If you are in the process of buying a house, being gazumped means that the seller decides to accept a higher offer from another buyer in the final stages of the process. This can be very costly due to all the non-refundable costs that you may well have already paid out, not to mention the wasted time and inconvenience to you and other people further down the chain.
Sadly, gazumping is legal in England and Wales, so unless you live in Scotland, it pays to be aware of how to minimize the chances of it happening to you. Read our six tips on how you can avoid being gazumped.
1. Get everything in order as quickly as possible
Aim to get through the selling process quickly. If you know that there are things you need to do before the sale can be completed, it can pay to get them done before entering into negotiations. Of course, this might not be possible, but you can minimize the chances of being gazumped by ensuring that you are ready to proceed. Ensure that your surveys, conveyances and the sale of your own home are done as quickly as possible.
2. Get a mortgage in principle
One method that can lessen the likelihood of being gazumped is to arrange for your mortgage to be approved in principle. This means that a bank or building society has provided a realistic estimate of the amount they are prepared to lend you and serves as a provisional offer that they are prepared to give you a mortgage “in principle”.
Arranging for a mortgage in principle demonstrates that you are a serious buyer and can get the documentation started quickly. A large element of avoiding being gazumped is reassuring the seller that you are good to go and in a position to complete the buying process pretty much as soon as they have accepted your offer.
3. Ask your seller to take their home off the market
Once a price has been agreed, the estate agent will mark the property as being ‘Sold STC’ (Subject To Contract). This lets others know that an offer has been accepted on the property and the next stage is to prepare and exchange the contracts. However, in England and Wales, it is still possible for other interested parties to submit a rival offer at this late stage. If your offer has been accepted and it looks like the sale has gone through, you should ask your seller to remove all adverts from websites and the estate agents books, and even for the ‘For Sale’ sign outside the property to be taken down. Sellers are not legally obliged to do this, but they may as a gesture of goodwill, and it is always worth asking! This is the best way to avoid being gazumped.
4. Get a lock-in agreement
Another good way to avoid being gazumped is to seek a lock-in agreement, which means that the seller agrees not to accept offers for a certain amount of time. The advantage of a lock-in agreement means that you can organize your mortgage and other matters without worrying about others jumping in.
5. Be polite and friendly to the seller
This might seem insignificant but being friendly with the seller and developing a personal connection if at all possible is an effective way to reduce the chances of being gazumped. Most decent people won’t want to gazump people of whom they have formed a good impression, and usually prefer to sell their home to people who they like, although, of course, the final price is usually the deciding factor. However, you should always aim to be polite and friendly throughout the whole house-buying process – which can be very stressful – and they may be less likely to entertain other offers.
6. Get insurance cover
I recommend taking out designated insurance to cover you for the financial hit of being gazumped. This won’t secure the property and the emotional distress, but it will reduce the financial hit by repaying you the pre-agreed amount should the worst happen.