You just hit it with a hammer!

I was called last week by a lady who was trying to buy a flat in our City. She explained that her offer had been accepted however, the sale had fallen through due to her lender requiring an EWS1 (external wall fire review form). She was devastated, she had spoken to her estate agent, the surveyor and her lender and could not find any help anywhere! However, she had noticed that we had sold a property a few months previously in the same block.

Straight away a great little story came to mind, you just hit it with a hammer!

There was a ship sitting in the harbour just waiting for the harbour master to confirm that the shipping lanes were clear so it could start up its engines and sail into the distance. The ship was carrying goods worth hundreds of millions of pounds with a clear plan and confirmed times to reach each destination.

The call came, the button showing ‘Start’ was pushed and nothing happened! The alert was raised and all the mechanics on board were sent to find the problem. For hours they poured over the huge diesel engines, without success. As each minute passed default fees of £100,000s were being racked up due to the goods not being delivered on time.

The Captain went down to the engine room and demanded to know what the problem was. The chief engineer and his mechanics were lost, they had no answers. And then from the back of the room one of the mechanics said “we should ring Jim”. The Captain asked who Jim was? The mechanic explained that he had served his apprenticeship under Jim on the ship and that Jim had retired a few years earlier. The Captain ordered the call to be made and Jim was sent for.

When Jim turned up he had small bag of tools, no computers to check the diagnostics, no book or manual about the ship or the engine. He asked for the engine to be started and heard it splutter before cutting out. He carefully walked around the engine placing his ear next to certain parts while closing his eyes.

He asked his old apprentice to pass the hammer from his tool bag and hit the engine as hard as he could with it! He asked for the engine to be started and it fired into life. Jim left the ship and it sailed.

A month later Jim got a call from the owners of the ship regarding his invoice for his services. The man said “Jim, you have sent me a bill for £10,000?” Jim replied, “that is correct”. The man then said, “but you were only on the ship for 10 minutes and you only hit the engine with a hammer”. Jim replied again, “that is correct”. The man replied “well how then do I explain to my boss the payment of an invoice for £10,000!”1,

Jim replied “I was the only person you called who knew where to hit the engine and my expertise saved you £100,000’s of default fees”.

The invoice was paid to Jim immediately.

Back to my call. We discussed that the very sad disaster at Grenfell had made the industry wary of lending on blocks of flats and that some lenders had taken this beyond the government guidance when checking if safety measures were in place.

Lenders need to understand that not all blocks of flats are unsafe, actually many are safe and this particular building has fire safety measures pre-built into the design of its structure.

I explained which lender would help and what guidance they had given to us to help our clients. The purchase of her flat is now proceeding.

I do hope when asked by someone how she managed to purchase her top floor apartment with views of the river she explains that you just need to ‘hit it with a hammer’.

If we can solve your property conundrum just call Tortoise Property on 01733 592020.

Mike Matthews

Tortoise Property