Making the Offer for Purchase

Find out what to expect from the house purchase process after making an offer...

Once a property has been chosen there are a few things that should be checked before making an offer:

  • Find out what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale of the property and get this in writing - this can help to avoid confusion later
  • The buyer should ensure they have a written agreement-in-principle mortgage (AIP) as this can speed things up for both the buyer and the seller
  • Does the timing work? In other words, are the sellers looking to move at around the same time as the potential buyer?
  • Consider the cost of any obvious repairs/maintenance revealed by the surveyor

The buyer may then choose to put their offer in writing to the seller and give the name of their solicitor. If an estate agent is involved in the transaction, they will contact the seller and await their decision. If the seller receives similar offers, the potential buyer may be asked to take part in a sealed bid. This means they must make only their best and final offer, and the seller will use this information to make a choice.

If the offer is agreed

If the offer is accepted, the agent (or if there is no agent, the seller) will write to confirm the address of the property, the agreed price, and the terms and conditions. The document will also include the names and addresses of both parties and their solicitors.

Potential Problems

There are a number of hurdles to be aware of when buying a property:

Chains

A chain is simply a group of buyers and sellers who are linked by their properties. Everyone in the chain relies on the sale of another's property. If one person backs out of a sale, the whole chain can fall apart. For first-time buyers, this is not a problem as no one is relying on the sale of their property before they can buy another.

Gazumping and gazundering

Gazumping refers to when someone steps in with a higher offer. The seller accepts the new one and the original buyer is left with nothing, but there is little they can do about it. There is little that an estate agent can do about this as the law requires them to put all offers to the seller.

Gazundering refers to when the buyer reduces their offer at the very last minute. Unless they have a good reason for this, such as a serious fault with the property, it is very bad practice. It can cause the chain to collapse if the seller refuses to accept the lower offer.

The Legal Procedure

Conveyancing

It's best to get a professional to handle conveyancing, or the legal side of buying and selling.

If selling, the conveyancer will prepare the contract to transfer the ownership of the property to the buyer. Their conveyancer will check all the details of the contract thoroughly and take charge of any negotiations on the buyer's behalf. Searches will be conducted to check the 'title' of the property (to ensure the seller is indeed the legal owner); any planned works in the area that may have an impact on the property; boundaries and any legal or planning restrictions.

When both parties and their conveyancers are happy with the agreement, they exchange contracts and the buyer will transfer their deposit. Assuming all parts of the contract are fulfilled, the process will complete on an agreed date and the total funds transferred through the conveyancers.

A conveyancer can be found by contacting the Law Society, (Tel: 0870 606 255) or the Council for Licensed Conveyancers, (Tel: 01245 349 599) for a list of local services. Conveyancing typically can take 8 to 12 weeks. Leasehold properties involve more work as the lease has to be checked thoroughly and this will affect the cost.

Surveys and valuation reports

The mortgage lender will arrange a basic valuation of the property. This inspection is purely for the lender's benefit, even though the buyer has to pay for it, and it reassures the lender that the property is worth the price they have offered. It may be worthwhile for the buyer to commission a more detailed survey themselves, which will uncover any problems. There are two other types of surveys that can be undertaken: a homebuyer's report and a building survey.

RICs HomeBuyer's Report

A homebuyer's report is much more detailed than a basic valuation. It will reveal any problems with the property that may cost the buyer money to rectify, either immediately or in the long term. The surveyor will recommend further investigation if he/she discovers a potential problem. This will help the buyer to decide whether the property is worth what they are offering. The homebuyer's report is particularly suitable for properties built in the last 50 years or so. For older properties, or those with obvious problems, it might be worth arranging a building survey.

Building survey

Building surveys can be arranged for any type of property, although it is more suitable for older buildings, those with structural defects, those made of timber or other unusual materials, or any property that the buyer is planning to renovate. The surveyor will conduct a very detailed survey of the building, listing all major and minor faults. It takes a few days to complete the survey and prepare the report. The surveyor must list all existing and potential problems, however small. The survey will also give a list of recommended work and approximate costs.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website has contact details of hundreds of chartered surveyors in the UK and worldwide.

Information provided by James Trimble, Franchising Manager at Winkworth Franchising Ltd Tel: +44 (020) 8576 5580, e-mail |Website