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Sell first or buy first?


Buy First or Sell First?


This is the dilemma faced by most people who are looking to move.  Do you find the property of your dreams before putting your home on the market, or secure a sale first?  It’s not an easy decision, so we’ve weighed up the pros and cons for you...
Buying First
You’ve taken your time, looked around, and you’ve found the property you want to buy.  Now you can put your home on the market in the knowledge that you’ll be moving to your dream home...hopefully!  You won’t have that desperate search for something ‘perfect’ with the pressure of time (and possibly a whole chain of people waiting).   The problem is, until you sell, your offer may well just be ‘acknowledged’ rather than accepted.  Vendors often won’t firmly accept an offer or take their house off the market unless you’re in a position to proceed – so you’ve now got a very anxious wait while you try to sell with your fingers crossed that no-one else snaps up your ‘home-to-be’ in the meantime.  You could be bitterly disappointed if this doesn’t work out, or the pressure could result in you jumping at the first offer that’s made on your property, causing you to accept a lower purchase price to enable you to proceed.

Selling First
Selling first can put you at an advantage in many ways – it gives you a much stronger position as a buyer meaning that you may be able to negotiate a better price on your next property.  You’ll also know exactly how much you have to spend, as you’ll know how much your property has sold for.  However, it does put the pressure on and means that your search for a home becomes a little more frantic!  Remember though that accepting an offer is not legally binding.  If it all goes horribly wrong and you don’t find anywhere, you’re not going to be homeless!  If the worst comes to the worst, you can pull out of the sale – you may feel bad letting a buyer down, but you do have to put your own interests first.  Alternatively, renting for a short time or staying with family or friends could be an option, to buy you a little breathing space and more time to search.  If you’re doing this, make sure you’re aware of what’s happening with the property market during this period.  For example, if you rent for 12 months while you have a leisurely search and the market picks up during this time, you could find that you need to spend more than you were expecting to on your next home.  Conversely, if the market drops, you may get a bargain having already sold in a more buoyant market, in which case you’re quids in!

Be Informed
If you’re selling first, it’s important to have done your research as now time is of the essence in your hunt for a property.  Know exactly what you want and the area(s) that you’re looking at.  Communicate this with as many local agents as possible and sign up for online alerts.  Once you’ve sold you’ll be hot property, so to speak, and agents will bend over backwards to help you find what you’re looking for – they may even go to the extent of canvassing areas that you’re interested in to find homeowners who may be thinking of selling but haven’t yet gone on the market.

Be Honest
Make sure your buyers know your position.  They may not be in any hurry and might happily wait a while until you find what you’re looking for.  Even if they do want to proceed, you don’t have to rush – while straightforward sales can sometimes go through in as little as 4-6 weeks, they usually take around 12 weeks.  Therefore you may, potentially, be able to buy up to 6 weeks after you’ve sold and still complete at the same time.  Communication is the key; ensure all parties are kept informed of your position throughout the process.

So, while there’s no hard and fast rule, generally speaking you’re in a much stronger position if you sell first.  It’s personal preference though and, to some extent, can depend on what you’re selling and what you’re looking to buy.  If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where property is in very high demand and usually sells within days, you may be better to find the home you want first.  Likewise, if you only want to move for something very specific that rarely comes on the market you may want to wait until the house of your dreams becomes available...but prepare yourself for a very anxious time!

Published Fri 19th May 2017 - Last updated Fri 19th May 2017


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