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How to make an offer on a house

How to make an offer on a house
Source: Getty Images

Buying a house can feel like a dizzyingly complex process. To keep your cool when it comes to the crunch, here’s how to make an offer on a house.

Prepare your paperwork before you make an offer

Before you make an offer, you need to know what you can afford. Hopefully, you’ve already got a deposit sorted or are actively saving money for your house.

You should have a mortgage in principle arranged with your lender and keep handy any related paperwork. It’s also a good idea to have a solicitor or conveyancer lined up so that the whole buying process is ready to go when you put in your offer.

When you do make an offer, the estate agent is legally obliged to ask for identification. So, be ready to show some photographic ID like a passport or driving licence.

Do your homework 

Armed with all your paperwork, you can get down to the nitty-gritty and work out your bid strategy. To start, aim to familiarise yourself with asking prices versus actual selling prices of similar houses in the area.

Property websites like Zoopla and Right Move let you search sold prices by postcode. But be mindful of extensions, garages, and garden size to get a better all-round view of what can affect a property’s selling price.

Make a note of how long a house has been on the market – property websites usually include a ‘first listed’ date. Houses that have been on the market a long time could be overpriced. Or, if they’ve been relisted a few times, there could be an issue that previous bidders have picked up on. Either way, both are tell-tale signs that you could get a bargain if you play your cards right.

Your research should give you an indication on how to bid. If you’re in a competitive market and you have the finances in place, it makes sense to offer the asking price. But if there are signs that a lower offer might be acceptable, it’s well worth taking a punt and going lower than the asking price.

As a general rule of thumb, kicking off negotiations at 5%-10% below the asking price is acceptable, but it’s ultimately up to you how much you offer.  

Make the offer on your dream house

Making the offer is really simple – just tell the seller’s estate agent.

The offer should be in writing and subject to contract. This can be done either as a letter or an email following a phone call. When that’s done, all you need to do is wait for a decision.

If your offer is accepted 

Congratulations! You should ask for the property to be taken off the market immediately. Notify your conveyancer or solicitor, who will then formally start the conveyancing process.

Remember that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, nothing is legally binding until all parties have signed contracts. Up until this happens, the seller can accept a higher offer – known as gazumping. Either party can also pull out of the sale without being penalised.

In Scotland, the rules are slightly different. You’ll exchange and confirm various details known as missives. This can cover information like items included in the sale. When these points are agreed, the sale is legally binding even though nothing has been formally signed. The seller (or you as the buyer) cannot pull out without facing financial penalties.

If your offer is rejected

You have three options:

  1. Increase your offer in stages up to the maximum you can afford. Bear in mind that your lender is unlikely to help fund any more than their original mortgage in principle offer.
  2. If you hit your maximum bid, you can try appealing to the seller and highlight any advantages you have over other contenders (e.g. if you’re chain free).
  3. Admit defeat and continue your property search. 

How to get your offer on a house accepted

Putting in an offer is undoubtedly stressful (albeit exciting too). You can boost your chances of getting an offer accepted by:

  • Building a rapport with the estate agent – this can ensure you get the best advice about the circumstances of the sale (which can help negotiations). You can also be kept in the loop about other potential buyers.
  • Showing you’re serious – a certain level of haggling over house price is expected, but going in too low can jeopardise your chances and can get you off on the wrong foot with the seller.
  • Stressing your position if it’s advantageous – for example, if you’re chain free or a cash buyer.
  • Personalising your offer – if you really want your offer to stand out, you could include a letter alongside your offer explaining why you want to buy the property.

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