Just before the Christmas break, as I was running around trying to do ten different deals before the arbitrary December 24th deadline everyone had set, I ended up in a rather strange place exchanging contracts, not for the first time. It inspired me to list the 5 strangest places I have exchanged contracts. Most property dealing solicitors will empathise with this and perhaps have similar stories so here goes:- 1. The Tesco Hatfield car park, just next to the car washers
I had been waiting weeks to exchange contracts on an expensive house in London and, finally, received the news that the seller was ready to proceed. My office was closing at 1pm so I took the file with me on my way home and received a call on my mobile from the seller’s solicitors at 3pm, just as I was parking the car in the Tesco car park to finish off the Christmas shopping! Under the eagle eye of the car wash operation, I laid out the papers on the back seat and ten minutes later contracts were exchanged .The client was a pleased as punch and I had the bones of this blog. This was not the first time exchange had happened at Tesco albeit this was Tesco Metro and previously it was Tesco Express!
2. The toilet
As every busy property solicitor will tell you, we are great multi-taskers. I often take files to the toilet in case I get the call to exchange on an imminent deal. I thought I might be a while (!) so diverted my desk phone to my mobile and hey presto the call I was waiting for arrived. Not sure what the other solicitor thought of the echo but contracts were exchanged and I finally flushed the toilet. I waited until return to my desk to phone the client with the good news, drawing the line at letting them know the full facts..
3. The Eurostar
I habitually take the train to the annual property conference in the South of France called MIPIM. One year, a complex portfolio purchase had to be exchanged whilst I was away and the contract was still being negotiated whilst I left. I finished the negotiation and drafting of the contract by email on the train, intermittent signal notwithstanding, and as we emerged from the tunnel into France managed to confirm exchange with the other side. I celebrated with a glass of red and a nice slice of cheese. Another year, just as we arrived at our rental apartment I exchanged a fairly high value contract for a client on a back street just off La Croisette, Rue Florian I believe.
4. The Races
I was whisked off to the races at Windsor by helicopter one lovely summer’s evening by one of my clients. We landed in the middle of Kempton racecourse, exited the Agusta 109 like we were extras from a Bond movie in our suits and sunglasses. I had been hoping that the agreement for lease another client was desperate to exchange may happen whilst in the air, which really would have got to number one in this list. My dream of a mid air exchange had been shattered, but as we entered the race enclosure I received a call that the other side were ready to exchange and we did the deal on the grandstand spectator steps at Kempton.
5. At Stamford Bridge, the home of the great Chelsea F.C
I have been going to Stamford Bridge to watch my beloved Blues since I was 3 years old ( now 42). I have had a season ticket for many years and go to as many games as I can get to, wife and children duties permitting. One Saturday, at home to Crystal Palace, I had taken a file in the car with me , knowing that this particular transaction had to exchange over the weekend or the client risked losing the deal. I took the file in with me in my rucksack, having had to explain why to the security guards, and had a missed call which I checked at half time. It was the call to exchange. So, I went downstairs and found a resting place equidistant between the men’s room and the bar, and exchanged contracts. Deal done and Chelsea scraped a 2-1 win which frankly should have been far more against such poor opposition.
I hope the above has given you a flavour of the life of a property solicitor. It can be glamorous, it can be grimy, but it is never, ever boring. Hopefully , in a few years time, I can update this list with some more interesting places.
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