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How to make an offer on a house

Making an offer on a house or flat is an incredibly exciting time, but it can be equally daunting.

Perhaps you’re a first-time buyer and have never done it before, or maybe it’s just been a while and you need to refresh your memory.

Whatever the reason you’re here, we’re going to break down how to make an offer on a house for you.

Let’s get started.

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We know the UK housing market has seen its ups and downs lately. With interest rates going up and house prices shifting around, it can feel like a whirlwind. Fewer folks are looking to buy right now than they were a year ago. However, demand can still be high depending on the area, price, and type of home.

You’re probably wondering – how do I make a strong offer in this market? We get it, the process can feel overwhelming. But we're here to walk you through it in simple, friendly terms.

Here’s how to make an offer on a house.

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How to make an offer on a house

We know that if you’ve made it to this stage, you’ve already put in a ton of effort. Especially if you’re a first-time buyer. This bit can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. After working so hard this next step feels huge.

It’s a big milestone that you should feel proud of reaching. But we also want you to feel fully supported by arming yourself with knowledge.

So, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make an offer on a house:

Step 1 – Do your research

Before diving in headfirst with offers, there are a few things to consider and prepare for. Do your homework and arm yourself with a strategy so you can bid sensibly.

Consider what you want – location, size, condition, property type, and anything else important. Make a wish list of must-haves and nice-to-haves. Know what’s non-negotiable and what you can be flexible on.

Ask yourself things like:

  • How many bedrooms/bathrooms do I need?
  • Urban or rural area?
  • Is it important to have a garage?
  • What kind of garden do I need?
  • Move-in ready or fixer-upper?
  • Will I need a home office?

Research prices in areas you like. This gives a sense of market rates and how much you may need to offer. Zoopla is a great place to start finding this information.

Being flexible widens options but stick to your non-negotiables.

Step 2 – Know your financial position

Figuring out your budget before making an offer is key. Unless you’re a cash buyer, you’ll likely need to secure a mortgage.

Getting a mortgage in principle (MIP) gives a good sense of what you can borrow. You can get an MIP for free from most lenders, they’ll usually have an online tool. You’ll just need to provide some basic information about yourself and your financials, and they’ll give you a rough idea of what you’re allowed to borrow.

Having a MIP shows agents and sellers that you’re a serious buyer. It can give you some confidence when making an offer too, knowing what you’ll likely be able to afford.

Also remember that you need to consider all of the costs of buying a house, and make sure you can afford more than just the mortgage deposit.

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Step 3 – Get viewing

his is the fun part, going to view homes. Now that you know your budget and must-haves, it’s time to view properties that match the two.

Bring that list you made and focus on places that fit what you’re looking for. Get as much info from the agent as you can during your viewings – it’s your job to ask questions, not theirs to tell you everything.

We know it’s exciting if you fall in love with a home. But try not to show it too much, as hard as that is. If you seem over-eager, the agent and seller will know you’ll be willing to pay the asking price or more.

Keep cool at viewings, even if a home steals your heart. It sets you up better for negotiations later. Reining in reaction is hard when you find “the one”, but a little poker face could make the difference down the line.

Step 4 – How to put in an offer

You’ve done your research, you’ve got your budget, you’ve found the home you want to purchase, it’s time to put in an offer. When you find the right home, you’ll likely want to move quickly. But avoid overpaying in the excitement. With some strategy, you could secure it for less.

Here are some tips for making a strong offer:

  • Make your first bid compelling but don’t overstretch your budget. We know the urge to act fast, but a smart offer could save you money. A good rule of thumb is to offer 5% to 10% below the asking price.
  • Follow up on any verbal offer with a written one (email works) to avoid any confusion later.
  • Note any advantages of your offer. For example, being a first-time buyer means no chain. This can appeal to sellers.
  • Be ready to negotiate. If the seller is interested, they’ll likely counteroffer through the agent. You can gently increase until both parties are satisfied. Or in a hot market with a lot of competition, you could consider your best and final offer right away if you think it gives you the best chances.
  • We want you to know that an estate agency can’t require you to use their recommended mortgage broker. That would break the Estate Agency Act 1979. If an agent insists, kindly note that law. Ask them for their demand in writing too.
  • By law, agents must present every offer to the seller – no exceptions. If they don’t pass along your offer, you can report it here, or to your local Trading Standards.

Step 5 – Reach an agreement

Wonderful news – your offer was accepted. We know you’re excited about taking this step towards owning your new property.

You can now ask for the property to be taken off the market. This helps to secure your purchase, though remember, that an accepted offer is not legally binding.

Try to move the sale forward promptly. Push things forward on your end - book surveys, submit paperwork to your lender etc.

You’ll also need to instruct a conveyancer. Your agent may tell you that it’ll be quicker if you use the conveyancer that they recommend. This isn’t necessarily the case, and you are free to use any conveyancer you want.

If your agent recommends one, ask them why and check to see if they get paid a fee by the conveyancer for recommending them and if there will be a financial penalty if you choose to change conveyancer if they provide a bad service.

Check the reviews of any conveyancer you are being recommended whether by an agent or someone you know. Need more help? Check out our guide to choosing a conveyancer.

Buying a home takes time, but you’ve crossed a major milestone by having an offer accepted.

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At Eden, we believe that buying or selling a home should be easy. Our team take the stress out of the process by making sure you’re looked after from instruction to completion.

We’ll manage all the legal work for you so you can focus on what really matters about your move.

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Tips for negotiating price and getting an offer accepted

If you enter negotiations throughout the offer process, as a buyer, it’s all about staying strategic. Here are some top tips:

  • Research sales prices in the area so you know the typical market value. Use this to inform your bid and what you are willing to budget for.
  • Make a slightly lower first offer, but not too far off comparable sales. You want to be taken seriously, not rejected outright.
  • Be firm but fair on dealbreakers like price and repairs. But show flexibility on less critical terms, this can go a long way.
  • If you hit an impasse, ask for a day or two to rethink your strategy. Keep talks friendly and professional.
  • Present each offer clearly, avoiding the potential for confusion. Make sure the sellers know more than just your offer, such as what type of buyer (first-time, cash, no chain, etc.) you are and how flexible you can be.

The goal is to get the best deal while keeping the sale momentum going. With good prep and strategic compromises, you can negotiate a winning offer.

When is a low bid likely to be successful?

We know that bidding low can feel risky, but it can pay off in certain situations. The trick is to not lowball chance it, but to analyse the situation to see if there is a chance of success with a lower offer.

Here are some situations where a low offer could pay off:

If the home has lingered on the market, the seller may be motivated to cut their price, especially if it’s been reduced already. Ask to see if the price has already been dropped at all.

Sellers wanting a quick sale due to relocating or being in a chain are more likely to consider lower offers to move things along as quickly as possible.

You may have leverage if you’re the only serious buyer showing interest. The seller will want to work with their most solid prospect.

Prove that you’re a serious buyer, sellers will likely deal with a few timewasters. Showing certainty can go a long way.

Sellers favour buyers without a property to sell, like first-timers, since it’s less complex and is also chain-free.

The key is convincing the seller you are truly interested and ready to buy. With the right rationale, a below-ask offer can absolutely succeed.

What is gazumping?

Gazumping is when a buyer has an offer accepted on a property, but the seller later accepts a different offer from someone else instead.

While not illegal, gazumping is frowned upon by many. It often happens if details of the accepted offer leak out during the transaction process. This allows rival buyers a chance to make last-minute bids.

For buyers, the risks of being gazumped include:

  • Losing the property you wanted to purchase after time and money spent.
  • Having property searches and negotiations delayed/wasted by having to start over.
  • Possible non-refundable costs like surveys and conveyancing fees.

Gazumping wastes time for all parties involved. While hard to prevent entirely, buyers can reduce risks by adding contingencies, moving quickly, and keeping bid details confidential.

What is gazundering?

Gazundering occurs when the buyer lowers their offer price for a property right before the exchange of contracts after terms have been agreed. This is considered an unethical strategy that puts pressure on sellers to reduce the previously settled purchase price.

Buyers may gazunder by:

  • Claiming issues came up in the inspection process needing price reductions.
  • Threatening to walk away and lose the sale if the seller won’t drop the price.
  • Taking advantage of sellers who have already committed to a purchase of their own.

For sellers, potential risks include: 

  • Being pressured into lowering the price after a potentially lengthy process.
  • Paying fees if the sale falls through.
  • Finding a new buyer and starting the entire sales process all over again.

While not an extremely common occurrence, gazundering poses a hazard for sellers near completion. Not much can be done to prevent a gazundering attempt, it’s best just to be wary that it can occur.

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Never hesitate to reach out with questions. We're your partners in simplifying this process through clear communication and guidance.

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