Case study : Tracking down an owner and buying the house for 30% BMV


When we first started on the property ladder we found we were quite good at spotting a decent house, but were obviously inexperienced at tracking people down. We’d started looking seriously in November 2016 and found a nice looking property on Rightmove that seemed to be cheap. It was a 3 bedroom end of terrace property listed at £55,000. By our reckoning that made it about 25-30% below market value. It had a nice little front garden and an enclosed yard at the rear.

The Rightmove blurb also said that this house was available by the ‘modern method of auction’ and this shouldn’t be confused with the traditional way. We didn’t know what the Modern Method of Auction was, but when we looked into it it seemed a ruse dreamed up by Estate Agents to pocket more cash by getting the buyer to pay a £6,000 reservation fee (non-refundable and NOT deducted from the purchase price). This would also pay the sellers fees. We thought, ‘bugger that for a game of conkers’. We still wanted to buy the house for £55k, but another £6k made it less attractive. We needed to buy without it. That meant we couldn’t alert the agent.

We did a drive-by, just to make sure the house looked like it’s online pics. These checked out ok and we were able to take a look in the windows (the house was empty) to see what the inside was like. It looked fine, with nice laminate floors and tidy paintwork. But who did the house belong to and how could we speak to them and secure the sale without alerting the agent? How could we buy without paying the extra £6,000?

First stop was the Land Registry website. We paid our £3 fee and downloaded the deeds. This gave us the name and address of the owner. They weren’t registered at the address of the property, but rather at an address in, shall we say, a less celubrious part of town. We rolled up the windows and went to visit the owners address. No answer. Just as we knocked a 2nd time, the next door neighbour came out in his vest for a ciggy. He said he didn’t think anyone lived next door, but he’d only moved in yesterday and wasn’t sure. A dead end. So, back to the property that was for sale. Our only option was to start knocking on neighbours doors to see if they knew where the owners had gone. We didn’t even know if they’d left town and gone to live in Stornoway, but we had to find out!

We started knocking. The first neighbour didn’t know where they’d gone as she’d only been there a few months and said the house was empty when she moved in. The next neighbour (two doors along) wasn’t in, and we were beginning to give up hope. The next door was definitely the last door we could realistically knock on. Fingers crossed. After a pause that was propably only 10 seconds but seemed like an hour, someone answered.

It turned out that the neighbour knew them quite well. Her son was in fact the owner’s sparky and had done quite a bit of work for them on the house. Things were looking up! 😉 Where had they gone? Did she know? Well, they weren’t in Stornoway, they were still in town. But she didn’t know the address! 😳 Our hearts sank again…… but she did know where they lived, it was the last road on the East side, about the third house along and they had venetian blinds up in the porch. We had visions of a whole road of venetian-blinded porches, but off we went.

It was spot on as far as directions were concerned. We knocked. A figure appeared at the window, motioning us around the back. We were greeted by the little dog and when we got to chat, the house was indeed theirs to sell and they’d had it on the market for nearly a year. We told them the ‘modern method of auction’ puts people off. It had nearly put us off. The owner took us up for a viewing and we put an offer in next day for the asking price of £55k, on the proviso that they withdrew it from the auction. They agreed and then we just had to wait 31 days. There might have been offers after that, but the owner assured us that they’d agreed to sell to us and no other offers would be accepted. They seemed to be people of their word.

A month later with the house removed from the agent’s jurisdiction, we bought it privately based on our agreement. We got the keys on February 8th 2017. There was very little work to do inside. We fitted some new kitchen doors and put some fresh lino down in the kitchen and bathroom, painted a bit and de-mossed the yard. It cost us £2,000 in all. After 6 months we refinanced and took back our entire deposit and renovation money. We already had a tenant by then as well.

Mission accomplished 👍🏻


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