April 20 2014 Latest news:
by Flora Drury and Emma Youle
Friday, February 14, 2014
A solicitor has warned people to be wary of estate agents’ leaflets through the door after a frail pensioner’s £1.8million house was almost sold for half its true value.
Owen Hill, 88, was living alone when he agreed to sell his house for £1m – not realising the property in Charles Lane, St John’s Wood, was worth closer to £2m.
Solicitor Barry Samuels, a commercial litigator at city law firm GSC Solicitors LLP, who helped Mr Hill’s family to stop the sale, said: “We all get these leaflets through our doors saying, ‘we’ve got people looking for properties in this area’.
“The first warning sign is, if you do call an agent in and they then say ‘How much do you want for your house?’ Never answer the question and never tell them, just ask, ‘How much is it worth in the market place?’
“Whatever age you are, that’s the first warning sign. We were lucky in this case because people had power of attorney for Mr Hill, but it is deplorable.”
Papers submitted to the London Mercantile Court reveal Mr Hill had received a letter through his door last March from Bargets estate agent, saying they had people interested in buying homes in the area.
As it appeared to be personally addressed to Mr Hill, he replied. Estate agent Malcolm Collins then visited the property, asking Mr Hill how much he wanted for his home.
The pensioner – who was very frail – said he wanted £1m and Mr Collins then called his brother-in-law, Jason Harris, a property dealer, who immediately offered Mr Hill’s asking price.
The pair introduced Mr Hill to a lawyer and contracts were exchanged, at a price of just under £1m.
But when Mr Hill told his neighbours about what had happened, they were horrified and lawyers were instructed in a bid to have the deal rescinded.
Mr Hill died before the dispute was resolved, but his friends, family and neighbours were so angry that they decided to keep fighting to have the deal rescinded.
The deal was called off in July and the executors of Mr Hill’s will then sold the property on the open market for £1.815m. Bargets has now settled out of court for the legal fees incurred by the claimants.
Neil Stone, who owns Bargets estate agents, in Park Road, Regent’s Park, said the company had meant to have the deal rescinded immediately, but there had been delays.
“I personally apologise to everyone involved,” he said. “It will never happen again. We do not have a black mark against us as estate agents.
“I am a member of the National Association of Estate Agents and we co-operate with the ombudsman. It was a genuine error and we went to enormous lengths to rectify it.”