Don't make an offer before asking the estate agent

If you are looking to buy a property make sure you ask these questions before you make an offer - you could uncover valuable information that can help you with your negotiation.

The average buyer will spend just 30 minutes in a property before deciding to make an offer. This decision will likely be made very quickly too, particularly in the busy market we've had over the last few years. A delay of a few days whilst you make your decision would likely result in disappointment because the property would probably have been sold by then.

30 minutes. The length of a sitcom TV show. It is hardly any time at all, and in that short time, we are making life-changing decisions to uproot our family and move our whole lives into a different property, possibly even a new location. And we are taking just that short 30-minute viewing to decide to spend the most amount of money we will probably ever spend on a single purchase in our lives.

When you think about it, it is crazy that we make such impactful decisions so quickly. And really, we need to make those 30 minutes count. We need to ensure that we have gathered as much information as possible to make an informed decision because it will need to be quick.

So, the next time you view a property, ask these questions and note the answers to gather critical information to help you decide whether to make an offer. If you do, it will undoubtedly help with the negotiation process.

  1. Have there been any other offers? - The price of any other offers and the buying circumstances of the offeror is confidential; the agent will not be able to disclose this. But, by asking this question, you will be able to find out if any offers are currently being negotiated, i.e., competition for you to buy. This will somewhat lessen your negotiation power, and you might want to make your initial offer slightly higher.

  2. What is the timescale of the sellers? - If the sellers are looking for a speedy sale, and you can accommodate this, your offer will look favourable. Conversely, if you have a tight deadline and the sellers are not in a rush, this could affect you negatively, and you might decide that this property isn't for you after all.

  3. Have they already found a property to buy? - This question also speaks to the question of timescale, as a seller who has already found their next home will likely want to move quickly.

  4. Have any other sales fallen through? - Asking about previous sales can indicate the seller's actual value and negotiation; for example, they may have negotiated their price before or achieved the asking price and would be looking for that same offer again. It can also raise critical questions about the building and whether there was a defect of some kind that caused the sale to collapse. If yes, was a survey carried out? And if so, what were the findings? - You will not be given a copy of a past survey as the report belongs to whoever commissioned it, but the agents will be able to tell you what, if anything, that report highlighted (providing that they were shown the copy, of course).

  5. Are the sellers negotiable on the price? - It seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many negotiations begin without anyone asking this question. It helps you gauge the sellers' expectations; therefore, you won't offer too high or so low that you insult them. If the price is the price and the seller won't budge, they will not take your offer seriously if you start at £50k below the asking price. But also, you don't want to offer the full asking price if there is a chance you could buy it cheaper, do you? Asking about the sellers' negotiability will tell you about their expectations, and therefore your negotiation process will go smoothly with more chance of success.

When you are only really spending 30 minutes in the property, you must ensure that every second counts and that you are on a fact-finding mission to gather as much information as possible before committing to making an offer.

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