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Making an offer on a new home? who do you speak to and how do you play it?
Always make your offer to the estate agent and not the homeowner. The estate agent has an obligation to check that you're able to go ahead. They'll check your details, for example your name and address, establish whether you're a first-time buyer, and whether your own property is sold, under offer or on the market.
Have you got the cash?
The agent will ask you if you have sorted out a mortgage.
He will then put the offer forward to the homeowner and should confirm it in writing within 24 hours. The agent may tell you what amount he thinks the owner is looking for or if he thinks your offer will be declined. The agent is obliged to put all offers in writing unless the owner has instructed them in writing to reject offers below a specific amount.
If your offer is rejected, you'll need to decide whether to increase it or not. Are you happy to pay what they think the property is worth? And how big a mortgage can you afford? This is where having your finances arranged in advance becomes critical.
This process continues until either your offer is accepted, you decide that you don't want to increase further or you lose out to another buyer. In a busy market, properties sell quickly and may have multiple offers on them. The agent should not mislead you about other offers, but is not obliged to disclose the amount of any offer without the consent of the property owner.
It's been accepted
If your offer is accepted, the estate agent will require details of your solicitor and will then write to you, the homeowner and your respective solicitors to confirm details of the sale. You will need to carry on with your mortgage application and your solicitor will start the legal work required. A good estate agent will keep in close contact with both you and the homeowner until contracts have been exchanged.
Even when you've made an offer and it's been accepted in writing, you'll have to wait for all the documentation and paperwork to be completed before you can assume the property is yours. Only when you have exchanged contracts with your seller and come through to completion, can you can start celebrating.
It could still go pear-shaped
Bear in mind that, before you exchange contracts, things can go wrong which can derail the whole process. For example, your survey may reveal underlying structural defects on the property you want to buy. You may then want to offer a lower price. At a late stage your solicitor may advise against the purchase, or you may simply be gazumped by another buyer (they make a higher offer which is then accepted). If you are gazumped, you stand to lose all the money you've already spent on surveys, searches and solicitor's fees.
But it could go according to plan
The buying process starts when you send your solicitor confirmation of your offer. He will also receive the seller's details. Your solicitor then receives the draft contract and title deeds.
He will then check and negotiate the draft contract with your vendor's solicitor and check that the vendor has the title to the property.
Next, your solicitor will conduct local authority searches and send enquiries to the seller's solicitor. If this is satisfactory, all parties agree on a completion date. The mortgage offer, valuation report and survey should all be in order by now.
Your solicitor will then finalise, agree and arrange for the contract to be signed. You then pay the house deposit to your solicitor.
In the bag
Once your vendor's solicitor sends back the approved draft "transfer" document, you sign it and it goes back to them. You're then ready to sign all the final documentation. If all is well and there are no further mortgages registered against the property you're buying, you're in business and the house is yours. All that remains is to pick up the keys.
Take a tip
Before you start house-hunting, find a mortgage lender and work out what you can afford. If you've got this far, you'll be able to react quickly if your first offer is rejected. It will also speed up the whole buying process
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