A Beginner's Guide To Gazumping
You've been gazumped and wondered if house gazumping is legal. Read below as we discuss…
If you've ever been a victim of gazumping, you'll know the feeling.
That deep sense of disbelief and frustration as the property you thought was your' 'forever home' slips out of your hands.
You've instructed solicitors or a conveyancer, funded your surveys, paid mortgage arrangement fees – you've done everything.
The only thing you neglected to do was take out a form of gazumping insurance.
The one thing that would've served you well in this situation. Still, we learn from our mistakes; besides, you're not alone.
As you'll soon discover, it's pretty standard for a seller to gazump a buyer and go back on their word, mainly when demand is high.
Recently, there's been talk of house gazumping becoming a trend, particularly in rural locations, as buyers flee the city in the 'race for space.’ Data from Halifax shows that in-between June and November of 2020, house prices experienced their quickest 5-month gain since 2004.
An increase probably wouldn't have been so vast if it wasn't for gazumping.
The risk of gazumping has only increased since then, with the current economic crisis and post pandemic demand, there is a high demand and limited supply of housing — meaning more people are fighting for the same properties.
So with this in mind, how many people have been gazumped across England and Wales?
And what is the financial impact of house gazumping? We reveal all…
Here for something specific? You may want to know if it's legal or can be stopped. Whatever information you're after, use the menu below to find your answers:
What Is Gazumping?
The action of gazumping is when a person is a prospective buyer and has an offer accepted verbally on a property by the selling party, but someone then offers higher and completes the purchase.
Gazumping and gazundering shouldn’t be confused, as gazundering is the action of the buyer dramatically reducing their offer on your property just as you are about to exchange contracts.
Gazumping can occur any time before the exchange of contracts because until then, the buyer doesn't legally own the property.
So that means in that time, a cash buyer could use their position to drive the sale in their favour, or someone could submit a higher bid.
If as the seller you accept an offer and take the property off the market, you are still able to gazump the original buyer.
Well, that's the case across England and Wales, at least. In Scotland, regulations are slightly different. Offers between two parties in Scotland are legally binding from the offset. A law enforced by the Scottish government to put a stop to gazumping.
What happens in most cases is that the seller is trying to maximise their profit, even in some cases if it means opting for a slightly more risky strategy. This has given gazumping a lousy reputation and led many campaigning for it to be abolished.
Sometimes a seller will offer you the chance to meet the offer made, but this will depend on your position and whether you are willing to up your request.
We say 'willing' because most buyers prefer to avoid doing business with someone who has gazumped them. Hardly surprising.
Is An Offer On A House, Ever Legally Binding?
Unfortunately not. Just because an offer is accepted, it does not mean it's legally binding. For that, you need contracts to be exchanged.
Before then, you'll still be liable to be gazumped, but you will also have the ability to gazunder the seller should you find an issue with the property or fancy having a haggle.
If you, as a seller, are slow and uncooperative, then house gazundering can be a helpful tool. Threaten to gazunder a seller, and they'll likely take you more seriously as a buyer, particularly if they've got very little interest elsewhere.
However, if an offer on the house is accepted in Scotland, it is legally binding. Once it's been made a formal offer, it becomes part of your legal contract, known as 'missives'.
What's The Research?
Market Financial Solutions (MFS) questioned over 500 homeowners who had purchased property in the UK over the last ten years. They were asked how many had been gazumped, why it had occurred, and how it affected their sale.
The results were pretty shocking.
Despite the small sample size, the number of buyers who had lost out on the house due to gazumping was worryingly high. It may be a sign that being gazumped is becoming a trend that we should pay more attention to.
How Many People Have Been Gazumped?
Nearly a third (31%) of those surveyed had been gazumped and lost out on a home. However, the hot spot was in London, where over half (51%) of buyers had been gazumped! A trend that didn't cease throughout 2022, and was a 5% increase in comparison to the last survey three years ago.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Dylan James, Director of Hyde Park estate agents in London, admitted this was the case, commenting that "Gazumping has started again" due to the fierce competition in the London Market. The question is, will gazumping ever be stopped?
Is Gazumping Legal In The UK?
Unfortunately, yes, property gazumping is entirely legal in the UK until the point at which contracts are exchanged. Therefore, it's possible to instruct solicitors, pay for searches, go ahead with a RICs survey and even buy new furniture, only to find that you've been gazumped and your sale has fallen through.
To our knowledge, despite countless calls to revisit legislation, no legal changes have yet been made. However, due to the spout of gazumping experienced during the pandemic, the likelihood of the laws around house gazumping in the UK being revisited is relatively high!
What Are The Implications Of Gazumping?
The implications differ depending on your situation and how quickly you are gazumped. The best scenario is to be gazumped early in the sale when very little money and time have been exchanged.
Of course, as a buyer, you'll still lose out on your property, just less so financially and in terms of time. The costs come after a late gazump, which makes taking out house-buying insurance against gazumping a wise precaution.
Get gazumped late on the sale (typically at the 3-4 month mark), and you take quite a hit. You can lose out on conveyancing and survey costs, mortgage arrangement fees, and even moving costs, as booking removal well ahead of time is essential!
Also, if you've sought mortgage advice, there'll likely be an intermediary fee (finder's fee) that you'll have to pay before completion. It was found that roughly 39% of buyers are liable for such expenses. According to Which?, The overall cost of a sale falling through on average is £2,899.
But, while the implications only apply to specific situations, the threat of it is very much there. Even in Scotland, where a verbal offer is legally binding, new buyers can repeatedly outbid buyers in the early stages of a property purchase.
The best way to think of gazumping is like a 'Go Directly To Jail' card in a game of Monopoly. There's always the chance it could be dealt to you, and if so, it could cost you the entire game, but whether it is or not remains to be seen.
Is Gazumping Unethical?
Overall, we're confident anyone would conclude that gazumping is unethical. However, how dishonest it depends on the situation and how a seller does it. To get your head around why it can occur, it can be helpful to see the sale from the seller's perspective.
The most typical scenario where you'll come across house gazumping in the UK is as follows:
The seller has had the property on the open market for a long while. They've received little interest and have been bullied countless times by their agent to lower the price. Regrettably, they have.
You've then come along and secretly fallen in love with the place, only you haven't told them that. Perhaps you could sense they were eager to sell and, after a couple of days pretending to think about it, submitted a cheeky offer, knowing they would likely accept. And they did. Fed up with being on the open market, they took your bold offer and proceeded with the sale.
However, during the time your sale was going through, they were approached by a new party.
This one ignored the agent's sold board outside and came directly to them (i.e. no estate agent fees). It turns out they're also a cash buyer who's more than happy to pay their original asking price and would plan to be completed by the end of the month.
In this case, you should see that, at least from a seller's perspective, gazumping you makes sense. Not only by doing so do they achieve the price they originally wanted, but they also get the bonus of a speedy completion and not having to foot the agent's fees.
Saying that, though, if they did choose to try and cut the agent out, so to speak, they would have to look very carefully over their contract. The agent will likely have a written caveat to try and prevent them from doing so.
Gazumping can be made more ethical if the seller is cooperative. By that, we mean to inform you well in advance that they're thinking of doing so and paying to cover your gazumping insurance, so the only thing you'll miss out on is their property.
Can We Ban Gazumping?
Of those surveyed, 79% claimed they would back a ban on house gazumping across England and Wales. A percentage that was exceptionally high amongst the elderly, 90% of those over 55s, would support a ban on gazumping.
In October 2019, there was talk within the government of new legislation that would tighten up the rules around house gazumping; however, the initiative was later scrapped.
Do estate agents allow gazumping?
While it's possible that, in some cases, an estate agent would encourage house gazumping, it's unlikely they ever would. Here are three reasons why:
To an agent, time is everything. They always need more of it in the day, especially when the property market is thriving. The last thing they want is a sale to fall through and to be sent kicking and screaming back to square one. By doing so, all the time they've invested in the deal is lost.
When you consider the figures, a seller who gazes for a higher price will earn the agentless. For instance, if a house gazumping gets a buyer an extra £10,000 if the agent has a fee of 1%, they'll only see £100. Hardly worth it for the time and effort a collapsed sale would cost them.
If an agent was to encourage gazumping, it could seriously harm their reputation and potentially scare buyers away, costing them valuable business. The same importance is also likely to discourage sellers from listing their property with them too. So in both respects, encouraging gazumping doesn't make business sense for an agent.
Want to know more about an agent's stance on gazumping. Their estate agent gazumping policy is a great place to start!
How Do I Stop Being Gazumped?
Gazumping isn't the most pleasant experience, especially if you've been a victim of it more than once.
Although, feel free, as there are many ways to avoid being gazumped. Here are just a few ways that you can do so…
One of the easiest ways to prevent gazumping is by doing everything you can to encourage a quick sale. The faster the sale, the smaller the window for the seller to consider a gazump manoeuvre.
Equally, this tactic also means there's less chance of someone encouraging the seller to gazump you while the sale is going through. You could call it a win-win.
Ensure The Property Is Taken Off The Market
Another nifty tactic to protect you against house gazumping is immediately getting your seller's estate agent to withdraw the property from the market.
This includes erecting a Sold board, taking it off any property portals such as Rightmove and informing their database of buyers that it is now not for sale. How quickly you can do this will depend on the seller too.
Either way, though, their reaction gives you a good indication of how dedicated they are to the sale. Doing so should make you appear as a reliable buyer to the seller and reduce the likelihood of you being gazumped last minute.
Form An Anti-Gazumping Agreement
Get into an anti-gazumping agreement with your seller. This would see both buyer and seller agree on a deposit of the total sales price - usually, this would be expressed as a percentage.
That would then become part of a legally-binding agreement, which both parties would be liable to forfeit if they were to pull out of the sale.
Communicate And Build A Strong Rapport
Assertive communication holds any house sale together, so why not utilise this and use it to protect you against gazumping?
It's a well-known fact that humans are emotional creatures, which is why establishing a good rapport with your seller is valuable. Connect with your seller personally, and they'll find it much harder to gazump you if they are indeed presented with the chance.
Invest In Insurance
If the only aspect of gazumping you're concerned about is the cost, then investing in insurance (otherwise known as Home Buyers Protection Insurance) may be all you need.
This insurance will cover any expenses caused by gazumping, such as legal fees, survey costs, mortgage arrangement fees and more.
Although every policy will differ, we advise you to read the small print before making your choice. We found policies from as low as £69!
The Home Buyers Protection Insurance will not prevent gazumping, merely cover the costs.
Would You Gazump Someone?
Because most people believe gazumping is unethical, it'll deter them from doing it — not!
Out of the survey above, a whopping 47% confessed that they wouldn't be against gazumping someone! 66% said it would be because of increased competition, meaning they receive a higher offer.
Over a third of people who had one or more purchases fall through said that the reason why was they or someone else in the chain not being able to get their mortgages approved in time.
This figure was higher for younger house buyers (aged 18 to 34), where it sat at 49%!
What To Do If Gazumping Means Your Buyer Pulls Out Before Exchange?
If either you or someone else in the chain has been gazumped, which has given your buyer cold feet, then you've got a buyer to find fast!
You could, of course, go back to your agent and ask them to reach out to any buyers who showed interest, but the chances of that being fast are slim.
The majority will likely have moved on, submitted offers elsewhere, or even stopped their search altogether. You need a buyer with no strings attached—someone who can swoop in and repair your broken chain fast.
If that's the case, you can stop your search now…
As one of the UK's leading companies that buy houses for cash, we can help you overcome the effects of gazundering in a matter of days - just seven!
Moreover, we'll also cover your legal fees and help you negotiate your onward purchase. All perks can balance out any costs incurred due to a spout of gazumping.
Sounds like a plan? Get your FREE cash offer for your home today!