East Devon: two year house search for couple with £500k budget

A couple who have lived in Devon for 60 years say they are at the end of their tether because of the housing shortage. Even though they have £500,000 plus to spend they say they may be forced out of the area they know and love after a nightmare two years of searching for a home.

Colleen Smith www.devonlive.com

The couple who have been tenant farmers have saved all their lives for a retirement home but now find the property shortage in East Devon means they may end up having to move to Wales or Scotland.

The couple are in their 60s and were looking for a property in East Devon so that they could be close to work and carry on farming. They have told of being gazumped, viewings being cancelled at the last minute and finding estate agents refusing to let them even view.

“At this rate we could end up in a tent in a field,” the wife said. “The last straw was today when we had a viewing cancelled. The agent said the executors had taken an offer. How do they know we weren’t going to make a higher offer? I thought this morning ‘It’s a good job I’m not the suicidal type because I’m at the end of my tether and that cancellation would have finished me off’.

“I have phoned about houses in Sidmouth and been told ‘Sorry we’ve got 20 viewings and we’re not taking any more’. Other times you book an appointment and at the last minute they cancel it.

“My husband has lived here for nearly 60 years and farmed in East Devon all his life. We lived in the farmhouse and now we need to find a home for our retirement and we’ve not got a chance of finding a house here,” she said. “I’ve heard of gazumping happening where people accept an offer and then somebody else ups the offer by £25,000 to £30,000. It’s laughable.

“We looked at a house in Newton Poppleford that was £650,000 and found out that it had huge cracks and subsidence and needed gutting.”

Estate agents in East Devon said demand was 100 times higher than the number of houses available. At Stags in Honiton, partner Kevin Clarke confirmed the shortage: “I really do feel for this couple. There’s a lot of stressed buyers out there. We try and make a point of honouring all the viewings that are booked in because we know people are quite stressed. Our job is to achieve the best price for our client and to do that we need to market a house for a while. It’s easy to sell quickly but we need to sell it for the best price.

“There just aren’t that many properties available to buy at the moment, although this is improving now at the time of the year. The number of buyers is very high. We live in a beautiful part of the country and lots of people want to live here.”

At Wilkinson Grant in Topsham, Jenny Pickford said: “I have absolutely nothing to offer in that price range. Most of what we are dealing with is in the £700,000 plus price range. The demand is 100 times higher than it was and there just isn’t the housing stock available for people to buy.

“Prices do vary depending on where you are. In Exmouth you could get a lovely detached family home for £700k. In Topsham for the same price it would be more like a terrace with no parking in the part of the town with all the character properties.

“The market is still very good for sellers. High prices are being achieved and selling in excess of the guide prices. The good news is that we are seeing more new instructions coming in.”

She explained that vendors are often overwhelmed by the demand: “Some get 20 viewings booked in and they don’t want that amount of traffic through their house. It’s a really stressful experience having to sell your home. “