Kirsty McLuckie: Moved to tears when mortgage is on the line

Moving house is one of the most stressful events in life but it isn’t just the idea of making big decisions about where you will live, choosing a property and then competing to buy it. It isn’t even tidying and marketing your own home or packing all your belongings to be transported to the new place.

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The process of getting a mortgage is the real killer, as research by mortgage technology company Twenty7Tec confirms. It found that almost two thirds of UK homeowners find the mortgage process intimidating. More than a third are kept awake by the process, while one in five admit to crying because of it.

A friend sent me a copy of her complaint to the Banking Ombudsman this week, and it is enough to make you weep.

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The problem is a total lack of communication from her solicitor in a three-month-long ordeal.

What makes it worse is that she is a teacher and a single mum, and unable to move into her new home for the start of term. She and her son are facing long daily commutes from a rental property – on which they’ve had to extend the lease – with no entry date in sight. Her solicitor has not responded to requests for paperwork from the other side, nor have they returned calls or emails.

As I was commiserating with her, though, my own situation became another case that may yet trouble the Ombudsman.

I’m not moving, but we are remortgaging, and our fatal mistake seems to have been to ask the mortgage company if it would be possible to slightly increase the amount for which we were initially approved.

We were assured this would be no problem and they would make the relevant adjustments and inform the solicitors. But, since then, we’ve heard nothing from the bank or our solicitors – until the wrong amount of money landed in our bank account. Had we not checked the balance, we would not have known that the mortgage had completed.

The bank initially admitted their mistake but the solution, they said, involved us paying back the total amount to our solicitors, who would pay it back to the bank, where it would be amended and reissued.

Much as I don’t like the idea of thousands of pounds whizzing around the ether unnecessarily, I called the solicitor to ask if this were possible. The answer came with a caveat – an eye-watering amount of money charged as a processing fee, which was applied as the cash moved in both directions.

Sensing my baulk, my solicitor insisted that the fee should be paid by the bank as it was their mistake.

I relayed this back – for some reason the two cannot communicate directly with each other – at which point the bank decided to now deny being at fault and instead blamed the solicitors.

As I try to sort it all out, the bank’s solution is to now leave me on hold for hours as a thorn in their side.

Being a layperson, I don’t actually know which party is at fault, but for appalling customer service, the bank gets the nod from me. Sometimes after an hour of on-hold music, the line simply goes dead.

In my case the problem is not disastrous – unlike my poor teacher friend – but for those whose mortgage process is driving them to tears, I feel your pain.

- Kirsty McLuckie is The Scotsman’s property editor