Gazundering is being gazumping

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The nightmare on elm street is back. Gazumping, scourge of the Eighties househunter, has returned.

For the past five years the National Association of Estate Agents has barely had a call on the subject. Its compliance department is now getting a handful each week. The heyday of gazundering - where the buyer demands a last minute price cut or pulls out - may be over.

Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy, the association's chief executive, said it was clear that gazumping was taking place in areas where the recovery was strongest - the Home Counties and the South-east. "During the years of the depression buyers have been letting down sellers, either by demanding reductions or pulling out when something cheaper comes on to the market. Obviously, the balance is swinging back to the seller."

John Morris, joint senior partner at Day Morris and Associates, in Hampstead, north London, said he had had several cases recently - but the vendors had all said no. In one case, a seller turned down a pounds 20,000 increase on a pounds 285,000 price. "It is only when people are offered an incredible amount more that it takes place," he said.

A spokesman for Abbott Manson, in Bristol, said they had had two cases in recent weeks. "It would happen more but we don't let it," he said. "We have even had people putting notes through the vendor's door to offer them a higher price."

Chris Stone, manager at Prickett and Ellis, in London, said they tried to be careful because "once gazumping starts it will go all the way through the market".