Ten top tips for negotiating to buy/rent a home

It’s hard to find the right home be it to rent or to buy but it’s amazing how much harder people make it when negotiating the deal for the home they’ve often fallen in love with. I’ve been buying and selling homes for nearly 30 years and I am still learning but here are my top ten tips for anyone thinking of negotiating for the home of their dreams.
  1. Leave something on the table for the next guy. It’s often tempting to try and squeeze the deal till the pips squeak and whilst many (men) will see it a matter of pride to have negotiated down to the light fittings most successful deals work because both sides can view the deal as being worthwhile for them. Leave the other party with some pride and dignity and you will then have their help when you need to ring to ask where the stop cock is!
  2. Keep it simple. It’s tempting to try and include the dishwasher, the mower and the cat basket but by and large you can negotiate for the smaller items once you have agreed terms for the biggest. In reality most sellers will find that they don’t need some items or that its a good time to upgrade the washing machine but I’ve witnessed people taking light fittings – leaving bare wires just because they felt they’d been ‘legged-over’ on the deal.
  3. Keep it legal. Remember that any offer you make should be made ‘subject to contract’ and if you intend to have one ‘subject to survey’ as well. By ensuring that you include these three words you are then free to vary these terms should the need arise. The deal is only legal and enforceable once contracts are exchanged (in England & Wales).
  4. Be prepared – Like the boy scouts it can pay to have done your homework before you start to negotiate. Makes sure you solicitor isn’t on holiday and is happy to act for you. Try to get a mortgage offer in principle so that you can prove how you will fund the purchase. Speak to a surveyor if you might want a structural survey. If you can confirm all these are in place your slightly lower offer may well trump a higher more carelessly crafted bid as happened to me just this past week.
  5. Keep your promises. Remember that if you promise to do something it’s important to keep to it. If your bid unravels and you find another house then the estate agents may remember that you are not the most reliable buyer. Your reputation matters so guard it.
  6. Be professional. Having made sure that you have everything in place remember that you will most likely be negotiating with an agent for the seller or landlord. He is a professional and will prefer you to be too. Don’t be hysterical about how much you love the place, make it clear why accepting your bid seems like the best way he can earn his commission.
  7. Follow up. Confirm what you say in writing (or by email these days) so there is a paper trail if and when a misunderstanding occurs. It may also be useful if you ever needed to show a copy of what was said to the seller, to the Property Ombudsman or to a lawyer if things went seriously wrong!
  8. Ignore the guide price. The value of a property is what the buyer and seller agree, not what the selling agent advertises it at. I regard a guide price as an indication of the sellers greed or of the enthusiasm the estate agent had to get the business in the first place. Don’t be afraid to make an offer but when you do back it up with examples of what else has sold, what else is still for sale and ensure you stress why even though it may seem low, your offer is worth taking.
  9. Be nice. Not to the selling/letting agent (says the buying agent!) but to the seller. I have often bought homes for clients whom the seller felt would continue their love of the house. Living in it in the same way, getting stuck into the local community and the schools. Ask if there are local clubs they can recommend. Don’t spend time discussing how you plan to pull apart the home that has taken years to build up. Wait until you own it before you rip out the botched repairs/extension!
  10. Don’t be afraid to walk away. The selling agent is going to push you, it’s his job. He’s not there to broker a fair deal between the two parties – or he’d be called a broker. He wants as much as he can for his client and you need to remain professional and cold hearted. Remember that in most parts of the country the majority of homes in fact don’t sell. If your bid is reasonable, well crafter, presented properly and leaves the seller with some degree of satisfaction then you may have yourself a deal. The agent only gets paid when he can get both you and his client to accept the deal so make him earn his fee!
This article first appears on the Rightmove blog.