Gazunder alert! How the UK’s house buyers are forcing sellers to slash prices | Housing market

Name: Gazundering.

Age: First mentioned three decades ago, but steadily increasing in frequency.

Appearance: A homeowner’s nightmare.

I have to protest. Gazunders have been around for far longer than 30 years. Good, let’s clear this up early. In some dialects, a gazunder was an adult potty that people kept in their bedrooms. It got its name because it goes under the bed. Goes under. Gazunder. Get it?

No. Doesn’t matter. Gazunder has a different meaning now, and this one is far worse.

Worse than sleeping above a literal bowl of poo? Oh yes. These days, to gazunder someone is to do the opposite of gazump them.

Pretend I don’t know what gazumping is. It’s when you find a property you want that’s already under offer and steal it from the buyers by offering more money for it. This used to be quite common in the UK – except in Scotland, where the rules are stricter.

That’s highly unscrupulous. It is, but in some ways it’s also a sign of a successful economy. Isn’t it nice that some people have so much extra money lying around they can be deliberately horrible to other potential buyers? What a wonderful world.

I’m detecting sarcasm. Anyway, gazundering is the exact opposite of that. This is when you place an offer on a property and then, right before the purchase goes through, drastically reduce your offer.

Why would you do that? Wouldn’t the seller just say no? Normally, yes. But the housing market is cooling and everything is generally extremely terrible, which means sellers are at the mercy of – to use a technical term – total jerks.

So it works? Apparently so! In the past six months, approximately one-third of sellers have been subjected to attempted gazunderings, and three-quarters of them agreed to the lower offer.

But why? Because the country is on fire and everyone is broke, and people aren’t making as many offers on homes as they used to. It’s a buyer’s market, especially if you’re inherently quite awful.

That is indecent. Yes, but it’s also perfectly legal, so suck it up.

Is there a bright side to this? Sure. Last year the average UK home cost nine times average earnings, its highest for almost 150 years. So gazundering might be a sign that housing is about to become more affordable.

What happened 150 years ago to make homes more affordable? A combination of factors. Between 1850 and 1911, 5m houses were built. Plus, earnings rose by about 90% in the same timespan.

Whereas now? Prices are falling because nobody has any money to buy anything, and mortgage and interest rates are painfully expensive.

So, worse now then? Oh yes, much worse. Hope this helps!

Do say: “Gazundering is an expected symptom of a stagnant housing market.”

Don’t say: “I drank 10 pints last night and gazundered all over a bus stop.”

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