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Dream home? How to win at the property-buying game

See off-market properties before anyone else, beat the competition and secure your dream home for the price you want to pay. Top tips from a Devon property finder.

Dittisham cottages water boat

Whether it’s a covetable waterside location, an idyllic farmhouse in rolling acres or a huge historic pile, there’s more to finding a dream home in Devon than scrolling on Rightmove and booking a viewing.

Demand still outweighs supply in the south-west, meaning for every top-tier property (£1 million+) up for sale on the open market, it’s 100% guaranteed there will be more than one person elbowing you out of the way to that forever home.

What’s more, the Covid-induced shift from south-east to south-west is still going strong, pushing up prices as much as 20% in some areas of the county – great if you’re sitting pretty but yikes if you’re planning a move here.

What’s needed is some professional help and fast. Cue local property finder, Ed Jephson of Stacks. With 20 years in the property business, he specialises in finding homes £500k-£5 million+ on his patch of the beautiful South Hams and Dartmoor. It’s his job to help buyers beat the competition while making sure they don’t pay through the nose in the process.

And here he comes, zipping in to the rescue on his trusty rib!

Ed, we’re just a girl, standing in front of a Georgian pile with 8 bedrooms, an orchard (and er, maybe a swimming pool?), asking to move in… What should we do to find that rose-covered cottage of our dreams?

1/ Ask to see what’s off-market

You might be surprised to know 60-70% of premium property is sold ‘off-market’, ie it’s up for sale with an estate agent but not being actively marketed. Once the preserve of celebrities, there’s an upward trend for £1m+ properties to be sold this way so sellers can avoid time-wasters and nosey types (who moi?) and deal exclusively with serious buyers. Any property finder worth their salt will know all the offmarket homes even before they come up for sale.

2/Put a letter through the door

You know how it is, you finally find your perfect 10 and damn! Some-pesky-one else is living in it. According to Ed, if you find a house you want that’s not up for sale, flattery works. Put an unsolicited letter through the door, saying you wish to buy it if they’re ever thinking of moving. Even if not now, they may well stash it away and get in touch later. I mean, wouldn’t you rather sell your home to someone who loves it than show your home around to strangers while paying hefty estate agent fees?

3/Hire a property finder

At the end of the day, to a busy estate agent you are just one of many buyers looking for a home in a seller’s market. According to Ed, who works with top local agents, including Knight Frank, Staggs, Strutt & Parker, Savills and Marchand Petit, paying to retain a finder shows you’re a serious buyer and instantly makes you more attractive and credible to an estate agent. Also, a good finder should create an attractive profile to ‘sell’ you to the agent. Being a cash buyer is not the only thing that makes an agent’s eyes light up.

A finder knows the area, and should be a brilliant negotiator, so the balance of probability is you will save the cost of hiring the finder and more.

With premium properties come the potential for peccadilloes, whether it’s a restrictive covenant, rights of access, or potential negative developments that could dent the future value. (Ed will even check out the neighbours to weed out the nasties, or sound them out if you’re planning to start a business at the property.) If it’s not in your finder’s ken, they can also introduce you to a trusted, local professional who knows.

4/ Appeal to the seller’s heart and their head

It might surprise you, but not every seller is interested solely in getting the best price. For some, the choice of buyer is about protecting their legacy, making it as much about heart as head. Once you’ve put in an offer, follow it up with a personal letter, sharing a little about yourself with the seller, explaining why you want their home, and adding any information about links you have with the area. Like a CV, it should be succinct and no more than A4 in length. Hire Ed and he would check it and make suggestions before sending.

5/ Know the real value of the property

Did you know even estate agents working in the some office can deviate as much as 10% on their valuations? That’s a lot of dosh, especially on a £1 million+ home! Ultimately the estate agent’s price is just a guide, as the market will dictate what it’s worth. Keep a very close eye on what properties are going, not selling, for and if you don’t have time for that, rely on Ed’s years of experience to do it for you. A property finder will do all the negotiations, working hard to find that sweet spot, so both buyer and seller feel like they’re getting value for money, and what’s saved here usually covers the finder’s fee and more.

Want Ed to find your forever home in Devon?

If you don’t want to kiss too many frogs in the search for that princely property, Ed can do all this and more, creating you a hit list in your desired location. He’ll work with you to discover what you’re after, find and visit properties without you lifting a finger, and narrow it down for your favourites for viewings. Ed will even help you find somewhere to stay if you have to travel any distance too. Once you find the one, he will do all the negotiating and legwork until your property is secured.

If you want to get a taste of your future lifestyle, a ride in Ed’s boat and lunch in a lovely waterside cafe is more than an appetite-whetter, take it from Muddy!

Don’t be shy! Give Ed a call on 01803 732128 / 07711 724939 or email edjephson@stacks.co.uk at Stacks Property Finders.

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