Money & Homes: More than bricks and mortar

Do you care who buys your home? Penny Jackson reports
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The Independent Online
It may come as a surprise to anyone desperately scraping finances together for a final offer, but there are people who care more about who buys their house than how much they can get for it. Offers in excess of, Dutch auctions, sealed bids - forget all that. What these vendors want is peace of mind. They want to know that their home is safe in new hands.

Unsurprisingly, estate agents urge clients not to get emotionally involved with a sale. But in more cases than they might wish, this advice falls on deaf ears. Likes and dislikes are out of their control, however irritating they may be, especially when they know a price could have gone higher. But sentimentality can breed stubbornness.

When Gold Walker came to sell her large family house in south London, before the property market collapsed, she knew exactly who she wanted to buy it, and she wasn't going to be bullied by an agent. When she finally found the right couple, they were surprised to be shown out with the words: "You know what the agents want for the house, don't you? Ridiculous, isn't it. See what you can do." They duly put in an offer of pounds 30,000 less, which she accepted - much to the chagrin of the agents.

She even stuck with the present owners through a collapsed sale of their house, and a process which could have been completed within a month but took six. "Eight lots of people wanted the house, some of them with cash. I turned them down because I didn't like them," says Miss Walker. "The house had been in the family since 1933 and people stayed with us from all over the world. It would have been terrible to see it divided up and turned into a boarding house, as one couple wanted. The spirit of the house would have been destroyed."

The size of her financial sacrifice is rare, but the principle is not. Atty Beor-Roberts, of Knight Frank's Cirencester office, was recently selling a pounds 750,000 house for a client who very much wanted it to go to a family. There were two bidders, one a local family the other a woman on her own from London. "When the local family came round, my client got on very well with the wife," he says. "She wanted them to have the house and made it clear to them even though they were the under-bidders. They scraped everything together to make an improved offer. They couldn't match the first offer, but my client sold to them even though she lost the best part of pounds 15,000. Another client rang me to discuss the sale of her house, for which 12 people wanted to bid. She just wanted to talk about the people and ran down the list: Mr and Mrs so-and-so, don't like them, couldn't stand him, and so on. She wanted someone to live in her house and garden whom she liked, to be friends with, in fact."

Indeed, many people who reluctantly sell a family house stay in the area where they have made friends over many years. Few know the difficulties better than Roger Lane, who is selling a house that has been in his family for 300 years. He is the ninth generation to farm the land around Chaceley Hall, near Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. He and his wife, Rose, and two children are moving into a house they are building on the land.

"I grew up here, and you can't block out those memories. I am not sure how we will feel. We are taking all the furniture that has been passed down though the generations, and the old cider mill, but it will be difficult. It took us five years to decide to move out." A hard decision, but one made on a sound business basis. Roger Lane wishes to diversify and enlarge the farm so that his son can take on the farming mantle, if not the family home. Mr Lane expects to lose pounds 20,000 this year through falling beef prices and the sale of the house (pounds 325,000, through Strutt & Parker) is necessary for his plans.

"I still feel great sentimental attachment to it. For instance, it has a lot of lovely old beams, and if anyone started to change the character of it, I would be upset. If it comes down to the nitty-gritty of the last few thousand pounds I would be looking at the people rather than the money. They matter a great deal to us," admits Mr Lane.

No wonder, then, that estate agents are so keen to impress on buyers the importance of getting on with the vendor. Nor is it always just a matter of the owner's preferences; some are generous enough to consider the neighbours, and in some way wish to leave a legacy of goodwill. Robin Thomas, of Strutt & Parker's Exeter office, was asked to sell a house to a family who would support the village by sending their children to the local school. Another client rejected an offer of pounds 2,000 more than her preferred purchaser, because the person bidding had seven dogs. "She told me she couldn't bear the thought of her neighbours being kept awake all night," he says.

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