26 August 2009
Published at 23:25 Comments (0)
26th Aug 2009
At the start of this blog I stated that I would not be naming names and shaming people, except when I felt it was necessary. Well, surprise, surprise, today we seem to have got that far.
Today I buried my best friend so, as I am sure you can appreciate, I am not in the best of humours. But be that as it may, the OH and myself decided that a few days away might not be a bad idea and what better use to put the time to than a jaunt over to Almeria to look at the few properties that have caught our eye and to visit the wonderful people (yes, I do mean you Bruce, Marion, Dennis, et al) who have helped us not waste our money thus far.
So, I fired off a few emails to various agents that I had had contact with about their prospective properties to let them know we were going to be in the area and wanted to ‘take a look’.
Imagine my surprise when one of them, Homes Almeria, responded with the reply that the one property that we had expressed great and sincere interest in was ‘subject to contract’ as per next Monday. The first I’d heard of it!
I had contacted them back at the beginning of August expressing an interest in one of their properties and , having had an exchange of telephone calls and emails, shortly afterwards I had sent them the following:
I have spoken with my lawyers and their advice to me is the following:
I will need to make an appointment with the architect at the town hall to discuss whether they will allow the house to be legalised.
For this meeting I will need ALL of the documentation on the property (escritura, IBI reciepts, licences, utility bills and other receipts, drawings/plans etc.) including an up to date Nota-simple.
If the town hall is agreeable and there is no open file of infraction on the property there is a reasonable chance that the property can be legalised.
Are you able to supply the necessary documentation for me to do this?
Can you let me know as soon as possible so that I can then arrange the meeting and, of course, view the property at the same time.
Subject to all of this I will then be happy to proceed with the purchase and we would then need to discuss the terms and conditions of this.
Now slap me with a kipper if I’m wrong but I think that that is a pretty positive, unequivocal message of interest in the property, however ‘illegal’ it may be. The response from the agents was that any available paperwork, reading between the lines that meant not very much, would be made available to me when needed and I replied with the requested, expanded, definition of ‘terms and conditions’ as follows:
I am surprised that there are no IBI payments, these should be made on any plot of land, built or not. If these are outstanding, as will be shown on the Nota-Simple, your client will be responsible for paying them and any fines that may have accrued.
By terms and conditions I mean the following:
I am quite willing to pay the asking price. However, at the moment, all that legally exists is a plot of land with illegal buildings on it.
If given the go ahead from the town hall I would propose this:
We draw up a private compraventa whereby I place the purchase price in an escrow account with the Notary and the release of this money to the sellers will be dependent upon me obtaining full legal paperwork on the plot and the house.
I will cover the cost of the paperwork needed to legalise the house. I will also cover the demolition/reform costs should such be necessary.
Should the seller wish to pull out of the sale before completion they would refund ALL costs which I have incurred on the property.
Should it turn out that the property can not be legalised for any reason the escrow account will revert to me, the seller will reimburse me for my legal costs but I will absorb the demolition/reform costs that I have incurred.
Should I wish to pull out of the sale before completion the escrow account will revert to me, I will absorb both the legal and demolition/reform costs and will pay the seller a fair rent for the elapsed time period.
In the event of completion the seller will be responsible for paying the Plusvalia.
This message met with no response whatsoever, until today when, in reply to my email requesting a viewing of the property, I received a message stating that it was likely to be sold within the week and furthermore that my proposal (above) was not an offer nor was it accepted, this is of course true, but they, not having responded to it, in any way shape or form, gave me no idea that it was, or was not, being considered. Until today.
Do I have recourse? I’m not sure. I can certainly write about it, and next week visit their office to express my disgust in person, I can, even, contact the owners of the property, having obtained a nota-simple myself via the net, and question them as regards the actions (or lack of them) of their appointed agents, but that’s about it.
All in all it’s not been a good day.
And one last thing, for those of you who have read the rest of this blog, the quote from the real estate agent that I posted in Early August was from this selfsame agent, if it doesn’t make you wonder then it sure does me!
And one last ponder before the sun sets, if agents, such as this, have neither the interests of sellers nor buyers of property at heart then what are they there for?
I´m sincerely starting to wish that I had never opened this can of worms, but guess what? Next week I´m going to be looking at Bank Repos as well, God help me!
25 August 2009
Published at 12:22 Comments (0)
25 Aug 2009
My apologies for the brief hiatus, a very close friend has just lost his battle against cancer and my attention has been, understandably I hope, drawn away from house buying.
Mike Wilkinson 6-10-59 / 24-08-09 R.I.P.
As an aside, anyone on the Costa del Sol who is in a charitable frame of mind could do a lot worse than supporting Cudeca, a fantastic organisation helping terminal cancer sufferers, who need all the help that they can get.
But, as they say, back to business.
Unfortunately I once again have to rage against estate agents. I was contacted last week by a friend who had seen a property advertised that she thought might suit us and very kindly sent us through the details.
During a quick scan of the net I came across the selfsame property being touted by no less than three agents and here’s the strange thing, each of the property descriptions were completely different. The only thing they could seem agree upon was the photos or, I must admit, I would have been difficult to convince that they were indeed talking about the same place.
Is it now 3 bedrooms or 5? 1 or 2 bathrooms? 200, 800 or 1000 square meters of ground? Don’t ask me! Confused? I certainly am.
Of course, and I should be used to this by now, the emails I fired off requesting more information came back, how shall I put this delicately, less than satisfying, perhaps?
But what struck me is this, how is it possible that one property can be written about in such widely differing ways? Are there no standards? I mean how difficult can it be to count rooms, surely not something you need a degree in advanced mathematics to do correctly and a tape measure is, I am reliably assured, not an instrument of high level technology.
I believe that we are all aware of the poetic licence taken by agents when their somewhat flowery description of a properties charms tend to hijack their common sense and ones ability to read between the lines becomes honed by countless repetitions of meaningless praising of views and locations but please, why should accuracy be totally thrown out of the window when it comes to such a simple thing as the number of rooms? Is it possible that they think that we cannot count either?
And now we come to the serious point. If an agent cannot or will not represent a property accurately how on earth can they expect me, the prospective purchaser, to take a single word that they say with anything other than a very large pinch of salt?
A Simple Note!
14 August 2009
Published at 14:09 Comments (0)
Did I say waiting for birthday cards to arrive? This is birthday, Christmas and holidays all rolled into one.
Just about half an hour after furnishing my request to the Registro up pops their reply, a Nota Simple Informativa in all its glory.
I have managed to do in less than 24 hours (and in the middle of the holiday season) what no estate agent has done for me to date despite repeated requests. If it were possible, my low opinion of this ilk would be even lower. Where the personal visit to the actual Registro involved? Where the 48 hour wait? If I hadn´t taken it upon myself to visit the local office, this could have been done and dusted yesterday without my bum having to be lifted from my nice comfy chair. Words, as I´m sure they will be glad to hear, fail me (or at least publishable ones).
But anyway, to the document now in hand.
Does it tell me everything I want to know? Well actually no it doesn´t, as the (English) Notices and Warnings informs me, only a Registry Certificate will tell me about third-party liens on the place.
What it does do, however, is give me more information than I had (I told you I was an information junkie) and, what is more important, it confirms as correct the information of which I was already in possession.
One step forward along the road!
To understand the contents fully will take a little time but if anybody out there can tell me what IDUFIR means that would be a start.
Update: Found it. the IDUFIR is the unique identifier of any registered property in Spain (a property DNI, if you will) See Glossary for link to explanation (in Spanish).
Registering with the Registro
14 August 2009
Published at 13:02 Comments (2)
Those of you who have been following this little escapade closely will have spotted that I mentioned the on-line access to the property register (for those of you that missed it, it´s in the post entitled Glossary) which can be done considerably cheaper yourself than involving one of the many third parties who seem to have no shame in charging you up to 10 times what it actually costs to get a copy of the, arguably, most important document going when it comes to buying a house in Spain, a Nota-Simple (when I actually get my hands on one of these little beauties I shall do a post dedicated to it)
Let me digress for a moment.
It is a well known fact, to those that know it, that when you actually, really, really get round to buying a property you gather in hallowed silence and with bated breath (in case someone should pull out or something go wrong at the last minute) at the Notaries office and sign a document called an Escritura and hand over your cash. That´s it. Job Done. The place is yours! Wrong, wrong and thrice wrong.
It is not until the original of this document (and the one you get to take home is stamped Copia-Simple and ain´t worth the expensive paper it´s printed on) is submitted to and registered with the Registro de Propiedades that your title to the property is ensured. This may, in the immortal words of Captain Scott, ´Take some time´.
Anyway, the extract from this register, which in Spanish law is the ultimate arbiter of the legal status of a property is called a Nota-Simple, such a simple name for such an important piece of paper. Those of you who have read a little more of this blog will know that I am, just a little, fixated on this, apparently, simple note because, as yet, I have yet to see one.
But back to the story in hand.
Where was I ?
Ah yes, castigating organisations who take advantage of peoples ignorance in order to earn themselves an easy buck. Well let me tell you, in this particular situation, there´s no need to fall foul of this despicable trade in licit knowledge. And ´por que´ I hear you ask. It goes like this:
Go onto the Registro website https://www.registradores.org/registroVirtual. Click on ´how to subscribe´ and then fill in the on-line form (all in English by the way if you use the 'languages´ option to switch). Click on Okay and you will then be told to ... print out the contents of the screen and fax it to them.
Yes, you read that right FAX. Now, having an home office setup somewhat more up to date than Bernie Madoff´s dealing room, I don´t have a fax machine any more and those of us using broadband internet connections cannot send faxes directly from our computers (I know you can do it through third parties but that is neither here nor there) so I decided to cut out the middle man and deliver the printed form (complete with the requested copy of my passport) by hand to my local office, the idea being that I could drop in my request for the Nota-simple I was looking for at the same time and thus kill two birds with one stone.
So off the the office I trotted (before 2pm because it´s August and they only work mornings) no queue, no waiting, talked to the nice young lady at the desk, handed over the forms and smiled sweetly. She took one look at the papers and her eyes went blank, she called over two of her colleagues whose eyes also lost their shine.
All three looked at me and said “what´s this?”
“It came from your website”, said I, “look it´s printed right there”
Further perusal of the papers. Time passes. Light dawns.
“Ah”, said the clever one, “You want to access our information via the internet?”
“Yes, you´ve got it”. I sighed in relief.
“Then you need to look on our website”, said she and wrote down the address, on a post-it note, which she then stuck to my piece of paper containing... the address of the website.
I decided it might be easier to say nothing more on the subject and just fax the form anyway. But before I went I had another brain teaser for them.
Pulling out a page from the copy escritura I had, I pointed to the Registro stamp and asked them to confirm that this was, indeed, their stamp, they replied in the affirmative. Good start.
I then asked if they could pull up the information on this property, also affirmative. Looking good.
Then it fell apart, they seemed to think that the top line was the name of the Registro office, I told them 4 times that the office was Huercal Overa and that Cantoria was the name of the area in Almeria, but that didn´t stop them looking Cantoria up in their directory and being surprised when they couldn´t find it, but eventually that sunk in, was it doable? Once again affirmative, well could they email the results to me? Ah, no. If you make a request in person you must pick up the results in person, the email option is only if you make a request on-line. Back to stage one.
Somewhat disheartened I dropped into an internet cafe on the way home and faxed the pages to the number given.
Imagine my surprise when upon sitting once again behind my beloved keyboards I found an email from the Registro saying that they had received my fax but the passport copy was illegible and could I send it again. So what did I do? I scanned the pages into my machine, and sent them as an email attachment back to them. It´s supposed to take 6 working hours for my account to be activated so I´ll need to wait until Monday to see if that has done the trick.
Update: Whilst writing this I have received another email saying that the scans I have sent are unreadable and could I send them again, which I have duly done after reformatting them into jpeg. But at least it looks like the email option might work.
Further Update: During the writing of the update (above) have received a further email informing me that my account has been activated. Wait one whilst I test it out.... It´s a little tricky deciding which of the many options to use to perform the search as there is no information on the screen to say exactly how to fill in the search forms. Used the ´other data´ search and will see what I get back. Watch this space.
Oh, and the quoted price of 3 euros has gone up to 9 (plus iva) but that may be because I chose ´legal´ rather than ´other´ information. We will see.
He, He, this is like waiting for your birthday cards to arrive.
The Paper Chase
10 August 2009
Published at 21:41 Comments (2)
This is my first attempt to put together a check list of what paperwork should exist for a legally built or restored property. If it is is any way inaccurate please, as always, let me know and I will amend it. Much of this information is explained in greater detail on the TLA Corp. website (see Glossary).
I hope, at some point in the not to distant future, to produce a comprehensive check list for the complete buying process, bear with me on that as I´ll have to go through all the stages first.
Escritura – The original title deed showing the purchase of the land.
Cedula Urbanistica – Detailed report from the town hall of what development may take place on your plot.
Building Project – Exact plans, drawn up by an architect, of the development planned.
Licencia de Obra – Building licence issued by the town hall. There are 2 different types of license, Menor (for small projects, does not need architect plans) and Mayor (for large ones, does need architect plans). Guess which one you should have.
Certificado (Licencia) de Fin de Obra – Final works license signed off by the architect specifying that the building is complete and to plans and standards.
Declaration de Obra Nueva (DON) – New works declaration. This is a strange one as apparently you cannot get one without having an LFO but, you cannot get a LFO without one of these. Hmm. Anyway it´s used to write the house into the land registry. So fairly important.
Licencia de Primera Ocupacion (LFO) – License of First Occupation issued by the town hall, also called (I believe for reformed buildings) Cedula de Habitabilidad. Without one of these you cannot legally live in the house.
Seguro Decenal – Insurance Certificate from the builder covering construction defects within the first ten years. I wonder how namy of these are worth the paper the´re written on?
Boletin de Instalacion Electrico – Certificate signed by a registered electrician declaring that the electrical installation meets the standards.
Boletin de Instalacion de Agua – As above but signed by a plumber as it´s for the water installation.
Nota Simple – Extract from the property register showing the legal owner of a property and any debts held against it. As late as possible to make sure no late debts have been added.
Catastral Extract – Extract from the land register showing the plot size, position and usage.
As well as these it is just as well to check up on the following and make sure they are paid, ´coz if they aint bin, your gonna have to cough up for em´.
IBI – Local UK Rates equivalent
Utilities – Water, Electric, Gas (yep, it´s not only in orange bottles) and Telephone. Even if disconnected check them because old bills may still be outstanding.
Basura – Rubbish collection tax.
Hipoteca – Mortgage. Don´t believe it if they say ´it´s got a mortgage, it must be legal´, you can get a mortgage to build the house (Hipoteca Promotor or Auto-Promotor) and as you can see from the list above, you´re a long way from legal at that point.
So, by my count that´s, hmmm, let me see, up to 19 pieces of paper to get together in order to prove that everything´s above board and on the straight and narrow. Shouldn´t be too much of a problem then should it? What shall we do after lunch? Yeah, right!
So far yours truly has actually seen a grand total of 6 of the above (four of those are mine) and that in 6 months of actively searching the property market. Ah, for just a glimpse of a Nota-Simple, I´m beginning to think that they´re a figment of my imagination or subject to some terrible taboo of which I know nothing.
Getting Here. Early August
09 August 2009
Published at 18:59 Comments (0)
Early August 2009.
Let me start this post with a quote.
´The necessity to only deal in legal properties is a cornerstone of our business as we fully understand the importance of this, and our extensive range of properties in Almeria reflects this imperative. (name removed) only represent properties where the paperwork is in place. All property has it's papers checked before we take the property on the books.´
This quote is not attributed to protect the guilty. Should they wish it to be so I will be happy to oblige.
The above is a direct (as of the time of writing), except for me having removed their name, copy and paste from a particular agents website. Fairly unequivocal I believe, although if you read it carefully and with a sceptical frame of mind it does not actually state that all of the necessary paperwork is in place or that the paperwork has passed the checking process. Nor does it state who has done the checking, a 5 year old perhaps!
Agents seem to be much like companies who proudly proclaim to be ISO9000 compliant. In my experience most people think that this is a guarantee of quality, in fact it is not. It only shows that the company is aware of its failings not that it has done anything about them.
So let me tell you a story.
Having come across the above quoted site I spotted a property very much to our liking, a brief scan of the posted particulars ticked all of our boxes, that there was mains electric and water and a mortgage on the property reassured me even more.
So information was requested and a 2 page copy of part of the escritura duly received. The plot size was as advertised but the house was described as ´casa-cortijo en ruinas´. A pile of stones in other words, the warning bells began to ring.
The catastral reference was wrong (does nobody check these things upon completion? This is a legal document after all), the registro number non-existent (although a regsitro stamp is affixed). A quick check on-line with the catastro revealed that a section of the land was classed as improductivo, a sign that there might have been an old house on the plot and a slightly longer time on Goolzoom showed me the old ruins had been replaced with a new house on, almost, the same spot sometime between 2002 and 2004 (Isn´t the internet wonderful?)
I have requested a copy of the nota-simple but that is, to date, yet to be forthcoming.
Having made a few enquires with the agent about these apparent anomalies he admitted that there was, in fact, no mains electricity (and quickly changed his website. Aside: Why do all adverts say Water & Electricity: Possible when they actually mean Not Possible at the moment in many cases not even probable). Then gave me some spiel about how the property was lived in and carried a mortgage so it must be legal. Further discussions over a couple of days revealed that the new house had been build without the correct licence or plans and was thus illegal in all senses of the term.
Let me state categorically at this point that I have no problem with buying an illegal property. If I am made aware of the true situation from day one then it is my decision to go ahead or not, as the case may be. I am young enough and strong enough to battle with red tape and town hall officials to get a property legalised, if that is indeed possible and I deem it worthwhile. So don´t be afraid to approach me with an illegal building, just be honest about it.
And now the fun started.
Emailing questions to all and sundry, scouring the internet for relevant information, the burning question. Would it be possible/probable to legalise this property (in my lifetime)?
I owe a debt of thanks to all who put up with this barrage, especially Martin via Eye on Spain, those at AUAN and TLA Corp. (whose website, by the way, is an excellent source of information if you are going down this road) to name but a few. Their joint advice was, talk to the town hall and get their considered opinion. This, when the esteemed gentleman that I need to talk to returns from holiday in September, I shall do.
In the meantime, I shall be delving deeper into the mystery that is Spanish property paperwork and will be keeping you up to date on what I find.
Getting Here. Later July
09 August 2009
Published at 17:11 Comments (0)
Later July 2009
Right, back to work. Where was I? Oh yes.
Get some money. Check
Find an area to live in. Check
Visit said area. Check
Locate a property. Check
Make an offer. Check
Run into unforeseen difficulties. Check
Pull out of purchase. Ah well not quite. As little as 3 days ago (as at time of writing) and having heard nothing for over a week, I received an email from a completely unknown and unheard of lawyer informing me that he had made an appointment for me to see him, at his office 350 km away, on Monday morning at 10:30 to discuss the sale. I shall leave it to your imagination what the contents of my reply to that was. Copied, by the way to the agent, from whom I have still received none of the requested paperwork, nor indeed contact of any sort despite repeated phone calls. I shall wait with bated breath to see what transpires.
Anyway, having encountered aforementioned setbacks, the best laid plans etc. etc., it was back to the internet.
Found 4 or 5 properties which might suit, so fired off emails requesting more information. The theory being that I would check out each and every one before making the trek back again.
What did I get back?
In all but one case, exact copies of the information posted on the internet. Nothing more, nothing less. The one case which did include additional information was nothing like as detailed as I wanted. So off went the replies suggesting the kind of ´more´ information that I had had in mind (decreto 218 once again).
And what has been forthcoming? Nada, nothing, zilch, not a sausage. Now why might that be do you think?
Actually when I say nothing, what I actually mean is excuses, you know the ones. The owner is away, in the UK, dead and buried in a field somewhere. Anything other than what I need or what they are, by law, required to have and supply, even the simple request to send me a Google Earth/Maps location has been met by a wall of silence.
All that is except one.
Believe me when I tell you that this one deserves a post, nay a blog, of its own but more of that in Getting Here. Early August.
Sunday afternoon musings
09 August 2009
Published at 16:25 Comments (1)
Sun 9 Aug 2009
It must be a slow email day, as I would not normally have the free thinking space to come up with 2 muses in one day. Be that as it may, try this one on for size.
I started writing this two days ago and see that during writing have changed from writing the word professional as shown, and am now enclosing it in inverted commas when referring to certain, ahem.. professionals.
Now my understanding is that in order to be classed as a professional and be a member of a professional body you need to study and pass exams then be admitted to said body who then watch over your actions and can and will pronounce judgement upon you if a client of yours should complain, even to the point of rescinding your status thus removing from you the right to practice said profession.
My understanding is also that this is not the case for Estate Agents in Spain and as such my fingers are now refusing to type this oxymoron any more.
But I still need a collective noun to describe them and others in the housing business, I do so hope you can see and commiserate with my dilemma.
I´ve come up with a few that may fit but perhaps there is someone out there who can come up with some more, feel free to add them as a comment below and at some future date I shall collate them into a single post and we can hold a vote on which epithets we most would like to use.
To start the ball rolling:
A greed of ...
A scarpered of ...
A deceit of ...
A persuasion of ...
Enjoy, but keep it clean and publishable please.
Sunday morning musings
09 August 2009
Published at 15:15 Comments (0)
Sun 9 Aug 2009
A thought has just struck me. I have read many posts on this and other forums which basically say ´buyer beware´. In other words it is our (the buyers) responsibility to check, check and check again every little thing that the ´professional´ people we are paying are saying and doing.
Now hold on a minute. Lets´s try an analogy.
If I was buying a second hand or, for that matter new, car from, and let´s be honest here, a group of people who do not have the best reputation for honesty in the world. The one thing I could be assured of was that the vehicle had, at some point in it´s life, been thoroughly checked and tested as fit for purpose, safety and legality.
Even the Arthur Daley´s of this world cannot sell a vehicle which was not, when brand spanking new, legal (except if it was lime green, in which case it should have been scrapped straight away).
Imagine the following situation.
You walk into a showroom and pick a car. Pay for it and receive a receipt. You then wander blithely down to the registration office to pay your car tax and pick up your registration documentation and number plates only to be told that the vehicle that you have parted with your cold hard cash for cannot be registered and used on the public highway because the manufacturer cut a few corners and didn´t do their job properly or apply and receive the correct certification.
I don´t know about you but I would be, to borrow a phrase, somewhat miffed. In fact I think I would be likely to grab a baseball bat and a few of the boys, and go and pay said salesperson a visit. Where upon I would be guilty of, to put it mildly, ´demanding money with menaces´.
Guess what. This scenario could not happen.
Why then is it happening, on a daily basis, in the housing market? Where is the system going wrong? Why, after all these years of abuse, has it not been fixed?
Now I know that there are excellent groups out there like the AUAN and AULAN who are fighting for the rights of people who have, through no fault of their own, found themselves in this situation. My question is, who is fighting to stop this happening in the first place?
If anyone knows of such an organisation could they please let me, and others like me, know about it, for it is surely worthy of our support, their actions and any changes to the system that they may achieve will benefit us all in the long run.
Getting Here. Late July
09 August 2009
Published at 13:27 Comments (0)
Late July 2009.
Back in the bosom of our concrete jungle the serious work began, hour after tortuous hour; where we had been, what we had seen, what would work, what it would cost. I´m sure you get the picture. Luckily being handy with a spreadsheet helped, reams of paper filled with pros and cons, prices, pictures, all for dissection across the breakfast, lunch and diner table. Gradually one place began to emerge as the front runner, a small badly (but not irretrievable y so) reformed cortijo just outside of Albox. The price was right, the location was perfect and the work was manageable. So in went the offer and back we sat. Job Done! Wrong! Job not even half started, the can had just started to open and the worms began to see the light of day.
The first hint of this was when a copy of the escritura arrived, the first thing I noticed was the size of the property, where it should have said plot 200m2+ and house 120m2 it said 40 and 55, something was not quite right here. It did contain, however, two of the most vital pieces of information the prospective buy should acquire, the full address and the catastral register reference. Using these and two of the most important websites known to property purchasers (Oficina Virtual del Catastro and Goolzoom) I pulled up the official land registry information on the place and guess what, the can opened a little further. Not only was the size of the property exactly as described in the escritura, as opposed to what the agent and sellers were saying, but whilst the ground floor was classed as a vivienda the first floor of the house was defined as an almacen and as such could not legally be used as living space (bang went the plans for another bathroom, bedroom and roof terrace, and a big thanks to Lawbird on Eye on Spain for the heads up). Were we being sold a pup?
The icing on the cake came with a call from the agent, could we up our offer by 5 grand as it turned out that, due to the sellers not having paid their mortgage for some time and their IBI and water for 3 years what we had agreed upon as the purchase price would not even cover their debts. Oh yes, and the place was going to be repossessed by the bank at the end of August anyway. This wasn´t a pup, this was the complete litter.
Thank God and forums such as this one we had not signed anything or parted with a penny (I had been asked to transfer a 10% deposit directly to the owners bank account, which I, being inately cautious, had refused to do).
Continued in Getting Here. Later in July.
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