House buying process: step one
The first thing you need to do is prepare and do your homework. Look up asking prices and sold prices of similar properties in the area (in terms of type and size) as the one you're hoping to buy. This will help you to better understand the local market and reassure you that the price that you’re willing to pay is right for the area you are buying in.
Have your finances and documentation ready
If you’re buying with a mortgage you should speak to your mortgage adviser or lender to get an agreement in principle. Ideally before you start your search, you should also make sure that you have enough money for a full deposit. This shows the estate agent that you have the money in place and you will be looked upon favourably by the sellers.
As a prevention to money laundering, estate agents are legally required to carry out 'due diligence' checks. This will include taking some personal details from you, checking ID (e.g. passport or driving licence) and they may also ask for proof of funds.
How much should I offer on a house?
Now you know the financial backing you have, it’s worth thinking about your bidding strategy. Always keep in mind that you shouldn’t offer more than what the property is worth (following your research), or more than you can afford. There are essentially two ways of thinking:
- Make your first offer your best offer: show you’re a serious buyer and try to avoid getting into a drawn-out negotiation process.
- Start with a lower offer: try and bag a bargain whilst giving yourself some wriggle room to negotiate if your offer is rejected.
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How to make an offer on a house
You can put in an offer by calling (or going into) the estate agency’s office. It is wise to put your offer in writing following any conversation to ensure it is accurately recorded. The estate agent will then ask you about where the money is going to come from and how quickly you can go ahead with the purchase.
It’s the estate agent's job to inform the seller of your offer. By law, they must pass every offer they receive to the seller and will then notify you whether your offer has been accepted. If your first offer is accepted, congratulations—break out the champagne. But if it’s a no, it’s either time to go back to the drawing board or enter negotiations.
Before making a second offer, it's worth finding out if any other offers were put forward and if they're higher than your current bid. This will help you figure out how much to increase your offer by. Don't forget the limit you previously set yourself, you need to seriously consider whether it’s worth offering more money and take into account any extra fees you may need to pay, such as stamp duty.
Top tips to make sure your house offer is accepted:
First-time buyers with no chain make for attractive buyers. Your seller may be looking to move as soon as possible and if you’re in a good position, you should make that clear as it will make you more attractive than other potential buyers.
Building a relationship with your estate agent will help ensure you’re getting the best possible advice about your purchase. Try and go into their offices rather than having a phone call, sit down with them to discuss your requirements so that later down the line they can put a face to your name.
Sellers don't want time wasters. If you like the look of a property, don't dawdle—be the first to get a viewing. Being proactive is one way to show the seller you're a serious contender.
While a bit of negotiating is to be expected, don't go too low. This can cause tension with the seller and you may end up losing the property altogether if someone else offers a higher price. You should try to avoid round numbers to prevent yourself from making the same bid as someone else.
Once your offer has been accepted, ask for the property to be taken off the market straight away. This can minimise the chances of additional offers coming in over and above yours and finding you’ve been trumped.
After your offer on a house is accepted
Having your offer accepted is a great moment but you must remember the deal is not legally binding until contracts have been exchanged. This means there is still a risk that the seller could back out or that another person gazumps you by putting in a higher offer which the seller accepts.
To try and avoid gazumping you can ask the sellers to stop marketing their property. This will also prevent people from being able to find it on property portals, which will in turn reduce the risk of other people putting an offer in.
You should set a realistic target date for exchange and keep up communication with the estate agent to see how things are progressing. If you are worried the sale might be taking too long read our tips on how to speed up a property sale.
Are you Propertymark Protected?
If you need an estate agent, look for a Propertymark Protected agency. By using one of our members you are guaranteed to be consulting with a professional agent who will give you up-to-date advice and guidance.