Archive Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Archive brought to you by Cross Stitch UK

Main menu

Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Making an offer on a home

Once you have found a property to buy, you will need to make an offer to the seller. Find out what the process is for making an offer on a property and the different kinds of offer you can make.

Working with estate agents

Using an estate agent is a common way to find a property to buy. Different estate agents specialise in different types of property, so choose one that sells the type of property you are interested in.

Estate agents enter into a contract with the seller (or ‘vendor’) to sell their property. Be aware that estate agents will therefore be acting in the best interests of the seller. However, they must also treat buyers fairly.

Find out more about estate agents, their contracts and fees in ‘Using an estate agent – selling a property’.

How to decide how much to offer

You can offer the exact asking price or more or less than the asking price. What you offer will depend on:

  • whether you think the seller is asking a fair price for the property
  • how quickly the seller wants to sell the property
  • how many other offers the seller has had
  • how much you want to buy the property
  • how much repair or renovation work you will need to do

You can find house prices for a particular area by searching the Land Registry's house price index.

Search online or ask your estate agent for more advice about deciding on an offer price and negotiating with sellers.

How to make an offer

If the seller is using an estate agent, you will have to make the offer through the estate agent. If the property is being sold privately, make the offer directly to the seller. You can make the offer verbally (over the phone or in person) or in writing.

Clearly explain your reasons if you are offering less than the asking price. You can also explain any factors you think will make your offer more attractive – for example, if you can move quickly.

Make sure your offer is 'subject to contract'. This means you can pull out of the deal if there are any problems.

Estate agents’ obligations to pass on offers

Under the Estate Agents Act, an estate agent is legally bound to present any offer promptly and in writing to the person selling the house. This must happen unless the seller has said in writing that there are some offers they don’t want to receive.

A buyer's offer is not legally binding in England and Wales, even if it's accepted by the seller. This means the agent is legally obliged to pass on any other offer received for the property up to when contracts are exchanged.

Having your offer accepted

If your offer is accepted, the seller will let you know in writing, and the process of transferring ownership, or ‘conveyancing’, will begin. To find out what conveyancing involves, see ‘Conveyancing for buyers’.

Making an offer in Scotland

In Scotland, the process for making offers is slightly different. To find out more, see the overview of the process of buying a house on the Shelter Scotland website.

Reducing the risk of the sale falling through

Gazumping happens when a property is sold to another buyer at a higher price after an offer has been accepted

In England and Wales, you or the seller can pull out of the sale of the property at any time before the exchange of contracts.

This can mean you losing money and time if the seller changes their mind before the contracts are exchanged.

Some sellers may pull out after accepting an offer, so they can sell to another buyer who is offering more money. This is called ‘gazumping’.

You can put some conditions on your offer to limit the chances of the sale falling through. Contact your solicitor or licensed conveyancer to discuss which of these, or similar options, might be best for you:

  • ‘lock-out’ agreements – the seller agrees not to accept other offers within a certain period of time
  • ‘costs guarantee’ – the buyer and seller agree to pay the other party’s costs if they pull out of the sale
  • ‘option to purchase’– an agreement that the buyer can buy the property for an agreed price, within an agreed timescale

You can also ask for the property to be taken off the market for the duration of the sale. However, the seller may be reluctant to do this if you haven't already sold your property.

Making a complaint about an estate agent

To find out about how to make a complaint about your estate agent, read ‘Estate agents – making a complaint’.

Energy Performance Certificates

Anyone selling a property must provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). For more about what EPCs contain, read ‘Energy Performance Certificates – what they are’.

Useful contacts

Additional links

Simpler, Clearer, Faster

Try GOV.UK now

From 17 October, GOV.UK will be the best place to find government services and information

Access keys