Guide to selling your house

Read on for detailed advice for homeowners looking to sell their property in England and Wales

Guide to selling your house

Please note that the advice listed below describes the situation in England and Wales. The legal procedure differs in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Preparing to sell your home

  • Before you sell – Take time into considering why you want to move. Sit down with a calendar and work out the structure of the period before you move. Clear planning at this stage will avoid confusion later on.
  • Conditioning your home – You need to get the house in the best condition you can given the constraints of time and money. Any small DIY tasks that can be done without too much fuss should be first on your list. The idea is to create a sense of the house having the potential to become someone else’s home.
  • Who will sell for you? – It is possible to sell your own home, but it has to be said that most people prefer a professional to do it for them. You can get quotes from conveyancing solicitors to complete the legal process of selling your property through 

Choosing an estate agent

  • Searching for agents – Finding the right person to do the selling for you is fraught with risk. It is vital at this point to look at a variety of agents. Ask for recommendations from family and friends and ask some searching questions when talking to an agent.
  • Commission – Ensure you have a ‘no sale no fee’ agreement with your chosen estate agent. A rate of between 1-2% commissions of the value of the house is common. Some agents now offer a no fee promise, but make sure you check against such guarantees.
  • Notice period – Ensure you can move to another agent if you are not happy with your existing agent’s work. Make sure you know how much notice they require, as being bound into an unsuccessful selling partnership can be frustrating and expensive.
  • Marketing your property – How do the agents market their properties? Do they use quality colour photographs and regional newspapers? Internet commerce is growing by the month – does your agent advertise on the net?
  • Viewings – Viewings are worth clarifying at an early stage with your estate agent. You may wish the agents to show prospective buyers around the property when you aren’t there. Alternatively, you may prefer to be present when strangers are shown around. Make sure the agents are happy to conform with your wishes.

Negotiating an offer

  • Marketing your home – Purchasers are looking for a good deal in the same way you are, and may wish to shop around considerably. You will soon develop a routine way of showing your house at its best. Seriously interested buyers will visit again and again to help them make up their minds. You should talk to them and find out their position with regards to selling their own property or arranging a mortgage.
  • Considering an offer – Hard negotiation will surround the making and accepting of an offer. Whilst ‘haggling’ is frustrating it is part of the process of getting the price you need for your property. Try to find out if the buyer has offers in on any other properties. It is quite acceptable for you to say you will accept an offer less than your asking price until a better offer comes along. As long as you are direct with buyers they cannot really object. Finally, remember you have no legal obligation to sell until you do sign the contract.

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Exchanging contracts

  • Legally binding – This marks the point when your sale becomes legally binding. Breaking a contract at this stage would incur a costly court case. If you are buying a property of your own, ensure there is no expensive and awkward gap between your sale and your purchase
  • Utilities – You may wish to check the position of the utilities such as gas, electricity, water and telephone and arrange their transfer to your buyer’s name.


  • Funding – Completion day should mean that the funds have been transferred between solicitors, and the buyers can collect the keys from the agents.
  • Cleaning your old house – Much bad feeling can be caused by leaving a property in a dirty or disorganised state. A simple exercise in empathy should make you want to leave the house in a condition that won’t cause resentment in its new occupants.
  • Fittings – You and the buyer should be quite clear about what fittings will be left in the house. Removing light bulbs etc. is generally regarded as rather petty and is best avoided. How about leaving a card and some flowers instead?

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