Making an offer on a house or flat

First-time buyers

Making an offer on a house or flat

By Joe Elvin

Article 6 of 13

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Making an offer on a house or flat

How do you decide how much to offer when buying a house – and when is it appropriate to offer below the asking price? Find out here.

When you make an offer on a property, it is more likely to be accepted if it's based on your knowledge of the seller and the local market, as well as the house itself. 

While a bit of haggling is often to be expected, don't offer so little that you enter a lengthy negotiation process, as you might lose the property altogether if someone else makes a higher bid.

If there have been other offers on the property, the estate agent can't legally tell you how much they were for, but they may indicate whether they were close to the asking price, which will also help to inform your own offer.

Before making an offer on a property, you should consult a mortgage adviser to find out how much lenders might be prepared to let you borrow. You can speak to an expert at Which? Mortgage Advisers for independent, tailored advice by calling 0808 252 7987.

Expert video: how I decided how much to offer

Which? mortgage adviser David Blake and property surveyor James Rangeley explain how they used their industry knowledge to decide how much to offer when buying their own homes.


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Video transcript

We took the build around, we got estimates for how much it would cost to do the work to property that we needed to deal, and therefore the offer was based on a combination of the estimates from the builder, what we could afford and also what this evaluation had shown up, so when we were going back with our offer, it's based on factual information. We got home buyers survey carried out on the advice of the survey that we use which was local to the area, I knew that the area and property very well. When we did that in the process, I believe it was after we decided that we want to make an offer on the property, we fully understood that would be a case that we've been risking some money, but in the grand scheme of things, actually, we'd rather spend a bit of money and get things right and be able to offer with based on factual information, I think it makes a stronger offer.

You are, to a certain extent, relying on the guide price put forward by agent and also your own experience having viewed, hopefully, number of other properties and got a feel for what the values are. Perhaps, during your period of searching, you'd have seen houses that you've viewed sell to other people, and that's a good indication that pricing is in the right sort of area.

But, essentially, you won't know the answer to what somebody is prepared to pay for it, and in good market, some people are prepared to pay more than others, but you can do certain things, speak to other agents, speak to a local surveyor, just ask casually about the house and possible values, ask for comparable evidence from the agent.

If you're serious about buying, they would be as helpful as possible in supporting the price that they're asking. And, if they can't provide an information or refuse to, then it's possibly a suggestion that what they are asking is perhaps too much money. What we'd seen a lot of houses, we've probably seen about 15 or 20 houses in quite a large search area, but we had a pretty good feel for what houses that matched our criteria were achieving and what people are asking for them.

So we knew that there was a range that we had to work within but we asked some fairly probing questions of the agents, this is what we've been told. Locally, over the last 6 to 12 months, they disclosed and we also found out from other agents that houses in the same street had sold within the last six months, and either direct enquiries to those agents or land registry searches disclose the prices paid, and we went a bit further than most and we obtained old sales particulars corresponded those with the property that we were hoping to buy, and obviously, what somebody takes for the house next door may not be the same as what the center of the one you like, is prepared to take, but at least you've got a good indication of what price is going to be.

Comparing properties to calculate a suitable offer

In order to work out what would be a sensible offer for a property, make sure you compare multiple properties in the neighbourhood. 

It's worth writing down the vital statistics for each property you visit – dimensions, condition, number of rooms etc – in order to get an idea of whether its asking price represents good value.

Our checklist details each of the factors to take into consideration when assessing the value of a property, making it easy to compare each home you view.  

Click the image below to download our printer-friendly PDF.

Download our checklist

Making an offer below the asking price

The asking price does not always reflect a property's worth. Be proactive and research the local market to get an accurate picture of what the house or flat should really cost.

Common reasons for offering less than the asking price include:

  • a similar property recently sold at a lower price and the market hasn’t changed
  • there are some repairs or improvements that would need to be carried out for you to be happy in the home
  • the seller has a motive to complete the deal as soon as possible – for example, if they need to move quickly due to a pregnancy or job
  • the property has been on the market for a while and no one else has made an offer recently.

It's worth bearing in mind that many people find selling their home very emotional and you risk insulting or upsetting them if you go in too low. Before putting in that cheeky offer, think carefully about whether the saving is worth risking losing your dream home over – and whether you're being fair.

Find out more: how to value a property – read our sellers' guide to understand how asking prices are calculated and whether the home you're viewing is worth the price tag

When to offer the asking price (or more)

If the property ticks all the boxes on your ‘needs and wishes’ list and isn't overpriced, it may be worth offering the asking price straight away – especially if you don’t intend to move again for several years.

Those competing with lots of other bidders might even want to consider putting in an offer above the asking price, especially if you’re likely to be waiting a while for another property of that type to come o??n ?to? the market. When we surveyed 1,990 recent homebuyers in 2015, a third of those who paid over the asking price cited competition as the primary reason.

In fact, in thriving property markets where bidding wars are common, it's more than likely you'll have to bid above the asking price to land your dream home, so make sure you factor this into your budget. 

Find out more: gazumping and sealed bids – tips on how to cope in competitive buying situations

Making an offer to an estate agent

When it’s time to make your offer, your research into the value of the property, your understanding of the seller’s circumstances and being clear about your own position (especially if you're chain-free or are a cash buyer) are all invaluable.

You can make your offer to the agent either over the phone or in person at their offices. Either way, it's worth also putting your offer in writing and agreeing a provisional timescale to work towards for completing the purchase.

Make sure that the price you're offering is subject to a survey and getting a mortgage, so that after your offer is accepted, there is still the opportunity to revise the amount you pay, and also state that it's subject to the property being taken off the market and not being shown to anyone else.

Find out more: buying through estate agents – learn more about your rights and the fees involved.

  • Last updated: August 2016
  • Updated by: Stephen Maunder