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Buyers – Know your onions

July 2020

When it comes to buying a home, purchasers often think in straight lines. By that I mean they think it’s all about the money and that to secure a property, they will only win if they offer the most money.

But offers are a bit like onions. On the outside, skin on, they appear quite simple – you put in an offer and it either gets accepted or rejected. Very straightforward. Yet many buyers think it’s acceptable to simply present their unpeeled onion to the estate agent.

What they fail to realise is that quality agents will want to remove the outer skin of that onion and continue to peel back the layers until they know exactly what lies beneath. So that’s why when you make an offer, it’s not the amount of money that really matters, but whether your offer can be trusted.

Everything in property comes back to trust and those working on behalf of the vendor will want to ensure the reliability and security of any offer. We all understand why that is. Anyone who has experienced a sale falling through at the last minute will shudder when they recall that feeling of crushing disappointment.

A knock-out offer at cloud nine money may dazzle the vendor, but if you’re in a lengthy chain and funded by an eye-watering mortgage, then you will be classed as unreliable and high risk. Only sellers who are motivated by money alone and who enjoy the adrenaline rush of uncertainty, will go for it. Quite frankly, I rarely come across sellers like that, no matter how much money is being offered.

‘Full cash buyers with nothing to sell’ are a vendor’s dream, but few will take these words at face value. A bit more background checking might reveal that the ‘cash’ involves a mortgage and their ‘sold’ claim is that they are merely ‘under offer’. A lot of onion-peeling happens before a property goes from ‘for sale’ to ‘under offer’, with each party hoping that there is nothing lurking within each layer to trip up the sale.

A good agent will urge their vendor client only to accept an offer that has been backed up by solid proof of monies from someone in a genuine position to move, because they know that even though it might not be the highest amount, it will provide the least stress and best value in the long run, as it will actually cross the finish line.

They will also ensure reliable solicitors have been appointed and that any negotiations around ‘extras’, such as furnishing and fittings, have been completed well ahead of time so that they don’t create irritating and stressful hold-ups further down the line.

The final layer of the onion is timescales. Sales that have been Under Offer for excessive periods are usually caused by a lack of clarity from the outset. With every offer should come a sensible timeframe for exchange and completion, that is discussed at the start, taking account of potential hiccups.

If you need to adhere to specific dates for any reason, discuss these early on. You could agree a delayed completion date for example, with the option to make it earlier by prior mutual agreement if required. You can’t go beyond the final backstop date, but this injects an element of flexibility, which some buyers and vendors need. I have also handled transactions with a ‘licence back’ agreement. This is where we complete, but the vendor remains in the property and rents it back from the new owner at favourable rates.

Offers are never just about the money. If you want your offer to be accepted, make sure that you are seen as the most reliable and secure buyer. Otherwise, once they start to peel back the layers of your onion, it may be you who is reduced to tears.

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