So, we began this section of advice with the table of influence. If you paid attention in class then whilst this section talks about emailing your solicitor you might be considering using the ‘CC’ line, or maybe even the ‘BCC’ line……., who knows how many people you might choose to ‘inform’!
Taking things off the table
You are one in one hundred thousand. No, really, you are.
Ok, stop blushing, that is not a chat up line. You are, based upon the average number of completions 1 in 100,000 others this month.
Now in all fairness at time of writing 10% are Buy-To-Letters and of the rest circa 20-25% are first time buyers and/or coming from a rental or out of storage. So if you are firmly in the ‘good golly I have 4 tonnes of stuff to get M&G move’ camp then in actual fact you are 1 in 67500 moving this month. Still fairly special? No, anything but.
Do you think that all the things you ‘would like’, or all the things you would ‘aim for’ are any different to anyone else? Is it likely that all the EA’s and Solicitors hear the same old requests, time after time? Of course it is.
Just like having heard the same things, day after day and knowing that based upon the previous decade and ‘x’ many thousand customers when it comes to it you’ll do as you’re told…….you can make all the requests you want. Ask for whatever you want. You an even do it with puppy dog eyes and a ‘please sir can I have some more’ voice but the truth is it is just white noise. Lost in a sea of others, all making noise.
So, how do we make your request different?
How do we make it so what you want, you get?
On a similar premise to a magicians misdirection you need to be the one who goes left, when all others are looking right.
We know that requests can be ignored, or rode over. However what if you tell your EA & Solicitor that you cannot do something. Actually remove the possibility……….
Now you’re getting it……..
Let’s use the example of the long distance move over two days with day one as completion day –
‘Dear Sir/Madam, as my solicitor in charge of securing the completion date may I advise you that it is impossible for us to complete on a Friday due to the move format being over two days with day one being completion day. We’re free to move on any of the other four days in the week.’
Job done. Note the use of the word ‘impossible’.
Now, imagine that you used the table of influence. In one email maybe 30-50% of the chain now know this. If your solicitor advises the one below and the one above alone then you could be up to 65% of the chain knowing this within half a day of you pressing send.
How about this one
Dear Sir / Madam
I am writing to advise that due to my contract of employment insisting that I give two weeks notice for my ‘home move day’ I must demand that we have a minimum of two full weeks inbetween exchange and completion. Moreover, it is impossible for us to move on a Friday. We can however have a completion day on any of the remaining 80% of the week.’
I sense the penny is dropping.
So now we’ve had ‘demand’ + ‘insist’ and ‘impossible’. In a paragraph pleasant, polite and succinct. No offense caused, just a legitimate requirment stated, clearly and fairly.
Here I am going to show you the version that you likely would have written if you’d not ever read this webpage.
Dear Sir / Madam
I am writing to advise that my employer states I have to give 2 weeks notice to book a ‘home move day off work’. I am hoping you can assist me in achieving this and therefore I am asking for 2 weeks notice of the moving day. Ideally we would like to avoid a Friday. We’re happy to move on any other day of the week.
I don’t need to say it do I?
In the example above I use the ‘home move clause’ from many employment contracts. Family members you’re counting on to help may be subject to this but in truth the reason could even be redirection of post, broadband installation or any one of tens of hundreds of other reasons. Or, if you’re like me you’d just write…
I am writing to advise that I absolutely will not countenance less than two calendar weeks inbetween exchange and completion. I have witnessed many thousands of stressed public and customers go through ridiculously short notice periods for moving home. I will not become one of them, not to mention many hundreds of instances of last minute gameplaying / gazundering / gazumping. Therefore I will refuse to discuss completion dates until such point that we’re almost ready to exchange. Please advise the solicitors either side and the EA that we will refuse to speculate on completion dates until this time.
We will come back later to the ideal of refusing to discuss completion dates until the time is right.
Combine taking things off the table with a utilisation of the table of influence and you’re in a very different position than the one you considered you were in when you sat down to read this.
It is at this point people are normally processing thoughts about this, leading to other thoughts of avoiding horror stories concerning last minute moves / being scared of upsetting ‘the professionals’ (that is the Soli and EA, NOT Bodie and Doyle – if you don’t know who Bodie and Doyle are ring your dad). And generally wondering if what I am preaching, teaching and leading you into will get you into trouble.
No. It won’t. It won’t make you any friends, that’s true, but in my opinion it won’t actually get you into trouble.
This far we’ve looked at the lines of communication, and we’ve looked at how to get certain requests taken seriously. The problem now though is that you’re the one going left while everyone else is going right. There still will be practices and ‘time honoured traditions’ getting in the way.
The last thing we want is you getting trampled by the herd, especially as you’ve done so well this far.
So, who’s gonna cock this up?
Estate Agents Desperate for a date.
Showing all the psychological & expectations management ability of a four year old trying to cajole friends into playing tag when all they really want to to is drink milk, estate agents think they’re helping by throwing dates around like confetti at a wedding. Constantly ‘managing the clients expectations’ to quote one EA I spoke to. ‘We have to do that keep things rolling along.’ Oh, really, do you now?
No. By the time somebody (and by ‘somebody’ we’re talking about maybe a real family, with hopes, plans, and pressures)has had four dates missed that they were all geared up for moving on, they’re no longer being ‘managed’. They’re firmly into the realms of being messed around. Multiply this by all the parties in the chain, talking to different agents and solicitors…….and very very quickly in the absence of sense the threats and bluffs make an appearance. An understandable desperation reaction from homeowners close to boiling point.
This is where it can go so, so bad one homeowner finally scream ‘enough!’ and pulls out. Then displaying all the usual cognitive dissonance the process is riddled with the ‘contract chaser’ (or 4) and even the solicitor sit back and say………..
Can’t be helped, sometimes this happens. That’s moving for you. Just one of those things
No it isn’t. It really isn’t.
It isn’t unheard of for ‘contract chasers’ / ‘sales negotiators’to start throwing dates out before certain parties mortgage offers have even been confirmed. Going back to the table can you imagine the overall volume of 4xEA’s all shouting the dates their clients want, or they say their client wants……….Volume perversely amplified by the vacuum created by the silence of the solicitors – we’ll come back to the vacuum later.
All of which means absolutely nothing if one party has told everybody else they are absolutely, completely, totally, solidly and certainly having two weeks in-between exchange and completion. They did so in writing and have refused point blank to engage in date speculation until such point that contracts are ready to exchange.
Kerplunk – that’s the sound of another penny dropping in your mind.
All of a sudden the completion day doesn’t matter to you. You know that completion will be 2 weeks minimum after exchange. Negotiating a completion date matters not a jot, only the exchange date matters. You can now afford to let any and all date discussion go in one ear, and out the other. Not touching any nerves or emotions on the way through.
The EA’s can push, shout, nudge and influence all they want. You however know full well that when it comes down to it you’ll end up looking at a date / discussing potential dates at least one week before exchange therefore @3 weeks before the big day.
How chilled does that sound!
Why are they cocking this up?
So, you’re the first time buyer, oh so keen. You’ve saved up and want your first home and you have just had the offer accepted. The ‘sales negotiator’ has just answered your question with ‘six to eight weeks’. Your question was ‘So how long before I am in?’
The last data I saw this year was the same as last year. Data that matched what we’ve known for 15-20 years, The average offer to completion time-scale is 12-13 weeks.
Let me use the words to write that again – twelve to thirteen weeks.
Yet week in, week out, year on year we’re talking to thousands of people who are told ‘six to eight weeks’. Is it any wonder that people in a chain are, after 4 weeks asking for a moving date? And this is where the fun starts, dates get suggested, dates get missed, suggested, missed. And with every missed date so the frustation, angst and annoyance grows. The pressure in the pot increases.
This is the short version of how people end up having threats made ‘if they’re not out by this Thursday I’m pulling out.’
You can have one party who has been repeatedly misled by the agent who is ‘managing their expectations’ who ends up thoroughly fed up and believing it is the vendors ‘dragging their feet’ or ‘messing around’ or even worse they believe the vendors are ‘deliberately delaying’. See what happens is that the total absence of honest information allied to the repeated building up and disappointment creates a vacuum where there should be accurate information into which speculation accumulates.
The ‘contract chaser’ at the EA is unlikely to admit ‘6-8 weeks’ is rubbish after having ‘promised’ that early on. Definitely unlikely to admit that they were stringing you along each time, in their mind to stop you having the rage explosion that is now sure to come anyway. It is truly daft.
So into that vacuum the honest people moving insert their own speculation like ‘I’ll bet they’re holding out for a better offer’ or ‘I bet they’ve changed their mind’. They then say this to the agent who just says ‘Oh I’m sure that isn’t the case’ Which doesn’t help and doesn’t address the real reason the vacuum opened up in the first place.
I have seen this personally. I have actually met people with all these concerns. The astonishment on their face when I have said ‘actually, your vendors feel that way about you’ is always amusing. The astonishment quickly turns quizzical, then quizzical turns to curiosity and at this point I normally end up explaining what is written above.
I haven’t yet mentioned about the solicitors either and how their communication can further blight things.
Shall we have a quick look? Sounds like a plan
you : estate agent said we should be able to complete in 3 weeks, is that possible?
Solicitor : that is technically possible. I cannot make guarantees but it could happen
you : ok, thanks, that has put my mind at rest
So, what happened there? Nothing, that’s what!
You might have asked
you : The estate agent said Coco the clown might clean my house top to bottom for me next week
Solicitor : that is technically possible. I cannot make guarantees but it could happen
you : ok, thanks, that has put my mind at rest
I could get sillier if it helps?
You could however have said this
you : The estate agent said we could complete in three weeks. Could you please inform me what at our end is outstanding preventing us from exchanging in that time-frame and if you’re aware of how well progressed the other parties are? What chances would you give of us being able to exchange within the next 7-10 days?
That does however mean you’d end up going back to the EA and saying this
STOP SPECULATING. We’re not even in a position to think about exchanging yet!
The actual accurate, blow by blow on this I will one day write citing how each party further wrecks things with speculation and a less than empathetic approach along the way. For now though this is enough to highlight why following the table of influence advice and concentrating on the exchange date is the right, chilled out way to approach this.
Do you know some Estate Agents on the memorandum of sale are actually daft enough to put an ‘anticipated completion date’. Now think about that for a moment. At this point all you have had is somebody you know nothing about make an offer, and you said yes.
You or they could have a major operation planned, or a round the world cruise. You might have a buyer who is a complete fantasist, a total Walter Mitty. Nobody knows anything about the transaction or each other. Nobody knows how busy the solicitors are, or at that point even how long local searches are taking, or how efficient/inefficient everybody involved is . And yet somebody, from somewhere just pulled an ‘anticipated completion date’ out of thin air (or out of somewhere else I can’t mention). They don’t even know the chain length at this point.
Why? I can tell you why
‘managing their expectations’
Truly mental. Can you imagine how that sets people up for disappointment?
You can imagine the innocent couple, just had an offer accepted and the piece of paper confirming it TELLS them when they are moving in. Yep, it’s on a letterhead from the professionals. They now KNOW when they’re moving.
‘But we only put ‘anticipated’ so the coy looking agents cry.’
‘You know full f%^king well what you’re doing.’ says I.
This couple; It isn’t their fault that they get angry when this date floats by in a sea of mumbling and vague reassurances. Let alone the second or third time.
Remember from earlier, WHITE NOISE
You will also note hopefully the critical importance of language.
The sea of white noise is made up of the same requests, hopes, desires, P’s & Q’s. And, dare I say it complete, total and utter bulls%&t.
What I am suggesting for you is that you dispense not with the politeness, nor the courtesy but with the chinks of light through which a ‘Sales Negotiator’ or Solicitor can drive a huge 40Tonne truck. That you shut your ears to the pointless noise. Concentrate on you, and the moments within the process you can trust. In your communication early on;
‘If possible’ becomes ‘I must insist’
‘Do you think we can’ becomes ‘ I am instructing that we’
We need to make it such that your demands are the demands in first, that everyone else in the chain will need to work to. You set the tone, the pace. You create a structure. Yes, I know you’re paying out a lot of money and this stuff should be all done for you, but, :insert big sigh here: if that was the case there wouldn’t be the thousands of stories and it wouldn’t be accepted wisdom that moving is stressful. Plus, as we have now seen, a well planned move is a move without the stress. Well planned is notice period, time-frame and a lack of last minute shenanigans.
‘But isn’t that selfish?’ I hear you cry.
No. Setting aside the fact that if nobody says anything nothing will get done until one person from the EA or Solicitors will make a phonecall…..
You’re going to like this
The chain is almost at the point whereby dates can be discussed. In theory the homeowners should be asked when they’d like to move;
Hi, Mrs Smith? It it’s Jess from the EA’s office here. We’ve been informed that your chain is close to being able to exchange contracts. It is now time to discuss moving dates. Thinking 3-5 weeks hence are there any dates you cannot do, or that you would specifically like?
That is what should happen. However, this is what does happen;
Hi, Mrs Smith? It it’s Jess from the EA’s office here. We’ve been informed that your chain is close to being able to exchange contracts. It has been muted that Friday 27th is a good day. I am presuming you are ok with that?
Lovely language. Mrs Smith hardly wants to say no. Who came up with that date? Nobody but the EA. Why? Well it is more efficient, faster and hugely easier just to sway the chain. The next phonecall ‘Jess’ makes is to the buyer of Mrs Smiths’ property
Hi, Mrs Jones? It’s Jess from the EA here. Great News Mrs Jones, we’re all set for completion on the 27th. Mrs Smith has confirmed she’s all ready and raring to go for that date and we’re not expecting any problems anywhere else in the chain. I presume you’re happy too with the 27th?
OOH, She’s a clever one, but she has another call to make yet. Right now Mrs Smith thinks the 27th had already been decided. Mrs Jones does too.
Jess now calls the EA acting for the home Mrs Smith is buying.
Hi, how are you. You know the chain with the Smith and Jones (see what I did there?) well they’re both ready to exchange assuming your client can meet the 27th. They’ve both decided that is the date they want……
Three phonecalls instead of 3 hours work back and forth negotiating………. Garnished with a wafer thin threat that if that client doesn’t meet the 27th there may be problems…..
Somebody has to start the process, but it absolutely should be somebody who is actually moving, rather than on a commission from the sale! If you think of a chain of three you will have somebody at the bottom likely out of rented or a first timer, then the middle party and then top of chain.
Top and bottom have one thing in common, a lack of date pressure in comparison to number 2. Think about it. Top of chain = deceased or into store or maybe into care etc. There can be no pressure from above them. Similarly the bottom party, if say out of parent or rental = no absolute necessity to physically move on completion day. Their respective psychological, financial and physical positions are completely different to the middle party.
The second party in the chain of three has to move on completion day. They have no overlap. No wiggle room.
Would it be unfair for them to call the shots? More to the point, are they in a position far more influential than the others?
Yes, they are. Think about that table of influence.
They can directly communicate both up, and down the entire chain. They can send a request, or a demand both ways at the same time. Bottom cannot communicate with top, and vice versa. The middle party is in a hugely more influential position.
It’s just the way it is. And it also just so happens that they most certainly have the moral high ground given all factors.
There can be 2, 4, 6 or 8 or any number in a chain. Everybody is NOT in the same position,
Think about not only where you are, but where others are too.
Shall we move on to completion day? Here is Page 3