Once an offer has been made, your estate agent will carry out checks on the buyer and then inform you both verbally and in writing of the details.
Whether or not you accept an offer is your decision, but your estate agent will be able to give you guidance on whether they feel there is an opportunity to negotiate. This is a critical time in the property selling process, and any negotiating may require several calls between you and your estate agent, and likewise between your estate agent and the prospective buyer. Do your best to make yourself available for calls, as any delays at this point could have a negative impact on the potential sale.
If you have several offers you should consider the position of the buyer as well as the offer itself. Estate agents will usually ask the buyer questions to evaluate suitability and help make a judgment on how ready they are to follow through with their offer.
Generally speaking, the estate agent will be looking to ascertain which of the following positions describe the potential buyer:
- Cash or unencumbered buyer: These are attractive buyers, as there are fewer obstacles that could hinder the process
- First time buyer: These buyers are not within a property chain, so they are less dependent on external influences
- Property on market under offer: These buyers are at an advanced stage in selling their existing property so should be ready to move relatively soon
- Property to sell on market: These buyers are also in the process of selling a property, so the sale of their property might affect the onward chain
- Mortgage agreed in principle: You can be assured that these buyers have sufficient funds to complete the transaction, and they have already taken care of one of the bigger tasks
- Property solicitor appointed: Buyers who have already appointed a property solicitor will usually be able to proceed quicker with the transaction
- Property to sell not on market: These buyers might be browsing, or are yet to begin the property selling process. If they are dependent on selling their existing home, it could be some time before these buyers are in a position to move
Sealed bids might be used in areas where market demand is high and properties are attracting interest from a large amount of prospective buyers.
After the viewings, your estate agent will contact any interested parties and ask them to submit their best and final offer by a given deadline. It is usual practice to also ask the buyer to state their readiness to proceed (i.e. do they have the mortgage agreed in principle? Are they a cash buyer? Is their current home not yet on the market?). In some cases the prospective buyers may include personal information in a bid to make their offer more appealing.
Once all bids have been submitted, it will be up to the seller to choose the most appealing offer.
If two or more bids are equally appealing, you may ask for further bids or you can determine the winner based on who is first to arrange a survey or contract. Contract races can be costly to the bidder who misses out, so taking this approach may discourage the bidders from proceeding further.
When an offer has been chosen and accepted, as with any property transaction, it only becomes legally binding at the point of the contracts being exchanged.