Buying a house is generally regarded as one of the most stressful life experiences. From the house search to finally stepping over the doorway to your new home, there are a million and one things to worry about. Taking the time and care to negotiate a good deal will go a long way to relieving the stress. Writing a list of all the points you need to agree on will keep you focussed and ensure that everything goes to plan. Make sure you get everything in writing; it’s not that vendors are out to cheat you, but they probably have as much to think about as you do.
The first thing to know is what the vendor’s future plans are. Does he or she have a new home to move into, or are they still looking for somewhere? If you are desperate to move, but your vendor is in no hurry, this can be a bone of contention. Unless you want to run the risk if being caught up in a slow moving chain, you should think about stipulating in your contract that the deal will become void after a prearranged date, allowing you to pull out of the transaction without financial penalty.
On the other hand, it may be possible to negotiate a penalty clause which will see you financially compensated should the vendor not complete by a certain date. If you really want the house but the vendor tells you that he is not in a position to immediately vacate, this may give you some power to negotiate. If you need to vacate your current property you may have to rent until your new house is vacant, and you could try to reflect this additional cost in your offer. Ask how long the house has been on the market. If the house has been for sale for a long time the vendor may be more likely consider a much reduced offer to get a sale and move on.
You’ll need to negotiate who is responsible for any repairs that need carrying out to the house before the purchase is completed. List the sticking points and ask if the vendor would be willing to resolve any of them as part of the deal. If there are major tasks that need to be done you may be able to negotiate a reduction in the purchase price to take these works into account. If the vendor is going to get professionals in to tackle some of the jobs, ask to see itemised receipts to show what exactly has been carried out. Certain works such as electrical installation or repairs to roofing should come with a guarantee and you will need to know that the work has been carried out by a reputable company with cover should thing go wrong.
If the house requires very major work such as a complete re-wire, this could present a way of negotiating a major discount on the price but unless you are an expert, these problems may not be obvious on a general inspection of the property so engage the services of a buildings surveyor and pay for a full report to be carried out. You’ll be pleased to have done this if it later saves you money. Another element of surveying is to be aware of what is going on in the area around the house in case there are any construction works that might later affect you or that might have a negative effect on the future value of the property.
If you’re buying a new build you may be able to choose some of the fixtures and fittings. Be clear on your choices and get everything in writing; don’t rely on describing colours and furnishings verbally, this will only lead to errors being made. Use fabric swatches and tile samples if available, or mark choices clearly in catalogues and make sure all of these details are confirmed in writing. Receipts should be retained so that you know you’re getting the quality you’ve paid for.
If you are buying a home that’s already been lived in you must agree with the vendor what he or she will leave behind in the house. That could be everything from all furniture, fixtures and fittings, to single items. If there’s a room with an unusual space you may wish the vendor to leave the current flooring; the chances of the vendor moving to another property where the flooring can be easily re-used is unlikely so don’t be afraid to ask them to leave it. The same applies for window dressings, especially if they have been custom made.
In some parts of Europe it’s not unusual for vendors to take the kitchen units with them when they move out. It may be worth checking what the vendor intends to do; nobody wants to turn up with ten boxes of kitchen items to find out that there are no cupboards to fill. Don’t be embarrassed to ask if the seller wishes to leave anything; it may be that they haven’t considered it before then, and they may be happy to leave bulky appliances behind to save on removal costs, preferring to buy new in their new home. For first time buyers, strapped for cash, this may be a good way of reducing some of the expense of furnishing a new home.
Finally you have to ask yourself ‘Is this a fair asking price for this property?’ It’s now easy to find out what similar houses in your area sold for. In the US you might want to get hold of a CMA; a Comparative Market Analysis will give you idea of house prices in the last six months or so, which should give you a guide. In the UK. the website Zoopla is a good place to glean valuable information. Different areas have different ceiling prices; so no matter what special features an home owner may have added, a house that’s in an area that people don’t really want to live in won’t become any more attractive simply because the owner installed a hot tub in the yard.
Good communication is the key to negotiating a price that works for both buyer and seller. Don’t be afraid to go in with a low offer, but be prepared to increase your offer in line with what the vendor suggests. If you really want a house, don’t risk missing out because you’re trying too hard to get a good deal. The vendor may have an ideal price in mind, but if he or she really wants to sell they’ll have a bottom line. Ask what that price is if you’re in a position to move quickly; it may just clinch the deal.