Top tips for buying a property from separating vendors

Warren Lewis
1st June 2016
divorced fingers
"Be straight yourself, and don't try to move the goalposts on timing, price, or any other element of the deal."

It used to be the case that D for Divorce was one of the three main drivers of the property market. But these days, a significant number of properties are coming onto the market as a result of separations that don't involve divorce.

Linda Jeffcoat of Stacks Property Search, offers her advice on purchasing a property from vendors who are separating.

Linda Says: “Many jointly owned properties were purchased as a result of a business arrangement rather than an emotional attachment. The high entry costs of property ownership have led to more and more people buying property jointly because they can't afford to buy something on their own.

But whether you're buying from a divorcing couple, an unmarried separating couple, or a pair of young professionals who have entered the market together as a business arrangement, you should be aware that joint owners may have different agendas which can make negotiations more complicated.

Understanding sellers' motives is an important part of the buying process and can often influence the success of negotiations and transactions. Unpredictability is the key word when dealing with separating parties. Property transactions are rarely completely straightforward, and when separation is involved, there is a whole range of additional complications. For instance:

The desire to sell may not be bi-lateral. One party may be less keen to sell than the other and will be looking for reasons not to. They may be obstructive in the viewing process, and may be giving conflicting instructions to the selling agent.

The decision to sell may be reversed, or one partner may raise enough equity to buy the other out.

The property may be significantly overpriced, or a higher . In a separation situation, the vendors are frequently looking to replace one property with two, so there may be a level that they have to attain in order to get out with sufficient equity for both parties. Or they may be particularly susceptible to a last minute higher offer.

If you're buying a property from separating vendors:

1: Try to establish the true situation. Ask the agent straight out; if they know, they should tell you. If they haven't been informed, you can often pick up reliable signs yourself when viewing and by chatting to the vendors if they're available.

2: Remember you're dealing with two separate people, not one vendor. Don't assume that the message you're getting from one vendor is the full picture.

3: If you decide to buy, go for a quick exchange and press the deal hard at a sensible level. The more protracted the negotiations, the greater the opportunity for problems to arise.

4: Assume that the transaction will be complicated and that there is a greater than normal chance of the deal falling through. KEEP LOOKING, and keep your options open. If it's imperative that you're in the new house by a certain date, be careful.

5: Be straight yourself, and don't try to move the goalposts on timing, price, or any other element of the deal.

And finally a word or two of advice to anyone buying property together outside a marriage. Whatever your relationship, it's vital that the finances are clear, there's a proper exit strategy, and that there's a legal document that sets everything out clearly. Don't forget fixtures, fittings, and furnishings that may also need to be divided up at some stage in the future.”

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