Victoria Summerley: Town Life

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The Independent Online

We've all heard the apocryphal stories about the vendors who take everything with them when they sell their house. They remove anything that will unscrew, take up the carpets, dig up all the plants in the garden, spirit away all the light fittings and dismantle the mixer tap. I've never experienced this when I've moved house and often wondered whether it has more to do with disgruntlement over the buyer's attempts to beat them down in price than any sentimental attachment to a light flex or wall switch.

But, given the price of light fittings and bathroom accessories, I understand reluctance to wave goodbye to, say, £1,000 worth of chrome-plated or brushed-nickel hardware.

Thousands of years from now, archaeologists will dig up the graves of 21st Century Property Owner and unearth a gleaming treasure trove of Lefroy Brooks loo-roll-holders and Philippe Starck taps. They will speculate as to the purpose of these artefacts. A gift to placate the gods? A payment for the spectral being who will ferry their spirit across the void to the afterlife? (If he's anything like Transport for London, the fare will probably have reached a few hundred quid by then.)

No, it will simply have been a way of denying the new owner - who beat them down £20,000 on their house sale - access to the precious objects that involved so much time, money and decision-making in shops such as West One Bathrooms or CP Hart.

Vicki Blundell, of the south-west London agency John Thorogood, doesn't approve of this sort of behaviour. "I once had a client who had a claw-foot bath in an en-suite bathroom that was one of the main selling points of the house. When she sold the house, she announced she was taking the bath with her. Luckily we managed to talk her out of it, or she would have lost her buyer."

But she reports that, in the civilised enclaves of Nappy Valley at any rate, these occurrences are rare. "Most people, especially at the moment, are getting a good price for their property, so they're very sensible when they move out. There's always the odd one, though - usually the most unexpected people," she says, darkly but discreetly.

Far from finding my new purchase denuded of its fixtures, in my experience, it's far more common to find that the vendor has left a few mementos behind. Like a shed full of broken tools, a garden full of moribund bedding plants or an attic full of junk. In one property, the owner very kindly (I thought) left behind the dishwasher and the washing machine. It was only when I moved in that I realised that the dishwasher was defunct and the washing machine leaked, providing a damp, warm home for a seething mass of woodlice.

In my current house, bought from friends moving back to New Zealand and trying to keep their shipping costs down, we were warned in advance that bits and pieces would be left behind. Since these included a climbing frame, a trampoline, two single beds and an Ikea desk that came in very useful for my son's bedroom, we were overjoyed. In fact, we celebrated by drinking one of the many bottles of tequila that we discovered in a kitchen cupboard. Salud!

These days, when all the fixtures and fittings - and the vendor's intentions regarding them - have to be listed on a legal document, it is far more unusual to find unexpected additions or subtractions. Additionally, many buyers insist on negotiating for items such as curtains and carpets as part of the deal. During my last sale, the buyer wanted all the curtains and blinds and the garden furniture, and requested that the garden be left exactly as it was.

Obviously, if you've had blinds made for certain windows, they're probably not going to be much use to you in your new house, so I was quite happy to comply. The buyer was so insistent, I was rather flattered, naively thinking that she admired my excellent taste.

A couple of weeks later, I drove past my old home and saw that my ancient living-room blinds had been replaced. All she'd wanted, of course, was to use them as a stopgap until her own far more glamorous versions arrived from Peter Jones.