Thanks to the iPlayer download function we can bring you the full transcript of the BBC Rip Off Britain show starring Nick Statman and Gateway Homes. Along with the download media file comes an XML file containing the subtitle text. Quick edit & hey presto if you missed the program you now have the ability to read the story from its subtitles.
All words from Angela Ripon except those marked [Carl Jennings].
Although the housing market is picking up, if you need to move quickly, you might still struggle to find a buyer.
So that’s led to quite a number of companies springing up who seem to be offering the perfect solution.
They will step in, buy your home, with the promise that, because there’s no chain, they can make the whole thing happen as fast as you need it to.
But despite all the assurances that these companies might give you, there is no guarantee that a word of what they’re saying will actually happen.
It was back in 2012 when vet Carl Jennings was offered a new job that he simply couldn’t refuse. But with it would come long hours and busy night shifts so Carl realised that he’d have to sell his much-loved home in Cheshire so that he and his partner Gemma could move nearer to the new job in Birmingham.
[Carl Jennings] I was very settled, I love this house here but there’s always the positive side that it’s a new start for everyone and certainly, that was what was most exciting for us.
With the new job starting straightaway, Carl was in a hurry to move house, so he looked online.
And among the companies he found specialising in quick sales, one particularly stood out.
[Carl Jennings] Gateway Homes were the ones which really offered me the quickest, simplest solution to move ahead as we wanted.
Gateway Homes market themselves as a company who specialise in quick property sales. Their website makes clear that they’re not an estate agency. Instead, they’ll be the ones that buy your property from you and they’ll cover the costs of selling. Best of all, they “guarantee to make an offer to buy a property “regardless of location or condition” “with no fuss, no hassle, no fees” – sounded perfect!
[Carl Jennings] So them offering to buy it for us was a huge relief. It allowed me to accept the job and allowed us to start looking for our new home together.
And Gateway Homes could tell Carl straightaway how much they were prepared to offer for the house. At £72,000, it was rather less than the market value, but Carl thought that the reduction was a small price to pay for a quick sale.
[Carl Jennings] Even though I was losing out on what I would have sold, selling privately, I thought the benefits of selling quickly outweighed any profit I would have made.
Gateway Homes said they needed to come out and view the property and fixed a date for a visit. But no-one turned up – instead, a manager from the company phoned Carl to say that he was 100% happy and would just post the contracts to him. He was told that he should expect the sale to be complete within two months. The person at Gateway Homes who I spoke to said he’d done his internet research and he was happy with the valuation, based on everything that he’d found by doing local searches on similar properties in the area.
Meanwhile, Carl had put in an offer on a house in Telford, much closer to work. The sellers also wanted to move quickly so needed confirmation that he wasn’t in a chain. The sale to Gateway Homes seemed to be moving along, but just to be sure, Carl asked for confirmation in writing.
[Carl Jennings] I also e-mailed one of their directors, just to confirm, and again, in the e-mail, he confirmed that the house was sold.
With all parties satisfied, Carl’s offer on the Telford house was accepted and he was happy in the knowledge that he wouldn’t have to make the two-hour drive to the new job for very long.
[Carl Jennings] I was constantly given reassurances by Gateway Homes that the house was 100%, definitely sold. I had no worries on that score at all.
Everything was going to plan – until, that is, Carl and his partner Gemma were browsing a property site online and they made a rather disconcerting discovery.
[Carl Jennings] By accident, we actually found that this property was listed on Rightmove um…at quite a considerably, sort of, higher price than I’d been offered by Gateway Homes, or, indeed, it had been valued at.
Now, remember, Gateway Homes had agreed to buy Carl’s house for £72,000. So he was baffled to see it being advertised for sale for £115,000. He phoned Gateway Homes to find out what was going on. Carl claims the company reassured him that it was advertised at such a high price for valuation purposes, so that their bank surveyor, if comparing prices in the area, would be happy with what had been offered and that the sale would be approved.
[Carl Jennings] I was happy with that response that came with the reassurance that, um…things were still going ahead.
By now, Carl had started his new job and the mortgage on his new house in Telford had been approved. All that remained was to complete the sale of his old house. But the promise that Gateway Homes had made of a quick sale started to seem rather hollow.
[Carl Jennings] I rang Gateway Homes several times and was just reassured that all they were doing was waiting for an independent valuation so they could purchase the property. Unfortunately, this went on week after week, and each week, I was promised that it would be done as soon as possible.
The sellers of Carl’s new house in Telford were, by now, threatening to put it back on the market because of the delays. With pressure mounting, Carl called Gateway Homes and asked just how much longer he was going to wait and the company dropped a bombshell that he really was not expecting. They told him that the buyer had pulled out.
[Carl Jennings] First of all, I didn’t know what to say to that. Um…I asked them, “Well, what buyer?” Because up until that point, I’d been given verbal reassurances several times, the e-mail, really confirming that Gateway Homes had purchased my property.
Gateway Homes had previously assured him, by phone and e-mail, that they would be buying the house themselves and though they would obviously then sell it on to someone else, this was the first that Carl had heard about them needing that person in place before completing the sale.
[Carl Jennings] It’s difficult to say, sort of, exactly what I was feeling at that point – it was a combination of anger and worry. I’d accepted a job 100 miles away and it was just such a depressing, worrying thought, thinking that, potentially, we could lose everything.
Gateway Homes pointed out a clause in the contract allowing them, at their absolute discretion, to either change the terms of the agreement or end it altogether.
Carl was astonished that he was now being told something quite different to what he thought he’d signed up to. But Gateway Homes reassured him that they had another buyer lined up, so rather than start again with a different company, he reluctantly agreed to continue their agreement.
[Carl Jennings] I didn’t really feel I had any choice. I felt I’d have to go along with those. They, again, gave me almost cast-iron reassurances that this buyer was, again, in a position to purchase the property quickly so I’d still be able to move ahead in the time period that they’d given me at the outset.
Unfortunately, the second investor never materialised and any sign of Gateway Homes buying the house directly from Carl seemed to have disappeared. Eventually, two-and-a-half months into the supposed “quick sale”, the managing director of Gateway Homes phoned Carl to tell him that they no longer felt they could help him sell his property.
[Carl Jennings] I was disgusted at that point. I felt I’d been led along all the way by Gateway Homes. Um…every reassurance that they’d given me from the start was false.
Carl was devastated – and it wasn’t as if there was anyone he could turn to for help, because Gateway Homes were not regulated by an ombudsman.
Desperate not to lose out on the new house in Telford, he had to get a hardship loan from his bank so that he could buy it whilst still trying to sell or rent his old house.
[Carl Jennings] Not knowing what we were doing with either property, the risk of losing both properties was just very, very stressful and I started to feel ill with the stress.
When we asked Gateway Homes for an explanation, they insisted that they’d acted “entirely reasonably throughout”, saying Carl shouldn’t have purchased another property until the sale on his old one was complete and they “cannot be held responsible for the financial pressures” that came about as a result. As far as they were concerned, the terms in their contract are very clear and were rigidly stuck to.
In particular, they say Carl should not have been surprised to see his house advertised for a higher price as the contract clearly states that they will “resell at a profit.”
As for him not knowing there was a buyer, they point to the clause that says they’re entitled to buy the property “in the name of a third party or sub-purchaser.”
And they stress that the whole agreement is “strictly conditional upon a number of factors” – one of those being receipt of an acceptable survey or valuation.
In this case, this was not received, so the sale did not complete. Everything hinged on selling this property, [Carl Jennings] um…so we spent all of our savings buying this new property, not being able to sell this meant, potentially, we were on the verge of losing everything.
Since we first featured this story, Carl has finally found a buyer for his house in Cheshire through a more traditional route, but he’s had to accept a much lower offer in order to finally get rid of the house that Gateway Homes had promised they would be able to sell quickly.