Monday, October 11, 2010

Forget the lawn mower....

They've even taken the #?x!@x lawn! Now house sellers really are stripping their homes bare before handing over the keys

Last updated at 12:31 PM on 11th October 2010
The carpets are ripped up, switches torn from walls and there are no light fittings, let alone light bulbs. Naked wires hang from the ceilings. There isn't even a toilet-roll holder. Most of the heating oil has been drained from the tank. 
This isn't a squalid bedsit, far from it. This was the scene that greeted a couple when they sold their shipping business in Hong Kong and retired back to Britain to live in a £500,000 farmhouse near Totnes, a historical market town in South Devon. 
The sellers were a couple in their mid-50s who had fallen on hard times. The husband had been made redundant from his banking job and, desperate to claw back money and sell fast, had agreed to an offer 15 per cent below the asking price  -  and begrudged every penny he lost. 
Packing up: But some sellers are taking more than their washing machines
Packing up: But some sellers are taking more than their washing machines
'The negotiations caused enormous friction and, ultimately, they felt cheated,' says Jonathan Haward, chairman of The County Homesearch Company. 'It's not that they were especially attached to that light bulb or drop of oil; it was a jostling pole in their retaliation.' 
Countless families are having similar experiences when they buy a house. Around one in every five homebuyers arrives at their new place to discover fittings they expected to keep have been ripped out  -  from brass doorknobs and plastic light switches to dahlias, wheelie bins and pre-Victorian toilet seats. In some cases, even lawns have been torn up. 
More surprisingly, seven out of ten homebuyers will find themselves embroiled in petty wrangling over certain fixtures. 
That is exactly what happened when estate agent Paul Finnegan was hired to sell a Victorian-style mansion near Windsor, set in 35 acres of countryside. He had no shortage of would-be buyers. The piece de resistance, in the outskirts of the grounds, was a smart putting green complete with bunkers. 
'The man selling was a golf fanatic and played every evening,' says Paul. 'He was so desperate to keep this bit of green, he knocked five per cent off the asking price so he could take it with him,'  -  which is a rather pricey patch of grass given that the palatial pile sold for £3million. 
'Dramatic stand-offs about seeming trifles are all too common these days,' adds Paul, who, as a partner of Savills based in the Mayfair branch, has seen the most well-heeled of haggles. He recently oversaw a scuffle regarding the price of a £2million palatial estate. The seller eventually caved in  -  but only if he could take the koi carp from the lake, worth thousands of pounds. 
Stripped bare: Some house sellers are even taking their lawns with them
Stripped bare: Some house sellers are even taking their lawns with them
House-stripping, as it is known, has been a problem for buyers since the 1990s when people took hot-water boilers, brass light fittings and radiators. Many sold them on as scrap metal because copper prices were high. over the past year, property stripping has seen a surprising resurgence. 
'Vendors don't have the choice of buyers that they used to: asking prices are unrealistically high and buyers are negotiating astronomical discounts,' says Tim Hammond, chief executive of the Homebuyer Centre. 'To claw back pennies, they're taking absolutely everything they can.

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