Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The landlord

Now that I've said about the agent, I'll go on to say about the landlord. It's a company; it may just be the same name, but the only thing I can find on Google is a US-based company listed in NYSE. (I tried to search for it in UK company registration, I do found a company of the same name but it is listed as a "dormant" company. Btw, I cannot even find the lettings agent on this list...)

This company calls itself "a newly-formed specialty finance company" that invest in residential mortgage loans, residential mortgage-backed securities, Alt-A mortgage loans, and CDOs. Hah. They made their IPO last year and their share prices have since fallen about 85%. Just last week they announced a secondary offering of 110,000,000 shares...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Parmars (http://www.parmarsestates.com) is a well-known lettings agent, presumably only working in the Leicester area, so this should not concern most people reading this; nevertheless I still want to share my experience with them here, so that people can know how exceptional their service is.

Before I say anything further, I must confess that the problems you may notice below, if any at all, are entirely due to my own fault. All other agents I've encountered so far are fairly reasonable, so I was not expecting such a unique experience with this particular one; I was more on the easy-going side and didn't follow rigidly the general principles dealing with lettings. Had I been more firm on those grounds, however, I wouldn't have a chance to experience this. Also, all these only happened after I paid 225 pounds (under various names of holding fee, application fee, etc.), so I was essentially tied to them and cannot change even if I wanted to. I suppose this is how they make sure their clients can receive their full suite of unbelievable services.

You would have assumed that the rent was the same as the one advertised. In fact, just before I paid that 225 pounds, they drafted a nice little list detailing all kinds of money I need to pay,
specifically the rent and the length of the contract (12 months). However, I was only told a few days later, when I went to sign the contract, that the advertised rent is only for the first 6 months and the rent will go up 7.5 pounds for the remaining 6 months. In fact, it is customary here for the rent to go up by (say) 25 pounds every 12 months, so such an increase is not a problem. What I particularly appreciate is this service of not bothering the client with such minor details until the point of signing.

The other point is that they offer you no choice of start date; you just have to start the tenancy on the date that the landlord/agent decided. Once again, this avoids the client the trouble of deciding when to move.

They also offer various fully automated service, e.g. asking me to sign on a completely blank standing order form. On another day I might have done it, but I was not in any good mood that day so I just turned down this nice help.

Here comes the main point which triggers me to write this article. When I viewed the property, which is a "part-furnished" flat, there was a table and some chairs (among other things). I was told that they will stay. Before I paid that 225 pounds of money, they assured me once again that they will stay (while they also specifically mentioned that some other thing will be removed). When I signed the contract and went to the property, the table and chairs have disappeared. I would like to praise their strict adherence to the legal point that you cannot trust anything that was said verbally (in this case, a staff member's assurance that the furniture will stay), but you need to put things in paper.

Actually, we did: like other agents, they drew up a list of inventory. One particular item on the inventory list is "dining table and 4 dining chairs". We signed the inventory list; strangely enough, we did it in the office, not at the property. I believe this is to avoid the client's trouble of going to so many different places. I believe nobody would bother to remove them anyway, so I trusted them and signed. So when I discovered the table and chairs were gone, I phoned them. They requested me, in their kindest possible tone, to go to their office the next day to sort it out.

The next day they sorted the matter out in the simplest way: they just crossed off that item from the inventory list! (see pic below) To try to make me feel better, they gave an explanation that the item was left behind by the previous tenant and had been subsequently picked up by those previous tenants. Unfortunately I'm a bit too stubborn to accept such an explanation as the tenant has clearly left long before I viewed the property. Then they went on to explain that "part furnished" means cooker and fridge only, any other thing there is only left beind by the previous tenant. Being not as intelligent as them, this somewhat confused me further because if that's the case then I'm not sure what's the point of putting so many items on the inventory list. I could only conclude that the agent/landlord are so nice that they decided to remove the items, at their own cost, so as to create more space for me. I have also learned from them that even things put in paper cannot be trusted.

In addition to these specific virtues, the general level of politeness of the staff also helped me learn how to improve my own patience and politeness too.

In conclusion, I really cannot recommend more about this lettings agent to you.

Inventory list. The red rectangle shows the thing that were crossed off after it was signed. (They countersigned it; I didn't.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Moving house again, part 2

Another one I viewed (call it Flat B) turns out to be what I have to stick with unwillingly in the next 12 months. The strange thing about it is that it is exactly opposite to my first flat here (that's the one with bees, if you remember); see the map:

So it means I moved down the road, and after 18 months move back up to the same point again.

I don't really like the location - close to university but a bit too far from city center, and also a bit too quiet - but I told myself, if I could survive the first one for 18 months then I surely can survive this one for another 12 months? I think everything is so-so but acceptable, and since there are no other alternatives, I decided to go for it and paid some money.

The next day I viewed another property at the city center (yes, I decided to go for B already, but viewing doesn't cost money...). Let's call this one Flat C. This one is also nice, though not as good as Flat A. More importantly it is at the same price as Flat B; it is at a better location, newer, but unfurnished. If I have not put money into B, I would definitely go for C.

It turns out that maybe it's actually better to give away the deposit - partly my mistake and partly due to the agent...

Moving house again, part 1

I'm not dead just yet, although not posted for a long time. After spending months writing something which I myself don't believe in, I have to immediately start a process of finding accommodation. It looks like I have to move house every 18 months (although I really hope the next one will be shorter than 18 months - it will become clear in the next posts), this time because the landlord wants to repossess the property.

Before I go on about how bad this flat-hunting process turned out, I should say that I like the current one very much - it is in a very convenient location, within walking distance to everything, and I find out that I like living in a noisy city center area much more than some more "rural" ones. (It can be quite scary that at night, when you look out of the window, all you see are some trees and shadows waving. Also, I seem to enjoy watching pedestrians, and the current flat has a great view on a busy point in the street. Shops in city center also close as "late" as 8pm, which is more convenient.) Thus, despite some minor problems (like fire alarm ringing at any time it likes, some idiots on the street playing with your intercom, and a bright orange colour scheme in the bathroom), I would be very happy to stay longer if possible.

The city center "regeneration" has created a whole lot of very nice flats, but for one reason or the other I always missed them. One flat that I viewed (let's call it Flat A) is in city center, has very very new furnishing and I like it very much. Except that the price is expensive. After several other viewing disappointments, I think maybe it's time I pay a bit more, and want to commit to it. Only when I actually go to their office and do the application do they try all sorts of tricks to squeeze more money out from me; I refused, and thus no deal.

As you will soon find out from my other posts, other agents are equally bad, or worse...