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Ed Mead
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DIRECTOR OF ESTATE AGENT DOUGLAS & GORDON

Q.We have an offer and are about to exchange on our house, but at the last minute our buyers have asked for a price reduction. What are our options?

A.Sadly the England and Wales property buying system allows, effectively, three chances for a buyer to [re]negotiate a price, once when the deal is agreed, again when a survey or mortgage valuation is done and again on exchange. When prices are rising it’s often sellers who will be offered a higher price by another buyer. What’s happening to you is more common in a difficult market where buyers having the whip hand. Protecting against this isn’t easy but sellers must have a selling pack, including Title Deeds, seller’s information forms and service charge information, if appropriate, ready to go immediately a deal is agreed. Nothing weakens your position more than a buyer waiting three weeks for you to send out a contract whilst your mortgagees get your Deeds. A good solicitor is vital so Aunty Maud’s recommendation in Frinton is probably not a goer. Agree a tightish time frame for an exchange of contracts, say three weeks max (remember mortgage valuers can string out process so make sure your agent keeps on top of this) and their solicitor’s response will tell you all you need to know. If the reduction is because of a mortgage down-valuation they’re unlikely to offer that on exchange, so if it’s last minute it’s probably a try-on. Look at your situation, if you can match the reduction on what you’re buying then you’re no worse off. If your house has been difficult to sell and the reduction is less than five per cent then it might well be worth doing. Obviously if you have an under-bidder or your agent is confident there are other buyers you can afford to be stronger in your response, but sadly, in this market, that’s unlikely.