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Should I sell before buying? How the current market presents property seekers with some tricky choices

For most buyers, the pace of 2021 has been frantic. The combination of a shortage of stock and a high demand for houses, particularly those with outdoor space, has left lots of disappointed people all over the country finding themselves outbid, or simply too slow off the mark. With more people than ever currently chasing each available property – twice as many as pre-pandemic levels – competition is fierce to say the least.

Autumn-property

According to Rightmove’s latest House Price Index, there’s a clear divide between buyers, with one group clearly enjoying the most purchasing power. “Buyers who have already sold their own property, have the cash to buy without selling, or are first time buyers with a mortgage agreed [are] in the most powerful position,” it explains. What does this mean for most of us? Essentially, the implication is that the traditional chain transaction isn’t working in the current market. Chains can be precarious at the best of times, and they’re easily held up or broken entirely when one party can’t find a property to buy. 

So if the present climate favours those buyers who are not dependent on selling an existing property, then you need to become one of those buyers. And if you’re not lucky enough to have vast amounts of cash in the bank, then in order to become one of those buyers, you may need to consider selling your home in an independent transaction. It may sound alarming, or counter-intuitive even, but if selling up and moving into temporary rented accommodation is likely to put you in a better position, then maybe it is the best course of action.

There could even be other advantages. The stress of exchanging and completing on two properties at once cannot be underestimated. Then there’s the exchange of keys and the pressure to be out of your home with all your worldly goods by a fixed time on the big day, with your removal van potentially vying for space on the street with your buyers’ van. All of these things contribute to the popular wisdom that moving house is one of life’s great stresses. Take away the simultaneous house purchase, however, and selling your home can be vastly less fraught. 

An experienced agent can guide you through the process if you decide to sell and rent. They can find you a suitable rental property and negotiate timings with buyers and landlords – plus they’ll be extra keen to put you forward as a buyer when they know that you’re ready to go with your finances in place.

Alternatively, if selling up and moving into temporary accommodation just isn’t for you, the best thing to do is to put your property on the market and have a buyer lined up before you even begin your own search. It’s no good finding the property of your dreams only to lose out because you can’t sell your home in time, and you’re likely to be taken more seriously by a seller if you’re armed with a buyer already.

If you’re a first time buyer, this is potentially a good time for you – but it’s also important to be ready. Getting a mortgage approved in principle will place you in the best possible position to move fast when the time comes. The new year looks to be a busy time and more stock is anticipated to become available, so good luck to all movers!

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