In this brief guide, we are going to discuss making an offer on a house. Making an offer on a house is a very important issue as when you find a house you want to buy you will want to ensure the offer you have made on a house is accepted by the seller. 

There will likely be many prospective buyers who will make an offer on a house which you are interested in and hence competition will usually be in the house buying process. 

This is even much greater in cities where there is a demand for housing such as London. To ensure your offer on the house is accepted we have written this guide with various tips on making an offer on a house.

By law, estate agents have to pass back any offers they receive to the sellers of the house so don’t be worried in regards to dealing with estate agents. The law is on your side.

Making an offer on a house

To make an offer on a house you should do the following:

Research the local house prices

Curate all your offer documents

Finalise your bidding strategy

Seek legal advice

Submit your bid

Note: When making an offer on a house you can choose this to be either:

Subject to contract (STC) 

This means the offer is only legally binding when the exchange contracts has taken place.

Subject to survey

This means the offer on the house is only legally binding based on there being no significant issues found when a house survey is conducted. If there are then you can negotiate the price with the seller.

Research the local house prices

Researching the local house prices will allow you to see if the house prices are in line with the asking price of the house you want to buy before making an offer on a house. If you find that the house is much cheaper then you may want to research this to find out why the house is essentially much cheaper.

If the house is much more expensive then you should also research this to find out why the house is much more expensive. You should look at things such as the size of the house, has the house recently undergone a conversion or extension? Is there a new kitchen? Is the house fully furnished? Very simple things such as this could push the house price much higher.

The good news is that if the house is rightfully priced higher than the other properties in the local areas then you would still be able to realise this value if you decide to sell the house.

Curate all your offer documents

Before making an offer on a house you will want to arrange some of the documents which you may want to include as part of your offer on the house. The documents you may want to include could be your mortgage agreement in principle, proof of a mortgage deposit and in theory your exchange deposit, identification documents.

The identification documents may not be requested by the seller but if the seller is selling their house via an estate agent then they will request to see some identification documents before they submit your offer to the seller.

Finalise your bidding strategy

Getting your bidding strategy your before making an offer on a house is very important. You may want to start with an aggressive bidding strategy of bidding more than the house is listed for if the house is in a high demand area and you fear that there may be competition from other sellers for the same house. 

On the other hand, you may want to approach things by bidding below the properties listed price as you don’t think the house is worth as much as it is listed for. If this is your strategy then it is best getting a desktop valuation to back up your case and you may want to present this to the seller as part of your offer.

Seek legal advice

Before making an offer on a house you may want to seek legal advice as you will want to ensure the implications of making an offer on a house will not leave you in any legal liability. In Scotland, you will need a conveyancer (solicitor) to submit your offer for you.

Submit your bid

So now you have completed your research on the house you should now look to submit your bid to the seller. This will likely be by submitting your bid by email to the seller’s estate agent.

You can get the sellers contact details by contacting the estate agent listed on the house( If there is one).

When making an offer on a house, it is usually better to put this in writing as it ensures that there can be no confusion as to what the offer was and what the exact terms were.

When making an offer on a house you will also likely hear back from the estate agent requesting written proof of where the mortgage deposit or house purchase funds are coming from. You can make their lives a whole lot easier by submitting these documents as part of your offer packet.

When making an offer on a house you should avoid using things such as Google drives as the content here may not be time-stamped at it may be difficult to prove what you sent as an offer to the seller. You should instead send your documents as attachments in emails when making an offer on a house.

When making your offer to the seller you should do your best to make it clear that you’re a more attractive buyer than other prospective buyers. This could be because you are not in a chain or maybe because you are a cash buyer. Whatever Your advantage is you should stress this out when making an offer on a house.

If your offer is accepted

If your offer is accepted then don’t pop the champagne out just yet you may still need to ensure you get your mortgage all the way to completion by getting your mortgage offer, doing the conveyancing process, paying your exchange deposit and exchanging contracts with the seller.

Mortgage offers can still be withdrawn on the day of completion or even before for numerous reasons so using a mortgage broker with some experience may be the best option.

If your offer is rejected

If your offer is rejected then you should consider the reasons why it was rejected and ask the seller or their estate agent for some feedback before going back to make an improved offer. If you go back to make an improved offer and you are just slightly short of what the seller has indicated they will approve then you may want to consider a compromise before making another offer on the house.

Gazumping

Because the deal is not legally binding before you exchange contracts there is still the chance that someone else could come along and gazump you. Working very fast to get to the exchange of contracts is your best way to avoid gazumping. You may also be able to get gazumping insurance which protects you from any lost money in case you are gazumped. 

To avoid being gazumped you should insist that the seller takes the house off the market if they accept the offer you made on the house.

Tips on making an offer on a house

When making an offer on a house there are various tips you should consider which may give you an edge over other prospective buyers.

Get your mortgage in principle

Getting your mortgage or agreement in principle before you submit an offer for a house will ensure that you are viewed more favourable and more seriously than those who don’t. A mortgage in principle is a mortgage lenders first indication that they may be willing to lend to you.

Build relationships with the estate agent or seller

Going into the estate agents office rather simply speaking on the phone could also give you an edge over other buyers as they will take you much more seriously and may reward you for your efforts by keeping you updated with that house and other local properties which you may be interested in.

Don’t send Low ball offers

Before making an offer on a house you should have done your research and should be very aware of what the seller will accept based on the recent sale prices in the local area, the house price trends in the area and based on the current house prices. Avoid selling low ball offers which may cause you to be looked as unserious even when you submit a worthy offer.

Don’t reveal your ideal purchase price

Revealing your ideal purchase price mag force a seller to be more aggressive in their negotiations with you and even makeup stories of fierce bidding taking place as they know the magic number that you will be willing to spend. Keep your ideal house price a secret and you will be able to negotiate better.

Do not reveal your desire or love for a house

Revealing your love for the house will also make it harder for you to negotiate as the seller will try and squeeze every last penny of you as they know you desire and want this house more than anything else you have seen.

Get a writing list of fixtures and fittings

Ensuring you have a writing list of fixtures and fittings which will be expected to stay in the house as part of the sale will ensure you have a good idea of how much you should bid for when making an offer on a house. Ensure this is a written list rather than word of mouth as it will prevent any issues from arising in the future.

Check to see the gas certificates

When you make an offer for a house, you may want to see that it has a valid gas certificate. You should request this from the seller or their estate agent.

Three main house buying processes

There are three main ways the house buying process occurs in the UK and this affects how you make an offer on a house.

The three main ways are:

Private treaty

Best and final offer

Sealed bids

Private treaty

The private treaty is the method of buying most commonly known and used in the UK. With the private treaty, a house is listed for a fixed price and buyers and sellers are invited to bid on the house by submitting their offers. In some cases due to incredible demand, lack of mortgage funding in the market or for any set of unique circumstances, a seller may turn this into a different format by requesting final bids or best bids from prospective buyers.

Best and final offer

The best and final offer is just as it sounds. Prospective buyers are invited to make their best and final offers on a house.This is essentially the maximum price a buyer will be willing to pay. The seller will choose the best offer based on the buyers proof of funds and other factors and inform the chosen buyer that they have won the bidding process. In some cases where there is extraordinary demand, the seller may still look to negotiate the price after you have won the bid and my lace strict conditions before accepting your bid such as a deadline to exchange contracts.

Sealed bids

Sealed bid is a process of buying where prospective buyers submit their best and final offers for a house after viewing the house. They will also have a deadline to submit their bids and the chosen buyer will be informed shortly after this deadline.

Sealed bids are not legally binding in England and Wales at least. This means your offer can be withdrawn at any time before the exchange of contracts.

Getting a mortgage before you make an offer

You may want to consider using an independent mortgage broker to get a mortgage.

Mortgage brokers are important as they can access mortgage products from across the whole of the market in some cases. This could be over 11,000 mortgage products. This may have some advantages than going directly to a mortgage lender.

A mortgage broker will look to understand your financial circumstances and then provide recommendations on which mortgage products may be suitable for you.

After giving you these mortgage recommendations, most mortgage brokers will seek your consent to apply for a mortgage in principle. This will allow you to shop for your home easier as more estate agents and sellers may take you seriously or it will give you confidence that your remortgage is indeed a possibility before you make a full mortgage application. Once you have found a home you want to buy or are satisfied with the mortgage offer for your remortgage then the mortgage broker will then look to get you a mortgage offer.

This will come with a key facts illustration document which details out the features of your mortgage including how much you will pay per month if there are any limits such as early repayment fees, or annual overpayment limits.

If you are happy with everything you can then go on to secure your mortgage with the help of a conveyancer. Your conveyancer will manage the legal searches on the property to ensure there aren’t any issues with it, they will oversee the sales agreement to ensure it is in your best interest, they will manage the transfer of mortgage funds, exchange contracts with the seller or their conveyancer and set a completion date with the seller or their conveyancer.

In this brief guide, we discussed making an offer on a house. If you have any questions or comments please let us know below.

If you need financial advice and you live in the UK then you could contact the Money Advice service over the phone or via chat for impartial advice.

You can also contact the debt charity “Step Change” if you are in debt and need help.


John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.