The stamp duty holiday may be a distant memory but we are still living through a scorching seller’s market. With fewer properties on sale than usual and with the best of them going under offer in days, buyers are feeling the heat. So how can you stand out from the crowd?
Do your homework
Sellers do not like uncertainty, so buyers need to demonstrate that they are serious about completing the sale. Arrange the mortgage and instruct a solicitor before booking viewings; bring a surveyor or builder; and if you’re planning to renovate, engage a planning consultant. Buying cash or chain-free? Tell the estate agent to shoot to the top of the list.
Find out what the seller wants
A good estate agent will understand what motivates their seller. Ask them why the house is on the market, their history with the property and when they are looking to move. If the agent is not forthcoming, ask to meet the seller on the second or third viewing and build up a rapport.
“If you’re bidding on a property that has been in the same family for generations, it’s more likely to be an emotional sale. The etiquette is to persuade the owner to hand over the baton to you,” says Jo Eccles, managing director of the buying agency Eccord.
“If you’re viewing something surplus to requirements — say an additional home or a buy-to-let — it might be more about price. If it’s a family that’s moving and they need to take a job or start school, or it’s a divorce sale, they may care more about logistics and timescales.”
Remember your p’s and q’s
Don’t forget to ask whether you should take your shoes off and be aware that the seller may be more cautious about Covid than you are.
“I don’t turn up to a property without a mask now. Just assume you’ll have to wear one,” says Annabel Elliott, the Cotswolds specialist at the buying agency Jess Simpson Property Search.
Wait until you are shown into a room and always ask first before opening cupboards or cabinets. “If the seller is there, pop your head in and say, ‘Thank you for letting us have a look around. You have a beautiful home.’ It really goes a long way,” Eccles says.
Make a fuss of pets, children and gardens, and whatever you do, do not criticise anything or discuss renovations in earshot of the vendors.
“The only appropriate person to talk about that with is the selling agent when you’re discussing price,” Elliott says. “I had a property where the vendors had surveillance cameras around the house with microphones and they could hear everything the buyers said about their home afterwards, so you never know.”
Schmooze the estate agent
Now is the time to swallow your feelings about estate agents. Not only do they hold information about the seller, they will also be advising them if they have several offers to consider. It pays to be persistent, says Tim Harriss, partner at Knight Frank’s Guildford branch. “Some buyers phone me weekly. When you’ve got 2,500 buyers on your books, those are the people you remember. I have a guy who emails a one-liner — ‘What have you got?’ — three times a week and he’s at the forefront of our minds.”
Make sure your team are polite too
Keep an eye on everyone involved in the transaction. Eccles has known sellers withhold access to the property between exchange and completion because a buyer’s solicitor has been rude, or even call the sale off completely if a buying agent chipped away at the agreed price before exchange. “We heard of one buying agent who was extremely rude to the housekeeper who had been a much-treasured part of the household for 20 years. The seller was appalled,” she says.
Community is king
Remote working means many city-dwellers are looking to return to their roots for more space or to be closer to family. That can work in a buyer’s favour, says Carol Peett from the buying agency West Wales Property Finders http://www.westwalespropertyfinders.couk. “It’s very attractive. I’ve had sellers take a lower offer because of it,” she says. “I went up to see a lovely coastal farm last week and the buyer was a chap working in London who was brought up here. The vendor said they wouldn’t let anyone else look at it until he had.”
In the southwest one buyer secured a sale by promising they would continue to hold the village fête in the house’s grounds. “Community has become more important during lockdown, so stress that you want to buy into that,” says Oliver Custance Baker, director at Strutt and Parker’s Exeter office.
Take away the hassle
Delayed completion dates can be more persuasive than higher offers if the seller has yet to find a property of their own to move into. One buyer sealed the deal on a property Eccles was negotiating on by exchanging then delaying completion until July so the seller’s children could finish the school year.
Peett has offered to clear outbuildings for a 90-year-old and even rehomed two donkeys to reassure a nervous seller.
In the Cotswolds a buyer going through probate could not cope with clearing out his grandmother’s house. “We accepted all of Granny’s possessions, down to the HP sauce bottle in the fridge,” Elliott says.
Letters can work
A well-written, heartfelt letter can convince a seller that you’re the one, even if you offer a lower bid. “Buyers have included photos of the children, the dog, bank statements,” Harriss says. “We had one family whose children drew the house onto a card and they wrote the letter in that. It really oiled the wheels of the sale.”
He once witnessed an 18-page letter, but it’s best to keep things short, personal and specific to the house or community you want to buy into. “Be complimentary about the house but in a knowledgeable way, like the Georgian proportions, or you’ve got horses and need the paddock,” Elliott says. “You have to be clear that you’re not going to waste their time.”
The Sunday Times – Sunday, 30th January 2022 https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/house-buying-tips-how-to-schmooze-a-seller-cwqcj3xz3
If you are looking for a property in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or Ceredigion, give West Wales Property Finders a call on 01834 862816. We can find your perfect property for you whilst saving you time, stress and sometimes money too.