the etiquette of making an offer on a property

Published: 10/08/2021

Putting a successful offer on the table isn't as simple as you think. 

Often, buyers believe it's just a matter of putting forward a figure, and that's all that's required. But it's more complex than that. The vendor and agent will be looking for nuances of behaviour, both positive and negative. Buyers try different approaches, and some tactics are more successful than others. So, whether you're a first-time buyer, it's been a long time, or you want to give yourself a chance to secure your dream home, here are some tips on how to approach it:

1. Many people view making an offer as a battle between themselves and the vendor. This 'us vs. them' approach will almost certainly set the wrong tone, and you'll get off the wrong footing. Seek the common ground so things work for you both, as success will come from finding ways to work with each other.

2. Naturally, the vendor wants the best price for the property, as does the agent. However, the best buyer is not always the one with the highest offer, as so much more comes into play. Therefore, concentrate on your positives as a buyer and, critically, how that aligns with the vendor's situation, i.e., do they need to move quickly or can they take their time; how flexible can you be with this? It's all about how well matched you both are, and it's this the agent will be looking for, not the highest figure.

3. When looking to open with a low offer, listing a whole load of negatives about the property to justify the opening figure is risky. A good agent will not be thinking, 'oh yes, that makes sense,' or, 'I can see why we'd need to take off money for that.' Instead, concerns will be mounting about how committed you are as a buyer. They will be thinking, 'this doesn't seem like the right property then,' and, 'are these buyers committed and is there a risk of them pulling out, causing the vendor problems later down the line?' Your passion and commitment to the property speak volumes. If there are doubts, then any offer, either cheeky or not, will not be received favourably.

4. An agent must put forward your offer in the best possible light, so they'll need information about you to put your offer into context. Therefore, it is out of necessity that agents ask questions about your current buying position, financial situation, etc. The more open you are in this process, the better. Being elusive or defensive will again create doubts around the validity of the offer and you as the buyer.

5. A reputable agent will ask to see evidence to support your offer. They'll need to see your mortgage agreement in principle if you require a mortgage. Proof of funds must be submitted if it's a complete cash purchase. Unfortunately, neither an agent nor the vendor can take the buyer's word for it, so documentation must be ready and shared.

6. It's a question asked often, but an agent cannot disclose other offers. They can guide but can't say how much. Sorry, but on the flip side, you know your offer will never be disclosed.

7. The more upfront a buyer is, the better. 'Honesty is always the best policy and sets the right tone for future relationships and dealings. Avoid embellishing your position or try and hide essential facts. You may have offered something else and are looking to switch, or you may have an offer on yours, but you haven't yet accepted it, so aren't you technically under offer? Let the agent know - a good agent will discover these things, and when they do, it will work against you.

8. We know this won't come naturally to many would-be purchasers, but the agent is there to help you. Yes, the vendor is the client, but the agent is looking for the perfect buyer, which could be you. Agents should always offer honest and practical advice to assist in making an offer. Don't be afraid to ask questions and listen to what they say.

9. The Guide Price indicates what the vendor is looking for and where your offer needs to be for it to succeed. An offer under the guide price will almost always be unsuccessful. And, as with any low offer, you may risk offending the vendor and starting the relationship precariously. If your offer is under the guide price, get as close to it as possible and maybe open with your 'best and final'. Or, if you've seen a property with a guide price that's over your reach, then speak with the agent and see if an offer at your level would be entertained before viewing. That way, you know where you stand from the outset.

10. And last but not least - It seems obvious to be friendly and treat the agent respectfully. You need the agent to be on your side, and you'll get far more out of them if you behave correctly. It's all about setting the right tone for the relationship with all parties involved in the process, including the agent.

If you need help or advice on buying London property, call the Circa London Sales team, we are an independent 
London Estate Agents.

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