Q. I’m selling my apartment but so far I have had three separate offers all from seemingly respectable buyers that have been vetted by my agent but each time they have changed their mind a few weeks into the sale and pulled out of the purchase. I am becoming exasperated with the situation as months have now passed by and I am no further with securing a buyer for my property. As you can imagine I am now wondering if I will ever sell the property. Is there anything I can do to protect myself from this repeatedly happening?
A. Buyers changing their mind a few weeks in to a purchase is something that happens on a regular basis, because sadly the UK system does not become legally binding until exchange of contracts. Buyers really call all the shots at the beginning as even though they may have agreed a purchase it is not unusual for them to still keep their eye on the market and if some else they prefer comes up they will simply pull the plug on the current property and make an offer on the new one. Increasingly I have noticed a trend of buyers making multiple offers at the same time on a selection of properties to see what they can get for the best price, often stringing along a few accepted offers at the same time and then giving the agent the bad news a few weeks later when the property has already been removed from the market losing valuable marketing time as the seller has accepted their offer in good faith. Your agent can of course pre approve the buyer before putting their offer in and these days most buyers are quite prepared when they come to the market with agreements in principle from a lender as well as a good sized deposit and in some cases even have a solicitor lined up, however we cannot control what is going on behind the scenes. As a solution I would definitely recommend that the property is not removed from the market until the survey has been instructed. This will show financial commitment from the buyers so makes it less likely for them to jump ship for something else more desirable. Also follow up with your solicitor as soon as the sales memorandums are issued and make sure they have received confirmed instruction from the buyer’s solicitors. Solicitors will not confirm instructions until they are ‘in funds’ so again if there is a delay in instructions being confirmed this will raise a red flag as holding off from putting solicitors in funds is usually a delay tactic as they know their solicitor will do nothing until they receive their initial money up front.