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Property: Top tips for buying a home

·5-min read
EMBARGOED TO 0001 MONDAY AUGUST 9 File photo dated 23/01/15 of For Sale and Sold signs outside houses in north London. The average number of homes for sale per estate agency branch has shrunk by 40% since January, according to a report. On average, estate agency branches now had around 23 properties for sale in June, marking a 40% decrease compared with January 2021, Propertymark, an association representing estate agents across the UK, said. Issue date: Monday August 9, 2021.
House prices have grown at the fastest rate in 15 years over the past three months. (PA)

As any buyer will know, it’s a sellers’ market out there in the property sector.

Since last March, house prices have shot up as people were prepared to pay a premium for the space they wanted. And the market remains toasty today, even though the chancellor’s stamp duty break has come to an end.

According to the latest figures from the Halifax, house prices grew at the fastest rate in 15 years over the past three months. In November, the average house price stood at a record £272,992, up £20,000 in a year.

Asking prices are high, and there have been anecdotes of as many as 25 buyers vying for the same property in some cases, making this a pretty brutal market to try and buy in.

So what can you do to beat off the competition?

Make it known if you’re chain free

Make your position clear. If you are not in a chain, make sure the agent and seller are aware of this.

Lewis Shaw, founder and mortgage expert at Shaw Financial Services, said: “If you can be chain-free, then do be chain-free.

"People underestimate how attractive it is when a buyer isn’t reliant upon selling to buy. There’s less chance of it falling through, and often the buyer can work at the speed necessary to get the deal done.”

Read more: How to sell your home faster

Be a cash buyer

While few will be lucky enough to have the funds available to buy in cash, if this is the case, let the seller know.

Aside from cash buyers, sellers will usually view first-time buyers and buy-to-let investors most favourably, as being less complicated could swing the decision in their favour.

Get in the seller’s good books

While it’s easy to view selling a home in terms of a business transaction, it’s also a very emotive subject.

Scott Taylor-Barr, financial adviser at Carl Summers Financial Services, said: “There may be many other factors a seller is considering, such as: do I want these people living in my house? And will they look after it?”

Make the effort to make a good impression. Turn up on time looking reasonably smart. Be polite and enthusiastic about the house, and show them you’re the type of person who won’t upset the neighbours.

Joshua Gerstler, chartered financial planner at The Orchard Practice, added: “Be nice. Most homeowners want their home to go to someone they like. If they receive two identical offers, being a nice person might just swing it your way.”

Read more: Is this a good time to overpay my mortgage

Put in a realistic offer

In a buyers’ market, you can afford to put in a cheeky low offer to see if the seller bites. But right now, that’s just not an option.

Rob Peters from Simple Fast Mortgage, said: “No matter how much you charm the sellers, the surest way to win a property over all other buyers is to pay more money. It’s a sellers’ market, so if you think it’s worth it, offer at least the asking price. If not, there’s a high possibility you’ll miss the opportunity.”

Paul Neal, from Missing Element Mortgage Services, added: “Don’t be tight with your offer. If you want a property, put in a serious figure and don’t muck about.”

Get a mortgage in principle as a priority

Having a pre-arranged mortgage will give you a big head start. This is a confirmation in writing which states how much your lender is prepared to lend you. It will reassure the seller that you actually have the necessary funds to buy their house, and demonstrates that you are serious.

Graham Cox, founder & director at Hub FS Limited, said: “Many estate agents will want to see an agreement in principle first, particularly where there’s strong buyer interest in a property.”

Read more: How much can I borrow on a mortgage based on my salary?

Have your finances in order

In addition to having the mortgage in principle ready, make sure you’ve got the deposit money in your account, as well as cash for other costs, including stamp duty, a survey and solicitors.

Be ready to move quickly

Once you’ve got your ducks in a row, you need to advertise your own readiness to act on a sale. Show that you have the right professionals ready to go, including a solicitor on stand-by – and ideally one with a good reputation for speedy, efficient conveyancing.

Peters said: “Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. An assertive buyer who is ready to move fast and who can show evidence of their ability to complete their purchase, will always be more attractive.”

Stay positive and have patience

While there are lots of steps you can take to improve your chances of success, you need to remember that many things can go wrong during the home-buying process. If things do go awry, try not to let it get you down.

Ross Counsell, chartered surveyor and director at property buyers, GoodMove, said: “Buying a home amid the competitiveness of the market can be disheartening. But it’s important to stay positive. If, for any reason, your home falls through, there will be others that you’re sure to love just as much. Be patient and understand that the home-buying process does take time.”