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The Dos and Don'ts of haggling when buying a house

As the average property price is up 9.6% in 2022, many buyers want to get the best deal for their new home. Yet, with the market so saturated and competition at an all-time high, how can buyers successfully haggle the best price?

Housetastic’s property expert Michael Reading advises on what to do and what not to do to help negotiate the price or package of your property.

1. Research and know the area


Regardless of whether you intend of starting a negotiation, researching the property and the area before making an offer is crucial. Check the prices of similar properties nearby and compare to how much the asking price is for this property. You may find that some sellers overshoot their asking price at first, just to see what they can get, but if you see a similar property nearby for a lot less, then you will have the upper hand when negotiating.

2. Ask as many questions as possible

There is no such thing as being nosy when it comes to buying a new home. Leave no stone unturned and find out as many answers as you possibly can. Two very important questions to ask are: how long has the property been on the market for and the often-forgotten what is included in the sale? If a property has been on the market for a while, then the sellers may be more open to accepting a lower offer, however, you must be sure to follow up with finding out why the property has taken so long to be sold.

Finding out what is included in the sale can also be used as leverage in a house negotiation. For example, if a property sale includes its boiler find out information about that boiler; how old is it and when was it last serviced? If such appliances aren’t included, then this can help make your negotiation case.

3. Have a property survey conducted

This is a must, even if you don’t plan on even entering negotiation talks on your potential property. Property surveys are crucial as they identify potential property problems and repairs that need to be made. If significant repairs are recommended to be carried out, but you are happy to make an offer on the property anyway, then this will give you a strong case to negotiate. With the information provided by the survey, you can work out how severe the repairs may be and how much they may cost.

4. Start low…

A common “tactic” when negotiating a house sale is to go much lower than the asking price and work your way up to your desired percentage, although do this with caution. The perk of this method is you could end up with a price that is significantly under your budget, but you must be willing to manage your expectations. Expect to get rejected when starting with around 20-25% off the asking price but continue to work your way up. If a seller is particularly keen to get the sale underway then they may be more open, however…

5. …don’t insult the seller

It is currently a seller’s market, as for every property on sale there may be numerous families who are thinking about making an offer. The danger with going in hard on your negotiations is that you never know just how much interest there is for the same property, and many buyers are willing to gazump and go way above the asking price to secure it for themselves. The term “gazump” means to make a higher offer for a house that already has an accepted offer, yet still succeeds in beating the original offer. This is the risk with negotiating, which is why it is important to research the market and the property listing before beginning negotiations. Don’t risk your dream home for the sake of a bargain – be reasonable and put yourself in the seller’s shoes.

6. Be realistic

You may have heard success stories about first-time buyers who managed to get their dream forever home for 50% less than the asking price, however, these stories are exceptionally rare. Manage your expectations and don’t expect to get your dream property for a fraction of the price, especially not in the current market, and remember to keep in mind the property and area factors.

If a property has only just been put on the market, then you may not manage to get very much knocked off the asking price, if you can even get any at all. To help bag a bargain, scope the market for properties that have been listed for longer, as by this point sellers may be more open to accepting all offers. However, just be wary to ask questions to ensure there isn’t a bad reason why the property hasn’t yet sold.

7. Have everything in writing

Regardless of the relationship you have with your estate agents or even directly with the sellers, you must ensure you have everything verbally agreed in writing. You may agree in person or over the phone on a figure or a deal of some sort, yet if there is no documentation of this then either party can go back on their word. Always follow up any discussions or negotiations in writing, whether it is in the form of a letter or an email, and cc relevant people in.

8. Be firm but fair

It may seem like an unfair market at the moment, with sellers seemingly holding more power than buyers, however, this is not the case, so be careful not to downplay yourself. Seeming too keen and too flexible, although it may seem indicative of being an attractive seller, these traits can put you on a backfoot. Instead, stay patient and take your time to review any counter-offers provided to you. Don’t be quick to accept an offer and make sure this property will suit you as much as the sale will suit the sellers.

In addition, not all sellers are motivated by money and their definition of the best offer may be a buyer who is willing to be adaptable and wait longer than usual. The best way to understand the seller’s motives is to ask questions about why they are moving and where they are moving to after. Knowing these answers means you can adapt your offer with their interests at heart too.

9. Offer refused? Not all is lost

Rejections are disappointing and can be disheartening but try not to let this get you down. Just because a seller rejects your offer does not mean it is an absolute no, as there are many reasons why a seller may say no. They may still have more viewings planned and hope to see out all potential offers, or they may simply just want more money. Hopefully, in this instance, the estate agent should provide information on why your offer was rejected and this can help give you more clarity.

If the seller wants a higher bid, then you should assess your budget. Make sure you know your limits and don’t end up overpaying for a property that you can’t afford. Although when house hunting it may seem as though properties take a while to end up on the market, there will always be another property.

10. Scored a successful negotiation? Tell your mortgage lender ASAP!

If your lower offer is accepted then firstly, congratulations! However, it isn’t time to celebrate just yet as you will need to amend your mortgage application, which can take a few weeks to get approved. It can sometimes be advisable to get your amended mortgage before negotiations begin, however, this can be quite risky if the mortgage is not approved.

*Michael Reading is a property expert at Housetastic


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