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Putting in (and revising) an offer - a Case Study!

When the time had come to put in our first offer, we tried to keep in mind my boyfriend’s father's sage advice and stay detached, not to get our hopes up and don’t be tempted into offering more than what a property was worth. Easier said than done, but with time it became easier. Using a template from Kirstie Allsop and Phil Spencer’s ‘How to Buy a House’, we tailored the letter to each property. Sometimes, we included a brief rationale for the offer if this fell below the asking price. On another occasion, we knew the buyer was part of a chain and had yet to find their next property, so we hammered home the fact that we could be flexible, within reason, in terms of exchange and completion dates, to allow them the time they needed.

Offer only what you think the house is worth, not what you can afford to spend

One memorable property was priced right at the top end of our budget, and as with most, priced low to create competition and demand amongst potential buyers. It was a dream property: massive front and back garden, garage, spacious rooms, high ceilings, perfect location. The owner was on her own now, widowed, her family having flown the nest and looking to downsize (but hadn’t begun her property search yet). It was a long shot, we knew it was worth at least £10K more than our maximum offer and we were going in low not through choice, but by necessity. We put in a verbal offer during the viewing and followed this up with an effusive formal offer letter describing it as our ideal family home, and offering full, unconditional flexibility with exchange and completion dates to suit the vendor. A tense day followed as we awaited a decision. I was phoned mid-morning at work and was told the vendor was considering our offer alongside one other, higher offer. “Is there any more money in the pot that you could offer?”. My boyfriend and I deliberated long and hard about this; we knew that the average house sale takes 8-12 weeks to tie up, which would give us approximately 10 weeks in which we could save slightly more money towards a deposit, but it wouldn’t be enough and at the end of the day it would be stretching ourselves too far.  

With two other properties we also could afford to revise our offers. In one case, we decided it was worth the extra money and put forward an extra £5000 (which still was not enough). With regards to the other, we weren’t prepared to offer any more; having gone in well above the asking price and knowing the limit of the property’s value, to have done so would’ve simply been feeding the vendor’s or agent’s greed.

Making an offer on a property
Making an offer on a property

Don’t get emotionally attached

In all these instances, keeping emotionally detached was key, however hard it was to see past and wave goodbye to a dream I had formulated in my head of living there.  We felt deflated by every rejected offer, yet these experiences stood us in good stead when we put in a high offer for a property in need of modernisation. We could see the potential and seriously envisioned how we could make it our own. However, unlike any other property we’d seen (and by this stage we were into the 30s), this house was an absolute tip. The vendor was clearly a hoarder, and from comments made during our viewing, it seemed to irk the estate agent greatly that no effort had been made to clear or tidy up even a little. There was no path through the living room to the French doors leading to the garden, it was just filled with bric-a-brac and random furniture, piled up high. Seeing past this (who were we to judge?), we were convinced it was the one and put in an offer within hours of viewing. One day later, we were told that we were being considered alongside another offer and would hear his decision the following morning. The following afternoon rolled around, with no word. The estate agent just could not get hold of the seller, he said. We had to assume he was still deliberating. Another day came and went, more stalling and perceptible frustration from the estate agent: “He’s driving a lot today. He goes in and out of signal, difficult to get him on the phone I’m afraid”; “He isn’t answering the phone, we’ve left several voicemails”. When we finally heard, it was disappointing: he decided not to sell at all.

With hindsight, this should’ve been obvious to us. This wasn’t someone who wanted to sell, he wasn’t even interested in making the house presentable for potential buyers and clearing away clutter; more to the point, he was unwilling to engage with the estate agents after they had collected offers on his behalf, leaving them tearing their hair out. If we had been more clued-up, and less absorbed in the dream of this project-house, we would have withdrawn the offer. Alarm bells should have rung: if someone was so indecisive, vague and elusive in considering offers, what would the conveyancing process be like?! Ultimately, we dodged a bullet (he could have reached this decision after we had paid for searches, surveys and countless other legal expenses) and I was finally able to practise what my boyfriend’s father had preached: although I had fallen in love with the property and the dream of making it ours, we couldn’t even throw more money at the owner to secure it. It just wasn’t going to happen, time to move on.

We first saw the house we went on to buy in the middle of a busy day of viewing appointments. By this stage we had seen 36 houses, offered on 5 and were somewhat worn down. We liked it a lot, it seemed perfect apart from it’s location on a main road. As we were in the habit of doing, we rushed from one property to another that day and only as we sighed when turning over the details of the good and the bad points of this latest batch did we realise we wanted it. It had the spacious rooms, parking, garden and proximity to both train station and motorway junctions.  The busy road issue was just something we had to compromise on, but at least the large enclosed rear garden afforded us a peaceful outdoor area and safe space for our son to play. We went in at asking price, and our offer was accepted immediately.

First time buyer property
First time buyer property

Get legally prepared

One piece of advice we were given early on was to get legally prepared: register with a solicitor or conveyancer, so that when you put in offers on any property you can give all the information straight away and show that you are a serious buyer and ready to go. We didn’t heed this advice, to our detriment, and wasted the first 14 days post-offer-acceptance on registering with and instructing a national conveyancing firm (being the cheapest of three quotes). This was possibly a big mistake. The few hundred pounds difference between them and the other solicitors would have been nothing if we had known of the delays we were to experience at each milestone, due to the depersonalised service and the fact that the solicitor we were assigned worked part-time. Luckily, we had a patient seller who was committed to the transaction. 

Would the process have gone more quickly if we had used a local Solicitor instead of a low cost national conveyancer?  Well we don't really know.

In summary, when putting in offers we learned the following:

  1. Offer only what you think the house is worth, not what you can afford to spend. Don’t get worn down by the house search or pressured into a bidding war with other potential buyers and end up paying more than a property is worth.
  2. Don’t get emotionally attached to a property or the idea of a property you’ve offered on. If it doesn’t work out, take a breather, restore your energy and keep going with the search. Another better house WILL come along.
  3. Get legally prepared before putting in offers, and don’t just go with the cheapest quote; this will show that you are serious buyers and speed up the initial stages of the conveyancing process.