Daily archives: May 21, 2010

Estate Agent Ethics

I am having a fraught time with my attempted house move. It is so strange that I thought I would blog about it. The strangeness may be only a product of the years since I last bought a house.

I saw a lovely old home – a Grade 2 listed building, very dilapidated – earlier this week. It was advertised at 289,995, and I put in a bid of 275,000. The agent told me that a cash offer of 250,000 was already in, and that the seller was inclined to accept it for a quick sale. The house ad, he said, been repossessed. In these cases, the rule was that no offer was accepted until contracts were completed.

That sounded very unpleasant and I wished I was in Scotland where the law enforces some honour. But even more strangely, the estate agent said he had no idea if it was a listed building, and went on to deny my suggestion it had at some stage been converted to flats, despite the fact that it has three floors, each with its own recently but horribly installed kitchen and bathroom.

A phone call to the council confirmed it is indeed a listed building and it appears there was no permission for those changes, though I have to visit the Council to make certain of that last. But my several contacts with the estate agent since then have left me with the strong impression that they have a real desire not to sell to me.

In short, what they have said to me is that the 250,000 cash offer is going through, and they will not inform the seller of my higher offer unless I can show the cash. I have said I will be able to show the cash within seven days. They have said that if I show the cash before the 250,000 transaction goes through, they will tell the seller about me. But otherwise not.

That seems to me crazy. I should have thought even a corporate seller would want to know somebody had offered 25,000 more, and be given the option of waiting a very few days to see if he could show the money. The house has only been on the market a fortnight.

This is my email exchange with the estate agent today:


I presume my 275,000 remains the best offer?

I today paid over 125,000 in cheques into my current account for the

deposit. These will take a few days to clear.

I have a second meeting with my bank (Natwest) on Tuesday morning to

finalise the offer in principle. So the finance will be fully in place

before the end of next week.

I have instructed, and paid, Mr … to carry out a structural


Please inform me of any developments.

Craig Murray

Afternoon Craig,

Thanks for your email.

We cannot put your offer forward to our corporate client till we have seen the following documents

Agreement in principle from your bank

proof of deposit

Kind Regards

Incidentally, the house plainly has not been a happy family home for many years so I don’t have qualms about buying a repossession.

Am I being paranoid? I have half convinced myself the estate agent is trying to sell for 250,000 to a local developer they know, avoiding stamp duty, not advertising the listed building status and suppressing higher bids. Or is this all innocent and normal?

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Fox Hunting et al

I am writing an important letter to William Hague on his proposed inquiry into torture (via my MP to make sure an FCO bureaucrat does not bury it). I am marshalling my evidence but trying to keep it short, plain and unemotional.

So no energy or time for significant blogging today. Some thoughts to keep people going.

I am staunchly against fox-hunting. In my youth I was in the Hunt Saboteurs Association and remember great fun laying aniseed trails to disrupt otter hunts somewhere near Kings Lynn. I would happily do that again. I supported the ban on fox-hunting.

But I have changed my mind. I still strongly oppose fox-hunting, but I no longer think it should be illegal. New Labour changed my mind. They opened my eyes to the dangers of authoritarianism and the criminalisation of numerous activities. The mind that will ban protest outside parliament and make it illegal to photograph a policeman or railway station, is a mind seeking to abuse the power of the state.

New Labour convinced me that excessive state power is a real evil to weigh in the balance when considering how to deal with any issue. I consider fox hunting an ill, but state interference a greater ill. Any liberal should believe that the state should interfere in liberty as a last resort.

Other forms of social sanction can and should be deployed against fox hunters. Social disapprobation, ridicule, protest, peaceful disruption. But is the crushing hand of the state really required? No, I don’t think it is.

The same goes in my view for the smoking ban. I don’t smoke and hate cigarette smoke, But should it be illegal in pubs and restaurants, which are private property? No.

Lights blue touchpaper and goes back to his letter to William Hague…

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