I recently made the first (admittedly quite low) offer on a property, but when another buyer came in higher, the agent asked for best and final bids. I offered the most – above the original asking price, in fact – but incredibly, I still lost out to the other person! What can I do?


The short answer, I’m afraid, is nothing. Had your original offer been accepted, then I could understand you feeling slightly aggrieved – although even then, the simple fact is that where offers are concerned, nothing is legally binding on either party until contracts are exchanged. Up to that point, both the seller and the buyer are equally free to change their minds, for any reason they like - or for no reason at all, come to think of it.


Still, as it happens, it looks very much as though your initial offer was never actually accepted – presumably because it was too low. Indeed, perhaps what happened was that the seller simply concluded that you were trying it on. He or she might therefore have decided that they wouldn’t sell to you, whatever you offered - something, as I said earlier, that they are perfectly at liberty to do. That being the case, the fact that you eventually came in with a bid above the original asking price probably wouldn’t have made any difference.


Incidentally, it’s probably worth reiterating that agents are rarely if ever at fault in this kind of situation. For one thing, they are legally bound to continue passing on offers right up to exchange – unless they have been specifically instructed in writing by the seller not to do so. Besides which, of course, it is entirely up to the seller to choose which offer to accept.


So, frustrating though it may feel to be on the receiving end of such a decision by a seller, it really only serves to highlight the risks inherent in adopting a low-offer strategy. Of course, we all like a bargain. Nevertheless, on balance, I would generally say that the best way of maximising your chances of securing a property you want - particularly in the current market, when demand (and therefore competition) is relatively strong - is to go in straight away with your very best offer.