How to have the best chance of buying this winter

Become a proceedable buyer and give yourself the best chance of getting your dream home, says Sheree Foy.

Winter is here and it can be a traditionally tricky season for the residential property market.

Everyone has had their minds on Christmas and are thinking about the New Year so fewer properties come to market as dark, damp afternoons and evenings aren't the best backdrop for property viewings.

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So how does the determined buyer make the most of this time of year?

Well, one of the phrases often used by estate agents when discussing offers is that reference to ‘the proceedable buyer'. The gist of the phrase is that a buyer is ready, willing and able to step forward and complete a property transaction.

This includes cash buyers or those without a property to sell and with a mortgage in place. Proceedable buyers have a much greater chance of their offer being accepted because vendors are less worried about the sale falling through.

There are opportunities to be had at this time of year as we see some price drops, in an effort to sell over the winter period. So, the best thing

you can do this season is to become a proceedable buyer and here's a guide to being mentally sharp as a pin, financially fit as a fiddle and ready with your support team to burst into action:

*The art of being mentally ready is about having a crystal-clear view about what you would like to buy. If you are a sole occupier or purchaser then you only have to convince yourself. Otherwise, dedicate some quality family or relationship time to working out the kind of property that fits your future lifestyle. Everybody starts with a list of ‘must haves' that the budget never quite stretches to. Debate and agonise until you really have a tight ‘must have' list covering geography, plot size, accommodation, style and anything else that matters to you.

Signs of lack of planning are buyers that change their mind after an accepted offer (excluding issues arising from the survey or other due diligence process) or buyers that are simply unable to come to a firm ‘yes' or ‘no' decision.

*Financial fitness has a few dimensions. Firstly, do you have to sell a property? It is tempting to look at houses before you put yours on the market, but it can be disheartening if your offer on your dream home isn't taken seriously because you haven't even started the sales process on your existing home.

It's impossible to know implications like timescale and the extent of any chain.

In Harrogate, where I specialise in finding properties for clients, there is a lack of supply and plenty of demand with many buyers renting and ready to go.

Having sold subject to contract is a step in the right direction but your sale isn't assured until exchange of contracts. It's wise to ensure that your estate agent validates your own buyer and establishes how proceedable they are to provide confidence in your position. I've managed several purchases with a longer than usual gap between exchange of contracts and completion, this sometimes works for everybody by giving the clarity and security of a sale as well as providing sufficient time to secure an onward purchase.

Once your house sale is no long a pre-requisite, you need to be clear on how much you are prepared to spend.

I sometimes see buyers working their way up the price range slowly but surely, reviewing their ‘must haves' at each price point. This can be mentally draining for buyers and market prices might move up whilst they're still thinking.

If renting, then there's also the continuing rental costs which could be better used on a new home.

My tip is to establish your maximum budget at the outset and then decide what figure you choose to share with others.

If you can actually afford more than you'd initially thought, then you might just be able to access properties that were previously in a higher price bracket and become within your reach following a winter price reduction.

The next financial dimension to being a ‘proceedable buyer' is the ability to substantiate your financial readiness. Cash purchases and deposits need to be demonstrated.

Every estate agent and solicitor needs to identify that funds are available and legal. This is nothing personal but necessary anti-money laundering legislation. If you need a mortgage, obtain whatever written assurance your lender will provide. Your financial planner or mortgage advisor will be well placed to help.

*Finally, you need to get your best support team gathered close. It's never a great idea to start assembling the team in the thick of action. The ‘All Blacks' know who is going on the field before the ‘kick off' whistle. Your team should include a sharp local conveyancing solicitor, a property surveyor and perhaps a buying agent or property finder to improve your odds and access off market properties.

Sheree Foy, Property Consultant Source Harrogate - The Property Finders