'We're polite, but I want to poke her eyes out'

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There doesn't need to be a rival bidder for gazumping to take place, as Melissa Wagstaff (not her real name) discovered.

Last September, she and her husband, Liam, were gazumped on a property in Chiswick, west London, so when the house next door came onto the market, they acted quickly. They were the first to view it and offered the asking price, pounds 192,500, the same day. This was accepted. The couple found a buyer for their own property and were ready to exchange before Christmas, as the couple they were buying from, Gary and Teresa Short (not their real names) required.

But when it came to setting a completion date, the Shorts started to stall. They had not managed to find a new home, they said, and would not be ready to move until summer - if then. The Wagstaffs pointed out that they would lose their buyer without an early completion date so the Shorts suggested that the Wagstaffs move into rented accommodation for a few months. The Wagstaffs refused but agreed a compromise completion date in April.

Exchange was rescheduled for late December. Melissa was at work on the designated day and received a call from her solicitor. She thought it would be just to confirm that exchange had taken place, but instead it was bad news. "There's something wrong," her solicitor said. "You should speak to the estate agent." She did and discovered that the Shorts were demanding an extra pounds 17,500.

Melissa was speechless - and hurt. "We'd gone out of our way to do what they wanted," she says. "They were just being grasping."

No other offer had been made. The Shorts were arguing that by the time of completion - which they had delayed - the house would be worth the extra money.

The Wagstaffs considered pulling out but they were desperate to move into this particular area of Chiswick, the catchment area for the school they had chosen for their children, so they gave in and agreed to pay the new asking price. But it left a sour taste.

"We were very upset about it and it did affect our pleasure in the house for some time," says Melissa. "It's also uncomfortable. The Short child is in the same class as my son at school so I do see Mrs Short around. We're icily polite to each other, but I really want to poke her eyes out.

"If they'd had another offer, it would have been annoying but without that, it was just greed. I suppose we could have turned round to the person buying our house and done the same thing to them, but I just wouldn't do that.

"I'm absolutely in favour of legislation that stops this sort of thing happening."

Interview by Elizabeth Heathcote.