How to play property hardball
Firstly, the knowledge: research is key. Check if there’s a glut of new builds going on sale simultaneously as a development phase finishes, or if a newer and better equipped scheme overlaps with the one that you are considering; in both cases, prices might drop in order to entice buyers.
Most builders post their annual reports online and specify annual or quarterly accounting periods. These are important because each new-build scheme has a sales target to meet by these deadlines, so big reductions could be offered in the weeks immedi- ately beforehand.
Likewise when all the homes are built on a scheme but a few remain unsold, price cuts are likely. Developers have to pay for advertising, site security and sales staff, so if there are just a few units remaining they will likely want them off their hands.
New home prices include a premium which, in a static market like today, means that they may not appreciate in value without an extension or new feature. The HomeOwners’ Alliance, a consumer group, advises buyers to look at the property with a long-term view to adding value a year or two later, perhaps by building a conservatory or converting a loft into a bedroom. Secondly, you need confidence. It is considered very un-British to haggle, even over what may be your biggest ever purchase. However the current advice from professional buying agents – the people who barter down house prices every day for their clients – is to play hardball.
Unlike selling second-hand homes, where vendors might prefer “a nice family” who will use local shops and schools, the seller of a new-build home will almost certainly be a hard-nosed developer or estate agent.
“I approach the situation as I would to a car salesman, knowing that it’s just about the money and how quickly you can get it to them,” explains Henry Pryor, a buying agent. He recently secured a new flat in north London for an investment buyer at £700,000, a huge discount from its original asking price of £855,000.
“Remember, builders did their sums months or years ago when they bought the land. Many should have a margin you can command a slice of. Some will have got the maths wrong and will be being pushed by their bank or shareholders to do any deal.”
Another buying agent, Sally Fraser of Stacks Property Search, bought 10 flats in Eastbourne for a landlord. “We got 30 per cent off as it was the end of the company’s financial year. It took some haggling and we had to adhere to strict timelines,” she says.
You don’t have to be a professional dealmaker to make a saving, as south London hairdresser Jane Irvine discovered when she bought an apartment in Brighton last year. “I’m used to negotiating with business suppliers to get £50 off here or there, and I knew you could take the same approach to developers,” explains Irvine.
“There was no special offer on the property, but as it was a second home it attracted more stamp duty,” she recalls. “When I found out how much – more than £20,000 – I dug my heels in, out of frustration. I said they should pay and guess what? They did.”
Cala has deals in East Molesey, main; and Drayton, below
Barratt is paying stamp duty at Blackfriars Circus in London, left