Riding The Waves: Managing Post-Purchase Worries In The UK’s Volatile Property Market
The UK property market can be an emotional rollercoaster for buyers and sellers alike. With fluctuating house prices and economic uncertainty, it’s understandable that many experience anxiety during the process of buying or selling a home. This is particularly true in the period between agreeing on a sale price and completion, which can leave buyers open to gazundering – the unethical practice of a buyer trying to lower the agreed-upon price shortly before completion.
For sellers in particular, the risk of gazundering can lead to significant stress and anxiety during what should be an exciting time. Here we’ll explore constructive ways for sellers to cope with post-purchase anxiety and protect themselves from gazundering in the UK market.
Understanding the Risks
In a fast-moving property market like the UK’s, the value of a home can change quickly in the weeks or months between agreeing on a sale price and legal completion. This leaves sellers vulnerable to gazundering – when an unscrupulous buyer senses that values have dropped and tries to renegotiate or threaten to pull out of the sale unless they get the home for less.
While gazundering is unethical and often illegal, it still happens reasonably regularly, especially in cooling markets. As a seller, it’s important to understand these risks so you can take steps to protect yourself. Being forewarned and forearmed can help reduce stress and anxiety during the sales process.
Seek Legal Advice
If you are concerned about gazundering, seek legal advice as soon as possible. A property lawyer can advise you on the strength of your position and any legal recourse available. They can also review your sale contract and help ensure it has appropriate clauses to deter gazundering.
For instance, your contract should state clearly that the agreed sale price is legally binding, subject only to survey results. It should also require a substantial deposit from the buyer, which you can retain if they wrongly try to pull out or renegotiate on price. Making it clear from the outset that you know your legal rights can help deter unscrupulous tactics.
Be Upfront with Your Agent
Your estate agent is your representative in the sales process, so make sure they understand your concerns about gazundering. Ask them to keep you regularly updated about any signals from the buyer. If the buyer does try to renegotiate or withdraw their offer, your agent should firmly defend the agreed price as legally binding.
A good agent will want to maintain their reputation, so they have an interest in deterring and responding appropriately to unethical behaviour from buyers. Making your concerns clear from the start helps the agent represent your interests proactively.
Arrange an Independent Valuation
If the buyer does attempt to gazunder, arranging an independent valuation of your property can help strengthen your negotiating position. A new valuation indicates the current true market value, which the buyer cannot reasonably contest.
Ideally, choose a different surveyor from the one who did the initial buyer’s valuation, for added independence. Be prepared to share this updated valuation with the buyer as evidence if required. This makes it harder for them to make spurious claims about changing market values.
Understand Their Motivations
Try to maintain objectivity by understanding the buyer’s motivations and pressures. For an individual buyer, finances may have changed since they had an offer accepted. Or they may simply be getting cold feet in an uncertain market.
For developers and investors, declining prices reduce potential profits from renovating and reselling. While unfair gazundering tactics are inexcusable, understanding motivations can help negotiations.
Highlight the Benefits of Completion
Where possible, highlight to the anxious buyer the benefits of completing at the agreed price. For instance, emphasise how prices might resume rising soon, so completing now could save them money in the long run.
Also, highlight any work done or expenses incurred already in expectation of completion. Be flexible about costs, but demonstrate you acted in good faith and expect the same. This can deter opportunistic gazundering from unscrupulous buyers.
Offer Incentives or Compromises
If negotiations do reach an impasse, consider offering small incentives or compromises to close the deal. For example, you could offer to include furniture items or fittings initially excluded from the sale. Or you may accept a delayed completion date or agree to take care of minor repairs.
Small concessions like this can provide just enough incentive for a buyer to complete at the agreed price. But take care not to set any precedents that the buyer tries to renegotiate after. Get any compromises formally agreed in writing.
Don’t Make Concessions Too Easily
At the same time, you should not feel pressured into making concessions too readily. Unethical buyers may employ bullying tactics, but you have legal rights and should stand firm if you prefer. If you do agree to any price reduction, the buyer should also make some concessions.
Listen to your agent’s advice and don’t agree to anything you’re uncomfortable with. Any concessions should be proportional and come with strings attached, like requiring the buyer to cover all legal fees associated with amending contracts.
Be Ready to Walk Away
As a last resort, make clear you are fully prepared to walk away and relist the property if the agreed price cannot be honoured. With your agent’s guidance, identify an acceptable bottom line and minimum concessions needed to proceed.
Even if you end up relisting slightly below the initially agreed price, retaining control and sticking to principles can help ease feelings of anxiety and unfairness. Make sure your agent communicates your bottom line firmly to the buyer, so they understand the risks of continued bargaining.
Take Care of Yourself
Throughout any negotiations, don’t forget to take care of your wellbeing. Gazundering tactics can feel personally unfair and attack your sense of goodwill. Make time for healthy stress relief through exercise, socialising, enjoyable hobbies, or whatever works for you.
Stay positive by focusing on the fact that you have legal rights and most buyers do complete fair deals in good faith. Keep sight of the excitement ahead once the stress of this sale is behind you.
Look to the Future
Remember that any sale, even one with challenges, will pass, freeing you up for new beginnings. Focus on the opportunities ahead – whether that’s new projects with the sale proceeds or settling into your ideal next home.
Post-purchase anxiety is understandable given the stresses of property transactions. But staying calm, seeking support, and focusing on the future will help you navigate any ethically dubious tactics while safeguarding your mental health. With resilience and good advice, you’ll secure a fair deal.
The UK property market can induce anxiety with its unpredictability and unscrupulous practices like gazundering. But sellers have options. Seeking legal and agent advice deters exploitation. Objective understanding and selective flexibility facilitate negotiations. Walking away retains control. And self-care and a future focus protect well-being.
With resilience, knowledge and support, sellers can overcome the stresses of the sales process. A fair deal honouring the agreed price protects the integrity of the transaction. Retaining perspective provides a positive mindset to enjoy new beginnings ahead. The UK market always fluctuates, but ethical sellers have the tools to cope.