Selling your home: a guide

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

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

Chris King
From the Home team
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Posted 18 JANUARY 2021

What’s the process for selling a house?

According to government figures, selling a home usually takes two to three months. But it can take longer, especially if you’re in a chain. From preparation to completion, we’ll take you through the process of selling your house.

1. Can you afford to sell your house?

Buying a house costs money – but selling one can be expensive too. You’ll need to take into account things like estate agent’s commission (if you use an estate agent), solicitor’s fees, Stamp Duty and removal costs, not to mention home improvements if you want to spruce up your house before putting it on the market.

You’ll also need to know where you are with your mortgage. Check if there are early repayment charges for switching to another mortgage provider, or if you can transfer your mortgage to a new property – this is called ‘porting’.

If you decide you’d rather earn an income by renting out your house instead of selling it, then it’s very likely that you’ll need to change your mortgage to a buy-to-let mortgage. Get in touch with your lender and they’ll be able to advise you. You’ll also want to look at landlord insurance.

2. Get your home ready for sale

Once you’ve decided to sell, your aim should be a quick sale at the best possible price. A way of helping achieve this is to improve your property’s ‘kerb appeal’. Even small improvements can make a big difference.

Our top tips for making your home more attractive to potential buyers include:

  • Mow the lawn, weed the beds, clean windows and fix any broken fences, sheds or gates
  • Give the front door a new lick of paint
  • Add a splash of colour with hanging baskets or potted plants
  • Tidy up and get rid of clutter in the house, garage and garden
  • Fix the little jobs, like a dripping tap, saggy guttering, peeling wallpaper or cleaning the grouting in the bathroom
  • Consider repainting your rooms - a fresh coat of light-coloured paint is a great way to introduce light
  • If you don’t want the expense of a total kitchen makeover, simply replacing handles and knobs can instantly spruce up tired-looking units
  • Stage each room for its original purpose – if you’ve been using the dining room as a makeshift playroom, clear away the toys so it looks like a dining room again

If you’re looking to do some major renovations, find out what home improvements could help increase the value of your property.

3. Find out how much your property is worth

Get valuations from a number of estate agents – three at the very least. They can advise you but, ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on an asking price.  

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.

The valuations, together with your own research into recently sold properties, should give you a fair idea of how much to set the asking price at.

4. Decide how you want to sell your home

You can sell your home privately yourself, through a local high-street agent or via an online estate agent.

Selling privately
If you’re prepared to do the legwork, selling your house privately could save you thousands in estate agent’s fees. It could be a good idea if you’re selling to someone you know or if the market is buoyant and you’re confident of a quick sale.

There are several websites for private sellers, but it’s an involved process and you’ll need to do a lot of the work yourself - from advertising your property to organising house viewings, to making sure all the documents relating to your home are in order. Another downside to selling privately is that you can’t advertise on national real estate sites, like Rightmove and Zoopla.

Local estate agent
This is still the most common way of selling property in the UK. The benefit of using a local, high-street estate agent is that a good one will have local knowledge and successful experience of selling properties in your area. In most cases, they’ll offer a full service - from advertising and accompanied viewings to arranging the energy performance certificate.

But an estate agent’s commission can make a significant dent in your house-selling budget. On average, fees can range between 1% and 2% for a sole agency (when you sell your house through just one agent), to as much as 3% if you sell through more than one estate agency.

Many sellers opt for local agents who charge a ‘no sale no fee’ commission, which means you won’t lose money if the house doesn’t sell.  Fees are negotiable so don’t be afraid to try and haggle down the rate.

Just be aware that if you use an estate agent, potential buyers must make any offers through them; they can’t cut out the middleman and deal with you directly. If you accept an offer, the estate agent is legally obliged to pass on any other offers right up until the exchange of contracts. 

Online estate agent  
Another option is selling via an online estate agent. This could be cheaper than using a high-street agency 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. For example, you may still have to do the viewings yourself. You might also have to pay the fee upfront.

It’s worth weighing up the pros and cons of each method before you decide which is the best way to sell your home.

5. 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:

6. 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’ll draft the initial contract, and negotiate and change the details where necessary. They’ll also carry out property searches to uncover any problems relating to the property that you’re obliged to let the buyer know about, for example, flood risk, Japanese knotweed or disputes with the neighbours.

Did you know?

When selling your house, you’re legally obliged to give prospective buyers information about your property that could affect their decision to buy. As part of the conveyancing process you must fill in a Property Information Form (TA6), which your solicitor or conveyancer can help you with. It’s important to be honest about any issues to avoid the risk of being sued for misinformation.

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.

7. Show your property

Now your property is on the market, it’s time for the all-important house viewings. Whether the estate agent conducts the viewings or you choose to do them yourself, you’ll want to make sure your home looks its best.

Tips for viewing days

  • Tidy up and declutter all surfaces around your home.
  • Make sure the house is clean and fresh-smelling – particularly important if you have pets.
  • If it’s a cold day, light the fire to give the house a warm and welcoming feel
  • Move your car from the driveway – it gives visitors a better view of the property when they first drive up, as well as somewhere to park.

Did you know?

During the coronavirus pandemic, the government advises ‘virtual viewings’ wherever possible. This means the estate agent creates a virtual video tour so prospective buyers can view your home without having to step inside.

8. 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.

9. 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 length of 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 sale 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.

If you’re buying another property, now’s the time to get buildings insurance in place for your new home. You can move out at any time, right up until completion day.

10. Completion

This is it – the property is officially sold. You hand over the keys to your buyer and the money and deeds are transferred to your solicitor. Your solicitor will then register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry.

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