Can you still offer on a house that is under offer?

As a property investor I’m always on the lookout for a potential purchase to add to my portfolio.  I’ll have done my research, have my finances in order, and will be ready to make a move.  So what happens if you spot a great opportunity but someone else has already made a move?  Can you still make an offer on the house if someone else has?

Yes, you can still make an offer on a property that is already under offer from another interested buyer. The offer will need to be more attractive than the existing offer.  This could mean offering a higher amount or being able to complete the sale in a shorter amount of time.

Knowing the market and being in a quick to buy position can help you to grab the properties you want to invest in…and also know when to walk away. As I’ve mentioned, having your finances in order is really important. Speak to our expert mortgage broker if you don’t have one in place.

What does it mean when a house is under offer?

When a property is “under offer,” it means that someone has already submitted a bid for consideration, but the sale hasn’t completed.

The appointed estate agent may continue to advertise the property in order to encourage backup offers and implement a fear of missing out for other interested buyers.  They typically add “under offer” to the listing so you know your window of opportunity is closing.

So while the seller has found a buyer who is interested in purchasing the property, the deal isn’t done until it’s done, and due to how long property transactions can take it’s not uncommon for a seller to be negotiating with multiple buyers.

If you’re interested in a house that’s already under offer, it’s important to do your research and make sure that you’re submitting a fair price, and potentially that you have something the competition doesn’t, for example the ability to complete the sale fast.

It’s also important to be in a position to act quickly, as the seller may not want to wait around and this is often the ace up your sleeve when attempting to secure the purchase as others may be in a chain that requires that they need to wait for an existing property to sell before they can proceed with the transaction.

What is an offer on a house?

An offer is when someone makes a formal bid to the seller with the intention of purchasing the property.  This means that if the seller accepts this offer, they agree to sell their home at the submitted price. The purchase is completed on the exchange of contracts.

When you make an offer on a house, you are starting the process of making an agreement with the seller to purchase their property for agreed conditions, for example, an agreed price and including certain items. It’s important to note that just because a house is “under offer,” it doesn’t mean that the current owner will sell it for this amount or even at all, nothing is final until contracts have been exchanged.

Purchasing a house can be a long and complicated process, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into before submitting one.

If the seller does not accept your first offer, you may need to gazump any existing submissions.  Gazumping is when the sale price you suggest is more than any existing offers made.

This can be a risky move, as the competition may be able to match your offer, or even beat it, and you must be prepared to walk away, remember this isn’t your forever home, it is an investment property that others will live in.

However, if you’re confident that you can win the bidding war within your budget, gazumping can be a great way to secure the house that you want.

Pros of making an offer on a house that has already accepted an offer:

Don’t let the status of ‘under offer’ put you off making a bid, there are some positives to doing so:

You know there is interest in the property: Although you should know from your research that the property is in an area people want to live in, the fact that there is already an offer means that there is definitely interest in the property, so you know it is worth considering as an option. 

Seller is ready to sell: If an offer has been accepted, it means the seller is prepared to move forwards with a sale.  You might think that all sellers are ready to sell, but that isn’t the case, some will want to leave the property on the market for a period of time to attract as many offers as possible.  If it is under offer you know how much the seller is willing to accept.

You may be able to get the property for a lower price: If the original offer was made by a potential buyer who is not able to move quickly, for example they’re in a chain, you may be able to get the property for a lower price on the condition you complete quickly.

Cons of making an offer on a house that has already accepted an offer:

As a property investor you want to maximise how far your money goes on each project and so there are some potential risks to offering on a house with an accepted offer:

You may end up in a bidding war: Just because you can offer a high sale price than the current buyer doesn’t mean they’ve hit their ceiling.  Buyers will usually negotiate a price below the top end of their budget, there is nothing to stop them from making a counter offer.  And as the estate agent will be taking a % of the final price it is in their interest to encourage higher offers.

Your time is wasted: You risk being tied up with negotiations that can lead to a property sale, you’re unlikely to be looking at additional properties until this one completes one way or the other.  If your bid falls through you could have wasted a lot of time and missed out on other opportunities.

The seller is in the position of power: If you’ve ever watched an investment show such as Dragons Den you’ll be familiar with how different the negations are when multiple Dragons are interested.  When it’s a single offer the buyer has the power, but when a second offer comes in the power shifts to the seller.  Not only does that potentially mean a higher price to pay, it also means the seller can dictate terms, which can be difficult to negotiate.

Always keep in mind that buying an investment property to let is not the same as buying your family home, you can usually afford to take your time to find the right deal, walking away from any transaction you’re uncomfortable with.

What does subject to contract mean?

When looking at potential houses you might spot another label used on listings, subject to contract, but what does that indicate?

‘Subject to contract’ means that the seller and potential buyer are negotiating, but they’re yet to reach a binding agreement.

House contract

In the real estate market this term usually indicates the sale has progressed from the offer stage to formalising the final transaction.

You are still able to make an offer at this stage, however, in my experience the further along the selling process, the less likely the seller is to consider new offers unless the sale falls through for some reason.

How much should you offer for a property compared to its market value?

When you make an offer on a property, it is important to remember that the seller will most likely not take it seriously if they already have a higher offer in place.

There are some exceptions to that, if you speak to the representing agent they may tell you, off the record, how things are proceeding and if the process has encountered difficulties (e.g. the original buyer is struggling to secure a mortgage) the seller might be willing to consider a lower price if it means a faster transaction.

You should still research the local area and decide what the maximum purchase price you’re willing to pay. Find out what the accepted offer is from the agent and see how the transaction is proceeding.

Agents help negotiate a property’s price for their clients – taking into account how long it has been on the market, and while it is in their interest to get the best price, it is also beneficial for them to secure the fastest possible sale.

Getting on good terms with the representing agent could potentially help you understand how much you should offer.

If the competing buyer is taking a long time, offer the same or slightly less but with the benefit of completing the sale sooner (assuming you can).

If the buyer has no hold ups you will likely need to submit a higher bid.  Remember, the long completion time means the few days before the transaction completes, the higher your offer will need to be to get the seller interested. Good luck with your investment opportunity hunting, and remember that a deal is never done until the exchange of contracts. 

Written by Julie Hanson

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