These are challenging times in the world of property, but no matter where you are buying or at what level you are buying into, there are some golden rules which apply in the present market says Middleton Advisors founding partner Mark Parkinson.
It’s essential to do your research – not on what is currently on the market (guide prices can vary wildly), but compare what has actually sold. If you are unable to find any evidence of recent sales in a particular street, then you would be well advised to ask yourself why and dig a bit deeper in order to identify possible reasons for the lack of activity. Remember also that the house price websites rely on Land Registry data which is available a few months after a property has completed, whereas the price is fixed on exchange, meaning that sale prices can often be several months out of date and therefore misleading.
In shaping your offer, think carefully about other contributing factors over and beyond just the asking price. It’s important to know the position of the seller and whether he/she is in the process of buying something else and is therefore under pressure on time scale. It may be that there are other terms that could prove as attractive as the last few thousand pounds, such as a quick exchange/completion.
Be self-critical! It is really very important not to underestimate how you appear as a buyer and ensure you score higher than any possible competition. Arriving at appointments on time, being courteous to the vendor’s agent and always giving prompt feedback can significantly help your cause when it comes to submitting the offer. Like it or not, you need the seller’s agent on your side, so if you’ve been less than the model buyer during the process, this could blot your copy book when it comes to the ‘crunch’ of the deal. It’s risky to assume you are the only buyer the agent is talking to – they are not required to tell you if there is someone else in the frame.
Pitching your offer at the right price is crucial. Don’t go in too low as you won’t be taken seriously. And remember, for the large part you are buying someone’s home and it is easy to offend. At the same time, hold your nerve and be brave as it often pays to think of the lowest offer you believe the vendor will accept…and then reduce a little more.
Specifically for first time buyers, our advice would always be to focus on what we call ‘performability’ – that is, evidence of having your finances in place and solicitors instructed, which will help to build the seller’s confidence in you and mean you are taken seriously. We would also encourage you to chat through the conversation you plan to have with the seller’s agent with someone whose advice you respect. They will be able to provide helpful suggestions that could well make the difference in securing the property.
Verbal offers must always be followed up in writing to reinforce your intent, but do remember to mark it ‘subject to contract’.
As an ‘up-sizer’ or family buyer you will often be buying someone’s long term family home, so a degree of sensitivity is advised and it doesn’t hurt to make the vendors aware of how you plan to live as a family in the house. Given the emotions involved, a measured amount of enthusiasm is always very much appreciated and well received.
The skill of a good selling agent in prime central London is to become the buyer’s confidante, but as the buyer, remember what the agent is paid to do so it may be that some of the information you have imparted with, could you be used against you. Think before you speak.
And finally, for the best properties, don’t assume that having cash will place you in pole position – often it just gets you in the race. Don’t be too proud to provide a cast-iron financial reference – this can sometimes tip the balance when you are in competition.
Head of Middleton London