Q. Help. It turns out that my alleged cash buyer actually has a property to sell. How can this sort of thing happen, and what can I do?

A. Actually you’d be surprised just how easily this sort of thing can happen - and how frequently.

The simple fact is that people often describe themselves as cash buyers when in reality they aren’t. Sometimes, particularly in a raging bull market (remember them?), this may be a deliberate ploy to try and hoodwink the seller into accepting a particular offer. More often, however, it’s a simple matter of ignorance. So, for example, some people will claim to be cash buyers when what they really mean is that they won’t need to borrow any additional money to fund the purchase - once they have sold their existing property! Others may indeed have the cash – but it may be tied up in savings accounts that require anything up to 6 months’ notice or more before it can be accessed. The same often goes for people who claim to have sufficient funds to put down a large deposit.

The simple fact is that a genuine, non-dependent cash buyer is just that: someone with sufficient funds ready and waiting to make the purchase - without having to sell anything else first. If the money is held in an account that requires an extended period of notice before it can be released, then this notice needs to be given straight away – and you will have to decide for yourself whether you are willing to wait for that length of time.

Of course, establishing the true financial position of would-be buyers is an integral part of the agent’s role. Any reputable, professional agent worth his or her salt would have asked all the right questions at the outset.

The fact that this has happened to you therefore suggests to me either that your agent didn’t do a very thorough job, or that you tried to sell your property yourself, without using an agent at all. Either way, of course, you’re perfectly at liberty to cancel your acceptance of this person’s offer and put your home back on the market again. Nevertheless, with serious buyers currently about as rare as hens’ teeth, I would think twice before doing so.