Kirsty McLuckie: Bidding advice for budding house hunters

I’d forgotten how agonising closing dates are when you are buying a property – or perhaps I’d just blocked out the endless ditherings over just how much to offer, followed by the torment of waiting to hear if you have been successful.

Picture: FGC / Shutterstock

Even if you are, it can be a bittersweet experience. Did you offer too much, could you have got it for a few thousand less?

I still think about the time we put an offer in for a house on a closing date and – impatient for news – I phoned the selling solicitor an hour afterwards to see if a decision had been made.

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The seller was still closeted with his advisor, but the receptionist helpfully told me not to worry, as our offer was “by far” the highest.

Great, but ouch!

It has been 20 years since that fateful day, but the stressful process of a fixed deadline for closed bids does not seem to have become any easier with the passing of time.

This time around it isn’t my partner and me that are buying, but my son and his girlfriend. They are first-time buyers with a limited budget, but boundless enthusiasm.

They have a lot of second opinions to cope with. I write about property, my husband was a structural engineer in a past life, and the girlfriend’s mum is an estate agent.

In normal times we might have made a group outing to view any prospective purchase, possibly with my son’s grandparents in tow, as they are seasoned veterans in buying a property or two.

In Covid times, however, viewers are limited to two, so the rest of us have been pouring over videos, street views and floor plans, hoping to glean some inside knowledge or spot potential problems.

The youngsters have identified a lovely flat, at the top end of their price range, but looking like good value for money. It has nice views, is in a quiet neighbourhood which is handy for the shops and the local train station. Being up three flights of stairs up is fine for their young legs. There is even a large cupboard with a window which could well make a home office.

The property is being marketed at an offers over price, and set £1,000 under its Home Report valuation, so my sage advice was for them to verbally offer a lowish cheeky bid, underlining that their finance is in place, there is no chain and the entry date is negotiable. Which they tried.

How the estate agent laughed.

Apparently, since the flat launched on the market, the agent’s phone has been ringing off the hook. Viewings have had to be scheduled every day, two offers were on the table within 24 hours, and a closing date for a week’s time has been set – with six parties noting interest so far.

But I’ve learned our heroes will be competing with not just other first-time buyers, but landlords.

In an area where rents are high but property values comparatively low, it is to be expected, but that is exactly why renters want to buy a home.

It is not just buy-to-let investors, however, but Airbnb landlords, as the nice views make the flat highly marketable online for lucrative short breaks.

Nevertheless, my son and his girlfriend are still going to put in an offer, but I think my focus should now switch to talking down their expectations, and making sure that their solicitor does not charge them for unsuccessful bids.

- Kirsty McLuckie is the property editor at The Scotsman