick.  “Seriously” I said to myself “Is this really what you want to do?”

And as I pushed past the tourists and joined the hubbub and pulsating throb of people who all got it my way, and while I stood for eons trying to cross the fume filled traffic clogged roads;  I knew it.  I just knew it.  I knew that I had to live in London.

My heart was racing while I was walking to the flat – I prepared myself for disappointment – I knew that on this second viewing and after all the discussions I’ve had with a gazillion people about this flat that I would no longer love it.  I would no longer really want to live there all that much.

But, when I walked in for the second time.  I knew I was home.  I knew this is it.  It may not be much.  But I believe it to be my new home.

Now all I have to do is buy my half sized home and work out what I am going to do with all my “stuff”!

Carlos in Wonderland

17 Feb

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass)


Vision.  Imagination.  Fantasy.

Words so often bandied around in the world of property – and yet so little understood and practically applied in the real everyday built environment.

And so it was with great pleasure when I recently met with the inspirational artist and architect Carlos Calderon Yruegas (who works under the name SOLRAC) because he has literally transformed what was a plot of sand (that was sand, not land) into an evocative expression of his life.

Carlos Solrac

But, of course what more can be expected of an artist who has hobnobbed with Picasso and brought down Dali a peg or two!

Nowhere else have I ever seen a private residence of such lavish creativity and expression – and I doubt many planners in the world would allow such an inventive property to be permitted.  SOLRAC’s vision is reminiscent of the Willy Wonka song:

There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be”

(Willy Wonka; Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory)

And which reminds us all that we don’t have to accept only the things in life that are placed before our eyes – we should dare to dream and make our dreams come true.

Grand Designs, Dream Houses, Fantasy Living – should all be ours for the taking – if only we dare to dream…and then make it a reality.

And as for Carlos – I take my (hard) hat off to him – and I dream that one day I too, will have a bed in the stars – just like this: (who would ever have guessed that’s what this room is!)

Fuerteventura artist house

Villa Tabaiba, Corralejo, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

The property is a work of art with sculpture and construction meeting as one:

Fuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist houseFuerteventura artist house

For more information contact: SOLRAC