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  1. Guides
  2. Receiving and accepting an offer
House Selling Process
House Selling Process
Last Updated 12 October 2021

Receiving and accepting an offer

Rosie Hamilton
Head of Communications
  1. How to sell your house step by step
  2. 11
  3. 12
    Exchange and completion

Getting the call that you've received an offer on your home can be incredibly exciting. This is the moment all your hard work has been leading up to.

However, while it's easy to get caught up in the emotion, this is a vital moment for your home sale, and being able to remain level-headed will go a long way to securing you the best outcome.

In this section, we'll talk you through exactly what to consider when you receive an offer, and how to tell if it's reasonable or not. We'll also look at the actual process of responding to an offer on a house.

How to accept an offer on a house

The process of accepting an offer is fairly simple. In order to accept an offer on a house:

First, verbally accept the offer by calling your estate agent. Then follow up with a confirmation in writing (usually by email). You should also let your conveyancer know.

Your estate agent will then draw up a memorandum of sale, and your conveyancer will begin work on the legal parts of the selling process.

Received an offer on your house? What you need to do

Once you've received and offer on your house you need to decide whether to accept it or not, but don’t feel rushed into making an immediate decision. Take the time to carefully consider whether to accept, reject, or negotiate.

If you're in a rush to move

Take into account both the position of the potential buyer and your own needs. If you need a quick sale to secure your next property it might be better to accept a lower offer from a chain-free or cash buyer.

If you're not in a rush to move

If you’re not in a rush to move, this might be a good opportunity to negotiate a higher price. Your estate agent, as the local expert will know how much demand there is for your property and appropriate house prices, and will hopefully have a lot of experience negotiating the best deal for homes like yours.

Things to consider when you receive an offer

When your estate agent sends over an offer, they should provide you with details on the amount the buyer has suggested, and some information about the buyer themselves.

There's no need to respond immediately; before you decide whether to accept, reject, or counter offer, we'd suggest looking closely at:

  • The amount offered

For many sellers, the amount someone is willing to pay for the property is the most important part of an offer.

You should take note of how close the offer is to your asking price. Once you've worked this out, there are some other important things to consider about this offer.

For example, look at the amount in the context of the local property market. Have other properties like yours sold since you put your home on the market? What did they sell for? Often the selling price of properties nearby can inform a buyer's offer. So, if a house like yours sold nearby, for £10,000 less than your asking price, it's not unreasonable for a buyer to offer £10,000 lower for your home too.

You should also consider whether there's anything about your property that might worry a buyer needing a mortgage. For example, cladding issues or structural issues, may come up in a mortgage valuation survey, and limit how much the buyer is able to borrow.

Remember: A buyer will be offered a loan to cover a percentage of the amount the surveyor values your home - not the asking price. If there are any potential issues, a buyer might have taken this into consideration in their offer.

  • The buyer's position

As important, albeit less exciting than, the offer amount, is the information you'll get about the buyer themselves.

Your estate agent should provide you details about the type of buyer they are, their financial position, and any logistical things you should take into account, such as whether they need to move house by a certain date.

This information is important because it will impact everything that happens during the conveyancing process (the legal transfer of property ownership). A buyer's position will impact how quickly that process goes, as well as how likely it is to be successful.

There are three main types of buyers:

  1. First time buyers

First time buyers don't need to sell a property before they can buy, which makes them 'chain-free'. First time buyers have also usually been saving up for a long time in order to buy, so they are often very serious, motivated buyers. However, they are likely to require a mortgage. Make sure they have a mortgage agreement in principle in place, before you accept their offer.

  1. Cash buyers

Like first time buyers, cash buyers don't need to sell a property in order to afford to buy one, so they are also chain free. Make sure to ask for proof of funds from anyone claiming to be a cash buyer.

  1. Second-steppers

These buyers are the least appealing. They usually have to sell their current home, in order to afford their next one. Chains, like this, can make the conveyancing process longer and more complicated. Check that this type of buyer has an offer on their home already, otherwise you may end up waiting a long time to move.

  • Your selling aims

Once you've looked at the fundamentals of the offer, it's important to think about it in context too: does it fit with your selling goals?

For example, if you need to move quickly, you may find a lower offer from a cash buyer more appealing than a higher offer from someone in a long chain.

However, if your aim is to make the biggest profit on your property, you may be willing to take on a slightly more stressful conveyancing process, in order to get the best price.

  • How long you've been on the market

It's also worth taking into consideration the length of time you've been waiting for an offer.

You're likely to get the most interest from buyers during the first couple of weeks of advertising. In this period your home will be fresh on online portals, and your estate agent will be really motivated to get buyers round for viewings. If you get a strong offer at this point, it's worth taking seriously. However, if you're getting a lot of early interest, it might be a sign that you have scope to negotiate the offer up - or that you'll have a few buyers to choose from.

Once you've been on the market a little while, interest will drop as fewer buyers see your property online. At this point, you should take any offers that come in seriously, even if they are lower than you might have hoped. The longer your home sits on the market, the less likely you are to receive a higher offer. If you're not happy with how long its taking you should consider changing estate agents.

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Your estate agent will be able to provide guidance here. Or you can track the progress of your sale with our free listing monitor. Our listing monitor compares the number of days your property has been on the market, with the average for your area. It also provides information about how many people have seen your property online. Check it out, for free, now.

  • Other interest

If you've had other offers already - or hints of potential offers - this will impact how you view an offer.

If you've had lots of interest, and there are few similar properties for sale in the area, chances are you, as the seller, have the upper hand. You may be able to negotiate a higher price, or start a bidding war between multiple interested parties.

Offer etiquette

  • Ask for more information if you need it

If a buyer hasn't included information about their position - both financially, and logistically - make sure to ask your estate agent to collect it. Knowing how quickly someone can move, and seeing proof that they're actually able to afford the amount they offered is really important when it comes to considering whether to accept an offer or not.

  • Respond within 48 hours

It's a good idea to take some time to properly consider an offer, so don't feel you have to respond immediately. Generally people will expect a response within two days.

  • Give a reason for your response

If you've decided to reject an offer, try and provide a reason for the buyer. For example, it may be because it doesn't meet your financial expectations, or it may be because they are part of a long chain. Letting the buyer know the reason gives them an opportunity to try and fix the issue, or suggest a better offer.

  • Let other interested buyers know that you've received an offer

When you get your first offer, make sure your estate agent informs other people who've expressed interest in your home. Not only will this create a sense of urgency that can encourage people to put in an offer - it also ensures no one misses out on making an offer.

Should you accept the first offer on your house?

Unfortunately there isn't really a single answer to this question. Accepting the first offer, or not, really does depend on the circumstances of your sale.

On the one hand, the first offer can be an indication of positive interest from buyers - particularly if it's received early on - and you may take that as a sign that it's worth holding out to see what interest the property gets. On the other, the buyer that puts in the first offer can be the most motivated, and if you reject their offer, you risk losing out on what might potentially be the best offer.

You should accept the first offer on your house if

  • Your house has been on market for ages
  • You inherited the house
  • The local market is performing poorly
  • You want a quick sale
  • You get a cash offer

You should reject the first offer on your house if

  • The offer is a lot less than the market value (more than 10%)
  • Your property listing has only been live a few weeks
  • The local market is booming

How to know if an offer is reasonable

An offer can generally be considered to be reasonable if it's in line with property values in your area.

Hopefully, you're pretty confident in the true value of your property by now. Your estate agent will have provided evidence to support their valuation, and you might have been keeping an eye on local value averages, and recently sold properties. If you haven’t, you can double check with our free Live Listing Monitor. Using data from your property portal, it tells you if your property is above or below the local average price - and much, much more.

As a general rule, if you're being offered something 5-10% less than the asking price, consider it seriously. If after considering the context of your local market, and discussing with your estate agent, you're still not happy, that's a sign you should make a counter offer.

Remember: An offer is not just a financial proposition. Take the time to seriously consider the pros and cons of different types of buyers too. You may find a lower offer from a buyer in a better position is actually more reasonable than a higher offer from someone in a very long chain.

Can you negotiate with buyers?

Yes, you can negotiate with buyers and in fact, it's normal practice to negotiate. If you're not comfortable haggling directly, you can ask your estate agent to handle the negotiations for you.

There are other valuable assets in a property transaction, and you can also use these to get the best offer.

The best ways to negotiate a better house price

  • Completion date

If a buyer has included a specific completion date as part of their offer, you might consider accepting this condition in exchange for a slightly higher offer.

  • White goods, and specific fixtures & fittings

A buyer might request that you leave certain things behind when you sell. You can use these items to leverage a higher offer.

  • Surveys & stamp duty

Many buyers will factor in the amount they have to pay for surveys or stamp duty into their offer price. Offering to contribute towards these costs could encourage a buyer to offer closer to the asking price. However, always make sure to balance the potential gain with the cost of offering these incentives.

How long should you wait to accept an offer on a house?

There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, as every situation is different and there’s a lot to consider! Most buyers usually expect a reply in 24-48 hours, so it’s best not to leave the offer too long if you’re planning to accept it.

House offer accepted, now what?

Once you've accepted an offer, there's still lots to do before you've officially sold your home. Every situation is different, so there's no set time for moving dates once an offer has been accepted.

In the period between accepting an offer, and exchanging contracts, you should expect the following to happen:

  • You and the buyer will agree a detailed offer, including which fixtures and fittings will remain
  • Your buyer will commission surveys of your home, and confirm that they're happy with the results - or they may try and renegotiate their offer
  • Your buyer will be formally offered a mortgage and arrange their deposit
  • Your buyer’s conveyancing solicitor will arrange any relevant searches
  • You and the buyer will agree on a date of completion for the sale
  • You'll have a chance to read and review the proposed sale contract

Can I keep my house on the market after accepting an offer?

After accepting an offer, you don't have to take the property off the market, and you are welcome to receive further offers. However, it's a gesture of good will to remove your online adverts, and it's a sign that you're serious about progressing your sale with this buyer.

Can a buyer change their mind after accepting an offer?

Yes, both buyers and sellers can change their minds after accepting an offer. Offers are not legally binding until contracts have been exchanged.

If a buyer decides to suddenly reduce their offer before an exchange of contracts, this is known as gazundering. It's a common tactic, and unfortunately, quite legal.

If you accept a verbal offer on your house from a potential buyer, but then accept a higher offer from someone else, this is called gazumping. Like gazundering, it’s legal, but considered bad etiquette.

Lastly, most offers are contingent on the results of a survey, and approval from the buyer's mortgage lender. Only once these items have been signed off, can contracts be exchanged.

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