Knowing when to walk away from a property sale is a skill.

It’s easy to become attached to a home, even before you legally own it. The protracted search, the excitement of landing a mortgage in principle, and even the conveyancing process can all add to the feeling of ownership. 

Despite this, there are times when it really is necessary to put your head before your heart, and today’s post will outline three key occasions where walking away from a sale could be in your best interest.

Let’s dive straight in.

Significant structural or environmental issues

The discovery of significant structural or environmental issues can be a good reason for walking away from a property sale. Such problems can lead to substantial financial burdens post-purchase, and in some cases, may pose health and safety risks.

Structural problems may include:


While some issues can be corrected with relative ease and at a low cost, significant structural repairs can quickly run into tens of thousands of pounds, making the property a potentially costly investment. It's vital to arrange a detailed survey of the property, preferably by a chartered surveyor, to uncover these potential issues before finalising the purchase.

In addition to structural issues, environmental factors can also present significant challenges. 

Properties may be located on floodplains, putting them at a higher risk of damage and potentially increasing insurance costs. In other cases, homes may be situated in areas with high radon levels, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause health issues over time.

Sometimes, homes might be located near industrial areas or landfill sites, which can lead to problems with soil contamination. These issues may not only affect your quality of life but also potentially devalue your property in the future.


Carrying out your own research


In most cases, environmental issues will be identified through an Environmental Search, often a part of your conveyancer's role during the buying process. However, it's wise to do some research yourself, for example, checking GOV.UK's flood risk map.

If any significant structural or environmental issues are uncovered during your due diligence, it's crucial to carefully weigh the cost and impact of these issues. 

While some buyers may be willing to take on a 'project,' it's essential to understand the scope of the work fully and the financial implications before proceeding. Sometimes, the best course of action may be to walk away from a property, no matter how attractive it seemed initially.

Unclear legal status

Legal clarity is essential when purchasing a property, and any uncertainty regarding legal issues can be a compelling reason to reconsider your decision. Unclear legal status can cover a range of concerns, from boundary disputes and problems with the title to pending litigation linked to the property.

Boundary disputes, for instance, can be a headache for new owners. Discrepancies between the boundaries shown in the title deeds and the physical boundaries can lead to disagreements with neighbours, affecting both your enjoyment of your new home and its future selling potential.

Similarly, any issues with the property's title - that is, the legal document proving ownership - can pose a significant risk. This could include situations where the property's ownership is disputed or if there are claims or liens against the property. A thorough title search, typically conducted by your conveyancer, will uncover most title issues.

Another common legal complexity in the UK property market is the difference between leasehold and freehold properties. With a leasehold, you only own the property for a fixed period, and the land it stands on is owned by the freeholder. Issues can arise if the lease is short, as it can affect the property’s value and make it difficult to secure a mortgage. It's crucial to understand the terms of the lease, any associated costs, and the process for extending the lease if needed.

In some cases, the property might be subject to pending litigation – for example, if the previous owners carried out construction or renovation work without the necessary permissions. As a new owner, you could find yourself responsible for correcting these issues, which could include costly and disruptive work like removing extensions or conversions.

Whenever legal issues are flagged up, it's crucial to seek professional advice. 

Your conveyancer can provide guidance on the risks involved and your options for addressing these issues. However, it's important to understand that resolving legal issues can be a lengthy and potentially costly process. In some cases, the wisest decision might be to walk away and look for a property with a clearer legal status.

In the complex world of property law, having a competent team of professionals to guide you is invaluable. So, don't be afraid to ask questions, seek advice, and ultimately, be prepared to reconsider the purchase if the legal waters become too murky.

Seller's unwillingness to compromise

The property buying process often involves negotiation. It's an opportunity for both buyers and sellers to reach an agreement that feels fair and reasonable to both parties. 

However, if a seller is unwilling to compromise on key aspects of the sale, it might be an indication that it's time to walk away from the purchase.

Probably the most common area of negotiation is the property's price. If a property is overpriced and the seller refuses to budge on the asking price, despite evidence supporting a lower valuation, it could signal a difficult road ahead. 

Remember, an overpriced property not only affects your finances but could also lead to complications with your mortgage approval, as lenders generally only finance up to the appraised value of the property.

That being said, this largely depends on underlying market conditions, the area in which the property is situated, and the supply and demand of homes locally. Lenders are aware of all the above and, in many instances, buyers are advised against pushing too hard on property price as it could ultimately lead to them losing the house anyway. 

Another area of potential negotiation is related to the property's condition. 

If a survey or home inspection uncovers issues with the property, buyers often negotiate with sellers to have these issues rectified before the sale, or for the sale price to be reduced to accommodate the cost of repairs. However, if the seller is unwilling to take responsibility for major issues or even acknowledge them, it could be a red flag.

Negotiation can also come into play in relation to the terms of the sale. This could include everything from the completion date to what fixtures and fittings are included. An inflexible seller who isn't open to reasonable compromises may create a challenging environment for the sale to proceed smoothly.

It's crucial to keep in mind that the property-buying process should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. As a buyer, you have a right to ensure that your interests are protected and that you're making a sound investment. 

If the seller's unwillingness to negotiate puts that at risk, it may be in your best interest to reconsider the purchase.

Walking away from a property where the seller is inflexible can be disappointing, but it's vital to remember that other opportunities will present themselves. Buying property is a significant financial commitment, and the process should feel fair and reasonable. So, be patient, and remember, the right property with the right terms is worth waiting for.

Thinking of moving home? Looking to live in the capital or make a move to West Essex? Regardless of whether you are buying, selling, renting or letting, Petty Son and Prestwich should be your first port of call.

Established back in 1908, Petty’s have been helping people make their move for well over 100 years. As a family-run business, we thrive on making property dreams come true and providing a personal touch to every interaction we have with our clients. You’ll never be ‘just another number’ with us.

So, if you’re looking for a better way to move home, give our friendly team a call today to find out why we have stood the test of time and continue to stand out from the crowd.

Article By: Daniel Roe

Daniel is a true team player. As a Senior Property Consultant for Petty’s, his day-to-day tasks include everything from conducting viewings, negotiations and market appraisals...all of which are a far cry from his previous profession as a hairdresser.

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