The seller said the cooker was included.

“The seller said the cooker was included.”

If I hear it once, I hear it a dozen times; “The seller said….” It doesn’t matter what it is. You can be certain that such a remark is a prelude to a potential dispute. You can be equally certain that where there is a dispute, there is a delay. For me, parties to a conveyancing transaction arguing with each other is one of the biggest causes of delay.

Think about it. The seller and the selling agent are working towards a common goal –  finding and securing a buyer. There is a temptation to say things that a potential buyer wants to hear. This is human nature. Equally, buyers try to exploit whatever advantage they may have. After all, a seller only has one property to sell, whereas a buyer can offer to purchase any number of properties. So, there is a temptation for buyers to ask for concessions that in an ideal world a seller would not make. And that’s the point. Conveyancing does not take place in an ideal world. It takes place in a human one.

When the agent sends out the confirmation of sale, practically nothing has been agreed between the parties. The sale is subject to satisfactory survey, subject to legal searches, subject to finance being available. The seller has not completed a fittings and contents list. In reality all the buyer has said is, “I’d like to buy your property” and the seller, “I’m willing to sell it”. Prices get re-negotiated and so too do other terms like what is, or is not, included in the sale. The parties to the transaction need to understand this.

There is no point in going “nose to nose and toe to toe” over whether or not a second-hand cooker is included in the sale. The parties are spending thousands of pounds on agents’ fees, legal costs and possibly stamp duty. A cooker may at best have a replacement value of no more than a few hundred pounds. When a buyer says, “The seller said the cooker was included”, the buyer’s lawyer has to challenge the seller’s lawyer, who then has to ask the seller whether or not this is so. The seller then needs to decide whether or not the cooker is included and then confirm their decision back to their lawyer. The seller’s lawyer then has to relate the seller’s decision to the buyer’s lawyer, who can then confirm to the buyer what the seller has decided. What happens when the seller’s decision is unacceptable to the buyer? The process may be repeated in the hope of a different outcome. The buyer may decide the cooker has become a deal breaking issue. In the meantime the seller has mentally moved out of his house, the buyer has mentally moved in and neither party can understand why there is a problem. All the while, the parties continue to pay mortgages, rents and other outgoings on their current accommodation, which will cost each party hundreds of pounds a week.

The moral of the story is don’t believe everything you are told at the outset of a transaction. Expect the terms of the sale and purchase to change. The parties have not agreed anything until exchange of contracts has taken place. Up until then, the parties can play “ducks and drakes” with one another. If the cooker was meant to be included, it will be; if it wasn’t, decide if the delay costs less than buying a replacement.