In the current climate of competitive bidding, putting yourself in the best position to be successful when making an offer on a property is vital.
We asked members of the Norwich & District Association of Estate Agents what buyers should be doing to maximise their chances of success.
What should you do before making an offer on a property?
“Before making an offer, buyers should be in a position to proceed,” says Nick Taylor of Hadley Taylor.
“In other words, they should already have a buyer for their property or better still not have a property to sell at all. Buyers who haven’t yet put their house on the market rarely succeed in competitive bids.”
“If you have a buyer for your own property, make sure you know who is managing the sale for you at your own estate agency office, as the seller’s agent will have a duty of care to contact them to check the chain, to make sure your offer is properly represented,” says Jan Hÿtch of Arnolds Keys.
“Choose a solicitor and preferably someone local, rather then a conveyancing ‘factory’. As in all things, you get what you pay for, and a local conveyancer who knows the area and has probably done many similar transactions will always advantage you – and is much more likely to pull all the stops out if necessary.”
Finally, making sure your finance is in place is important, says Steve Pymm of Pymm & Co. “Your first step should be to talk to an independent mortgage advisor to know what you can borrow. An Agreement In Principle (AIP) will make the seller feel more reassured, knowing your lender is backing you.”
Are there any tools that can help you to strengthen your offer?
“Just be open and honest about your situation, and be willing to give whatever relevant information is needed to verify your position,” says Jan Hÿtch.
“The seller is about to choose a buyer they will be working closely with for the next few weeks and months, and in whom they will invest all their hope and trust to complete the purchase of their home.
“Potential buyers who come across as defensive or reluctant to share relevant information at the get-go can sometimes put doubt in the seller’s mind of their true commitment.”
The current market means that buyers have little room for manoeuvre when it comes to making an offer, says Steve Pymm. “In this market it’s generally the asking price, but always offer as much as you can as there are more buyers than houses at present.”
Could knowing more about the seller help?
“Knowing the seller’s position and responding to their needs can be a factor in negotiating a successful bid,” says Nick Taylor. “If at all possible, buyers should meet the seller. They often like to know who they’re selling to. Remember, people buy from people.”
“Not every seller is looking just for the best price,” agrees Jan Hÿtch. “It does depend on how they feel about the buyer, and their empathy with the buyer’s situation. In many cases sellers turn down a higher offer in favour of someone they just feel ‘right’ about, because they love their home and want to feel that the next owner will love it as much.
“This often happens when the seller is downsizing after raising their family in the house they are selling, and they can feel compassion towards people in the same situation a generation later.”
“If you can help with timescales and not put pressure on your vendor, then that will help,” adds Steve Pymm.
Should you put in a lower offer first?
“In this market it’s too risky,” advises Steve Pymm. “Offer what you are happy to pay as your maximum. That way, if you don’t secure the house, you know you couldn’t have done more.”
Nick Taylor agrees. “Buyers should put their best bid forward from the get go. Low bidders are soon eliminated from the process.”
Is there anything you can do to help your offer stand out?
“In the current market, sellers are minded to agree to sell to the person that they feel will be the most reliable to see the purchase through to completion,” says Jan Hÿtch.
“This usually means the buyer chosen is the one with the fewest variables that could stop the sale from proceeding. So that’s often someone who already has a sale progressing on their own property, or who has sold and is in temporary accommodation, and/or is willing to share their proof of deposit and AIP to show your mortgage company is backing them.
“Above all, be transparent and open from the outset – the first stage of legal commitment is exchange of contracts, which is often weeks and months down the line from when the sale is agreed.
“The legal process of property purchase in England and Wales depends hugely on trust, integrity and commitment between seller and buyer – a big ask for people who usually don’t even know each other at the start.”
How can you help to speed up negotiations?
Always put everything in writing in an email, and be ready to instruct a good solicitor straight away – so get quotes in before you have found your property,” advises Steve Pymm.
Nick Taylor has similar advice. “Buyers can speed up the negotiation by responding promptly to requests for information from the agent. Be ready with solicitor’s details. Don’t choose a bucket shop conveyancing service as this will be a red flag for the agent. Always appoint a local firm of solicitors who have been recommended to you by someone you trust.”
Jan Hÿtch says agreeing a timescale to aim for from the outset is a good idea. “You won’t always achieve it, because that’s the nature of the home-buying process – but at least you and the seller will start off with the same goal in mind.
“After that, be prompt and thorough in responding to information requests, and remember that everyone involved – buyer, seller, agent, surveyor and solicitor – are all working towards the same end result, so try not to take out your frustrations on anyone involved!”
Can you do anything to protect your offer – particularly against being gazumped?
“Buyers can protect their purchase by following through on everything they have agreed to,” says Nick Taylor. “This doesn’t sound hard, but you’d be surprised how many buyers don’t do this. Gazumping is less common than one might think, because sellers are generally very reluctant to go back on a deal once it’s been agreed.”
Ultimately, being open and honest is the best defence, says Jan Hÿtch. “To cement your position, just be prompt in all dealings and responses, be open, honest and courteous to everyone involved, and behave like you are doing everything possible to help and progress proceedings.
“If the seller believes you are 100pc committed and doing everything possible to make the sale happen, in most cases they are unlikely to waver towards another buyer, even for a slightly higher price.”
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