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I live & work in the UK. A few weeks ago, I had a verbal offer accepted on a house (I am a first time buyer). I had initially offered a bit lower than the asking price, that offer was rejected, and I ended up offering the asking price- and asking the sellers to include some fixtures & furnishings. This offer was accepted.

Since then, the coronavirus has broken out in the UK, and the markets have all dropped considerably (I was intending to put money saved in a Lifetime ISA toward the deposit- so this has obviously lost considerable value). Most things I've read are saying that we have no idea how long term the impact of the coronavirus will be on the financial markets, or whether it will impact the housing market in terms of house prices. Mortgage rates are already very low, so are unlikely to get any lower, particularly now that the Bank of England base rate has been dropped to 0.1%.

I'm unsure what to do regarding the offer I have put in on the house. I am not buying for any reason other than owning my own home, and to establish that for myself and my family. I am fortunate that my job is relatively secure- even if there were to be a recession, and even if I were to lose my job, I have a trade to fall back on which is still in a growth industry in the UK. My experience to date has been that it generally takes me between 1-2 months to apply, interview for & receive an offer for a job.

So, given that I am not looking at the house for any reason other than to establish a home (i.e. it is not primarily a financial investment), should I contact the vendors to reduce my offer, given all the uncertainty going on at the moment?

If so, how would it be best to approach this, and how much should I reduce my offer by? If not, why not?

Are there any other factors that I should be taking into consideration here? If it makes a difference- there is no chain on the sellers' end, and I heard recently that they had also had an offer accepted, so was expecting to hear on completion dates relatively soon.

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    Your offer was accepted. That ship has almost certainly sailed. – ChrisInEdmonton Mar 24 '20 at 16:13
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    "I was intending to put money saved in a Lifetime ISA toward the deposit- so this has obviously lost considerable value" – why is that? – marktristan Mar 24 '20 at 16:55
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    @ChrisInEdmonton in England and Wales, it doesn't sail until exchange of contracts, which is typically very close to the end of the whole process – AakashM Mar 24 '20 at 17:25
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    I would invite non-England-and-Wales readers to read en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gazumping for background – AakashM Mar 24 '20 at 17:27
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    @Michael Because the people who are selling the house are normally referred to as the vendors in the UK estate agency industry (which I’ve worked in for most of the past twenty years). – Mike Scott Mar 24 '20 at 17:51
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You could offer less.

You must be prepared to walk away at that point though, as the seller is within their rights to completely withdraw the sale.

When I bought my property, the conveyancer advised me not to proceed due to non standard construction. I wanted the house anyway as it was better than other properties i'd looked at.

I called the Estate agent and advised, conveyancer advised me not to buy, i'll be pulling out.

Later on that day, Estate agent calls me back, will you buy it for £10,000 less? Yes I agreed if they also pay for structural reports as well on property to make sure it is ok.

So, my advice to you, if you want the property for less, is to contact estate agent and advise due to the stock market crash/property values potentially lowering, you have less money now and will be pulling out of purchase.

Then depending on situation you MIGHT get them to offer you a lower price. Maybe. There are a lot of factors at stake.

I would reccomend only taking this route if you are prepared to lose the house.

Offering less can really get peoples hackles up and they may pull out on principle.

EDIT AS COMMENT REPLY TOO BIG

Its illegal to overpay on fixtures and fittings to alter the price of the house significantly so can't reccomend that. I can understand your desire to get it at below 450K to get the bonus on top though.

The power you have is your bottom rung and no chain. You can walk away, you can use that to your advantage and play hardball. As the other person points out, it is not nobel, but it is also not illegal. If you didn't buy the house at auction and have not exchanged contracts you can just walk away.

If you think that the house is overpriced currently then just walk away. They might counter offer, they might not. It depends really on how much you want the house and at what price. If you go down that route, just call the estate agents (or go through your solictors) and say i'm pulling out as the sums don't add up anymore. Then sit back and wait to either (A) get offered the house at a lower price or (B) lose the house.

To help with the guess to this answer - has the property been on the market long? Recently reduced price already? They rejected your lower offer previously so that isn't great. They have a house lined up they want to move to, so that helps.

When I was buying a house I once lost a great property, it had recently been reduced from 210 to 180 because i was desperate to get 175k stamp duty exemption. I lost the house, and sometimes wish i'd found the extra money as it was an amazing property, the sellers, having already reduced their price, would not consider going lower.

  • Thanks for your answer. I guess that's what I'm weighing up at the moment... The first offer I made was below asking price, which they rejected, and I ended up going back and offering the asking price, with the caveat that they leave some of the fixtures and furnishings. They agreed to this, and I was then waiting on them to find somewhere themselves. I heard from the estate agent a couple of weeks ago that they had found somewhere, and were due to complete soon. Then the stock market crashed. – Noble-Surfer Mar 25 '20 at 11:44
  • They were due to send me a list of the fixtures & furnishings they would be leaving, but I still haven't received that. One thought I had was to go back and offer a slightly lower amount (in order to make the house eligible for use of the Help-To-Buy ISA government bonus), and offer to pay them separately for the fixtures & furnishings... I dount that they fixtures & furnishings they will be leaving would actually be worth the difference in price- but I could overpay for those in order to top up the amount if required. Is that a viable way to negatiate? – Noble-Surfer Mar 25 '20 at 11:48
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You are proposing to gazunder. I can't speak for what might be 'best' for you personally, but I don't know of anyone who thinks this is a noble practice.

how would it be best to approach this

Tell your conveyancer to tell the seller's conveyancer. Both these parties might try and talk you out of it.

  • The Wiki on this indicates the offer should be verbal for the principal to apply - unless I missed something, I don't see where the question actually states that this is the case. Could be written, from my reading. – Grade 'Eh' Bacon Mar 24 '20 at 18:34
  • Apologies, the offer was verbal- I have updated my OP to include this. – Noble-Surfer Mar 25 '20 at 10:00

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