How to handle buyers’ attempted price reduction

After the deal gets under way, is that the buyers may attempt to renegotiate the price. There are a number of situations in which this can happen.

The most usual reason is that the buyers get a bad survey report. It may also be because some problem comes up as a result of the legal investigations.

Or it may just be that the buyer is opportunistic and tries to knock something off the price just before exchange of contracts. In a ‘buyer’s market’, buyers can afford to take the risk of ‘trying it on’ because they may calculate you won’t run the risk of actually ditching them, so their downside is just that you call their bluff, but they still buy the property.

The next paragraphs tell you how to deal with any such assaults on the agreed price.

The first thing to do is to ask for a copy of the survey report. Don’t rely on a verbal second-hand version of what the surveyor has reported.

Don’t accept just a small extract. Ask for the whole survey report. There is no genuine reason why the buyers should not give you a copy of the survey report. Any bad stuff should appear in two places. It will be dealt with in the section devoted to the particular affected area, and it will also appear in the list of recommendations and summary at the end.

You may find that, while a problem with the roof is mentioned in the general body of the survey, it does not feature as an urgently needed repair in the conclusions section. That’s why you need to see the whole thing to see if it is a comment to cover the surveyor’s back, or something the surveyor is really concerned about.

Another reason to insist on seeing the whole survey report is to show that overall the property is given a good rating. That doesn’t diminish the particular problem, but it does allow you to treat it as an isolated problem, and not let the buyers persuade you that the house is in a terrible state of which the particular problem is just one example among many. You want to show that the house is in good repair and that the supposed problem is just nit-picking.

You should get out the survey report you arranged when you bought the property. This has two benefits potentially. First, you can show that whatever problem is revealed in the new survey was equally mentioned in your survey, and clearly nothing has changed.

For example, if some past movement in the walls was noted, but nothing has changed during your 10 years of ownership, then that is probably the end of the matter and no cause for concern. Movement would only be of concern if it is new or continuous. Secondly, you might be able to show that symptoms were noted but given different recommendations or causes. That can help you undermine reliance on the assumed infallibility of the new survey.

Although problems with a house can sound serious, usually they can be dealt with without too much expense. For example, dampness in walls could be solved just by remedying a leak in a pipe or increasing ventilation. Having an extractor fan in a bathroom or kitchen is about as cheap a solution as you could find, and it is often the answer to the problem.

You should not feel under any obligation to agree a price cut for anything which is obvious or which the buyers knew about when the price was agreed. The price took those into account. So, if you showed the buyers round and pointed out that some windows needed replacing then that future cost was taken into account in the price. They can’t have a second bite at this just because the surveyor points it out as well.

When renegotiating, it’s usually best to let the estate agents act as your intermediary since they can keep any heat out of the discussions. You will tend to suspect you are being conned and resent the fact that the price reduction is being raised shortly before exchange of contracts when it puts you under maximum pressure.