Q. I agreed to buy a property over a month ago now and everything is going well, I have had the survey back which is fine and am now in receipt of my mortgage offer too but I have just had terrible news. My agent has just called to say that someone that viewed the property on the same day that I did has just made an offer of £25,000 more than I have agreed to buy it for. You can imagine my dismay, especially since I cannot afford to pay anymore for the property. Are they allowed to do this given its already in solicitors hands?
A. yes I am afraid they can if you have not yet exchanged contracts. Unfortunately a purchase does not become legally binding until exchange of contracts has taken place and until then the seller is able to change his mind at any time as is the purchaser. The official terminology for this distressing practice is ‘Guzumping’. This practice was prevalent throughout 2007 when the market was booming and demand was outstripping supply resulting in buyers dipping deeper into their pockets to secure their desired property. Unfortunately we are now back in that same place and once again this ugly practice is rearing its unpleasant head once again. The problem is when another buyer is waving an extra £25,000 at a seller their sense of loyalty towards their existing buyer often flies out the window, as we all know money talks and that’s exactly why this tactic works and is used in an overheated market such as this with very positive results for the buyer that can afford to pay over the odds. Obviously if a seller has a buyer like you that is far advanced in his purchase then he is opening himself up to risking it all if the new buyer then changes his mind or cannot get the financing for instance a few weeks along the line. All in all it’s a risky business for a seller to get involved in this type of practice but often the money is enough to encourage them to take that risk. You could ask your solicitor if you are in a position to offer an exchange of contracts right now, this could make the seller sway back towards you knowing he has 100% sold the property rather than risking everything for some extra cash and no guarantees that it will actually happen.