For first time buyers the opportunity to finally make an offer on the house of your dreams is one you will grab with both hands. After spending months, possibly years, saving for a house deposit, finally placing an offer on a house is the last step to take before entering the buying process.
In the time between making an offer on a house and starting legal proceedings, there are a few hurdles to be aware of. Unfortunately there is no official manual that shows first time buyers how to negotiate a house offer. What we can do is give you a few pointers on how to liaise and deal with sellers, understanding their mind-set and coping with a chain of sales.
When you find a home that meets your living requirements you should check the seller’s asking price in relation to the local and national housing market. A brief look at Land Registry reports for houses in the same area can give you a rough guide as to what similar houses or flats in the immediate area have sold for.
You may also wish to check whether any surrounding properties have planning permission for any new developments that may affect your quality of living, or if there are development plans for local housing schemes. This should however be part of the conveyancing process known as ‘searches’ undertaken by your property lawyer. Knowing this information early on can be a good tool for negotiating.
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Making your first bid
Don’t get bogged down too much by only comparing house prices of surrounding properties – no property has a fixed price tag and is only worth what a buyer is prepared to pay for it. When making an opening offer on a house you should often expect to bid as much as 10 per cent lower than the asking price. This is commonly knocked back by the seller, but both parties can use this offer as a starting point for future bids until an agreement is reached.
Seek advice from friends or parents with experience of the local area as to opening offers, however don’t feel you can’t bid a lower amount, the worst is that they decline the offer.
What are your property priorities?
A common pitfall of first time buyers is that they consider emotions too highly in their decision making process. It’s the estate agents job to get the best price possible for a property so they will stress the lifestyle benefits of a property. However, you need to think realistically about how your lifestyle might change in the years you’ll be in a property.
Might there be a partner moving in and is there enough storage? Being close to a busy town centre is great for nights out but not necessarily for unbroken sleep? How does it affect a commute to work? Who else might want this property so how easy would it be to sell in a few years’ time should you wish to move on?
The old adage is to always try and buy the worst house on the best street and it can certainly hold true. Every street has a “ceiling price”, past which investment in a property in unlikely to add value when you come to sell. Consider this and think are you paying a premium because of your emotional attraction to a property, rather than its actual value within the street it’s in? Houses are usually the single largest purchases in anyone’s life, so it pays to be practical!
The response to your opening bid will depend on a number of factors – how quickly the seller needs to sell, how long the property has been on the market and how many other parties have indicated an interest in the property. Do remember that you can always increase an offer, however you can’t reduce an offer without good reason (eg. a bad survey report) and you may end up breaking the chain (and trust) with the seller.
Ensuring a seller is receptive to your offer
In order to appeal to the emotions of the seller you may wish to try and strike up a friendship or connection between both parties. Show an interest in their future plans whilst also impress upon them how keen you are to live in their home and the reasons why the property fits your requirements so well. Selling property is a people’s market. Would you sell your property – a home with many treasured memories – to a buyer you thought unworthy of appreciating it in the same manner?
At the same time it is important not to appear overly keen to purchase their home, as the seller will know you will go the extra mile (and extra pounds!) to get your hands on the deeds! Don’t walk around the property and exclaim “this is THE one. We’ve got to have it”. Your negotiations will be immediately limited! If you are in any doubt, take a trusted friend who knows you, knows how you like to live your life, and will give you an honest appraisal.
Understand the seller’s situation
Aside from your own offer, the seller may also be involved in acquiring their own new house. As a first time buyer you are in a strong position to allow someone to move quickly into getting their next property. Therefore it’s very important to stress your position to the seller as well as the estate agent.
If you are living at home with parents, have a mortgage agreed in principle and a solicitor already in mind, a seller wanting a quick sale might well move a little more on price than with someone in rented accommodation with 6 months still on their tenancy who doesn’t know their true mortgage budget.
It is also highly recommended that you show patience and understanding when part of a moving chain – an act of good will is sure to be remembered favourably if a seller is faced with multiple offers for their property.
Having an offer accepted
Whether it’s been a short or long, drawn out negotiation process receiving a formal acceptance in writing makes it all worthwhile. With one in three house purchases said to fall through at the time of writing, it is important to ensure your seller is made well aware of the terms and conditions of your offer.
Liaise with your property lawyer to ensure your offer is subject to contract and survey, leaving you an escape route should a home survey yield unsatisfactory results that influence you to withdraw or revise your bid.