Jonathan Harington, of property buying agency Haringtons, recounts an extreme example
It is absolutely vital that there is a good relationship between the purchasers and the vendors. It makes the negotiations that much easier if the owners actually like the buyers, (hopefully more than other interested parties) and it also helps with the handover at completion.
One golden rule is not to let the owners overhear discussions about alterations, it can upset them.
Often I will say to my clients, once they’ve been round a house, write a nice letter to the owners and say, “Thank you so much, we so enjoyed seeing your house, it was very kind of you to have let us in on a Saturday and it would be a wonderful home for our children…”. And once the purchase has been agreed between the agents, I always tell my clients to arrange to meet the sellers because it personalises the deal and makes it harder for them to change their mind
On one occasion, circumstances took this to an extreme.
We had agreed to buy a house for a client in Berkshire in 2001, actually I was in Scotland, and my client was in Majorca. In this case I think the client had already written to the vendor but I thought he might like to take it one stage further. So I suggested that when he returned from his holiday the first thing he should do is go down to the house and shake hands with the owner. This makes it much more difficult for a vendor to subsequently gazump if he gets a higher offer.
We actually had a lockout agreement in place so he shouldn’t have gazumped, but it isn’t belt and braces. So the ideal way to cement relations is to go and see them in person, shake their hand, and look them in the eye. A good way to do this is to visit on the pretext that you’re going to go look at the carpets and curtains.
Anyway this was arranged. They went to the house the following Sunday morning. Now, there happened to be a very fine tree house in the garden. When they arrived, their daughter – finding the prospect of curtains and carpets somewhat dull – immediately ran up into the tree house. But what they didn’t know – and the vendor didn’t know – was that the hatch in the treehouse was open. So this poor little girl ran up the steps with huge excitement and promptly flew straight out of the hatch.
As you can imagine, it was terrible. It was awful for everybody. The ambulance was called and off to hospital they all went. Luckily the little girl was absolutely fine and was taken home that evening, battered and bruised but otherwise OK.
As you can imagine, this drama really cemented the relationship between the vendors and my client and contracts were exchanged within a week.