Should you sell your house at all?

  • If you’re considering selling your home because you need more space, it could be worth comparing the cost of building an extension, converting the attic, or digging out the basement? The costs of selling a home can be so significant (particularly with stamp duty) that it might even save you money to expand your existing home
  • Perhaps you are thinking about downsizing? If so we look at the pros, cons, options and what you need to consider.
  • Depending upon your circumstances, you might be better off renting your home out rather than selling

How to sell a house

1. Figure out your finances

  • Before you sell your house, you’ll want to get a rough idea of how much it is worth, so you can then calculate how much money you will be left with after you have paid off the mortgage.
  • Dig out your mortgage paperwork or speak to your lender to check if you will have to pay any early repayment charges for switching your mortgage to another lender or whether it is possible to take it with you to a new property – a process known as porting
  • If you’re planning to move to a more expensive property or your mortgage deal is coming to an end, this is a great opportunity to remortgage onto a better deal.
  • At the early stages, the figures will be approximate only – you don’t know how much you will sell your house for and you will only get a precise redemption (amount outstanding) figure for your mortgage once you have an agreed completion date when you have exchange contracts
  • Plan every step to avoid being held up.
  • To give you an idea of the costs involved when selling and to help you budget.

2. Decide if you should rent a house next, rather than buy

  • Selling your home and renting for a while can add to the overall expense, but it will reduce the critical time pressures in buying a new home
  • You also won’t have to compromise on your sale price, and potentially sell your home for less, as you won’t be under pressure to complete on your onward purchase
  • You won’t be rushed into buying a less-than-perfect new home because you have found a buyer for your current home
  • Selling your property and then renting before buying will break you out of the housing chain which means you will be a more attractive buyer

3. Choose an estate agent to sell your house

  • If you use a local estate agent, you will need to do some research into which one to choose.
  • Compare local estate agents based on how quickly they sell, how close they come to achieving asking price and how successful they are.
  • You will need to agree a fee with the estate agent
  • When it comes time to appointing an estate agent, read your contract carefully

4. Get an Energy Performance Certificate

  • An energy performance certificate (EPC) is a standardised document which ranks properties in terms of energy efficiency, and which homeowners need to provide to potential buyers when they sell their home
  • You have to have at least applied for an Energy Performance Certificate before you put your home on the market

5. Decide how much to sell your home for

  • One of the most agonising decisions when selling your home is what price to put it on for
  • Do your research and get to know the local market inside out
  • Get a number of estate agents to do valuations, but don’t necessarily go for the highest
  • Remember that buyers will probably try to negotiate a discount, so add 5% to 10% to what you are prepared to accept

6. Prepare your home for sale

  • If you “stage” your home well, you are not only more likely to sell your home faster, but you might make it more valuable too
  • Tidy up, and get rid of excess clutter; give it a fresh lick of light coloured paint; fix those little snagging things; keep it clean
  • Light a fire; bake bread; put up a mirror; get rid of bad odours
  • Don’t forget how important your home’s kerb appeal is. More than half of homeowners say that kerb appeal was important in their choice of home. Important factors are windows being in good condition, a well maintained roof and a tidy front garden and driveway/path.

7. Hire a conveyancing solicitor

  • You need to choose a conveyancing solicitor to handle the legal work involved in selling a property. A local solicitor will know your area better so its worth getting some quotes to compare
  • To ensure the sale progresses, you should decide which firm you want to use before you agree to the sale of your house – but you can obviously only instruct them after you have agreed an offer

8. Fill out the relevant questionnaires

  • You will have a variety of forms and questionnaires to fill out, to give the buyer all the information about the property, and about the sale.

9. Accept an offer

  • You’ve received an offer – hooray! The estate agent is legally required to pass all offers on to you
  • If you are not happy with the offer, you can either reject it outright, wait to see if a better offer comes along or tell the estate agent to try to negotiate it upwards
  • Once you are happy with an offer, you need to formally accept it.
  • Remember that accepting an offer is not legally binding, and you can legally change your mind or accept a higher offer later (gazumping) – but remember, this can be pretty distressing to the buyer

10. Negotiate the draft contract

You and the buyer will have to decide:

  • The length of time between exchange and completion (usually 7-28 days after the exchange of contracts)
  • What fixtures and fittings will be included – and how much will they pay for them
  • Any discounts due to problems flagged up by the survey

11. Exchange contracts

  • When you exchange contracts with the buyer you become legally committed to selling the property – and they are legally committed to buying it from you
  • If you pull out after this without due reason, the buyer’s deposit will be returned to them and you may be sued
  • If you sell a house you are responsible for looking after it until the sale is completed so you should make sure you have buildings and contents insurance cover until then.

12. Move out

  • You can move out whenever you like, including on the day of completion (although clearly, you need somewhere to move to)
  • It is less stressful to move out beforehand, if that is possible
  • At the time of completion, the property has to be in the condition agreed in the contract – including all the fixtures and fittings
  • The buyer and estate agent may come round between your moving out and completion to ensure that everything is in place

13. Complete the sale

  • Completion is when the property changes ownership, you accept payment, and hand over the keys
  • A little like a duel, it takes place on a previously agreed date and usually around midday
  • On the day of completion, the money is transferred and any deeds for the property are transferred between each side’s solicitor or conveyancer
  • Your solicitor/conveyancer will register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry

14. Pay off the mortgage

  • The mortgage company will have given you and your conveyancing solicitor a precise redemption figure (outstanding amount) for your mortgage for the day of completion
  • Now the buyer has transferred the money to your conveyancing solicitor, they will pay off the mortgage for you

15. Settle up with the conveyancing solicitor and estate agent

  • After completion, your conveyancing solicitor will send you an account, covering all their costs and disbursements, as well as the sale price of the house and redemption of the mortgage
  • If you are buying and selling at the same time, the conveyancing solicitor can settle up for both transactions at the same time, including paying stamp duty for the house you are buying
  • Your conveyancing solicitor will ensure that the change of ownership is registered with the Land Registry
  • There is sometimes a small discrepancy and you might even get a small refund
  • You will need to keep documents, guarantees etc for anything that is being left at your property for the new owners.