Vera and Arnie walked back into the sales office.
"What did you think? asked the sales negotiator just finishing off another mouthful of her lunch. "Bloody hell" thought Arnie, "she's still eating her soddin' lunch." He glanced at his watch. Vera and he had been in the house for the best part of half an hour and she was still eating!
"It's lovely" said Vera, also rattling off a string of things that had impressed her. "And I do like the fire and fireplace — we didn't have those in our last couple of houses."
"What plots are still available of the Winsmead?"
The sales negotiator invited Vera and Arnie into her office, offering them a seat. "Sorry" she said, "my name is Christine Boar" as she held out her hand to shake hands with her visitors. Vera and Arnie duly shook hands with Christine while Arnie introduced his wife and then himself. Vera scowled at Arnie as she saw the sales woman wring her hand after he shook hands with her. He had a habit of gripping people's hands just a bit too tightly at times; but as usual he just ignored Vera's silent rebuke and turned to look at the sales woman, but not before checking the need to wipe any residue of her lunch from his hand. As he looked up again, he couldn't help but be distracted by what was piled on the desk in front of the sales woman. She had two huge pieces of cake, one of which had a large bite taken from it.
'Bloody pig' he thought to himself, 'she certainly had an appropriate surname'. Arnie had a reasonable appetite, as anybody else was entitled; but she just abused the privilege.
"Did you want to finish your lunch?" asked Arnie.
"Oh no, that's all right replied Christine, eyeing up the pieces of cake as she answered. She rummaged through some paperwork to search for the information to answer Vera's question about plot availability. "At the moment, we have one Winsmead virtually ready: plot number 6 and there are two more plots further up that haven't been released yet."
"Where is plot 6?" asked Arnie.
"Let me show you on the site plan out there", replied Christine as she pointed to the large glass topped table that Vera and Arnie had walked past when they entered the sales office. All three stood up from their chairs and the sales woman led her customers out to the site plan.
"Right, we're in here" as she pointed at one of two semi-detached houses on the plan "and plot 6 is just opposite." After looking across the road, Arnie restored his attention to the site plan.
"So it's overlooked to the rear" remarked Arnie.
"Yes" said the sales woman, "but all plots come with 1.8 metre high boundary fences" — as if that were likely to appease anyone who made such an observation. 'Of course, from a first floor window, you can't see over a six feet high fence, can you?' thought Arnie as he shook his head.
"Where are the other two plots that haven't been released yet?" asked Arnie as he glanced over the plan.
The sales woman pointed further along the road at plots 14 and 15: "Just here."
Arnie looked and quickly noticed that plot 15 did not appear to be overlooked by anything. "What's this area here?" he asked while pointing at a blank area to the rear of plot 15 on the plan.
The sales woman paused momentarily while she looked at the plan and replied: "Oh, that's the garden to the existing development."
"OK" said Arnie "and when is plot 15 due for release?"
"It's not on any schedule yet" replied the sales woman. "I would need to check with head office on Monday."
Arnie looked back at the plan, scrutinizing plots 15 and 14 in relation to the existing properties. He turned to Vera and said "plot 15 is definitely the best option and maybe plot 14 if 15 is no good for any other reason." Vera agreed.
To the left of the plan, there was a group of other buildings that appeared to have no annotations indicating what they were. "What is that group of buildings?" asked Arnie pointing to the area that had caught his attention.
"Oh, that's the old abbey" replied the sales negotiator. "As part of the second phase of the development, we are converting it into eight luxury apartments. We've used the abbey to sort of provide the name of the development — Abbot's Green" she declared proudly.
"I see what you've there" said Arnie, partly sarcastically to knock back what he detected as false pride.
Returning to his original topic of conversation with Christine, Arnie said: "If we were to go ahead, the only one's in which we'd be interested are plots 15 or possibly 14 — unless anything better is likely to be released before they are."
"There definitely won't be any others released before those" she replied. "All the rest are much later in the phase and they haven't even dug out the foundations for them yet."
"Understood" said Arnie. "When would we be able to take a look at plots 15 and 14, so that we can make a more informed decision… I don't want to enter into a purchase without first having seen to what we would be committing early in the process".
"That shouldn't be a problem. Let me just check my site manager, Colin's calendar to see when might be a good time for you to make a plot visit during the week" said Christine.
Christine led Vera and Arnie back into her office and invited them to sit, once again. She reached behind her for a clipboard onto which she clipped a sheet of paper. "Would you mind just filling that out for me please?" as she handed it to Arnie. As he did so, the sales woman logged back into her computer and checked the site manager's calendar.
He looked at the paper and quickly recognized it as a sales lead form. He was used to these from his own days in sales, albeit not selling to Joe Public — only B2B. While she was writing the reminder to herself, she casually asked: "Have you got a property to sell?"
"We have sold subject to contract, so we're under a bit of pressure to find somewhere fairly quickly", he replied.
"We have got plots 9 to 12 that are already released if you're looking to move fairly quickly, but there aren't any Winsmeads among them. They're 3‐bedroom homes" she continued.
"Those would be too small" said Arnie. "I know we're looking to downsize, but going from five bedrooms to three is too much reduction" as he answered the last few sections on the lead form.
Arnie completed the lead form and asked:" How much are plots 14 and 15?" He had a rough idea from the website, but just wanted confirmation.
"They're both £310,000" replied Christine as she took the lead form from Arnie.
"That's less than I thought" he said, not speaking to anyone in particular.
Vera and Arnie were not green behind the ears — and having bought three new build properties before, knew that there were deals to be had; you didn't have to pay full asking price. When they originally bought the place they had just 'sold', they part‐exchanged their previous home, but in a real departure from the norm, Arnie had even secured an additional £5,000 discount.
"If you're saying that the plots aren't released yet, could we put down a reservation to secure our interest in the plot, but withdraw if the release is too far in the future" asked Arnie. "With one of our previous houses, we reserved and bought on an early-bird reservation."
"Yes, we run a similar scheme" replied Christine
"How much would you need for us to reserve?" asked Arnie.
The sales woman replied that she would need a cheque for £500 and that if the sale proceeded, the same amount would be credited towards payment of the final purchase price. "I've just checked Colin's calendar and it looks like you could visit on Wednesday this week. He doesn't have any appointments in the afternoon, so if I made an appointment for 2.00pm, would that be convenient?"
"Yes that would be fine" replied Arnie. "To whom do I need to make out the cheque?" he continued as he filled in the cheque stub and the rest of the details on the cheque.
"Gulesrank Homes, please" answered Christine. While Arnie was writing the cheque, Christine had started writing some details about the transaction on the company's Reservation Form, anticipating receiving a cheque from the couple.
"OK, thanks", said Arnie. While he completed the rest of the cheque, he casually asked "Given that we are cash buyers, what is your best price for plot 15?" The house buyers knew only too well that good deals could be had by cash buyers.
"Oh, all the previous plots sold at the full asking price" replied Christine, "so I can't do anything on the price at all."
Vera and Arnie immediately turned to look at one another, with Arnie's expression implicitly asking Vera what she wanted to do.
Vera was just about to answer Arnie's tacit 'question' when Christine interjected. She had clearly spotted that her customers were 'wriggling' while being hooked. "But, let me see what I can do" she continued.
As she said this, she started writing down various items as she recited them aloud: "carpets and vinyl throughout, turf to rear garden, fire and surround". These were the items that Christine was able to throw in as 'incentives to buy' because she said was 'unable' to move on price. These 'incentives' were dependent on exchange of contracts taking place on or before the 2nd September 2013.
While she was completing the Reservation Form, she also asked Vera and Arnie about their financial situation, i.e. whether or not they would be applying for a mortgage. Without the sales woman noticing, Arnie rolled his eyes to the ceiling: had he not just told her that they would be cash buyers? "No, as I just told you — we would be cash buyers" he said impatiently.
"Oh, so you did" said Christine, "sorry". She continued: "will you be using your own solicitor, because we find that if you use one that we recommend, the whole process goes much more smoothly".
"Yeah, I bet you do" thought Arnie as he glanced towards his wife. "No it's OK thanks. Our solicitor is quite thorough. He won't be rushed and will look after our interests very well rather than some outfit we don't know!"
Christine looked up from writing to cast Arnie as disdainful look as she dare. Arnie didn't miss that. "That's fine" said the sales woman, as she crossed out the name of Gulesrank's preferred solicitor from the form. Do you know your solicitor's contact details by any chance?"
"Of course". He reached into his pocket for his iPhone and read out the contact details from the Contacts app.
Christine completed the remaining sections on the form and passed it to Arnie, requesting his and Vera's signatures. Afterwards, she signed the form herself and thumbed through the multiple copies to find the one marked 'Customer Copy'. She gently separated this from the other three copies and handed it to Arnie. "Thanks" he said.
At this stage, what Vera and Arnie did not know was that Christine had lied to them. Of the seven identically styled Winsmead houses that she had sold previously, she had sold four at up to £10,000 off full asking price. By lying, she had breached the Property Misdescriptions Act ('PMA') 1991. Although the act would become repealed in October 2013, her statements were still a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations ('CPRs') 2008 which replaced the PMA to provide protection for home buyers from unscrupulous traders/sellers.
Unbeknown to Arnie, over the forthcoming 18 months, he would develop an intimate knowledge of the various prohibitions that made up the CPR.
As they had no reason to disbelieve what Christine had told them — and certainly no way to check, Vera and Arnie accepted what they were told and the various 'freebies' she'd thrown into the deal. At this, the couple gathered up their belongings and stood up to leave.
"Oh, there are a couple more things" remembered the sales woman. "Could you let me have a copy of the memorandum of sale of your property?" Arnie didn't give it much thought, guessing it would just be verification that they were in a position to proceed. He agreed to email it through to her and asked her to write down her email address for him. "The other thing is that if you log into our website, you can view the various choices of finishes to kitchen units and other options; so it would be worth doing that before your next visit" exclaimed the sales woman.
"Thanks, we'll do that" said Arnie, after which everybody said their 'good-byes'.
Arnie opened the door for Vera and the two walked out to the car park. They felt a mix of emotions: relieved at the possibility of having found a really good house, slightly tinged with disappointment that they hadn't been able to negotiate the asking price down.
Arnie unlocked the car and opened the front passenger door for Vera, closing it once she had made herself comfortable. He then walked around to the driver's side of the car, opened the back door and dropped his day book and other belongings on the back seat. Closing the back door, he quickly opened the driver's door, sat in, closed the door and started the engine.
During the journey home, the conversation was entirely about the new house and the possibilities open to them.
When they arrived home, Arnie asked Vera to make some coffee. "I'll email that woman a copy of the memorandum of sale, while you make the drinks" said Arnie, to reinforce his justification for asking his wife to make the brew.