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How to make an offer on a property

From asking the right questions to negotiating tactics, there's a lot to think about. Here are some tips to help you make an offer on a property.

What do you need to know before making an offer on a home?

Once you find the right property, it helps to get a complete picture before deciding how much to offer. Asking the right questions will help you understand more about the seller's motives and whether there’s likely to be competition from other buyers.

Things to ask the estate agent before making an offer include:

  1. How long have the current owners lived at the property?
  2. Have the owners found somewhere to move to?
  3. How long has the property been on the market?
  4. Has the price been reduced?
  5. Have there been any offers so far?
  6. Is the property being marketed by more than one estate agent?
  7. Are any fixtures and fittings included?
  8. How much tax would you need to pay on the property (if applicable)?

A good tip is to check to see if any old listings are still available online. This will give you an idea of how long the owners have lived there and how much they paid.

How much should you offer on a property?

To help set your budget and work out how much you can afford, you can use an online mortgage calculator. It’s also a good idea to speak to a mortgage adviser. When you contact estate agents to enquire about properties you’re interested in, don’t reveal your maximum budget, as you'll want room to negotiate.

When finalising your budget, make sure to factor in any potential work that will need to be done to the property once you buy it. Even simple renovations can be expensive.

The offer process when buying a home

The most common way of making an offer on a home is:

  1. Make an offer to the estate agent.
  2. Follow up on your offer in writing or by email.
  3. Wait for the seller to come back and accept or reject your offer.

If they accept the offer

Ask for the property to be taken off the market immediately and all upcoming viewings to be cancelled. It prevents someone from offering a higher price after the seller accepts your offer – known as ‘gazumping’.

Once your offer has been accepted in writing, you can formally apply for your mortgage.

You can now instruct your solicitor or licensed conveyancer to start the legal work.

You might also arrange for a surveyor to carry out an independent survey on the property to flag any potential problems.

If they don’t accept the offer

Don’t rush into making a higher offer until you’ve worked out what you can sensibly afford and whether the property is worth the extra amount.

Things to mention when you make an offer

When you make an offer on a house or flat, don’t forget to mention anything that may set you apart from other buyers. For example:

  1. Are you chain-free or in a small chain?
  2. Do you already have a Decision in Principle from your mortgage lender?
  3. Do you have a sizeable cash deposit?
  4. Do you already have a solicitor or licensed conveyancer?

How to negotiate when buying a home

There's no magic formula to decide how much you should offer on a home. Remember, the estate agent is working for the seller and that is how they make their money. Always try to stay friendly and keep your cool.

If you're not confident with negotiating, practise with a family member before you make the offer over the phone. If negotiating is really not one of your skills, you can use a buyer’s agent.

What is the sealed bid system when buying a home?

Sealed bids may be used in areas with a lot of competition, such as London. Interested prospective buyers put their maximum offer in a sealed envelope and the seller chooses the highest offer.

It’s worth asking the estate agent roughly what other buyers may offer. Remember, the estate agent is acting for the seller. Another tip is to go slightly higher than the nearest round number, so £400,500 rather than £400,000.

What is a holding deposit when buying a property?

If the seller accepts your offer, you may need to put down a small holding deposit to the estate agent, which is repayable if the sale doesn’t go ahead.

Buying a home in Scotland

The home-buying process differs in Scotland.

When you make an offer on a property in Scotland (and all the conditions have been met), it is legally binding – unlike in England and Wales, where it isn’t until you exchange contracts with your seller. 

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.