Q. Yesterday I made an asking price offer for a simply stunning apartment which was accepted only to be told 24 hours later that the vendor has received another asking price offer from another similar unencumbered buyer like myself and the seller has decided to put us in a ‘contract race’. Can you explain what this means and the pros and cons of a buyer getting involved in such a thing?
A. Ahh – the good old contract race! Well it’s been a while since I have seen this implemented within the residential property market. A decade ago it was fairly prevalent but with sealed bids becoming more acceptable the humble contract race seemed to have all but disappeared. A sale becomes a contract race at the point that the sellers solicitor sends out a second contract on the property – it is at that point that the seller’s conveyancer must advise the new buyer and the original buyer that a second contract is being issued and inform them both that they are in a contract race. When two buyers are placed in a contract race in layman’s terms what it means is that whichever buyer is ready, willing and able to exchange contracts first is quite simply the buyer that will secure the property. However, I must stress that the sale still remains ‘subject to contract’ up until the point of exchange and that the seller can always withdraw and deal with the other buyer or indeed, decide not to sell at all, harsh I know but in a buoyant market such as we are experiencing right now there really isn’t much compassion from sellers towards buyers as the driving force seems to be both money and speed of transaction when a seller decided to go down this particular route. Of course as a buyer if you are love with the place and are prepared to take a risk then it’s a 50/50 chance that you may be successful. As a buyer there are definitely things that you can do to help speed things along. First of find the best solicitor that you can and ask how quickly they think they could realistically exchange. If you are financing the purchase then speak to your advisor and ask them if they can put your case to the top of the pile, they should be willing to help expediate things like instructing the survey and turning around your application and mortgage offer quicker if they know that its time sensitive, after all if you don’t secure the property they will also lose out too. Ask your solicitor if there is anything you personally can do to speed things up, complete their paper work and return without delay and transfer their monies on account immediately as they will not even look at your file without this. Ask your estate agent if he can also be on hand to chase up outstanding enquiries and chase things like management packs. Ask your solicitor to find out if your lender will accept a ‘personal search’ rather than a local authority one, a personal one will take about 48 hours where a local authority can take weeks depending on the area. Ultimately you need to be prepared to risk losing money as well as being disappointed and likely feeling stressed if the competing buyer exchanges before you do. If you still feel this is a risk worth taking then run with it, but if you have your doubts then simply withdraw your offer and move on.