Selling your home? Want it to be as stress-free as possible? Here’s how to tell if someone is genuine about buying your property.

The property market can be unpredictable at the best of times. We’re not necessarily talking about fluctuating house prices or general market changes. The market can be challenging because of people and their occasional tendency to change their minds.

According to the website Property Industry Eye, one in three property sales fell through in England and Wales before completion in the final quarter of 2021, an 11% increase compared to the third quarter of last year. Some 50% fell through because the buyer changed their mind or tried to renegotiate their offer.

If you’re looking to sell your home, you’ll want the sale to be as stress-free as possible. This means you’ll need to ensure your buyer is serious and is making a genuine offer. A buyer having a change of heart can cause unnecessary stress (and expense) if you’re part of a chain. And, of course, some buyers are well-intentioned but over-ambitious about what they can truly afford.

So, if you’re selling your home and you’ve received an offer, how can you tell if your buyer is serious and has the funds available?

Can they afford your property?

Firstly, have a good chat with your estate agent. Find out as much as you can about the buyer and their situation. The estate agent should have checked if they can afford your property and will have asked them to provide proof. They will usually ask for a copy of an Agreement In Principle and a bank statement for the deposit amount.

‘If it’s a cash offer, I ask for proof of funds,’ says estate agent Lisa Fowler from Henley Homes. ‘If they are taking out a mortgage, I ask for their broker’s details and check their affordability with the broker.’

Speak to the agent and ask how their buying status has been verified. In addition, find out why they want to move.

If they are a first-time buyer and able to move quickly, then they’ll know they’re in a fairly strong position and may try to negotiate on price. Whether you decide to take their buying status into account when negotiating is entirely your call. You may consider taking a lower offer if the person is a first-time buyer and is willing to work to your schedule.

If they already own a property, find out if they have sold it or if it’s still on the market. Be wary of the latter, as this is likely to cause delays. If they have sold their existing property, try to find out as much as possible about the people buying their home. Are they in a chain, or is their buyer a first-time buyer? How far along is their sale?

Trust your instincts

When considering an offer, think about your impression when you first met the buyer and trust your instincts. You can tell a lot from first impressions.

A keen buyer will be interested in more than just the house – they will want to know about you, your family, your lifestyle, and most importantly, why you want to sell.

If they are serious, they will ask lots of questions about the property and may also ask about the area, the local amenities, and schools.

After the first viewing, they may want to come back and view your property again. In this situation, a serious buyer will respect your time and schedule and be flexible enough to work around your commitments. They will want to make it relatively easy for you to accept their offer.

What’s their timeline?

Ask if they have a solicitor lined up and if they have a particular timeline in mind. You might have a desired moving date yourself, so ask if they would be able to work with your schedule if the timing is important to you.

Finally, think about the speed of the buyer’s offer. Property remains in high demand, with more buyers than properties. If someone has made a very quick offer to ward off other buyers, once the pressure is off, they may think more carefully about their intended purchase and whether the property is right for them.

Overall, be cautious – check their situation carefully and trust your gut instinct, and hopefully, it will all work out for you in the end.

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