ASK THE EXPERT

Q. I’m hoping to get my foot on the property ladder for the first time this year. Can you give me any pointers as regards making offers?

A. When it comes to making offers, there are few hard and fast rules – whatever the state of the market. Right now, for example, with all the doom and gloom in the media, you might be forgiven for thinking that we are in a buyers’ market, and that hard-pressed sellers will therefore be amenable to accepting lower offers. But don’t bank on it - most agents agree that there is actually a shortage of properties on the market at the moment. Besides, if a seller’s agent has done his or her job properly in the first place, then the asking price should already be pretty much spot on. After all, no agent wants to waste time and money trying to sell a wildly overpriced home.

That said, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making an offer, although it’s advisable to do some research first, to see what similar properties in the area may recently have sold for. These days, there are a number of websites like www.myhouseprice.com and www.ourproperty.co.uk which can provide this kind of information. However, it’s important to remember that they get their data from HM Land Registry, so it’s basically 3 months out of date.

As a first-time buyer, you obviously won’t suffer from the disadvantage of having to sell something else first, so there’s less chance of losing out to someone who can move more quickly than you – other than a cash buyer, of course. Nevertheless, in making your offer, you should be prepared to be outbid. In this context, it’s worth remembering that the agent is legally bound to continue passing on any new offers to his client (the seller) right up until exchange of contracts – unless specifically instructed otherwise. So, even if and when your offer is accepted, that’s by no means the end of it.

One final word of advice. Resist the temptation to make offers on several different properties at the same time. Admittedly, this is a practice more commonly seen in a sellers’ market, but still, it’s not really cricket. You won’t want someone doing it to you when you come to sell in the future!