How to make an offer on a property: tips and tricks for securing your dream home

·4-min read
 (Matt Writtle)
(Matt Writtle)

Making an offer on a property for the first time can be a daunting prospect. We’ve asked the experts to answer the most common questions they get asked to help you get your offer accepted on your dream home.

How should I go about making an offer on a property?

(from: Chelsea Whelan, partner in Knight Frank’s Notting Hill office)

Answer: Offers need to be made to the selling agent, and most agents suggest putting it in writing too.

“Supply as much detail as possible to support your offer, this helps the seller make the most well-informed decision,” said Matt Johnson, senior sales manager at JOHNS&CO.

This means giving information about your deposit (including proof of funds, like a bank statement or accountant’s letter), whether you have a mortgage offer in place, what sort of time frame you are looking at, and details of your solicitor.

There are, anecdotally, tales of vendors being convinced to go with a buyer by a touch of flattery, so its worth mentioning how much you love their house and how excited you are about the prospect of living there.

What is the lowest price the seller will take?

(from: Jonny Dyson, director of Winkworth's Ealing and Acton office)

Answer: Most vendors do have a bottom line — but neither they nor their agent will be willing to tell you what it is.

This means you have to make an offer based on what you can afford, and what, based on research about local selling prices, you think it is worth.

You can also do some discreet detective work to try and assess how desperate the buyer is to sell: if they are relocating for work, the property has been on the market for months, or they have another place they are desperate to buy they are more likely to be willing to negotiate.

“Probe the agents subtly and do this during the viewing and definitely outside of their office,” said Turner.

“They should open up more during general conversation away from colleagues. I managed to get £90,000 off an asking price once because an agent mistakenly told me that the owner had an overseas tax bill they had to pay in eight weeks.”

Making a below-asking offer is perfectly acceptable, but don’t push your luck too hard. The average difference between asking and selling price is around five per cent in London.

“There is a fine line between insulting a vendor and losing your credibility or engaging them at a sensible level to find a mutually acceptable price,” said Plum Fenton, London specialist at buying agent Haringtons.

Johnson points out that agents work for sellers, not buyers, and aren’t there to help you get a low offer accepted. “A better way to phrase this question would be: “What would be a reasonable opening offer?” and go from there,” he said.

“Usually, a client will come back with a counter-offer which will give you their bottom-line, or at least the level of their expectations.”

When bargaining Murray Smith, managing director of Site Sales Property Group, suggests raising your price in small increments of £2,000 rather than £5,000. “This helps to keep you in control and hold back some bargaining power,” he said.

Can I offer on two properties?

(from: Jonny Dyson, director of Winkworth's Ealing and Acton office

Answer: In theory you can offer on 100 properties if you like – offers aren’t legally binding and you will only start racking up costs once an offer is accepted and you start hiring surveyors and the like.

Agents absolutely hate buyers doing this because it means that — in the slightly unlikely circumstances that you get both offers accepted — you are inevitably going to pull out of one sale and that will aggravate their clients.

There is also an argument that making multiple offers makes you look flaky and unreliable.

Buying agent Sara Ransom of Stacks Property Search advises caution and discretion – don’t make offers on two properties being sold by the same agent.

“They won’t be inclined to take either offer seriously,” she warned. “Remember their job is to work for the vendor and if they don’t think you are serious then they should tell their vendors this.”

Even if the properties you like are being sold by different agents Fenton thinks you will get found out.

“The selling agents do not operate in their own vacuum, they all know each other, and word will get around very quickly,” she said.

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