Hannah Aykroyd has over a decade of experience in the Prime Central London residential property market, and is the Founder and MD of buying agency Aykroyd & Co, listed among the top-ten UK buying agencies by PrimeResi. A law graduate, Hannah is known for her attention to detail and negotiation skills, with Aykroyd & Co regularly negotiating discounts of 10-25% off the listing price for their clients.
"The market is pretty exceptional right now, and calls for excellent negotiation skills," says Hannah. "While prices have fallen, so have stock levels. Therefore, we are experiencing a lot of competition for best in class properties, while at the same time buyers don't want to pay more than they should. It's a delicate balance."
We asked Hannah to share her top negotiating tips for today's uncertain market.
Buying a home can be an emotional experience, but it is also a significant investment, and so it's incredibly important to remain objective. This is not easy to do if you've fallen in love with a property and are negotiating for yourself. The risk is you will negotiate out of a fear of losing the property - a weak position - rather than from a position of strength. Ideally you should have professional representation from a buying agent. If you don't have this, try to find another third party to provide at least some informal support and perspective during the negotiation process.
Try to understand the vendor's pressure points. Why are they selling? This is often due to death, divorce or debt or perhaps they are relocating or expanding their family and needing to upsize. How urgently do they want to sell? Have they found an onward purchase already and what are the time pressures here? How long has the property been on the market? This is all vital information to help you better understand how to best present yourself and your offer. If a property has been owned by a family for a long period of time, they will usually like the idea of selling to a younger family who will enjoy the property as much as they have. Being flexible with completion dates is often helpful to allow them enough time to pack and make what will be a huge move. If possible, it is worth spending time speaking with the vendors whilst viewing the property and hand delivering a personal letter alongside submitting an offer.
Equally, if the vendor is an investor then they will likely be more focused on achieving a strong price with a buyer who can perform efficiently and speedily. For our clients
purchasing in cash we advise offering a 5-10 working day exchange to enable us to negotiate that much more firmly by providing the vendor with security of a quick exchange. If our clients are obtaining a mortgage, we stipulate a 21-28 working day exchange depending on their financing situation. Prior to an offer being submitted we will always have a mortgage agreed in principle with the mortgage broker on standby to act quickly. It is vital to demand exclusivity, and this lock out period should start from when your solicitor is in receipt of a full sales pack.
Carefully examine every element of the property to see if there are any legitimate reasons to back up a lower offer. We analyse all recent and relevant comparables in the immediate area to ensure our target deal level is never more than fair market value and ideally below.
For newly developed properties, we always advise our clients to have a mechanical & electrical survey carried out. This can be in addition to a full structural or homebuyers survey, depending on the type of property. This enables us to present a snagging list to the vendor to be worked through, and ultimately signed off by our surveyor, pre-completion. Depending on the response this sometimes allows us to renegotiate. A lot of buyers will purchase a new build investment without this and haven't really thought that the property might have been standing empty for a couple of years already. Most systems require regular updating or maintaining which can be costly and frustrating if you only realise this once you have completed.
We always look for items that can be added to the sale, such as furniture, fixtures or parking. The cost of these can be significant if purchased separately, but they can provide a relatively painless way for the vendor to add value to the sale. If you can secure furniture, parking or similar at a low cost as part of a larger property purchase, these should be separated out from the main contract and purchase price to minimise your Stamp Duty Land Tax.
Most of our negotiations involve three rounds of negotiations. This ensures the vendors are forced to revise their expectations on pricing, and our clients are seen as really putting everything they can into the offer. This enables us to achieve a level we feel comfortable with our clients paying. This can be difficult for a buyer to do independently, particularly when there are emotions involved, which is why having objective advice and perspective is critical.
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