Question: Can you recommend a starting offer price for a property we want to buy? We've finally found an ideal house for £330,000 – which we can afford – but we would like to know if we've got the edge in any negotiations. We're not good at bargaining and want to offer as low as possible without losing the property. Is it a buyers' market; do we have the upper hand, or is it them?
Juliet Crewe, Norfolk
Answer: You may not enjoy the sharp end of haggling, but it's the only way you'll be able to buy without paying a nightmare price. Your first step should be to bury all emotion and consider it as a plain business transaction. "Your opening offer is just a starting point, so you should aim to have your first offer rejected and not worry – you can always make a revised offer," says Gavin Brazg of the property advice website www.theadvisory.co.uk.
For a successful bid, though, you'll need to do plenty of homework before you make that first offer, adds James Brooks of Brooks estate agent in south London. "Ask as many estate agents as you can to gauge the price level for comparable properties," he says. "Not enough buyers do so and overestimate how much they should be paying". Use websites such as www.zoopla.co.uk or www.upmystreet.com, which track recent property sales.
"Make your first offer £10,000 below the price you are prepared to pay," says Brooks. "Put your case as strongly as possible; make sure the buyer's agent knows the size of your deposit and the length of the chain you're in." If you're free of any chain, hammer this point home; most sellers will give extra leeway to a potential buyer free of dependency.
Then, adds Brooks, "provide the details of your solicitor at the same time as the offer to stress your sincerity".
However, Brazg advocates a slightly tougher approach: "Start by offering 10 per cent below the asking price – so pick a shade under £300,000 in your case – and aim to end up with an agreed price at around 5 per cent below."
We are "predominantly in a sellers' market with tough competition between buyers", he says. But don't let this put you off.
A word of warning, though: if the seller won't meet you at an affordable level, bow out – better to buy a slightly less dreamy home and be able to keep hold of it.