After saving up for a house deposit, the last step to take before entering the buying process is placing an offer on your desired house.
In the period between negotiating a house offer and entering the legal aspect of the property-transaction, there are a few hurdles you need to be aware of, so we’ve listed below some pointers on how to: liaise and deal with sellers, understand the seller’s mind-set, and cope with a chain of sales.
When you find a house that meets your requirements, you should check the seller’s asking price and compare it to the local and national housing market. You’ll be able to find out roughly how much similar properties in the immediate area have sold for by looking at Land Registry reports for properties in the same area. It’s also a good idea to check whether any surrounding properties have planning permissions for new developments or alterations which may affect your quality of life; use the Government’s Planning Portal to find out if any large-scale building works are planned that could possibly lower your enjoyment of the area and affect the price of your desired house in future. Although these ‘searches’ will be carried out formally by your conveyancing solicitor later on in the process, knowing this information could prove useful in the negotiating stage.
Making your opening offer
Every property is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it, so there’s no fixed price tag on your desired house and you should not be fixated on comparing the house prices of neighbouring properties. For your open offer on a house, it is a good idea to bid a lower amount than the asking price; you may want to bid as much as 10% lower than the asking price because although it is likely to be refused by the seller, it can provide a good starting point for future bids until agreement is reached. Speak to family or friends who have experience of the local area in order to get advice on what might constitute a good opening offer. Remember that you can always increase your offer but you cannot lower it without a good reason, such as a survey revealing defects or damages in the property.
It’s all too easy for buyers to consider their emotions too highly during the decision-making process. Think carefully about what the property’s actual value is, for example, does it have enough storage space, how would living there affect your commute to work; how easy might it be to sell in a few years’ time should you wish to move on? Do not fall into the temptation of bidding too highly for a house; buying a house is a major financial commitment and it pays to be practical.
Ensuring a seller is receptive to your offer
How the seller responds to your opening bid will depend on a number of factors, especially how quickly the seller wants to sell, how long the property has been on the market, and how many other parties have indicated interest in the property. Appealing to the emotions of the seller could help you in having your offer accepted, so it is a good idea to try and form a friendship or connection with them. If you are part of a moving chain, showing patience and understanding will ensure that you are remembered favourably by the seller. Strike up a connection with them by showing an interest in their future plans, letting them know how keen you are to buy their home and why their property is so ideal for you. For most people, their home is full of treasured memories, so why would they want to sell it to a buyer they think unworthy of appreciating it in a similar manner?
Having said that, it is also important that you don’t appear too keen as this will indicate to the seller that you are willing to pay a high price for the property. Your negotiating powers will be severely and immediately limited if you declare absolute dedication to a property.
The home-owner is likely to be involved in acquiring their own new house, and if you can demonstrate to them that you are a serious buyer who’s able to move in quickly – e.g. you’re living at home with your parents, you have a mortgage agreement in principle, and you already have a conveyancing solicitor in mind – then they are more likely to negotiate with you than with another prospective buyer who appears less serious. Remember that when you make an offer, the seller’s estate agent will ask to see your proof of ID, so have the necessary documentation to hand in order to avoid any delays.
Having an offer accepted
Whether it took a short, few days or several, drawn-out weeks, coming to the end of negotiations and receiving a formal acceptance of your offer in writing makes it all worthwhile. Ensure that the seller is aware of any terms and conditions of your offer (e.g. repairs which need to be made to the house), and that you liaise with your conveyancing solicitor in order to ensure that your offer is made subject to a satisfactory survey result so that you have an escape route should the survey reveal anything which causes you to want to withdraw or alter your offer.