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Received an offer? What you need to do

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Once you receive an offer on your home don’t feel rushed into making an immediate decision. Take the time to carefully consider whether to accept, reject, or negotiate.

As the seller, you’re in a stronger negotiating position. You own the house that the buyer wants, and you can choose who to sell to.

Your position is further strengthened if there’s a lot of interest in your home. The higher the demand, the higher the price you can negotiate for your property. On the other hand, if your home isn’t getting much interest then it may be worth considering an offer that’s lower than the asking price.

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, 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 will hopefully have a lot of experience negotiating the best deal for homes like yours.

It’s always worth remembering that negotiating is a huge part of the selling process. Around half of properties in London do not achieve their asking price. On average, they sell for £6,853 less than they are listed for.

Accepting your offer

Even once you’ve accepted an offer, it is not legally binding until you and the buyer exchange signed contracts.

It’s important to have everything in place before you exchange, as it’s much more difficult to pull out after the contract has been signed. If something does go wrong and you need to walk away from the sale, you’ll lose your deposit. Your solicitor will be able to advise when to move forward. To be ready for the exchange, make sure you’ve prepared the following:

  • You’ve agreed a detailed offer, including which fixtures and fittings will remain

  • Your buyer is happy with the results of any surveys

  • Your buyer has been formally offered a mortgage and arranged their deposit

  • Your buyer’s conveyancing solicitor has done all the relevant searches

  • You’ve been formally offered a mortgage for your new home, in writing, and arranged the deposit

  • You have agreed on a date of completion for the sale

  • You’ve read and understood the contract. If you need clarification on any of the terms, make sure to ask your solicitor before you sign

Once both parties are happy and have signed the contracts they will be ‘exchanged’. Both solicitors will first read the contract over the phone to ensure that they are correct and identical. They will then send the contracts to one another in the post. Once this has happened you will be legally tied into the sale. If you decide not to sell at this point, you will lose your deposit, and can be sued by the buyer. However, if your buyer decides to pull out, they will suffer the same penalty. This offers you both a layer of security.

What happens after exchanging contracts?

The completion date is the day that the money is transferred and you hand over the keys. This date will be confirmed in your contract and is usually between 7 and 28 days after exchange. Before completion takes place, the buyer is likely to want to do some final checks. These are to ensure that all fixtures and fittings agreed on are in place. They will also undertake several administrative tasks such as: registering the transfer of ownership with the land registry, and informing utility companies that they are taking over your property.

If you’re part of a chain, any individual ‘link’ can delay the process, even if you have arranged your personal affairs correctly. For example, delays can occur if one party has failed to take all the costs of selling into account. All fees, including stamp duty, and VAT on agents’ fees will need to be paid on time, otherwise you won’t be able to complete.

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