What Is Gazumping? And How you can Stop it from Happening to You
If you’re buying – or selling – a house or flat then gazumping is something that could happen to you. Here we’ll explain exactly what gazumping is, and how you can try and stop gazumping happening to you.
What does Gazumping Mean?
Gazumping is when a seller has accepted an offer on a house or flat from a buyer. Then another buyer comes along and makes a (usually higher) offer which the seller accepts. Frequently the original buyer loses the house they wanted and the gazumper buys it instead.
Gazumping can affect both the seller and the buyer, however. The original buyer loses the house they were planning on buying and has to start their house search again. The seller has to start the whole selling process again but with a different buyer.
The opposite of gazumping is gazundering. Gazundering is when a buyer reduces their offer on a house or flat to lower than was originally offered and accepted by the seller.
Gazanging is another scenario that can occur instead of gazumping. Gazanging is when a seller decides not to sell their property at all.
Some dictionaries suggest the word gazump originates from a Yiddish word – gazumph – meaning to cheat.
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When does Gazumping Happen?
Gazumping can happen at any time when you are buying or selling a house.
Gazumping is most likely to happen in a hot property market, however. Times when there are more willing buyers than properties for sale, a property shortage or when property prices are rising, mean gazumping is more likely.
Gazumping is also more likely to happen the longer the house selling process goes on. Gazumping is more likely if you are stuck in a chain, for example. The longer it takes for the sale to go through the greater the risk a buyer will be gazumped.
What’s the Big Problem with Gazumping?
Gazumping can be a big problem for house buyers. Gazumping can be upsetting and stressful. Buyers who have found the house of their dreams, and made plans for it, will find they have to start again from scratch and look for a new house.
It’s often not realised that gazumping can be a problem for sellers as well. Gazumpers may actually be offering more than they can afford to pay, or more than a house is worth. So there is a risk the sale will fall through when they cannot raise the money. Buyers who gazump may be unscrupulous. They may make a higher offer on a house then drop it at the last minute. That is, gazumpers may become gazunderers.
A big problem with gazumping is that it can be expensive for everyone. Time and money might have already have been spent on surveys, mortgage application fees and solicitors’ fees. When gazumping happens a lot of money can be lost.
Is Gazumping Legal or Illegal?
Gazumping is not illegal. It is perfectly legal for buyers to gazump. It is perfectly legal for sellers to accept an offer from a gazumper and decide not to sell to the person who made the original offer.
Gazumping is legal because in law a house is not sold until the contract of sale is exchanged legally. Until that happens the sale is only subject to contract. A verbal or spoken agreement between buyer and seller is not legally binding.
Gazumping is legal in England and Wales under English law. Gazumping does not usually happen in Scotland because Scottish law on house buying and selling is different.
Estate Agents and Gazumping
Some people believe that some estate agents actually encourage gazumping. It’s easy to see why this could be the case: Estate agents who charge a commission to sell a house stand to gain if they find a gazumper who is willing to pay more than has already been agreed.
Most estate agents will say however that they do not encourage gazumping and they may even have an anti-gazumping policy.
Unfortunately, the situation can be complicated. Estate agents cannot stop gazumping even if they want to. This is because if, after a sale has been agreed, another offer comes in from another buyer they are duty-bound to pass it on to the seller. So, whether they like it or not, an estate agent may actually be involved in gazumping.
How to Stop Gazumping if you are Buying
- Make a strong offer in the first place. Although it’s tempting to try for a big discount the better your offer price the less chance somebody will be willing to beat it and the less chance it will be worth the seller’s while to accept another offer.
- Ask for the property to be taken off the market as soon as your offer is accepted. Ask the agent to remove the property from their books and not to conduct any more viewings. Try and make it a condition of your offer.
The seller or the agent doesn’t have to agree to this but if they do it means you are unlikely to be gazumped.
- You could ask the seller to enter into a lock-in agreement or exclusivity agreement under which they agree not to negotiate with another potential buyer. They may be unwilling to do this, however, and it does not guarantee the property will be sold to you. It’s best to take legal advice about the pros and cons of doing this.
- Be a cash buyer. If you have a property to sell, sell it before you find somewhere to buy. Sellers are more likely to see a cash buyer as a priority buyer.
- Have your finance lined up, such as a mortgage in principle, in advance. Use a bank or building society who can make mortgage offers and process mortgages quickly. Sellers are more likely to stick with your offer if you have the money waiting.
- Have a solicitor or conveyancer ready to act quickly. Try and choose one who has a reputation for carrying out conveyancing as quickly as possible.
- Move as fast as you can. The quicker contracts are exchanged the less chance there is you will be gazumped.
Sometimes, gazumping may occur not because another buyer makes a higher offer but because the seller needs a faster sale and so decides to accept a different offer having initially accepted yours.
Try to get everyone in the process to agree to a target date for exchange of contracts and for legal completion and to work towards it.
- Stay in touch. Keep in regular contact with the estate agent, solicitor, bank or building society and sort out any hitches as quickly as possible. Keep in touch with the seller too if you can – the better they know you the less likely they are to accept another offer.
It is possible to get an insurance policy, often called Home Buyers Protection Insurance, to help minimise the problems gazumping can cause. Although insurance can’t stop gazumping it may refund your expenses if you are gazumped.
How to Stop Gazumping if you are Selling
Gazumping is normally thought to be a buyer’s problem, but it can also be a problem for sellers. Offers from gazumpers can be attractive but they can actually cost you more time and money, delay your sale, or even cause it to fall through altogether.
- Price your property correctly in the first place. This is the best way to generate the most interest and so have a number of interested and serious buyers.
- Choose the best buyer not necessarily the largest offer. Buyers who can move quickly such as cash buyers or first-time buyers may be better... even if they are not offering the most money.
- Once a sale is agreed, ask your estate agent to take your property off the market. Ask for it to be removed from their books. Don’t allow any further viewings.
- Move fast. Choose a solicitor or conveyancer who is able to move quickly. Answer any queries promptly. Don’t be afraid to ‘chase up’ your buyer, estate agent and solicitor or conveyancer if things are moving too slowly for you. The quicker contracts are exchanged the less chance there is a gazumper will interrupt the process.
- Sell your property using an alternative method. For example, selling your property at auction or to a house buying service can eliminate the risk of everything being derailed by gazumping.
What to Do If You are Gazumped
If you have been gazumped as a buyer there are a few things you can do. Firstly, ask the seller to stay with your offer. Stress your strengths as a buyer. For example, you are ready to move. Appeal to their better nature and point out how you love their house and want to make it your home.
Consider whether you should increase your offer and gazump the gazumper. This might be cheaper overall than starting again from scratch. Consider what you have already spent on trying to buy the property and whether you can actually afford to pay more for it. Try to be rational and not let your emotions take control.
If you are gazumped be aware that increasing your offer means you could end up in a gazumping war. It could be used to get the gazumper to increase their offer and you will still lose the property.
If you’re the seller and find yourself in a gazumping situation consider whether the increased offer from the gazumper is actually worth it. Look at what you have already spent, and what effect it might have in your future plans. It could be that the initial offer is a stronger one and it makes more sense to turn the gazumper down.
Whether buyer or seller gazumping isn’t really fair and it isn’t really ethical. But gazumping does happen and isn’t illegal so it always makes sense to know what your options are.