As a fairly famous song once said, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with decorations and Christmas songs starting to appear wherever you look – while the supermarket shelves are now filled with Christmas goodies.
With Christmas expected to be a more normal affair this year after last year’s Covid-impacted festivities, people are likely to switch off a bit earlier than usual as the pre-Christmas slowdown in activities across all sectors starts in earnest.
Does this slowdown increase the changes of property fall-throughs occurring in the final weeks leading up to Christmas, though, as people turn their attentions away or get jittery about moving before the big day?
Typically, agents will taper things down in the final weeks of the year before taking a well-deserved break over the Christmas period and returning fresh in January. But could this lead to a spike in sales collapsing?
With so many distractions elsewhere, keeping a sale on track this close to Christmas can prove tricky and more gaps could emerge in the process that then makes a collapse more likely.
We know that hundreds of thousands of property purchases/sales fall through each year, and this number has been rising year on year. The most common reasons for a sale falling through are mortgage problems and unexpected survey findings, as well as things like gazundering and gazumping. Changes of heart and circumstance – perhaps more likely close to Christmas as a new year awaits – are also common reasons for sales falling through, while sometimes it’ll be out of the control of both buyer and seller as issues down or further up a chain cause transactions to fall like a pack of dominoes.
Buyers and sellers taking their eye off the ball as they look ahead to Christmas could also cause problems with a house sale and increase the chances of something going awry. Meanwhile, many will be nervous about the time left to exchange or complete before Christmas and might decide to withdraw because they fear the extra stress that moving so close to Christmas will bring.
What can agents do?
Fortunately, there are things that can be done to mitigate against a sale collapsing in the weeks leading up to Christmas. If buyers or sellers are worried about exchanging or completing before Christmas, it could be agreed upon between all sides that this will be held off until the new year to avoid the need for anyone to withdraw in a state of panic.
Compromises could still be reached, even if a buyer or seller pulls out. Deals can be salvaged; it’s not unheard of, for example, for deals to recover and get back on track even if after they have fallen through.
Agents should work with buyers and sellers, and both sets of conveyancers if it’s got that far, to ensure everything is in order and find a middle ground if issues occur that could potentially cause the fall-through of a sale.
From a seller’s point of view, if a buyer withdraws, it’s important that it’s quickly established why a buyer has pulled out to see if the situation can be salvaged. The buyer could be concerned about a completion date that is too close to Christmas, or the asking price being requested, or another issue potentially to do with their job or family, so a certain amount of renegotiation and compromise could work wonders.
If all this fails, and transactions can’t be saved, it can be highly useful for agents to have a back-up plan B in place to keep sales on the straight and narrow. This includes solutions such as chain repair and part exchange, which we at HBB Solutions are experts at offering.
The annual slowdown before Christmas would appear to put in place conditions that could make house fall-throughs and property purchase collapses more likely, so it’s always wise for agents to have a contingency plan up their sleeve.
The number of transactions falling through each year is still shockingly high, so anything that can be done to stem this tide is welcome and can improve the process for everyone.