Council loses �500,000 in rush to sell house
WESTMINSTER Council is facing criticism amid claims it undersold a Westbourne Park house by up to half a million pounds.
The Grade II-listed property in Monmouth Road had been unoccupied for two and a half years before being sold for �1.95million in June.
But just five months after the house was bought by a property company – and with no work having been done on it in the mean time – the house is back on the market for �2.6million with an offer in of around �2.4million.
The council imposed a timeline of 14 days for any potential buyer to complete and exchange, it is claimed.
This move, the Wood&Vale understands, saw people offering far in excess of �2million forced to withdraw due to a lack of instantly available funds.
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John Zamit, chairman of SEBRA (South East Bayswater Residents’ Association) who first raised the issue, said: “It appears to be a scandalous waste of public money at a time when every penny counts. You would have thought the council would have been more flexible in order to attain a better price.”
The sale saw sealed offers submitted to Davis Brown Chartered Surveyors, which sold the house on behalf of the council, before they were opened on a set date.
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The semi-detached mid-Victorian house was snapped up by Lytton Grove Properties Ltd and is described as in need of “substantial refurbishment works”.
But the company’s director says a week went by after the June 4 deadline before he heard anything back from the selling agents.
He said: “A week later, I received a call to ask how quickly I could exchange contracts – could I do so within seven days?
“I said yes but questioned why they needed the seven-day exchange and why I hadn’t been informed of it before.
“They said this was the condition imposed, which obviously made a big difference to the offers they had, because a seven-day exchange period means you have to have people available to do the deal quickly.
“I was told there had been a number of higher offers above mine but they were not in a position to exchange within the time period.
“After we had bought it, I was advised that I could get more than I paid for it.”
Emma Boon, of the Taxpayers Alliance, says she doesn’t understand why Westminster was so eager to push the sale through when the property had been left vacant for such a long period of time.
“Shockingly, Westminster Council seems to have accepted less than the market value of this property for a quick sale,” she said. “Taxpayers will be bemused that officials were happy to accept a low price and so keen to rush this all through when the property had been empty for so long already.
“Westminster Council’s assets are ultimately paid for by taxpayers and the council has a duty to locals to protect the value of those assets and not sell them off for less than they are worth.”
Westminster’s housing boss Cllr Philippa Roe said: “We do not usually sell our housing stock on the open market but this was a rare case and it made financial sense to do so. This property had structural issues and was in need of major refurbishment that would have cost around �500,000.
“This would have been far too costly and so we decided that to provide the best value for money for local taxpayers we would sell this property on the open market. The property had been empty and we had to take action.
“We received a number of offers and chose the highest valid offer, a sum of nearly �2million, which we accepted around four months ago. This was well above the independent valuation of around �1.5million and we are now reinvesting the proceeds of the sale to provide between six and eight additional affordable homes.”