You’ve found the ideal home, but what do you do now? Tim Harrison learns how to maximise the chance of success, and how vendors should respond

You’ve searched Hammersmith for the right property… and you’ve found it. It’s what you want, and where you want it.

But putting in an offer can be fraught with difficulty. Estate agent John Horton has lived and worked in Hammersmith for 16 years. A director of the family-owned Horton & Garton, he believes the offer is critical.

“Do it in writing,” he insists. “Do it in a prescribed format, especially if you’re in a multiple-bid offer situation.”

It’s the point where good agents really earn their corn.

“Can the buyer be patient? Can they move through the gears to expedite something quickly? The estate agent can help with that,” said John, who always tells buyers to make a second visit.

You will have done your homework on price via the internet, online back numbers of Move To, and chats with agents.

Now put yourself in the seller’s shoes. What are you offering that others aren’t? Speed of completion? Finance in place? No chain? There’s still a dire shortage of homes for sale, so it’s a seller’s market.

Ask the estate agent if other offers have been made. The agent is not legally allowed to tell you how much other offers were, but can indicate if they were close to the asking price.

John Horton advises people not to start haggling on the spot. “People don’t want face-to-face negotiations over the price; that’s the agent’s job,” he said. So go home, put the kettle on, make a cup of tea, gather your thoughts, then view a second time.

Sellers do their homework too, said John. “People look through Facebook to find out about the potential buyers.”

From years of people watching, John has reached the conclusion that business is rarely done standing up. “I like it when they sit down,” he admitted.

If a home seems to be priced correctly, consider offering the full asking price. It means you will be taken seriously, and will lessen the possibility of being gazumped. It also makes it easier to argue that the For Sale board should be replaced with Sold.

If someone is a cash buyer, the critical thing a seller needs to do is find out where the cash is. Is it tied up in an account which requires giving several months’ notice?

Another sign of the seriousness of the potential buyer is the quality of their legal advice.

Some buyers try to by-pass the traditional route of using a knowledgeable local solicitor by going via a legal services website.

“I don’t like call-centre solicitors,” John said. “If it’s a chain and they’re using a cheap solicitor service, it rings alarm bells.”

Arranging a swift survey can show real financial commitment, and it’s also a good sign of intent to map out a provisional timescale towards completing the purchase.

Pictured: John Horton says to put it in writing

By Tim Harrison 02/08/13