Once people find the home they’ve been looking for, negotiating the deal can be hard. I've been buying and selling homes for nearly 20 years and I am still learning. I am presently negotiating on a house to live in myself along with my partner and our soon to be first child so here are my top tips for anyone thinking of negotiating for their own home of their dreams.
1. Leave something on the table for the other guy
It's often tempting to try and squeeze the deal till the pips squeak and whilst many may see it a matter of pride to have negotiated down to the light fittings, most successful deals work because both sides can view the deal as being worthwhile for them. Leave the other party with some pride and dignity and you will then have their help when you need to ring to ask where the stop cock is!
2. Keep it simple
It's tempting to try and include the dishwasher, the mower and the cat basket but by and large you can negotiate for the smaller items once you have agreed terms for the biggest. In reality, most sellers will find that they don't need some items or that its a good time to upgrade the washing machine, but I've witnessed people taking light fittings - leaving bare wires just because they felt they'd been 'legged-over' on the deal.
3. Keep it legal
Remember that any offer you make should be made 'subject to contract' and if you intend to have one 'subject to survey' as well. By ensuring that you include these three words you are then free to vary these terms should the need arise. The deal is only legal and enforcable once contracts are exchanged (in England & Wales).
4. Be prepared
Like the boy scouts it can pay to have done your homework before you start to negotiate. Makes sure your solicitor isn't on holiday and is happy to act for you. Try to get a mortgage offer in principle so that you can prove how you will fund the purchase. Speak to a surveyor if you might want a structural survey. If you can confirm all these are in place your slightly lower offer may well trump a higher more carelessly crafted bid as happened to me just this past week.
5. Keep your promises
Remember that if you promise to do something it's important to keep to it. If your bid unravels and you find another house then the estate agents may remember that you are not the most reliable buyer. Your reputation matters so guard it.
6. Be professional
Having made sure that you have everything in place remember that you will most likely be negotiating with an agent for the seller or landlord. They are a professional and will prefer you to be too. Don't be hysterical about how much you love the place, make it clear why accepting your bid seems like the best way he can earn his commission.
7. Follow up
Confirm what you say in writing (or by email these days) so there is a paper trail if and when a misunderstanding occurs. It may also be useful if you ever needed to show a copy of what was said to the seller or to a lawyer if things went seriously wrong!
8. Negotiate on the guide price
Many regard a guide price as an indication of the sellers’ enthusiasm and sometimes it can be flexible. Don't be afraid to make an offer but when you do back it up with examples of what else has sold, what else is still for sale and ensure you stress why even though it may seem low, your offer is worth taking.
9. Be nice
Not just to the selling/letting agent as they can influence your purchase but to the seller too. I have often bought homes for clients whom the seller felt would continue their love of the house. Living in it in the same way, getting stuck into the local community and the schools. Ask if there are local clubs they can recommend. Don't spend time discussing how you plan to pull apart the home that has taken years to build up. Wait until you own it before you rip out the botched repairs/extension!
10. Choose the right solicitor
It cannot be understated the importance of choosing the right solicitor. This is for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most important is the agent will ask you who you are using. The reason they do this is they will already know how good/quick/reliable all the local solicitors are and this will help them advise the seller which offer is the strongest. Remember the offer price is one thing, your position to move and do so quickly and reliably is another. It may even be worth asking your agent who they recommend you use. That way, they will be confident that the sales process will not fall apart due to unnecessary delays.
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