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Selling your home: A guide

Selling your home: A guide

If this is the first time you’ve ever put a property on the market, you’re probably wondering what is the best way to sell your house. We’ll take you through the major stages and share some tips for selling your house.

Chris King
From the Home team
minute read
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Posted 24 FEBRUARY 2020

What’s the process for selling a house?

Selling a home usually takes two to three months, according to government figures, but it can take longer, especially if you’re in a chain. From preparation to completion, we’ll take you through how to sell your house and give you some tips.

1. Work out whether you can afford to sell

Selling a house and buying another costs money – and not just the asking price of the property you want to buy. You’ll need take into account things like Stamp Duty, removal costs, estate agent’s commission (if you use an estate agent) and solicitor’s fees. Before you put your home on the market, you’ll also need to know where you are with your mortgage. For example, do you need to borrow more? Are there fees for taking your mortgage with you or remortgaging?

If you come to the decision that you’d rather earn income through renting your house out instead of selling it, you’ll want to look at landlord insurance.

2. Find out how much your property is worth

To do this, you can get valuations from estate agents – Which? advises three valuations – and choose the price you want to put your home on the market at. You can also do your own research by looking at how much properties near you have sold for – you’ll find this information on the Land Registry website.

3. Decide how you want to sell your home

Of course, you can sell your home through an estate agent – most people do, according to government figures. But an estate agent’s commission can make a significant dent in your house-selling budget. The average estate agent fee across all markets in England and Wales in 2018 was 1.18% plus VAT, according to house sellers’ website The Advisory.  

One of the alternatives is selling privately. There are several websites for private sellers, but it’s an involved process and you’ll need to do a lot yourself, from advertising your property to organising house viewings to making sure all documents relating to your home are in order.

Another option is selling via an online estate agent. This could be cheaper than using a high-street agent because online agents usually charge one-off fees rather than a percentage of the selling price. However, online estate agents may offer fewer services than the high-street version, and you may have to pay the fee upfront. It’s worth weighing up the pros and cons before you decide.

4. Get your documents in order

Having all your documents organised early in the process can help things go smoothly later on. You’ll need to sort out:

  • an Energy Performance Certificate - you can arrange this through your estate agent
  • your home insurance documents
  • any planning permission certificates for work you’ve had done

5. Find a solicitor or conveyancer

Legal services around transferring the ownership of a property are known as conveyancing. You can choose to have a solicitor or a conveyancer carry out these services on your behalf.

They will draft the initial contract, and negotiate and change the details where necessary. They’ll also carry out property searches to uncover any factors relating to the property that you should know about. These could include things like flood risk.

When looking for a solicitor or conveyancer, shop around and get prices, being sure to find out whether the price is a fixed fee and whether it includes VAT. It’s also important to find out if you’ll be charged if a sale falls through.

6. Show your property

Now your property is on the market, it’s time for the all-important house viewings – and you want to make sure your home looks its best. Tidying up can create the illusion of more space and works wonders to make your home more enticing to a buyer. Hide any bulky appliances, de-clutter the garage and get the garden in a reasonable condition. A clean, fresh-smelling property can mean the difference between buyers looking elsewhere and receiving an offer on the spot.

7. Accept – or reject – offers

Once viewings begin, hopefully the offers will start coming in. If you’re using an estate agent, offers will be made through them.

You may get offers at the asking price, or you may need to negotiate. When you do so, think carefully about what you can afford to accept and also look at the situation of the buyer. For example, if you’re in a chain and they can move quickly it may influence your decision.

8. Drafting and exchanging contracts

Having accepted an offer, the next stage is for contracts to be drafted. There may be more negotiation at this point – for example, the buyer may ask to review the price after they’ve had a survey carried out. You’ll also need to decide what fixtures and fittings are to be included in the sale, and the time between contracts being exchanged and the sale being completed.

Until contracts are exchanged (or, in Scotland, the process of concluding the missives is completed), either party can pull out of the sale if they want to.

But once contracts are exchanged, the transaction becomes legally binding. If the buyer pulls out, they’ll lose their deposit; if you pull out, you’ll need to return their deposit with interest.

Also remember that once you have exchanged contracts on the property you want to buy, you’ll likely need to take out home insurance on it as soon as possible. Most mortgage lenders will insist you have buildings insurance in order for them to provide you with a mortgage, although it’s not a legal requirement to have buildings insurance.

9. Completion

This is it – moving day. This is when the property is officially sold. You hand over the keys to your buyer and the money is transferred to your solicitor.

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