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How to Speak to Estate Agents

August 2020

Cooking up the best gourmet meal in the property ‘kitchen’ can sometimes feel like Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares! There are people shouting across workstations, utensils flying around, plus pots and pans all on the go at the same time. As the buyer or seller of a property, you are effectively the head chef who must orchestrate this cacophony, ensuring that your voice is heard above all others. It is your responsibility to make sure that none of the ingredients are undercooked, the pots don’t boil over and that the main course is not left to burn.

The key to ensuring this is to use the right language when leading your team of sous chefs. If you don’t, your progress in the property kitchen is going to end in tears, with your team sending out the wrong meals and disgruntled customers leaving in a huff. At the end of the day, it will be you who is left to clear up the mess. As the head chef of your property transaction, you need to ensure that you know your brunoise from your julienne and your chiffonade from your concasse. Precise phrasing is everything – let me explain.

When buying, how often do estate agents get approached by ‘cash buyers’? Yes this is the buzz phrase that is meant to get agents ultra enthused and reaching for their black book of top vendors. However experience has taught them that you are guilty until proven innocent, as the ‘I’m cash’ phrase isn’t always what it seems.

A cash buyer means that your monies are sat in a UK-nominated bank account and can be withdrawn immediately. Sometimes buyers think they have a ‘cash’ status, when in fact part of their cash is from their bank (ie they need a mortgage). Whilst having a mortgage isn’t an issue on its own, the problem is that you have given the wrong instruction and inadvertently (or otherwise!) misled the vendor or agent. As a result, any confidence in your reliability as a purchaser is undermined.

Another misused phrase is ‘I am sold’. This could mean several things – ‘under offer’, ‘exchanged’ or ‘completed’. This one phrase has three possible interpretations, all of which have different meanings and its misuse can damage your reputation for not being precise first time around. Being ‘under offer’ (or sold subject to contract) is where you have agreed to accept an offer from a buyer and memorandums of sale have been issued. Whilst being ‘under offer’ in previous markets used to be a highly significant step and have agents getting excited at the prospect of a hot-to-trot buyer, in the current fast-paced market, it doesn’t have quite the same clout that it used to.

The reason for this is that the market is highly competitive. There are many buyers who are all cash and/or in rented accommodation. In addition and underpinning all of this, are the keywords in offers that agents like – ‘reliability and security’. Very often vendors and agents alike will choose an offer that is reliable and secure, over and above the monetary amount, as it is more likely to transact. Being ‘under offer’ is a good step in the right direction, however you are not as reliable as other buyers in the market.

Another phrase is ‘I am having a valuation’. Do you mean you are having bank valuation for mortgage lending? Or is it an RICS Red Book Valuation for divorce proceedings or do you actually mean you are having a market appraisal carried out by an estate agent?

So as you can see, you need to make sure you use the right language, so that your team of sous chefs clearly understand. Otherwise your reliability as a buyer or seller will be chucked into the food processor!

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