How to negotiate buying a home like a property pro

Crumpled question marks heap

Jessie Hewitson speaks to property professionals about the art of negotiation.

Talking about money is usually not a strong point for us Brits. This awkwardness is quickly overcome, however, when buying a house – then the panic of not making a smart decision overrides our inbuilt squeamishness about haggling over pounds and pence. Here are some tips from experienced estate agents and property professionals about how to handle the delicate price negotiations between would-be first-time buyer, agent and seller when purchasing a flat or house.

Tip One

“Treat the process as a business deal,” recommends buying agent Amanda Ake of Stacks Property Search. “As a rule of thumb, look at the peak price in 2007 – the Zoopla website is a good place to find this info – and subtract 30-35 per cent. Ask the estate agents how they arrived at the price: was it based on some science, and if so what, or just what the vendor thought it should be?”

Tip Two

“Any buyer should make their offer with confidence and be able to back up their reasons for offering that amount, ideally with comparable evidence,” suggests Matthew Dabell, director of Aspire estate agents in Fulham. “Any agent will be looking for clues as to how much a buyer may be willing eventually to offer, assuming they have offered below the asking price. If you do find yourself in a position of having to increase your first offer then try to negotiate some additional fixtures and fittings into any new price you are able to offer, to ensure you are getting the best value.”

Tip Three

“Don’t always believe your agent,” says the head of the Chelsea office of Douglas & Gordon, Ed Mead. “If they tell you there are other offers, take a ‘if it is meant to be it will be’ attitude and stick to your guns. If it really isn’t meant to be, another property will come along. Currently 40 per cent of deals are falling through, so don’t panic.”

Tip Four

“You can also find value by researching the position of the vendor,” adds Amanda Ake. “If the vendors are in no particular rush to sell, you may find negotiating more difficult, but if there is some level of pressure to sell due to their circumstances, you will almost certainly find more room for manoeuvre. As much as you want to know about the vendors’ circumstances, it makes sense to be less forthcoming about your own. Be polite but keep your revelations about yourself to the pertinent – that you’re a cash buyer for instance. If it’s the house of your dreams, don’t let it show! And don’t be aggressive as a buyer – vendors don’t want to be bullied. They want to like the person that’s buying.”

If you have a tips or advice for those looking to buy, let us know via the comments below and we’ll add them to the above.

February 1, 2013 at 3:42 PM 1 comment

2013: the year of the first time buyer?

Morecambe - Persimmon

4 bed detached house, Morecambe, Lancashire £228,995 – through Persimmon

Jessie Hewitson takes a look at whether 2013 might be the year first-time buyers return to the market.

First-time buyers, welcome back to the property market. While it’s still not easy to make the huge step from reluctant parental home dweller or renter to homeowner, newly available loans for those with 5 or 10 per cent deposits are helping. This is resulting in more first-timers owning homes: the Council of Mortgage Lenders this month reported an 8 per cent rise in loans given to first-time buyers.

Whilst 90-95% loan to value mortgages can help you get a foot on the property ladder, it’s important to ensure that you can afford the monthly repayments and start paying off your mortgage as soon as you can.

So if 2013 is your year to buy a home, here are some suggestions.

If you’re renting a property you like, Julia Inglis, of Finders Keepers rental agency, recommends asking your landlord whether he or she is looking at putting the property on the market. “It happens a lot – sometimes landlords are reluctant ones who couldn’t sell in the downturn, or they may want to free up some money for another investment or retirement,” she says. “If the property has been good for you and has no structural or maintenance problems, noisy neighbours or dirty communal areas, you know it’s a good buy. It’s a tried and tested proposition. And if it’s furnished you can usually get the furnishings included. There is also the bonus that on completion day you just come home as usual, but it’s yours.”

And don’t forget about the government’s New Buy scheme, which allows first-time buyers to purchase a new build property with only a 5 per cent deposit.

Ed Mead, of Douglas & Gordon estate agency, also recommends not wasting time with dozens of agents. “Find one who you get on with and offer him or her a buyer’s commission,” he says. “If you can pay them 1 per cent of the price, you will get access to all of the best properties. In time you will forget the 1 per cent, especially when you end up buying your dream home.”

Finally, a point that can seem a bit counterintuitive to those who don’t like to get in debt and we’re not suggesting this is for everybody, but get a credit card (making sure you pay it off each month and on time, to avoid interest payments) a few months prior to making a mortage application.. If managed carefully and sensibly, this can actually help you get “credit reputation” which ultimately can help secure a mortgage. Having a credit track record can aid your mortgage application. Someone with no credit history – perhaps someone who has only used debit cards – may be extremely prudent financially, but to a bank they may seem an unknown quantity.

January 24, 2013 at 3:13 PM 3 comments

Instagram your home: are professional photos worth it?

For many people it’s the first impression, the curb appeal, the exterior views of a home that capture their attention. Of course, this is the same view you see when you pull into the driveway after a long day’s work.

Whilst first impressions are important for securing initial viewings, they don’t necessarily sell homes. Very often, a home buyer becomes interested in a property based on first seeing the photographs online. If house photos are integral to the sales process, how can you be sure you have the best images? Most agents will hire a professional photographer on your behalf and here are a few tips on getting the most out of the process.

Building perceptions

So many factors are important when preparing a home for sale (maintenance, landscaping, fixtures, staging…) but it is the final advert and property particulars that will help you secure viewings.

One of the best ways to get guidance at this stage is to contact your estate agent, who probably has plenty of experience photographing homes. We had a chat with Kaylene Smith from Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward about what their professional photographers do when taking photographs in order to advertise properties.

propertybox kitchen

Smith explained that Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward (like most agents) arranges photography for each and every property they market across both sales and lettings, and that the best photos to take of a home are of the interior and exterior; the wider the selection of photos, the better.

She said: “It’s definitely worth having professional photography taken, which typically your agent would organise on your behalf. Professional photographers understand the elements that create the best atmosphere, for example, lighting and composition and this is so important.”

It’s human nature to assume that homeowners who work with their agent to take the time and effort to provide a comprehensive, and frankly, attractive listing will have put similar effort into caring for their homes. We were interested to know if there’s a correlation between the quality of an image and how properties are perceived to have been cared for.

“Absolutely,” says Smith. “If the property looks better – and lighting is a very important element – it creates an impression of having been cared for and well maintained.”


A picture is worth 1,000… pounds?

According to research done by American realtors Redfin, homes that had professional photos taken sold for thousands more than homes that went au natural. It’s an interesting correlation, but we wouldn’t go so far as to say that taking flattering pictures of a home will actually add value to something that isn’t there to begin with.

But people hire professional photographers to capture other eventful moments in their lives such as weddings, and when there are life savings resting on the sale of your home, ensuring your agent presents it in its best light seems quite sensible.

First impressions don’t always count

Going back to first impressions: if people rely on photos to some extent to make up their minds, do they also arrive at properties having made up their minds about what they’re going to see?

Smith says not.

“There’s so much more to viewing a home than the initial photograph, which presents flattering angles and lighting and encourages visitors to view your home in person. The more buyers who are attracted to your home, the better your chances of receiving an attractive offer; photos are just a small part of the preparations.”

Zoopla Edinburgh listings

January 22, 2013 at 11:17 AM 4 comments

Winter Home Protection: Snow worries for Homeowners

Leaking pipes

1. Burst and frozen water pipes

Prevention – insulate all exposed pipes. Especially round your water tank and ensure the loft is well insulated, yet ventilated.

If you’re heading away for prolonged period of times, keep your heating on low. Whilst expensive, the cost of water damage from burst pipes to your property will far out way the increase in your heating bill.

Reaction – First thing to do is turn off the water mains stop cock. Even if you’re not affected by this, it’s always worth knowing where your mains water stop is – under the stairs, out on the street, under the kitchen sink?

It’s worth having a plumber on speed dial. Local can be better in terms of speed of reaction, assuming they are not inundated.

2. Boiler packing up

Whilst a boiler can pack up at any point, the time you least want it to is during a prolonged extreme weather period.

Ideally get your boiler serviced as soon as possible and maybe consider insurance to negate any costly repair bills. Many of the main utilities providers offer such insurance. Again, make sure you know who to call and you know the make and model of your boiler so you can brief an engineer instantly.


3. Leaking roofs and problematic guttering

Water damage is one of the most costly and disruptive for homeowners. Thawing snow will turn your house into a temporary waterfall. Blocked gutters and cracked or missing tiles will mean the water will find other paths to fall to the ground. If you have broken tiles, blocked gutters and down drains make sure they are all clear so the water can drain freely.

Sometimes water that cannot flow freely can store in your roof/ceiling and take days or even weeks to actually reveal itself. Ultimately this will create damp patches and at worst, result in collapsing ceilings.

Old roof

4. Heating on or off?

Understandably, this comes down to a question of cost. As we refer to in our first point, a constant low temperature during extreme conditions can help prevent frozen and ultimately burst pipes. If you’re going away for prolonged periods, keeping it on low. It may save you from water damage in the future.

5. Snow on external doors and window sills

It’s worth wiping away snow from the door and window sills of your home. Snow that sits there and then thaws can penetrate the frames and can cause the timbers to rot over time as the weather heats up. It’s likely you won’t notice this till later in the year when you go to open the window due to the hotter weather.

6. Snow covered trees

Snow collapsed tree

Snow covered trees and branches can collapse and it’s worth steering well clear of them during the snowy weather. Once the snowy weather has passed it might be worth trimming back branches that caught the most snow.

If you’ve got tips, please share with us in the comments below and we’ll add them to the list.
As always, please feel free to share and use this info, all we ask is that you credit the source as and link to Thank you.

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January 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM 1 comment

Going up, going down – 12 stunning staircases

Click the images to take a look around the properties…

1. Chesham Place, London

2. York, North Yorkshire

3. Aldridge, Walsall

4. Heathview Gardens, London

5. Radlett, Hertfordshire

6. Mayfield, East Sussex

7. London, NW7

8. Virginia Water, GU25

9. Ponteland, Newcastle Upon Tyne

10. Exeter, Devon

11. Cranbourne Gardens, London

12. Taunton, Somerset

January 16, 2013 at 2:25 PM Leave a comment

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