How hard is it to move house?

Very, says Jonathan Christie, who has kept a diary of his struggle to sell up
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The Independent Online

Call us crazy, call us hopelessly optimistic, but my wife and I are trying to sell our three-bedroom townhouse at what could be the worst time in memory to be a vendor. Deep down, I have always been sceptical about selling our modern, anonymous new-build quickly, but we bought it – why shouldn't someone else fall in love with it, too? Built in 2002 and situated in Frant, a village two miles from Tunbridge Wells, Kent and just over the border into Sussex, it's a great house stuck in a bad market. Since putting the house up for sale, I have kept a diary of our plight to show how hard it is to move in the recession-hit Noughties.

Are you having trouble selling your house or has it gone surprisingly smoothly? Let us know in the comments section below

Saturday 27 September

Our house is up for sale and our agent seems buoyant. We need more space and after failing to find a buyer in 2007, we've decided to try again.

Thursday 9 October

The Home Information Pack (HIP) arrived today and I'm thoroughly underwhelmed. At over £300, its 57 pages seem to be mostly adverts, disclaimers or blank pages. I'll be amazed if this document swings a deal. No sign of a viewing yet.

Saturday 11 October

I check the phone is actually working and call the agent for an update. Where are all the buyers? The tone's changed. Gone is the eager puppy. Apparently, unexceptional properties (presumably like ours) are "sticking".

Wednesday 15 October

Constant news about plummeting sales, lack of mortgages and chains breaking down. We need a cash buyer.

Saturday 25 October

After grumbling about the silence, we've got three viewings and are now moaning about having to make the house presentable.

Tuesday 28 October

Feedback on the viewings: they all "like" our house, but all have something to sell.

Wednesday 29 October

A viewing booked for Saturday has been delayed because the lady is now "busy". I'm keen to reschedule as she's a cash buyer – but the agent is being rather vague.

Thursday 30 October

Turns out that our "busy" cash buyer has been sectioned. Think I might be joining her.

Wednesday 12 November

No viewings for two weeks. Agents are defensive. "It's nearly Christmas"... "Your house doesn't have kerb appeal"... "The market is softening." We're beginning to think the HIP was a waste of money – maybe we should've bought half a tank of petrol with it instead!

Saturday 15 November

Good news, a viewing. A young couple in rented – perfect! With five minutes to go, we scramble out of our unrecognisably tidy house, hoping not to bump into the golden couple and scare them off with our rowdy family.

Monday 17 November

The weekend was full of discussion about our wonderful couple-in-rented, but reality hits hard. "It's not for them... there's nowhere for their full-sized ping-pong table." "What?" "Yes – they play every day. It's a deal-breaker I'm afraid."

Tuesday 18 November

While still reeling from the ping-pong episode, our agent suggests reducing the asking price. I'm aware of figures concerning the average house being significantly down from a year ago and we want to appear serious about moving. We agree on a £25,000 drop.

Monday 24 November

We have a viewing booked in for Saturday, but I call the agent to discuss something that's been bugging us. "What's the situation of the people coming tomorrow?" "They have something to sell." "OK, well... we've decided only viewings with buyers in a position to make an offer." Silence.

Tuesday 25 November

I know the agent thinks we aren't being helpful. Remaining optimistic in this market is difficult, but when your agent starts making digs about your house "not being desirable", you start to wonder if they're on your side.

Friday 28 November

Then finally, there's some development. "Mrs M" has made an offer on the spot after a viewing today. But at £340,000 it's a big drop. Trying to be positive, I say we'll make similar reductions to offers we make.

Saturday 29 November

Viewed three houses today. The first was a DIY disaster, the second had an enormous mobile mast in the garden and the third was so close to a major A-road, we thought we might leave with fewer children than we'd arrived with.

Thursday 4 December

Mrs M's son has stepped in. They both viewed yesterday and he has revised the offer to £320,000. Take the moving costs into account and we're back to what we paid in 2002.

I tell the agent this is not workable.

Saturday 6 December

The offer is upped to £324,950 ... still too low.

Thursday 11 December

Twice now I've made offers based on the £324,950 and twice I've had the humiliation of an estate agent telling me what they think of me and my offer. Perspective is sliding away. If they feel insulted, why shouldn't we?

Monday 15 December

I think our offer now stands at £334,950. I've also noticed that Mrs M has now become "Mrs M with the bad hip." Is this a sympathy trick? Feeling very stressed!

Tuesday 16 December

A house we liked in 2007 has unexpectedly come back on to the market £11,000 more than it sold for last year. The agent said the vendors don't want to lose money. I suggested they buy a newspaper.

Friday 19 December

Decide to get tough with Mrs M and her hip. Called our agent to say it's £340,000 or nothing.

Monday 22 December

Mrs M is now buying a semi in Surrey. She thinks we have too many stairs. I point out we still have the same number of stairs she saw three weeks ago when her first offer was made. Feeling very low.

Monday 5 January


Friday 23 January

Not a sausage. Agent sounds stressed. Is the market that dead?

Tuesday 10 February

Decide to find some fresh enthusiasm. Invite two new agents round for a valuation. Both complimentary and optimistic. I prefer this kind of talk after months of negativity. We write a letter of notice to the current agent.

Friday 20 February

Our new agent comes round to take some snaps. This time, though, it's the boss and the mood has changed. We should lower our asking price and expect to get offers a further 10 per cent below that. I point out that his colleague seemed to think differently, only to be told that he's been sacked. Aaaarrrghhhh. We're trying to keep the faith but are beginning to wonder if we'll ever sell. If I'd known then how hard it would be to shift my house, I wonder if I ever would have bought it. But, like so many people right now, we need to keep calm and carry on with our sale.

Are you having trouble selling your house or has it gone surprisingly smoothly? Let us know in the comments section below