What is Gazumping?

Gazumping is when a property is sold to a second buyer for more money than has already been agreed with the first buyer. 

The difference between being outbid – for example losing out at “best and final” offers – and gazumping is that gazumping occurs when an offer has already been accepted.

Sometimes a seller will choose a rival buyer if they are in a better position to buy, for example if they are not in a property chain.

Is gazumping legal?

Unfortunately, yes. While this practice isn’t illegal, it is frowned upon and considered unethical.

Until there is an exchange of written contracts, all you have to go on with an accepted offer is a verbal agreement. It means a seller is still technically open to other offers.

Being gazumped is about more than a broken promise. It can cost you a lot of money too.

You might have already paid for a surveyor, or a solicitor to draw up the documents. This money could be lost if you are a victim of gazumping.

How does gazumping work?

  • You have seen, and fallen in love with, a new house. You have made an offer, which the owner has verbally accepted.
  • You have had a survey carried out, arranged a conveyancer to draw up the contracts and you're preparing to complete the sale.
  • At the last minute, another buyer puts in a higher offer. The seller chooses to sell to them instead.
  • Gazumping is hugely frowned upon, but legally speaking, there is sadly not a lot you can do.

What is gazundering?

Gazundering is when, at the last minute, a buyer withdraws their offer and makes a new one for less money.

This is risky for the buyer, as they are banking on the seller wanting to go through with the sale with a lower offer. A seller may accept to avoid wasting money on conveyancers and the cost to relist the property. If they are part of a chain, they might accept the offer to keep things moving.

Like gazumping, gazundering is perfectly legal but considered unfair.

Can gazumping happen in Scotland?

Gazumping tends to happen less in Scotland. Most estate agents in Scotland are also solicitors. Under the terms of The Law Society of Scotland, gazumping isn’t allowed. Most estate agents don’t let it happen.

How can you avoid gazumping?

There is no certain way you can make sure you aren’t gazumped in the future.

The following tips might help:

Get a mortgage Agreement in Principle first

One of the biggest ways to save yourself time is to get a mortgage Agreement in Principle from your lender before you make an offer. This can speed up the buying process.

Ask for the property to be taken off the market

After your offer on the house is accepted, you could ask the seller about taking it off the market. You could show willing at your end by getting the survey done as soon as you can, to speed up the process.

You could even ask the seller to sign a document which gives you first dibs on the sale for a certain amount of time. This is known as a lock out agreement. If you can get the seller to agree, it would show they’re serious about selling to you. In return, you should do your very best to get things over the line.

Be prepared

The main thing you can do is to be prepared. Get all the documents you’ll need sorted and speak to your conveyancer often to make sure the sale doesn’t slow down. That way you can lower the chances of being gazumped, and hopefully be in your new place soon enough.

The content on this page is for reference and does not constitute financial advice. For impartial financial advice, we recommend government bodies like MoneyHelper.

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