Step-by-step guide to selling your house

Selling your house can be a confusing and nerve-wracking process.  Most people will sell less than a handful of properties during their lifetime, so many are unsure what is required. Our simple, no-nonsense guide will lead you through the different steps of selling your house and help you maximise your chances of a smooth and simple house sale.

guide to selling house

Get your finances in order

Look at your current mortgage

The first step in getting your finances in order is to look at your current mortgage. Is it portable or would you be required to pay an early repayment fee if you want to move? Early repayment fees will usually be between 1% and 5% of the mortgage value, so they’re not cheap. If you’re not able to port your mortgage, it may not be sensible to move until your fixed period ends.

Boost your credit score

It is always worth seeing whether there are any quick, simple steps you can take to boost your credit rating. A higher credit score will help you to secure a better mortgage deal, so it’s worth doing before you move. Small things can give you a big boost.

Things to try:

  • Make sure you’re on the electoral register
  • Avoid making too many credit applications in the months leading up to any mortgage applications
  • You could consider using a credit card responsibly for regular small payment to give your score a boost, but make sure you pay it off in full each month

Need a new mortgage?

If you need a new mortgage, you should look to get an agreement in principle before you sell. An agreement in principle will tell you how much a mortgage provider would be happy to lend you. This will help you decide your budget for your next home and narrow your property search.

Prepare your property for sale

When preparing your property for sale, consider what first attracted you to the property. Try to highlight these things to potential buyers.

It is suggested that most viewers decide on a property within the first 7 seconds of seeing it. First impressions count, so try to see your property exterior objectively to help you make it look its best. Ensure any front outdoor space is tidy and well-presented. Make sure the front door is clean and windows are sparkling. If the exterior of your property is painted, consider whether it could do with a refresh.

If there are bigger updating tasks required in the house e.g., new kitchen, it is important to think carefully. You could end up spending more on the updates than they would add to the value of the property. You may be able to update the kitchen with some tiles and paint, rather than installing a whole new one. It is worth asking a local estate agent’s advice on this. They will have a good idea about what kind of buyer your property is likely to attract and whether it would be beneficial to update the property before bringing it to market.

It is important to address any structural or damp issues that you are aware of before selling your house. If issues are discovered at the point of survey, it can jeopardise your sale. Around 12% of failed property sales are attributed to issues being uncovered in the property survey.

Get your property valued

Before you get estate agent valuations done, it is wise to arm yourself with some local property market information. Most of the major property portals (Rightmove, Zoopla etc) allow you to search recent sold prices in your area. Comparing your property to nearby homes of a similar size and specification will give you a rough idea of how much your property might be worth. You can also look at other local homes that are currently for sale. This will help you to ensure your home is priced attractively.

When it comes to getting estate agent valuations, ensure you select agents with a good knowledge of the local market. You should ask for example of similar properties they’ve sold in the area recently. This will help you to understand where the true value of your property might lie if the valuations vary.

Choose how to sell your house

Most home sellers will choose the traditional high street estate agency route, but there are other options available when selling your house.

Online estate agent:

Online estate agents are usually considerably cheaper than high street estate agents, mainly due to their significantly lower overhead costs. They operate slightly differently to a high street estate agent. Instead of paying a percentage of the final sale price, you will usually pay an online agent an upfront fee. This fee is paid regardless of whether their marketing of your property results in a sale or not. This can be a good option if you are happy handling most of the sale process yourself but want to be able to advertise your property on the bigger property portals.

Property auction:

If your property is likely to be difficult to mortgage, you might want to consider selling your house at auction. Property auctions tend to attract investors and those looking for a renovation project. This means they may be more likely to buy without a mortgage.

Cash home buying company:

If you are looking for a quick property sale, you might want to consider a cash home buying company.  A cash home buying company will purchase your property with its own funds. This means the sale is guaranteed and can be completed in as little as 7 days.

Private property sale:

Trying to sell your house privately is an option if you want to avoid estate agency costs. You will need to feel confident that you could attract a buyer on your own. You would also need to take on all of the other tasks usually carried out by an estate agent. This will include property viewings, negotiating a sale, and working with your solicitor to progress the sale to completion. So, whilst it is a cheaper alternative to selling via an estate agent, it is a very time-intensive option and can be stressful if you do not have a lot of experience of selling a house.

Get an energy performance certificate (EPC)

Energy performance certificates have been compulsory since 2008.

An energy performance certificate is required whenever a property is built, rented, or sold. It will be issued after a qualified Domestic Energy Assessor (DEA) has carried out an energy survey on the property.

An energy performance certificate provides information about a property’s energy usage and grades it from A (very efficient) to G (not at all efficient). It also suggests ways to make the property more energy efficient. An energy efficient property will have lower energy bills, so the more efficient you can make your property, the better.

Instruct a conveyancing solicitor

You should have a conveyancing solicitor in place before you accept an offer. Upon accepting an offer, your estate agent will draw up a document confirming the price that has been accepted. They will also provide details of each party’s solicitor.

Selling a property can be a lengthy process. It is estimated to take an average of 2-3 months for the sale to complete once you’ve accepted an offer. It can, however, take considerably longer if you are part of a chain or are selling a leasehold property. Choosing an efficient, proactive conveyancing solicitor can help to keep any delays in the selling process to a minimum. This means it is important to do your research and choose someone reputable. If you do not already have a conveyancing solicitor in place, ask for recommendations from friends and family.

Accept an offer

If you are selling your house through an estate agent, it is their job to negotiate on your behalf. It’s their job to get you the highest offer possible. They should also advise whether they think the offer made is a fair price for the property.

When deciding whether to accept an offer, it is important to consider both the price and the buyer’s circumstances. For example, a chain-free first-time buyer may be a more attractive prospect than a buyer in a chain. Lengthy chains often lead to long, drawn-out sales and mean a sale is more vulnerable to chain-break. Currently, around one in three property sales fall through, so it’s something to keep in mind when vetting any offers.

Draft contracts

Once you have accepted an offer, your conveyancing solicitor will draft sales contracts. It is the exchanging of signed copies of this contract that makes the sale legally binding later in the process.

The contract will include information about the sale, such as the terms of sale, the price agreed, and completion date. It will also include details of any ground rent payable if the property is leasehold.

Exchange of contracts

Once any property survey, searches and enquiries have been completed, you will be ready to exchange contracts.

It is at this point that the buyer will pay a deposit for the property. Deposits are usually 10% of the purchase price.

Once contracts have been exchanged, both the buyer and seller are legally committed to the sale. At this point, a date for the completion of the sale will be confirmed.

The completion date is usually between a week and a month after the exchange of contracts. This gives both the buyer and seller to make the necessary arrangements. It is during this period that the buyer’s solicitor will arrange to draw down funds from their mortgage provider (if they are using a mortgage to purchase the property). If you are selling the property to a cash buyer, it is possible to exchange contracts and complete the sale on the same day, but as most people rely on a mortgage to purchase a property this is quite unusual.

Once you have a confirmed date for sale completion, you can organise removal services. You should also alert your utilities providers and arrange for your post to be forwarded to your new address.

Completions of house sale

On the date of completion, the balance will be paid, keys will be exchanged, and legal transfer of ownership will occur. Completion will be set for a certain time – usually around midday – and your solicitor will inform you when the sale has completed.

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