Over the past few weeks I have noticed an increasing number of people changing their mind at the last minute before exchange of contracts; not withdrawing their offer, but trying to re-negotiate the price. Whether this is because people are being cautious as the media casts further warnings of impending financial doom or whether it is people trying to be a bit clever and back the vendors into a corner under the guise of “they’re desaparate to sell, so they’ll take anything”, I don’t know, but the legal position is the same. Under English and Welsh conveyancing law, either party (vendor OR buyer) can withdraw from the transaction at any time before exchange of contracts. Sometimes withdrawing can be for a wholly genuine reason; but sometimes withdrawing can be expensive. Withdrawing your offer at the last minute trying to broker a better price can leave you with an expensive legal bill together with an expensive property survey. Added to this, when you next need your solicitor or estate agent to move quickly, they are far less inclined to do so – once you have the reputation as a time-waster.
Our advice is to do all your negotiating and research before agreeing on a purchase price. Buying a house is one of the biggest decisions that you will have to make; remember that any reputable estate agent will be delighted to answer as many questions that you have prior to negotiating the sale. Where the estate agent will start to lose patience with you is when questions that could quite easily have been asked weeks earlier, now appear just before exchange of contracts as an obvious price-reducing tactic.