Price rises lure the gazumpers back

Shortage of good property revives memory of Eighties
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Gazumping is back. As house prices pick up, competition for scarce accommodation is intense in several parts of the country.

Hugh Dunsmore-Hardy, the chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said complaints about gazumping had risen from "a handful over several months to now being a weekly, almost daily, occurrence," adding it was "one of the more unpleasant signs of an improving market".

Alan Baxter, corporate manager of Scotland's largest estate agents, Slater Hogg and Howison, said buyers' frustration at the lack of "quality stock" was leading them to make offers well above asking prices. A detached, Victorian four-bedroom house with less than half an acre of land in the village of Gartocharn sold for pounds 172,000, which was pounds 47,000 above the initial asking price.

In south-west London, Windmill Estates said homes which had been on their books for a year had now started selling quickly, at above the asking price. The greatest demand was for "quality" and relatively new properties such as two- bedroomed flats. Carter Jonas, which has offices all over the country, said that in Huddersfield its office had been "rushed off our feet" in what is traditionally a quiet month.

Homes selling for pounds 140,000 had been snapped up within three days of coming on to the market. Homes that were selling quickly ranged in price from pounds 25,000 to pounds 425,000.

A spokesman for a major High Street estate-agent firm in the Midlands said a few examples of gazumping were beginning to reappear, although it was not yet anything like as bad as it has been in the past. We've seen a few examples occurring but that usually happens when the market picks up again after a slump," he said.

"There's a shortage of houses and a great desire to buy. It's family homes that are moving, that's where the demand is right now. The prices are not up to the level they were in the mid-Eighties but they're not far off.

"My own two-bedroomed semi-detached house would now sell for about pounds 57,000. At the height of the boom it was pounds 62,000, but dropped as far as down as pounds 50,000. People are being forced to offer the asking price, or above sometimes."