Have I left it too late to change my offer?

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty answers your questions
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© Merrily Harpur
Question: My offer for a mews house was accepted, but my survey says there is far more work to be done to the property than I thought. It requires a new roof, there are serious damp issues and a lot more needs doing. The sellers are pushing me to exchange and my solicitor says we are ready to do so. Am I too late to ask for a price reduction?

Answer: No, until contracts are exchanged there is no binding agreement between you and the seller so you can withdraw from the purchase at any time or try to renegotiate the price.

However, it can be a waste of time and money for all parties concerned if such negotiations are not dealt with at the earliest opportunity.

It's a pity the survey results weren't available earlier. Sometimes buyers do not let their solicitors begin the conveyancing work until the results of a survey are known, to avoid wasted legal costs in the event they decide not to buy. Sellers and their agents are often not keen on this, as they like to know that a buyer's solicitor is progressing the purchase. Ideally a building survey should be done at the outset, especially if an offer is made and accepted subject to survey.

If you still want the house, but for a lower price, obtain quotes for the work needed to the roof and for the other expensive works and obtain a report from an independent damp expert. Once you have written evidence of the likely price of the works, try to renegotiate your offer, or obtain a contribution from the seller towards the cost.

Of course the seller or his agents may well say that the property price already reflects its condition.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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