ITV are currently producing the next series of the hugely popular Homes from Hell programme. We were recently contacted by the Homes from Hell team about our grim experiences with the bully boys at Berkeley Homes. We know that many of you have a Homes from Hell story to tell about Berkeley Homes. If you would like to appear on the next series of Homes from Hell, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org and we will put you in touch with the production team.
We regularly receive emails from prospective buyers asking if they should buy a new home from Berkeley Homes. Sometimes they ask us if they will get a bargain now that prices have dropped.
Its a tough one.
We can’t tell you what to do and we would urge you to ensure you have a good solicitor / conveyancer and take professional advice before making such an important decision. The fact you have found this web site, means you must have doubts about Berkeley Homes in your mind and started “googling” for information. Read our story carefully and consider Berkeley Homes’ conduct towards us and other buyers (use Google to find out how Berkeley Group generally treats the public, local authorities and so on – there is plently of information out there).
Our advice would be to think very carefully before signing on the line, especially if you are planning to buy with a mortgage. Valuations are still a big issue and have a nasty habit of being downgraded at the last minute or being “reassessed”. Mortgages are not guaranteed until the money has been transferred on completion day – your bank can change its mind anytime up to the day you get the keys – what would happen if your mortgage didn’t materialise or the bank dropped the LTV ratio at the last minute?
Ask Berkeley Group how they would help you in that situation? Will they screw you with the contract if your mortgage falls through or the bank changes the terms? Don’t believe the salesman – get any “promises” in writing as they might be quickly forgotten if you have mortgage issues on completion day.
If Berkeley Homes tells you they’ve had valuations done, ask to see them and demand copies. You might need them in future. Of course, you should always get your own independent surveyor (or you bank’s) to conduct a valuation and don’t sign a thing until you’ve received the report. Take Berkeley’s “valuations” with a pinch of salt. In fact, take all of their sales patter with a large pinch of salt.
If you have to think twice or you have any doubts, walk away. Don’t let them use the £1000-2000 “reservation deposit” to pressurise you into exchanging contracts (this is the point of no return). If you have doubts, valuation or mortgage concerns, walk away. We all wish we’d walked away.
And finally, perhaps consider a nice solid Victorian property down the road….built to last, no noise problems, no horrendous service charges and much more likely to hold its value
In response to the high-level of continued media interest and multiple enquiries, we have decided to post this update to let you know the current situation with the Berkeley Homes Collective.
Since the group began in 2008 we have provided support, guidance and a collective front against Berkeley Homes who were intent on bullying individuals with their high-pressure sales and closure techniques and subsequent heavy-handed threats to those who could not complete on the original terms. Berkeley didn’t expect to deal with a highly organised group of buyers and we were able push back on Berkeley’s demands.
The group was called the “Berkeley Homes Collective” because we are a group of people with common experiences and all with similar problems with Berkeley Group. The group has a flat structure with no appointed leaders – it is a collective of individual people with a common goal.
We campaigned outside their marketing suites, gatecrashed their 2009 AGM and were featured in dozens of national press articles, TV programmes and radio shows. At the same time, we noticed that Berkeley went through 3 PR companies and it was obvious that they were ill-prepared to deal with a customer revolt. The writing was on the wall and they should have seen it coming – we gave them plently of warning that we were all facing problems with mortgages and completion funding since early 2008 – still it made our campaign a lot easier dealing with a disorganised bunch of old suits.
Most of the Caspian buyers have resolved their disputes in various ways. Berkeley’s love of secrecy means most people will not speak about what happened to them in the end, therefore we are reliant on the public record to find out what happened with the cases filed at the High Court. According to the public record, none of the cases filed by Berkeley at the High Court in London in relation to Caspian Wharf actually made it to trial. If you know differently, please let us know and we will update the blog. We believe that all of the cases in relation to Berkeley’s London developments were filed at the High Court, but there may be isolated cases outside London at local County Courts – if you have information you would like to share, please email email@example.com
Buyers at the Royal Arsenal development are still being held in limbo nearly 2 years after their contracts were rescinded and initial legal threats issued. Berkeley sent out pre-action protocol letters in July 2009 (the step before actually initiating legal action at the High Court) and then abruptly stopped. These buyers have lost their deposits, lost their flats but are not released from their contracts, even now (May 2011).
Berkeley could come looking to sue them sometime up to 6 years after the rescission date. Quite why Berkeley has decided to leave all of these people in limbo, no-one really knows, but its perhaps due to the PR disaster and complete failure of their attempts to drag the Caspian buyers through the courts. Berkeley got no-where and racked up huge legal bills as well as generating a load of bad PR in the process. No point in suing people for damages if they don’t have any money – that’s the first rule of litigation! Nonetheless, we’d ask BH to do the right thing and bring closure to the Royal Arsenal cases and let people get on with their lives. Surely, you are not going to keep them hanging on for the next 4 or so years?
Industry journal, Building, reported today that Trading Standards are now investigating a number of complaints against Berkeley Homes regarding alleged mis-selling in the UK between 2007 and late 2008.
The experience of many of us in the Berkeley Homes Collective is that we were mugged by slick sales staff at the point of sale. Berkeley’s sales and marketing operation was even slicker than the infamous timeshare touts on the Costas employing the very same high-pressure sales techniques, recommending customers use Berkeley’s preferred solicitors, presenting purchasers with lists of valuations supposedly carried out by Countrywide, Colleys and the other major surverying firms which miraculously matched the sales list and the oldest trick in the book – list of “sold” plots prominently on display in the sales office.
One purchaser told the BHC, “I could see all the plots in the release were marked as sold. Even the plot I was negotiating on was on the board as sold. I was repeatedly told the units were selling fast and I had to sign today..”.
Dozens of individuals have told the BHC that they were victims of Berkeley’s slick sales operation and allege that mis-selling took place.
An anoynymous purchaser told the BHC today, “I never imagined I’d fall victim to this sort of scam in the UK. You expect it from the timeshare touts in Spain, but on reflection they used exactly the same techniques on me at Caspian Wharf and there is no protection against this sort of thing. Berkeley are now manipulating the law and using the High Court to scare me into settling out of court so they can extract more money from me, otherwise they’ll bankrupt me if I don’t comply.”
High Court records confirmed today that Berkeley Group have now issued 37 claims against individuals who have not been able to complete on their new homes, so statements to the media claiming they are working with buyers to find solutions are clearly false.
Our sources advise us that only one case has gone to court so far related to City Quarter and the judge decided to “reserve his judgement”. We are awaiting further news.
A spokesperson for the BHC said, “Berkeley are using the High Court as the ultimate negotiation tool. Pay up or we’ll bankrupt you is their message. They’ve been particularly vociferous with their threats towards individuals whose careers depend on avoiding bankruptcy or a judgement on their credit file as they know they can put maximum pressure on these individuals to find as much money as they can from family, credit cards or loans and either complete or settle out of court.”