Russell Hunt

Q.We’ve been putting off upscaling to a bigger family home, but don’t want to wait much longer. When should we move?

AIt’s probably a mistake to wait too long and over-predict the market. If you look back to the first quarter of 2009 there were lots of good deals to be had, and not many people would have predicted prices going up to the extent that they have. That’s largely been due to a lack of stock, but many people who were waiting to buy at the bottom of the market – as I suspect you have been – missed it. It’s possible that prices could drop 5-10 per cent after the first quarter of 2010. But that doesn’t mean you should necessarily hold off until then – there are a lot of buyers out there and competition is stiff, so if you see something you like, go for it.

The fact of the matter is that there’s no perfect time to move – whenever the time comes you have to be prepared to adapt to the moment. In this kind of market when stock is so short, you have to be prepared to take the opportunity when it presents itself rather than waiting for the absolute optimum time financially. That means keeping a beady eye on the market and being prepared – the Christmas break is a good time to get your preparation sorted. Take some time to work out your finances, what your budget is and what you can realistically afford. Look on the internet and see what’s out there in your price range.

If you’re needing to sell first, you can always test the water by getting a valuation. Ask an estate agent to get in a few of their best buyers who have been looking for a while, and see what the feedback is without fully marketing it. It’s all about gathering information and being fully prepared so that you can take the best opportunities when they arise.

Q.I’ve had my flat on the market for some time and finally had an offer I like, but I’m not ready to move. What do you suggest?

A.If you’re keen to accept the offer, you’ve got two options – either think about renting while you house hunt, or try to convince the buyer to agree to a delayed completion. A delayed completion is when you agree with the other party that you’re not going to exchange within the standard four or five weeks, but instead arrange for a longer period, which would give you time to sort out finding somewhere to move to. I did this myself this year – I put in an offer on a place in March, but agreed not to exchange until October to give the vendor more time, and we were happy to rent in the meantime. You do this on the understanding that if circumstances change you can bring that exchange date forward, so long as both parties agree to it.

The key to coming to such an arrangement is trust and understanding between both parties, but it can really play to your advantage if you’re a buyer – by agreeing to hold off on exchanging we were actually able to get a better price. In this market you have to be adaptive, and one way to be so is to work out what type of vendor or buyer you’re dealing with. You need to find out what kind of person they are and what priorities they have, and make yourself accommodating to those. That gives you an advantage when it comes to negotiations, and in a competitive market you need all the edge you can get. It will also lead to a much more pleasant purchase process for both parties.

Russell Hunt is managing director of Property Hunt, a search agent for London and the Home Counties. www.property-hunt.co.uk