If you’re a property buyer, it’s more important than ever to understand the dangerous rise of gazumping. With most property sales taking place in an open market, there’s always a risk of being ‘gazumped’, a term for when a buyer’s offer on a property is accepted, yet another buyer swoops in at the last minute and offers a higher bid.
It’s a frustrating experience, and unfortunately, it’s becoming an increasingly common one. In this blog article, we’ll unpack what gazumping is, how to avoid it, and how to cope if it happens to you.
What Is Gazumping? What Does Gazumping Mean?
Gazumping occurs when a seller has accepted an offer on a property, only to revoke this agreement and accept an increased offer from another prospective buyer. This pushes the original buyer out of the sale and back into the market. It may also refer to the vendor raising the asking price or requesting more money after verbally agreeing to a lesser one earlier.
In either scenario, the first buyer finds themselves in a difficult position where they must either offer a higher price or lose the sale. Although the term “gazumping” is typically used in the UK and Ireland, similar practices can be observed in a few other countries.
Is Gazumping Illegal?
Gazumping is an unpleasant and unwelcome experience for most people. Unfortunately, in the UK there are no laws in place to protect people against being gazumped. Nevertheless, this does not mean that gazumping cannot be deemed illegal. In particular, if someone lies or manipulates facts to deceitfully deceive another party in a property purchase, then prosecution under fraud or misrepresentation laws may be possible.
The law surrounding gazumping is complicated, so if you think someone may be trying to gazump you, it is important to contact the appropriate legal advice to ensure your rights are protected.
In some cases, professional and legal advice may be the only way to enforce a contract and protect your rights when selling or buying a property.
Definitions of gazumping vary from case to case, but it is generally understood to mean overpricing a property after a buyer and seller have already agreed on a purchase price. Regardless of the definitions, it is always in your best interests to seek professional advice if you think you have been gazumped or the other party may be trying to take advantage of you.
What Is Responsible For An Increase In Gazumping?
The main factor that has caused the rise of gazumping is the huge demand for housing in the UK. Property sale prices have gone sky-high, meaning buyers need to act fast and can find themselves out-bid if they don’t. This has created a situation where buyers might feel pressure to offer a higher price than they had initially agreed to in order to secure the sale.
Finally, the uncertainty that the Brexit negotiations have created in the UK has only exacerbated the conditions that have surged gazumping. In these usual economic times, many buyers are weighing up the risks and opportunities associated with purchasing a property in the near future—making them vulnerable to having their offers retracted.
Ultimately, until the UK’s political and economic climate calms down, gazumping on the rise in the UK looks likely to continue.
Guidelines for Avoiding Gazumping
Gazumping is a vexing experience that no one should have to go through, but when it does, it’s critical to follow some ground rules to keep it from happening again. Check that all of the necessary paperwork for your acquisition is in order before beginning the negotiation process. Having all of the necessary paperwork ready will allow you to present your offer more quickly and increase the likelihood that it will be accepted.
Second, avoid becoming overly invested in the acquisition. Even if you fall in love with a house quickly, keep your cool and remember that it will most likely be a costly investment. This means it’s critical to make a reasonable offer and avoid being tempted to make a higher-than-usual offer.
Finally, it’s important to check the status of the purchase with your solicitor throughout the process, ensuring that the other party is not engaging in activities that could spark gazumping. Having a solicitor that is knowledgeable in all real estate and legal matters associated with the purchase will prove invaluable.
Gazumping in Scotland? Does Gazumping Occur in Scotland?
In Scotland, gazumping is rare due to Scots law and practice. The process of completing a conveyance transaction involves obtaining a survey before making a bid to the seller’s attorney or submitting an offer with conditions of survey.
Sellers usually set a date for offers in writing and then, issue a written acceptance of the offer. After a seller’s lawyer has signed and provided a written acceptance of a buyer’s offer, the terms become legally binding.
In the event of a seller attempting to accept a higher bid after contracts have already been legally finalized, their lawyer should refuse to act on their behalf as this is a breach of the Law Society of Scotland’s code of conduct.
In Scotland, estate agents may take advantage of gazumping as an alternative form of negotiation. This involves creating a bidding war between the previously accepted offer and a rival one fictitious or otherwise.
By informing the successful buyer orally that their offer has been rejected in favour of a higher one, they can experience little to no recourse – the legal requirement for estate agents to inform sellers of any higher offers before written acceptance means that this often occurs early in the conveyancing process.
Gazundering, the opposite phenomenon of the buyer not having sufficient resources to be worth defending, is far less common in Scotland.
What is Gazundering?
When a potential buyer, typically of real estate, makes a purchase offer at a specific price and then threatens to back out unless the seller agrees to a lesser price, this practice is known as “gazundering.”
This typically happens when contracts are about to be signed and the buyer is aware of the seller’s more vulnerable position, such as when the seller is a link in a complicated chain, or in a declining market when the price of the property has decreased dramatically.
This kind of action is typically frowned upon because the seller may have already made arrangements (like a mortgage) that make it exceedingly challenging for them to withdraw.
The real estate market can be a difficult one to navigate, and even more so when gazumping or gazundering is a risk. It’s vital for buyers to stay wary and be aware of their legal rights should the situation arise.
It’s also important to seek professional advice if you think the other party may be trying to take advantage of you. Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from gazumping or gazundering is to act quickly and with caution, ensuring that all the necessary paperwork is in order and being wary of any offers that are too good to be true.
With the right approach, there’s every chance you’ll find your dream home without falling foul of any of these unwelcome practices.