Can a buyer legally ask to cut agreed offer price?

May 12, 2017

Q I have accepted an offer on my house but the purchaser is now asking for a further reduction in the price due to work required on the property. Is this legal? And, if so what is your advice on how to deal with it? 


A Yes it is legal and quite common when a survey reveals extensive – and expensive – work required on a property. Once a buyer’s offer on a property is accepted by its seller, in estate agent speak, the property becomes “sold subject to contract”, which means that the price can still be negotiated.


In England and Wales, an offer doesn’t become legally binding until contracts are exchanged. Up until that point it is perfectly legal for a buyer to reduce their offer for whatever reason or for a seller to accept another higher offer from a different buyer.


In Scotland, however, if you make an offer on a property and it is accepted, you are legally bound to buy the property at the price you offered. You can make an offer “subject to survey” which means that if your offer is accepted, you can still legally withdraw your offer if a survey is unsatisfactory. However, not all sellers in Scotland accept “subject to survey” offers.


As to what to do about your buyer’s lower offer, you don’t have to accept it. If you’re not bothered about possibly losing your buyer, you can walk away from the deal and put your house back on the market. But bear in mind that your buyer could easily have spent about £500 on getting the survey done which would be a waste of money if the sale does not go ahead. So your buyer may be prepared to compromise on price.

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