An estate agent reviews multiple offers on a house. SAM Conveyancing explain: How To Make An Offer On A House
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How To Make An Offer On A House

Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager Caragh Bailey
(Last Updated: 14/12/2023)
8 min read

Making your first offer on a house is an exciting and nerve-wracking time. For most of us, it's the biggest, scariest spend of our lives. Getting this part right can save you thousands, as well as being the difference between winning and losing your dream home.

Making an offer on a house in 2023

We have seen almost half of 5% deposit mortgages removed from the market in October 2022, with many offers being withdrawn from buyers between exchange and completion, and new products being released at higher rates. This has come at a time of uncertainty in the property market.

In March 2023, we saw an uptick in mortgage approvals, but prices grew by just 0.2% in April. Sales agreed have finally recovered from the chaos following the minibudget but are still down on last year's market.

With activity slowing down, you would expect prices to fall, but the UK is in a housing crisis - meaning there are not enough homes available. When supply cannot meet demand, prices remain buoyant.

In light of this, buyers are at no real advantage currently. And economists are hopeful we will avoid a recession. But, if we do see a recession in 2023, there are likely to be foreclosures as current homeowners fail to keep up with their mortgages or to re-mortgage at an affordable rate. If this happens in scale, it may create an advantage for buyers with the means to snap up property as it becomes available. Read more - What is a cheeky offer on a house?

We write regular market updates, so you can make informed buying decisions with the benefit of our insider knowledge. Create a free account to track your conveyancing process and receive monthly updates from our founder, Andrew Boast.

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How to make an offer on a house in 5 steps

Step 1: Get your approval in principle:

Don't even start looking at houses until you've gotten a mortgage in principle. This is a (usually 'soft') credit check and affordability assessment, based on which the bank will tell you the amount they are willing to lend you, in principle. It is not a mortgage offer, but it is a fairly accurate guide figure, which you will need to:
  • a) budget, and;
  • b) provide with your offer, if you expect the seller to take you seriously.
Once you have this, you can start looking at houses. We offer more tips on how to best approach this, in our article - House Hunting Tips.

Step 2: Work out what you can afford:

Your mortgage in principle, plus whatever you have saved for your deposit (including any gifts from family) is your total budget.

Step 3: Decide how much to offer.

We discuss this in depth in How Much to Offer On a House which covers:

The last part is important, as you'll need to account for conveyancing fees, mortgage fees, stamp duty and other moving costs, such as a removals service, new furniture or decorating.

If you're thinking of offering over or under the asking price, be sure to check out these FAQs.

Step 4: Write a house offer email.

This is where the insider advice really pays off. Most first time buyers (and even experienced home movers) get the same thing wrong; they see an offer as simply the figure itself. In every type of negotiation, you need to:

  • Be likeable and engaging;
  • set a boundary that you control;
  • make an offer based on evidence;
  • set caveats to your offer that link to the needs of the seller; and
  • have a timeframe as to when your offer expires.

It's important to show interest before you make your offer, but in the formal written offer, make sure you don't seem too keen. Playing hard to get will put you in better stead to negotiate; setting boundaries and caveats at this stage retains what control you have over the transaction and shows that you won't be pushed around.

The real art is making an offer which allows all parties to win. (See more below).

Step 5: Negotiate the price and terms of the sale.

The big negotiations come later, when your surveys are completed and your conveyancing solicitor has made their legal enquiries. It is possible to knock a fair amount off the purchase price at this stage if defects with the property or covenants on the title are uncovered.

Negotiation at this stage will be based on the other offers that the buyer receives, if they're taking open bids. If they're taking sealed bids, you won't get a chance to negotiate at all; each buyer makes their offer in a sealed envelope, which the seller opens all at once. In open bidding, the agent will normally tell you if they've already received higher offers, giving you a chance to increase your offer.

The seller can accept your offer, reject your offer, or make a counter offer. This is where it's extra helpful to know what 'wins' the seller is looking for. You might get a discount as a cash buyer, or your seller might want more money if you've set certain repairs as a caveat on the offer, dropping those may afford you some bargaining power to bring the price down.

The estate agent will be your go between on these negotiations, remember that they are acting in the seller's interest. If you want a professional negotiator on your side, consider appointing a buyer's agent.

Remember to make special considerations if you're buying an unusual property, such as one in a Conservation Area, where you may need to leave more room in your budget for meeting their legal restrictions on any improvements or maintenance you'll need to carry out.

Frequently Asked Questions
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Written by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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