I have an offer on my house but I have found nowhere to buy. What should I do?

Updated: September 26, 2018

Most people need to sell their home to fund their next property. But what happens if you get an offer on your property before you have found somewhere to buy?

Estate agent window

Being unable to sell a property is a real fear for many vendors. Property chains may be held up or even collapse completely. If you can’t sell your home, the house you want to buy may be sold to someone else who’s already in a position to move.

What if you have not found a new home? How can you make sure you don't end up homeless? What are your options?

You have received an offer

Firstly, be pleased that you have an offer. You have overcome the first hurdle in trying to sell your home. 

Secondly, don’t panic. You don’t have to move out overnight. Accepting an offer does not legally oblige you to complete the sale if you are not ready to move. You can pull out at any time, up to the point of exchanging contracts, although it is advisable to keep everyone informed of your position and intentions.

Thirdly, take your time. The conveyancing process takes a number of weeks, so use this period to continue your search and ensure your finances are in place for when you find your new home.

If possible, try to gain more breathing space by agreeing a later exchange date. Most buyers are content to wait two to three months, perhaps longer, if they are kept up-to-date with your progress.

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Step up your property search

With the sale of your home progressing it’s time to get serious about finding your next property. You are in a strong position for the following reasons:

  1. Now you have an offer you know exactly what to budget on your next property.
  2. When you find a property, you offer will be more attractive than a competing offer from someone still looking for a buyer.  It may also be chosen over a higher offer simply because you are ready to go.

Badger the estate agents

Visit/Re-visit all estate agents and ensure they know of your position, budget and requirements. They should be keeping you informed of every suitable home that comes up for sale, but you want them to call yo first.  Often agents know about a new listing a few days before it appears on the property market.  Badger (in a nice way) the agent to make sure you stay top of mind and they call you first.

Set up property alerts

You can set up property alerts by with on-line property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla.  You can accurately tailor your search criteria so you are alerted of properties that suit your requirements..

Choose your mortgage lender

Now you have an offer, you should know exactly how much you need to borrow.  Choose your lender and mortgage product and ask the lender if they can issue a 'mortgage in principle'.  This means that the lender is happy to lend to you - albeit they will still need to survey the property.  Being able to tell the vendor that your mortgage is sorted adds weight to your offer.

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Your buyer is losing patience and threatening to pull out

There are two clear choices if your buyer is pushing and will not accept any further delays. Either you complete the sale and move into temporary accommodation, or pull out of the sale.

If you don’t want to risk losing the sale (particularly if your house had been on the market for some time) then you may need to rent somewhere else.

This of course could be expensive and there may be a minimum contract period, usually six months. If house prices are increasing, you may find the type of property you are looking for exceeds your budget after a period of renting.

Although renting may not be desirable, it is generally (financially) better than the alternative.

Pulling out of the sale means you have to find a new buyer. There is a risk that you might find your next property but be unable to move because you haven’t sold your existing home. You may once again find yourself in a chain or have to accept a lower offer.

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Should I find a new property before I put my house on the market?

It is preferable to have an offer on your home when you make an offer on another property.  Certainly your property should, at the very least, be on the market when you put an offer in.

The vendor will be unlikely to take your commitment seriously if your property is not on the market.  The vendor may well accept your offer but probably won't take their property off the market until you find a buyer,

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

About the author

Gaynor Haliday is an experienced legal researcher and published author. She has had numerous articles published in the press and is a legal industry commentator.

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