For most people, buying a house is the single biggest financial decision they'll ever make. And yet, because of the emotion involved, it's not something you can treat as just an investment.
In the back of your mind, a property is always a home too.
Over the last few years, fewer people having been moving because of the economy and there have been fewer houses on the market to choose from. Now that the market is heating up again, there is more competition for each property. You'll need to make sure you're in a strong negotiating position if you're to become the chosen buyer.
Here are our top tips for how to buy a house!
Getting ready to buy
- An agent's favourite buyer is someone currently living in rented and armed with cash. First time buyers and those with short and complete chains are next in line.
- When we say cash, we mean exactly that - be prepared to provide bank statements as proof!
- If there aren't many properties that you are likely to be interested in, consider selling and buying separately. Chains do fall apart and it might give you the advantage you'll need.
- Do your window shopping on Rightmove, but put your own property on the market as soon as you are serious. If you find your perfect new home before marketing your current one, there's a good chance you'll end up missing out and kicking yourself.
- Make sure you've done a good job of preparing your home for sale!
- It is normally relatively simple to arrange a mortgage agreement in principle if you are employed and have your last three pay slips, but if you are self employed, it will take longer. In that case, you will normally need 2-3 years accounts signed off by a Chartered Accountant. Get your ducks in a row early! You'll need this to make any offer.
Starting to look around
- Visit the estate agents' offices in person to register with them, particularly in smaller towns and villages. It always helps if the agent likes you enough to help fight your corner!
- Be conservative when telling an agent what your budget is. If they know how exactly far you can stretch, that can influence any potential future negotiations.
- Ask the agent for recommendations on solicitors and mortgage advice - they'll be more invested in you - and have more of a chance to get to know and like you.
- If interested in a particular property, ask the agent if they feel the vendor would consider offers.
While at the viewing
- This is the start of any negotiation for a canny buyer, but it can be tough to hide your enthusiasm when you find the property of your dreams.
- Ask for information about the vendor's position - the agent shouldn't reveal too much, but it doesn't hurt to ask innocent questions.
- If you like the property, arrange a second viewing. You'll want to be thorough enough to offer from a well informed position, so take a list with you of everything you're uncertain about or worry might be costly. (Smartphones are great viewing tools!)
Deciding on the level of offer to make
- Research the market thoroughly using the sold prices history on Zoopla and provide evidence to explain why you are making the offer you are. Consider the price this particular property sold for last time, other recent sales of similar, larger or better condition properties and the ceiling price in the street.
- Consider what you have learned about the vendor's motivation.
- Find out how long the property has been on the market (Zoopla will tell you) and what that might mean for how cheeky you can be.
- Ultimately, you need to make a credible offer which both the agent and vendor will take seriously.
- Remember that if you really do love the property, you'll regret missing out for the sake of trying to save a few thousand pounds.
Making your offer
- If you're not in a position to proceed (you haven't found a buyer for your own property), it is unlikely that we would be able to recommend that the vendor accept your offer and stop marketing the property. In this scenario, consider submitting your interest and asking to be kept informed should the situation change. Sometimes when you are in a weak position, it is better not to start negotiating!
- If the agent tells you that there are multiple offers, sell yourself. Tell us why the vendor should choose you - and put it all on the line, don't be afraid to tug the vendors heartstrings. Tell us why you love the property and how you're planning your future there.
- Put your offer in writing using email and remember to state that it is "subject to contract and survey". If it's a good offer and you are in a proceedable position, make your offer conditional on the agent taking the property off the market.
- Include details of your LTV (Loan to Value) percentage in your offer and confirm that you have already received an agreement in principle for the mortgage. This will indicate to the agent that you have done your homework and deserve to be taken seriously.
- If you have already instructed your solicitor (well done, another good sign!), mention that and name them.
- Also include contact information for your own estate agent so that the vendor's agent can verify the status of your chain.
- Put emotion aside as best you can.
- Negotiate with facts and figures, not feelings and opinions.
- Consider the non-financial elements you are able to negotiate on. This might include timings, offering to clear a probate sale property, or being flexible in any number of other ways. What can you think of that other buyers might not offer?
- If you need to increase your offer or make other concessions, ask for something in return - curtains, appliances, etc. There's no such thing as a one sided negotiation!
- Don't necessarily worry if it takes a bit of time for the vendor to respond to your offer - it might be a negotiation tactic and two can play at that game!
I should point out that we are legally obliged to act in the best interests of our customer, the seller, at all times. However, by improving your own buying position, you help us to help you!
Good luck! And if your negotiations are successful, don't forget to use our checklist to help prepare for your move!