Chapter one: the Boy Who Lived (in a cupboard under the stairs)
It is no secret that the London property market is inflated beyond all belief and shows little sign of slowing down. My seat in residential property has offered me a real (no pun intended) insight into the market. One becomes desensitised to these prices and finds oneself saying things like ‘£750,000 for a two bedroom flat, that isn’t so bad’.
One recent transaction saw a parking spot sold for £200,000 rounding off the entire transaction to a cool £8 million. What shocked me most about this whole proceeding was how little it shocked me.
But it did get me thinking.
Anyone who has read Harry Potter has probably thought of what it might be like to live in a cupboard under the stairs. My seat in residential property has forced me to ask a different question. What might it cost to live in a cupboard under the stairs and how would I go about this transaction? If the market continues in its current vein, for many of us, this hypothetical may become a reality.
I will spare you the details, but based on some research involving floor plans of 12 Picket Post Close (the house used as 4 Privet Drive) and the UK House Price Index, I have come to the conclusion that purchasing Harry’s cupboard under stairs would set you back somewhere in the region of £15,000 to £20,000.*
What a steal.
(*This is of course not factoring in the cost to one’s independence, spine, and mental health).
Chapter two: engaging the clients
Having received Harry’s instructions to assist with the purchase, the first thing is to complete the relevant checks. Let’s say that, for some unknown reason (nostalgia perhaps), Harry is trying to buy back the cupboard that so tormented his formative years.
Although you might say he needs no introduction, this is not the case – no matter who the client purports to be, doing the relevant checks is essential. Who are we to say that Harry isn’t using this purchase to launder galleons?
The next thing to do is get in touch with the Seller’s solicitors, who would be representing Mr and Mrs Dursley. Assuming that the Dursleys have hired a reputable firm rather than the Grunnings’ in-house team, this should be relatively straightforward.
Chapter three: office copies
Once you’ve done this, you need to get hold of the office copies from the Land Registry. Let’s say, for ease, that this property is a freehold. One would have to go to the Land Registry Portal and download the Title Register and Plan for the reasonable fee of £6.00.
Chapter four: draft contract
As the Buyer, this part is relatively simple. All we have to do is wait for the Sellers’ solicitor to send the draft contract to us. We will then check that all is agreed, and if necessary make any edits. It seems likely that any solicitor instructed by the Dursleys is likely to have been instructed to make numerous, possibly intentional, errors, particularly in relation to the purchase price. Harry wouldn’t thank us if he was suddenly paying £170,000 on a cupboard instead of £17,000.
Chapter five: protocol forms and searches
Again, as the Buyer we are primarily waiting to be sent the Protocol Forms by the Sellers’ solicitors, as well as ordering the relevant searches. The Protocol Forms, or to use their more catchy name, the TA6 and TA7, contain information regarding the property (title information, EPC, planning permission and building regulations) as well as the fixtures and fittings that will be included in the sale, and those that will not.
The description in the book, and the later set design in the film, have given us a pretty good sense of what was in the cupboard under the stairs. Primarily spiders, but additionally, there is a small bed, some assorted boxes and some of Harry’s toys. There are also shelves and a light. The Dursleys are likely to exclude all of this in a malicious attempt to inconvenience the nephew they so despise, and the TA7 will be our first indication of their intentions. If Harry’s motivation is nostalgia, we may have to fight to have these included, or else offer to pay an additional amount to secure their inclusion.
The searches will cover everything from sewage and drainage (of which there will be none) to flooding and ground instability. There are unlikely to be any surprises, but if there are this will pose both Harry and the Dursleys some issues. Any subsidence in the cupboard will probably impact the rest of the house. One of the more intriguing searches is the Chancel Liability which is where the Church may have the opportunity to compel Harry, whose religious leanings are unclear, to pay for repairs to any church in the vicinity. If the search requires, we will advise Harry to insure himself against this risk.
Chapter six: enquiries and report
Once all the title documents and searches are in, we have to go through them and raise our enquiries. Enquiries in this instance are likely to centre in large part around right of way and access to the facilities. In order to get to the cupboard, Harry would have to access the property and walk through the landing. We would want to confirm that this right of way is granted without let or charge. It is very likely that Mr Dursley would look to impose some sort of arbitrary tariff for walking across the hall or up the stairs to the bathroom. (granted this is a very unusual example – properties are rarely entirely inside someone else’s family home.
Other general enquiries will look to clarify aspects of the fixtures and fittings form or else seek clarification regarding any potential flooding, for example. The title documents enable us to check that the Dursleys are indeed the proprietors of the cupboard and are thus able to sell it to Harry. They also allow us to check any mortgage that may have been registered against the cupboard, or any restrictive covenants that may exist.
Once we have examined the searches and received replies to our enquiries, we would then write a report to Harry outlining the above and attaching all of the relevant documentation. This will be a fun read for Harry in between his Potions essay and making up increasingly morbid predictions for Trelawney.
Chapter seven: exchange
A simple yet essential part of the process, exchange ensures that the solicitors on both sides are in agreement as to the contents of the contract, and crucially, it is the moment when the completion date is set and from which any deposit given by Harry will be lost in the event of him coming to his senses and rescinding his offer.
Interestingly, exchange and completion can occur on the same day, but in residential transactions this is less common.
Chapter eight: completion
Finally, the day has come. For reasons known only to himself, Harry has decided to leave Ginny, his children and his presumably rather comfortable family home to return alone to the cupboard where it all began and the family he has always hated.
As the buyers, we would have to wait for the money in from Harry, and then send the amount specified (potentially including any add-ons for toys and spiders) to the Seller’s solicitors. Once they receive this money, they then authorise the estate agents to release the keys to Harry and he is free to move in! A great success.
Chapter nine: post completion – 19 years later
Hopefully it won’t be 19 years later otherwise we will be in big trouble! After completion, we would need to send the Seller’s solicitors any relevant documentation, pay the agent’s fees, and then submit a SDLT return on behalf of Harry. However, what luck! Because this transaction is less than £125,000 (assuming our negotiations for fixtures and fittings where a success) Harry’s SDLT liability is £0.
A small victory after all. Who said property was unaffordable?
So there we have it, finally an answer to that age-old question: What would it take to live in a cupboard under the stairs?