Six ways to minimise the risk of gazundering when selling your home

THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.

Jane Hamilton, property expert

THE booming property market could be starting to slow, with more homes having sky-high asking prices reduced.

But with it comes the risk of “gazundering” – where a buyer drops the price they are willing to pay below their initial agreed offer.

Although many people see gazundering as unethical, it is legal.

Here, Nima Ghasri, from goodmove.co.uk, reveals how to minimise the risk of gazundering when selling your home.

1) Be realistic and honest. The best way to prevent gazundering is to never inflate the value of your home, so the buyer knows they are getting a fair deal.

Always be honest about any repairs or damage to your property. They’ll show up on the survey, so factor them in first.

2) Set a date for exchanging. Although it’s not possible with every sale, fix a date for all parties to work towards where you can.

3) Get the survey done quickly. Work with your buyer – offer early access – to get a survey done quickly.

It is your buyer’s biggest chance to knock the price down, so get it done and resolve any issues straight away.

4) Look out for warning signs. If a buyer offers significantly over your asking price, they might be planning to knock down that price at exchange.

Although it may seem like you are missing out, accepting a more realistic offer can prevent you being gazundered and losing more money later.

5) Move quickly. Make sure your solicitor can move fast and has all the information they need from you ahead of time. Stay in regular contact to make sure they are pushing through the sale.

6) If the worst happens. If you are gazundered, talk to your estate agent and mortgage broker or financial adviser before making any moves.

If you think the reduced offer is unfair, standing your ground often works. But if the offer is due to problems with the property, it may be wiser to take it.

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Judge Rinder, Legal expert

Q) I USED an intermediary internet site to advertise for a plumber who could quote me for bathroom work.

One trader got back to me and we agreed a price for him to do the necessary work.

After he had taken a deposit of £395 he made numerous excuses to avoid actually starting the work, despite multiple emails and phone calls from me.

So, frustratingly, I had to ask him to return the money, which he has so far failed to do.

I have only an email address and a phone number, but no address of his to take him to the small claims court. What can I do? Jennie, Brighton

A) The trades website you used almost certainly makes very clear that it is not responsible for the actions of the traders who advertise on the site.

This is extremely troubling because many of these intermediary sites appear to guarantee the quality of the tradespeople that are listed. In this case, you have several options.

The first is to do some detective work. If this plumber has a company or has advertised elsewhere, his last known address should not be hard to find.

Once you have that, you could write to him and make clear that you intend to issue proceedings in the small claims court.

You should also email the website asking it for the business address of the plumber.

For legal reasons relating to data protection, it may not disclose this to you.

Whatever the case, given that this person appears to have committed a fraud, I would ask you in the strongest terms to get in touch with the police’s fraud team and to publicise this so that others don’t end up in the same situation.

Access denied

Q) I HAVE lived in a three-bed council house for the best part of 40 years.

I have a concrete drive and garage I have permission to use.

The estate is being updated and it seems the plan is to deny access to rear garages by placing a concrete pillar and gate at the side of the house.

Can they legally deny me access to the garage I have used all these years? Paul, West Yorkshire

A) I don’t have a straightforward answer, I’m afraid. It seems to me that, given you have had lawful permission to use the garage for over four decades, the council cannot lawfully prevent you from having access now.

The problem is you don’t own the garage or the land leading up to it so the council may be entitled, with reasonable notice, to do as they please.

I would urge you to get together with other residents and get in touch with your local council’s ward representative who should be able to help.

If that fails, you may have to take legal action. The bar pro bono unit might be able to point you in the right direction.

Q) IN November 2018 my stepmother died. The sale of her retirement flat was handled by my stepbrother and went through in August 2019, the final payments being paid out to my stepbrother and myself in April.

We have now been asked twice by the solicitor who handled the sale for further funds, as the management company of the flats had made two errors in the amount of ground rent left unpaid.

This payment amounts to roughly £450 each. Are they allowed to do this? Sarah, via email

A) Both the freeholders of your late stepmother’s flat and the solicitors who handled her estate should have made sure the full and final amount of ground rent was paid.

The management firm may have made an honest mistake but, if it communicated with the solicitors stating that no money was owing, you may have a valid reason for withholding any funds.

But the problem is that, while you may have a reasonable case, the cost and stress of arguing it is probably not worth it.

Nevertheless, I would check with the solicitors and then write to the management company making clear that you had been assured by it that all monies had been paid prior to the probate on the flat being settled.

You should then invite the management company to justify why it still believes that it is lawfully entitled to the money.

Be clear and tough in your communication.

Mel Hunter, Readers' champion

Q) I WAS due to go on holiday to the United States in April with my husband, but it was cancelled. TUI was in touch with my husband about the cost being refunded, but he was taken into hospital in June and unfortunately died a few weeks later.

When he was in hospital, I emailed the TUI branch to ask them to contact me instead of him and gave my phone number and email. I have still heard nothing back.

Despite this, they tried to contact my husband on his phone, which is now inactive. I have had no refund.

The holiday was £2,600. TUI has still not got in touch with me.

It has been a very upsetting time. I would just like to speak to a human being to explain my circumstances so that they can deal with me rather than trying to phone or email my husband. Elizabeth, Fife

A) This was an awful time for you, made worse by the difficulty you had getting hold of TUI.

The local branch, where you had booked, remained closed during all this time and perhaps your emails were not picked up.

But when you eventually managed to get through to TUI’s customer services team, you still made no headway.

I was shocked at the extra stress and upset this was causing you.

I got in touch with TUI and managed to finally get a refund sorted, leaving one less thing for you to worry about.

TUI told me: “We’re so sorry for Mrs Mitchell’s experience in obtaining her refund.

“Unfortunately as she was not the lead passenger on the booking, there were difficulties in arranging the refund.

“However, we have now directly contacted Mrs Mitchell to resolve the issue, and she has received her refund. We’d like to apologise again.”

Q) I HAVE a problem with my broadband provider TalkTalk, over an amount of £93.44 that was taken from my bank account.

I have phoned them twice only to be told the charge was for a ten-hour call on a bank holiday and that they consider the matter to be closed.

To complicate matters further, I have a broadband and phone package with TalkTalk, but the call centre operator said it was from my mobile, which is with EE.

It makes me question if they know what they are doing.

How can I make them understand that we did not make this call and let common sense prevail? John, Dorset

A) There was a lot that didn’t add up here and you certainly have no recollection of spending all your bank holiday on the phone.

With so many questions to be answered, it seemed strange for TalkTalk to close this case, and you felt that the firm was not listening to common sense.

With me on the case, TalkTalk opened it up again. It’s still not clear exactly what happened but the phone company finally listened, refunded you the hefty call charge, and credited you with a month’s line rental.

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