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Accepting offers now when there’s nothing we want to buy and the buyers want to move before the stamp duty deadline

(39 Posts)
SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 17:01:44

The short version: Someone has offered on our house. They want to complete as soon as possible, and definitely before the stamp duty holiday ends. We aren't sure we will be able to find and buy a house in that timeframe, and we are hesitant about breaking the chain and completing our sale without having a purchase to complete at the same time. Should we accept their offer or would that be potentially messing them around? The perfect house could crop up tomorrow, we just don't know.

The long version: There's a lot of moving parts to this story so here is the TLDR bit so as not to drip feed.

We were getting ready to go on the market in March (great timing eh?) and then lockdown hit so we had to wait. Finally went on in September (after taking a brief pause in summer when house viewings and the market reopened, as we were having a baby).

Fast forward two months and we have an offer made on our house. Great! That means we are finally proceedable to offer on houses ourselves...except there are no suitable houses available right now. We have quite tight parameters to stick to including a small school catchment and need a certain number of bedrooms or capacity to do a first floor extension. Even houses that don't fit the bill but would do for a year or two aren't coming up at the moment. There is no rental market in the area we wish to move to, so that isn't an option either. We have to move within the next year as we'll be applying for my eldest's secondary school place in Oct 2021.

An added complication to this is that the great mortgage deal we had in September when lenders were looking at annualised earnings is no longer on offer. Lenders are now looking at just the last 3 months payslips. Our household income varies massively during the year, so right now we can borrow a lot less than we could a few months ago, and next Spring, under the current lending criteria, we will be able to borrow 100k more which would get us a 'forever' house.

So financially, our ideal would be to purchase in Spring. Although I worry leaving it till then could mean we miss the deadline altogether to move before school applications as that only leaves about 6 months and that's not long when you think about how often sales fall through and the hold ups that could happen. Plus given that we originally started trying to move in March so now I’m very wary of unforeseen delays.

The people who want to offer on our house understandably want to complete before the stamp duty holiday deadline and are pressing our agent to know whether we would be willing to break the chain. They have a cash buyer for their property (developer) so things could potentially move quite quickly on their end. This is the first and only offer we’ve had in the 2.5 months we’ve been on market for, so I don’t want to assume we could get another buyer quickly if this fell through. But then, I think we would see a lot more interest if we lowered the asking price a bit, which we would be able to do in the new year.

We have the option to stay with family short term whilst we house hunt. But we aren't sure whether we want to break the chain. One the one hand, it puts us in a great position to buy when the next house comes along that works for us. On the other hand, our prefered option would be to protect our current house, as if everything falls through and for whatever reason we end up not being able to make a move happen, we quite like our current house.Breaking the chain makes me feel a bit nervous and like it could be a bit of a gamble.

The right house for us could come on the market any minute, and in the current market the local agents aren't taking offers seriously if you aren't proceedable or under offer yourself. I just can't guarantee to our buyers that we can work to their timeframe of the end of march stamp duty deadline.

My husband thinks we shouldn’t accept any offers unless the buyer is happy to wait for us to find somewhere. I think that anyone looking to buy in the next month or so is going to want to complete before end of March.

Anyway if you've managed to read through all of that and can make sense of our situation, what would you do in this situation? A lot of this is so circumstantial with a lot of "What if's" (plus baby brain!) that it's making it quite hard for me to think straight about it.

Do we keep a buyer so we can continue to look for houses even though we might not be able to work to their deadline? Or do we pause on selling our house until late winter / early Spring when (hopefully!) there will be more housing stock, and we will have significantly more budget?

OP’s posts: |
FTMF30 Mon 16-Nov-20 17:09:26

I would accept the offefrand, if you don't find a dream home, just stay with family in the interim. I know it isn't an ideal situation but I think getting a house sold is sometimes hard work. You haven't had many offers, so better to get over that hurdle. You'll also make for very attractive buyers as you'll be chain free once your house is dold anyway.

EdgeOfACoin Mon 16-Nov-20 17:09:44

I think your husband is right. This buyer is clear that they want to make the stamp duty deadline.

The decent thing to do is be upfront with the buyer that you can't work to their time frame or commit to breaking the chain. Anything else is just messing them and their buyer around.

DespairingHomeowner Mon 16-Nov-20 17:32:59

I don't think that you can look at houses in the coming weeks unless you are proceedable

If you can bear it, breaking the chain will put you in an amazing position to buy in Spring when your finances are best

The biggest thing is.. you didn't have an offer in 1st 3 weeks or so you were on market (& market was most likely still v busy in Sept) so I would take this offer as you might not get one exactly when you want it

It took me 3 months & 30 viewings to get 1 offer that came to nothing in a few days, another is going through

I know people who have taken years to sell (not saying yours would) but buyers may be thinner on the ground next year due to finance availability

DespairingHomeowner Mon 16-Nov-20 17:35:00

PS - you may find that the right house for you comes up at a moment's notice if other people's finance doesn't come through: I've seen several of these & anticipate more

Africa2go Mon 16-Nov-20 17:36:11

The driver for me would be school applications. What happens if you have to stay in your current house?

I agree with a pp that I'd probably accept the offer giving a commitment to break the chain if needs be. I think it gives you the flexibility of buying or renting in preferred catchment if something comes up. I think prices will drop after the stamp duty frenzy has ended - if you've secured a buyer at an acceptable price, take it then take your time to find the right house in Spring.

Pipandmum Mon 16-Nov-20 17:40:02

I'd make the sale.

SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 18:25:35

@Africa2go what happens if we stay in our current house is eldest stands a pretty good chance of getting into our second choice school. Hence wanting to keep that as a back up option rather than break the chain. Plus we are very cautious about situations changing rapidly (as they did in March). What happens if we break the chain only for our lending prospects to change for the worse again? or one of us gets made redundant etc? But ideally we would really like to move to the new area and our first choice school which we far prefer to option b. It’s a much nicer place to live all round and we really want to make it happen.

There is literally zero rental options within the school catchment so that is not even an option. Family don’t live close to where we want to settle permanently and we do not want to be in a position where we are having to apply for secondary schools from their address.

We definitely want to be upfront with any potential buyers, so I think we are planning to tell the agents to tell them we’d be happy to consider breaking the chain for an asking price or above offer (which theirs is not), but for their offer they’d need to be happy to wait for us to look for properties, and at this stage we can’t guarantee that would be before the stamp duty deadline. If they still want to make an offer then at least everyone is clear on where we stand.

My husband is more protective over not breaking a chain than I am, as he is concerned about our financial security.

It is just annoying with this stamp duty deadline as we’d really like to be under offer so we can be proceedable if/when the right house comes up, but our property is priced pretty much bang on £500k and anyone looking to buy now is surely going to want to work to that deadline. We just can’t guarantee it for them.

OP’s posts: |
NoSquirrels Mon 16-Nov-20 18:38:20

Secondary school applications are nearly a whole year away - I think I would accept the offer, commit to breaking the chain as you have a place to go (move in with family temporarily), so that you’re in a good position to proceed as soon as something comes up. If your mortgage offer will improve in the early part of next year anyway you’ll be in a solid position.

If you’ve found nothing at all to buy or rent within 11 months from now that would be very unusual.

TW2013 Mon 16-Nov-20 18:47:57

Can you look on rightmove etc for any houses which are SSTC and would be suitable and contact all the selling estate agents saying how much you are interested in a house like X house, you have a buyer and ready to move quickly. One of those houses might become available again.

If the rental isn't great near school 1 could you rent where you are near school 2. You would not be worse off in terms of schools and if you have completed on a house near school 1 by next Oct then you would be better off.

SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 18:48:28

@NoSquirrels I would normally agree that 11 months is a long time, but we have to have completed by the end of that 11 months, so it’s really at least 3/4 months less than that, and that’s with an uncomplicated chain with no problems or sellers pulling out etc. And seeing as our original plan was to sell and buy in Spring 2020 and that got massively waylaid by covid, and then our lending prospects tanked thanks to mortgage products being removed because of covid, I no longer have much faith that we could be so sure as to break our chain on our current house and successfully complete on a purchase in time for school applications. Covid has made everything so volatile. I am very very wary of assuming we have a lot of time and financial flexibility.

OP’s posts: |
madcatladyforever Mon 16-Nov-20 18:52:29

Just accept the offer, I ended up renting 300 miles away from my house and paying the mortgage at the same time it was hell. If someone wants to buy the house sell it, put your stuff in storage and sort things out as you go.
There is never a "right" time.

SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 18:55:44

@TW2013 I’m mulling over the idea of renting near school 2 if needs be. But if we don’t manage to complete on a sale near school 1, that will essentially mean we are sticking with school 2 long term, and then we’ll just be thinking why did we sell our house in this area that we had renovated to our tastes were happy with only to buy another house in the same area again, and pay more stamp duty for the privilege. I think it all hinges on whether we think we can guarantee a move happening to school 1 area in time, and I can’t work out of that is too much of a gamble. Also not many rentals allow pets and we have a cat and a dog.

OP’s posts: |
NoSquirrels Mon 16-Nov-20 18:56:56

I am very very wary of assuming we have a lot of time and financial flexibility.

Yes, I do understand this. But right now you have 11 months until the secondary deadline, an offer on your house from a keen and committed buyer who’s practically chain-free and motivated to move the sale along quickly.

If you delay or refuse this offer, you lose time and the certainty of the sale. You will be much further away from being sure of moving until after the secondary deadline. You’ll be in the same position in the spring with a shorter deadline - because anything can happen in a chain.

So pragmatically, if you want to go for the other area for secondary you’d be better making the leap of faith now, or deciding not to move at all in order to be sure of keeping your school place in current house.

You can’t be 100% certain as you say. So the only way to get certainty on the schools thing is not to move at all.

Otherwise, if you want to move, now is 100% better than any time past now...

sunshinesupermum Mon 16-Nov-20 19:00:02

Since reading your update I'd stay put - the uncertainty is currently too much.

Africa2go Mon 16-Nov-20 19:25:27

I think you need to make a decision - either you want School 1 (and nicer area) or you want to stay put and accept School 2.

If you don't accept offer & say you're willing to break chain, the buyers will walk away so they still have time to buy before the stamp duty rules change. That leaves you without an offer and almost zero chance of moving to School 1 area in time for deadline.

If you're willing to accept School 2 & stay put, say you're not willing to break chain & take the risk they walk.

Arrowcat Mon 16-Nov-20 19:41:12

We are in the same position except we sold at the beginning of September and cannot find anything. We're relocating and the type of house we want just isn't coming up (or is but the sellers want 50k over)!!
We priced the house originally cheaper and told buyers we might not be ready by march and weren't prepared to go into rented. Except either the buyers didn't listen or the estate agents didn't communicate that so now they are trying to bully us into reducing or renting.
You have got to do what's best for you. No one else. You don't owe 'maybe' buyers anything.
But hugs because it's soooo stressful and I know exactly where you're coming from.

Heronwatcher Mon 16-Nov-20 19:59:02

I’d accept the offer but be prepared to rent. You say there are zero rental options but if you get a decent price you could stay with family/ put stuff into storage and rent somewhere small (but not necessarily live there) for 6 months to get the school place. Some people won’t like this but I can’t see anything wrong with it if you don’t have a permanent home and you want to move there once you can find a house.

SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 20:17:21

@Heronwatcher don’t they check up on people that do that, though? There are 1 / 2 bed flats usually available to rent but we are a large family so definitely wouldn’t be able to live there.

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Africa2go Mon 16-Nov-20 20:37:36

@Heronwatcher don’t they check up on people that do that, though?

Well at my DDs school if you're renting you have to have at least a 24mth tenancy to stop people doing what @Heron suggests. You need to carefully check the admissions policies of the schools you're interested in.

Puffthemagicdragongoestobed Mon 16-Nov-20 21:52:01

How badly do you want to move? It sounds like staying in your current house is not such a bad option?

However say if you did go ahead with the sale, break the chain, sold and went into rented. Surely this would be your only residence as the other is sold, so surely the council has to accept that address for school applications?

Are school applications the only reason for moving?

SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 22:47:31

@Puffthemagicdragongoestobed I’ve heard stories of people from council admissions teams knocking round in the evenings to check you are actually living in the place you say you are, especially with rental flats. Even so, there are very very few rental options in this area. We’ve discussed me and my eldest going to live in a rental flat for 6 months but we really don’t want to do that if we can avoid it.

Regarding staying in our current house, it’s not a long term house. We would need to upsize quite soon. The school is the number one reason for moving, closely followed by it just being a better neighbourhood for families and teenagers, and a bit quieter and nicer than the busy town we live in currently. It would be a better quality of life all round. School 2, although we are potentially just in the catchment for it where we live now, is actually in a different town. We have zero chance of moving closer to that school, as we can’t afford that area. Where we live now is not the nicest of places and after it being the plan for so many years to move if we could make it happen, I would be quite sad if after all this we ended up having to live in our current town throughout my children’s secondary school years.

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BluebellsGreenbells Mon 16-Nov-20 22:57:29

You don’t sound like you actually want to move and are quite risk adverse.

If you really wanted the move and school you’d do everything you could to get there, even a leap of faith.

Didiusfalco Mon 16-Nov-20 22:59:16

Given your latest update, take the offer and sell the house, with an agreement to break the chain if necessary. You obviously don’t want to stay long term, you have an offer and who knows how hard that might be to replicate when the stamp duty holiday ends and Brexit kicks in.

SheWouldNever Mon 16-Nov-20 23:12:00

@BluebellsGreenbells I think we probably are quite risk averse. I’ve seen family members take massive financial risks that didn’t pay off, and friends who sold without buying forward immediately only to get priced out of the market. These things have certainly had an impact on how I treat my own finances.

We do really want to move to the new area. We have wanted to for years but have only recently had the earnings and equity to do it. Otherwise we would have made this move years ago and not waited until the last possible minute. Covid has really put a spanner in the works for us in terms of lending prospects and giving us a much shorter deadline to work to than we would have liked.

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