How to sell your home
We get it - selling your house can feel stressful and daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. With the right guidance and preparation, getting a house valuation and selling your home can be straightforward - dare we say, even enjoyable? Read on for our guide to selling your house and discover the steps to ensure your sale goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Sort out your finances
First, check your mortgage terms (if you have one) to find out if you’ll have to pay any penalties for selling at this point. If you’re on a standard variable-rate mortgage, you should be fine. If you’re still in the introductory phase of a mortgage, ask your lender if you can ‘port’ it (keep your existing deal for a new home). If that’s not an option, you might need to pay an early repayment charge to your lender.
These charges can be expensive. But it might still be more cost-effective overall to pay them and sell than to stay put, depending on what interest rate you pay now versus what you could get on a new mortgage.
Is your property’s lease coming to an end? Homes with long leases are more attractive to buyers. If you’re selling a leasehold property, paying to extend it now might improve your chances of selling. It’s more expensive to extend leases once they drop below 80 years, so if you only have 90 years remaining, it could put buyers off. And if there are less than 80 years left, a buyer might even struggle to get a mortgage. So if your lease is in the double digits, it’s worth sorting it out now.
2. Decide if you should rent or buy
Your choice will probably come down to why you want to sell. You have three main options here:
Sell to buy straightaway
This is you if you want to sell your current property so that you can buy somewhere else and move in immediately. The benefit of this option is that everything is done at once - you can use the same solicitor to sell your property and buy your new home, and you only have to move once.
But this can be more stressful because you can end up in two chains with more potential for things to go wrong. This also makes you less attractive to buyers and sellers.
Sell to buy later on
Similar to the option above, but instead of buying a new place straightaway, you move into temporary accommodation first - such as renting or living with family or friends. This can be a smart option if you’re relocating and want to get used to a new area before you commit to buying. It does mean you’ll move twice, but there’s less time pressure on you to find a house you like. Plus, you’ll have no chain when you come to buy, which could help you stand out from the crowd.
A potential added cost to factor in here is renting. Try not to commit to a long-term fixed tenancy, so you have more flexibility about when you move out and buy again. House prices might go up between you selling your house and buying a new one, and you’ll also need to decide how and where you want to store the money you get from selling your property.
Sell without plans to buy
The third option is moving into a permanent living arrangement which doesn’t involve buying a house. You may have decided to rent instead, move abroad, or live with family. In this scenario, you don’t need to worry about a chain, and you’ll be mortgage free. But you’ll want to think carefully about what you do with the money you’ll get from your property sale.
3. Organise paperwork
Your solicitor and estate agent will need various documents and information from you during your sale, so it makes sense to sort these out now. The first place to check is your paperwork from when you first bought the property, as most of what you’ll need now will likely be found somewhere in there.
The paperwork you’re looking for will include:
If you bought your house recently, you should have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). They’re valid for 10 years, so assuming you’ve not done anything to affect the rating, you can reuse the same certificate. If not, now’s the time to get a new one.
4. Get your house looking great
It’s time to spruce up your home! First, remove clutter and get your house looking clean and tidy. You want to create a blank canvas for potential buyers to imagine how they might put their own stamp on it. Remember kerb appeal, too - many people will decide whether they’re interested in buying a house before they’ve even set foot inside. So make sure your front garden looks its best, mend any broken fences and clean your windows.
Beyond that, you might want to consider some home improvements. Just remember to think about how much you spend on renovations or redecoration, and whether you’ll make that money back from selling your house. And consider cheaper ways to breathe fresh life into the property - a simple lick of paint and some cleverly-hung mirrors can go a long way.
If you suspect your house has some significant issues that will scare off buyers, get a home survey done to find out what the problems are and how much they will cost to fix. Then you can decide whether to get these sorted and factor them into the asking price.
5. Book a valuation
Getting your asking price right is vital. Too low, and you could sell for less than you should, but price it too high, and you might put off potential buyers. Do your research and get to know the local market - what prices have similar properties sold for recently? And how long did they take to sell?
Once you’ve done your own research, it’s sensible to get a few property valuations to compare numbers. Don't worry if you use a different estate agent to sell your property - how you sell and who you choose is entirely up to you. Although it’s tempting to go with whoever gives you the highest estimate, remember that somewhere in the middle of your valuations is probably the best and most realistic option. Ask agents to explain how they reached their valuations and how many similar properties they’ve sold in the last few months. Ultimately, what asking price you decide to go with is your decision. But having estate agent opinions that back up your pricing can help you feel more confident about selling. How much is my house worth?
7. Hire a solicitor
Not the most exciting step in the house-selling process, but you’ll need to hire a solicitor or conveyancer to deal with the legal work of transferring ownership from you to your buyer.
It makes sense to get quotes from more than one option, so you can compare fees, quality and the service they’re offering. You'll need to wait until you have an offer before formally instructing a solicitor. Still, the sooner you choose one, the less likely you will face delays when you have a keen buyer ready.
8. Accept your best offer
With any luck, you’ll soon start getting offers on your property. If you get offers lower than your asking price, you can either reject them or come back with a counteroffer that you would be willing to accept. This starts a negotiation process, which your agent can handle if you have one.
Remember that your ‘best’ offer is not necessarily your highest. For example, accepting an offer from a cash or first-time buyer with no chain may mean there’s less chance of things going wrong later in the process. So a slightly lower offer from a buyer like this might be better than a higher offer from a financially risky or difficult buyer.
Once you’ve got an offer you’re happy with, you’re ready to formally accept. This is a moment of celebration, but you’re not on firm ground just yet. Remember that your property is legally sold when you’ve exchanged written contracts with the buyer.
9. Negotiate the draft contract and exchange
It’s time for you and your buyer to decide:
What fixtures and fittings will be included in the sale (and how much for)
Decide what you definitely do and don’t want to take with you and what you’re flexible about if the buyer makes you a good enough offer. Include in the contract what you intend to leave behind - either for free or for an extra cost - so you have a written agreement with your buyer.
Any discounts due to problems flagged in the buyer’s survey
If their survey uncovers problems, your buyer might re-negotiate the sale price based on how much it will cost them to fix the issues. Work out what you’re willing to reduce the cost to, or if you can’t agree on a price with the buyer, it might be time to find a new one.
How long you want between exchange and completion
Once contracts are signed and exchanged, your buyer pays a deposit, and things become legally binding. This is a key milestone in the selling process and (another) reason to celebrate. From here on in, everyone is less likely to pull out of the sale because doing so is costly.
10. Arrange removals
Now you’ll need to work out how you’re going to move your belongings out of your home. You might be able to do it yourself. But if you need help, you can use a professional moving company. Some will even do the packing for you if you want.
Again, it’s worth comparing options here in terms of price, reviews and availability. Remember to check they have insurance for your belongings throughout the move.
Factors that can impact the cost of removals include:
11. Complete the sale
The day has finally come - you’re ready to complete. Some people move out on the same day, but you can move out earlier if you prefer and have accommodation ready to move into. Before you leave, ensure you’ve taken all your belongings and any rubbish, and left behind anything that was agreed in the contract.
Completion officially happens once the property changes ownership, you accept payment, and hand over the keys. Any deeds for the house will be transferred from your solicitor to your buyer, and your solicitor will register the transfer of ownership with the Land Register.
A lot of complex money transfers might be taking place on your completion date. Delays can happen, so check in with your solicitor for progress updates throughout the day to help quickly resolve any issues.
12. Settle your fees
After completion, your solicitor will send a final bill covering all their costs and the outstanding amount on your mortgage - called the redemption fee. Your solicitor will pay the redemption using the money from your buyer. Final energy and water bills can be large - especially if you've been paying for estimated usage and are now in arrears. So keep some money back for these if you can.
Take note of your final gas and electricity readings, too, in case you're overcharged.
Once you’ve moved out, don’t forget to update your new address with the following:
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