How to sell your house

Before you Sell

You will know your motivations for selling, and they’ll have an impact on how you move forward. If, for example, you’re moving away for a job, getting divorced, or are selling a parent’s property for them, you may find you are willing to accept a lower price to get a quick sale.

If you aren’t on a particular deadline, (perhaps you are just looking to upsize, or move to a different area) then you can be more relaxed in the selling process and wait until an offer you are excited about comes along.


How to prepare to sell your house

When you first decide to sell, it’s worth surveying your home yourself. Walk around and notice anything that would put you off if you were a potential buyer. Fix the things you never got around to fixing, like that wonky door that needs a tighter hinge, or the weeds escaping through the paving.

Give your home a bit of love and declutter it. Now is a great time to have a clear out, because it will make your home look bigger, but also save you from having to pay to transport a lot of stuff you don’t want at your new house.

Make the most of your space – if you have a spare bedroom but it’s being used as a junk room, take the time to clear it out before you put your home on the market!

How to increase the value of the house

If you are thinking more long term, you may want to make changes to the property to increase its value before you put it on the market. These could be smaller fixes, like installing more storage space, or creating a drive from part of your front garden, or bigger projects like installing an extra bathroom or converting the loft. Adding more space or rooms will always increase value, but sometimes simply modernising a bathroom or kitchen can add value. For the price of new tiles and a heated towel rack, your property can seem more appealing.

Always take into account the cost of labour and fixings if you are doing any work, and make sure that this is reflected in the price. You can always have a look at what other properties in your area are being sold for, and what elements they have that make them more appealing.

How to stage the house


Staging a home is about preparing it for viewings and making it a little less personal. Obviously, you’re going to still be living in the property during this time, but you want it to be neutral.

This means any vibrant or garish patterns, wall paper or paint should be removed or covered – you don’t want potential buyers to be so focused on the lime green walls that they forget to notice all the other elements of the house. Painting the walls a neutral colour and clearing away too much clutter makes your home seem more spacious and gives the buyers the chance to visualise themselves in the property. They can see the potential much more easily when they’re not distracted by elements of décor.

Staging just means to neutralise and organise your property to present it well. It’s still your home, and you’ll still be living in it, but making sure it’s clean, tidy and clear will make a huge difference.
 
 

The selling process

Listing your property

When the time comes to put your property on the market, you’ll want to consider whether you want to use an online or high street estate agent. The packages and fees are quite different for each, and you’ll have to consider how much work you are available to do yourself in selling the property.

For the most part, traditional high street agents take a percentage of the sale price as a fee (an average of 1% plus VAT, but do ask the agent and negotiate if you aren’t happy) whereas online agents will put the property on a portal, and arrange viewings, but you would have to be there to let potential buyers into your home and show them around.

Some people don’t feel safe doing this, or comfortable verbally selling their property to viewers. Online agents usually have a standard fee that is much smaller, but that’s because you do more of the work.
High street agents might also have wider access to potential buyers, as they may be helping existing clients who are looking to buy.

The decision is up to you, and down to the time you have and your budget. Always be sure to discuss estate agent fees, when they need to be paid and what happens if you take your property off the market without selling it.

How to price your property correctly

It’s important to always remember that a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
You’ll get a variety of input when it comes to valuing your property, and you need to consider the motivations of each person giving you an opinion.

For example, you’ll know how much you paid for your property, and how long ago that was. Most people assume that their property will have increased in value just because time has passed. However, that isn’t always the case, and not always at the rate you might expect.

To get a clearer view, look at similar houses in your street, with similar features, and look up their historic data on a property portal – this will show how much they bought their property for, and what it was sold for in different years. You may find a similar house on your road was sold last year at a certain price, and so you can take that into consideration.

Remember that an estate agent wants your business – if they tell you that the property can be sold for a lot more, you might be more likely to go with them. That doesn’t mean that they can deliver on that price. By putting your property up at a higher amount, it will sit on the site for longer, not get as many views, and then you’ll be forced to reduce it.

Instead of wasting time, price it appropriately from the beginning, know what the minimum you’d be willing to accept is, and go from there.

Bear in mind as well that if your buyer is getting a mortgage, they will have a valuation on your property too. If the mortgage valuation shows your property as being worth much less than the buyers have agreed to purchase it for, they won’t get the loan for it. So whilst it’s tempting to get as much as you can for your property, being sure that it’s realistic will save you time and money down the line.

Selling with a mortgage

Selling with a mortgage on your property should not be an issue, as you are essentially having that mortgage paid off by the sale of the property, and then using whatever is left to buy a new home. Knowing how much you’ve already paid off your mortgage is helpful, as by adding that to what you’ll receive from the buyers, you will know how much you have to work with when looking for a new property.

If you are selling the property for less than you expected, and you haven’t paid off much of your mortgage, you may not be left with much for a deposit on a new home. Be sure to do your research first, and figure out how much you need to make.

If you are taking your time in going to market, you could also start trying to overpay your mortgage as much as possible, to help take the strain off.

Preparing for viewings

Ideally, a property that goes up at the right time, has attractive photographs, a good description and clear advantages should get a good amount of interest, especially if it’s priced well.

This is probably better for you – to have a flurry of viewings over a few weeks, rather than a few people at awkward times over months.

When preparing for viewings, it goes without saying that the property should be as clean and tidy as possible (another reason to try and get all the viewings in one or two weekends). Things like a sink full of washing up, a bin that needs emptying or strong food smells can really put buyers off.

It’s also worth thinking about whether or not you want to be in your home when viewers arrive. If you’re using an online estate agent, it may be necessary, but if you don’t have to be there, it may be worth arranging them for when you’re not home. Most viewers feel more comfortable in examining and voicing their opinions without the seller there. They may have questions about making changes, or be eager to knock down walls or extend, which can sometimes upset sellers, who see it as a criticism.

Whilst it’s easy to think that you’re the person who knows your home best, it can be better to let an estate agent or intermediary be a neutral figure. If the sale goes ahead, there will be time for you to answer any questions or offer information. You could also type up or send over any relevant information to the estate agent ahead of time.
 

Accepting an offer

Why the buyer matters

As much as the buyer chooses your home, you choose the buyer. You may even be in the excellent situation of having to choose between multiple offers. It can be tempting to simply go for the highest offer, but having a look at who the buyer is can have an impact on how smooth the process is.

For example, choosing a first time buyer over someone in a chain means that you’re more likely to have the sale go through quickly. Again, with a cash buyer, you cut down on the chain or the need for a mortgage valuation and process.

Your buyer can simplify or complicate your sale, so it’s worth considering what their motivations are, what time of life they are in and why they want your home. Getting to know your buyer a little can help you make the right choice for you.

Negotiating with the buyer

As much as selling a property is a monetary transaction, it’s also your home. It can be hard if an offer is made below what you value it as. It’s important to remember it’s not personal for the buyer – they are trying to get the best deal they can, based on the market and what they can afford.

If the offer is too low, then confirm what the minimum you’re going to accept is. Remember that negotiation is a game of higher or lower – most buyers will expect to go back and forth until a happy medium is reached.
Bear in mind that if you do have a quick turnaround or deadline for sale, you may have to accept less than you’d like.

What’s included?

When the time comes you’ll need to fill out a fixtures and fittings form, also known as a TA10. Here you will outline what you are including in the purchase. If you intend to include white goods, light fittings, a shed or summerhouse, or anything else, here is where you list it. If you don’t mind either way, you can ask your conveyancing solicitor to negotiate over a price for extra items you can leave behind.

If you are moving into a property with an integrated fridge and washing machine, it may be in your interest to include this in the sale, rather than having to disconnect it and then sell it or transport it.

Bear in mind that the T10 is a legal document – if you have listed the carpets but decide to rip those up and take them with you the week before you move, you would be expected to pay to replace them. The buyer will be expecting each item on the T10 to be present upon arrival.
 

When should I start looking for a new home?

Co-ordinating a property purchase and sale at the same time can be stressful. You are trying to time everything appropriately so no one is left waiting. This is where choosing a buyer with a short chain, or no chain at all can have an impact. Similarly, when you’re looking to buy your new property, take the chain into account.

Whilst you’re having viewings, start looking at properties yourself. Whilst the price of sale may affect what home you can afford to buy, having something ready may increase your appeal to buyers, who know you are ready to move and won’t be waiting around for months looking for your perfect home.
 

Costs and fees

How much are conveyancing fees when selling a house?

Your conveyancing costs as a seller are usually lower than those you face as a buyer. Your solicitor will cover interactions with the buyer’s solicitor, deal with the contracts and paperwork. Compared to a buyer’s solicitor, who will need to arrange searches on the property amongst other tasks.

If you want to know how much you would pay for conveyancing to sell your property, you can get a quote on our site, but if you’re likely to be buying and selling, you can get a combined quote. After all, it makes sense to work with one solicitor or licensed conveyancer who knows your details already and can streamline the process as much as possible.

However, you are not obligated to use the same conveyancing solicitor for your sale and purchase.
 

How long will the process take?

The length of time it takes to sell your home can depend on various elements, including the market. When properties aren’t selling quickly, either due to periods of uncertainty, high mortgage interest rates, high supply or low demand, you might find it will take longer to sell your property.

Similarly, even if you find a buyer immediately who is happy to pay the price you want, if they are stuck in a chain it may take longer than you would hope.

Usually the quickest transaction takes about 8 weeks, as surveys, searches and other paperwork requires time.
Also be aware that the time of year and any holidays may have an impact on conveyancing processes. Often conveyancing solicitors don’t pass on the cases to other locum solicitors, in order to ensure consistency in the process and avoid mistakes. This can mean nothing happens with your sale if your solicitor goes on holiday. If you are on a deadline, be sure to ask your conveyancing solicitor in advance about whether they are away for a long period of time.
 

Moving out

If there’s an issue on the survey

It may be that your potential buyer has discovered an issue in the survey they get on your property. This may lead them to want to renegotiate on the agreed price, which they are within their rights to do (in England and Wales – for Scotland have a look below). If your boiler will need replacing, the roof will need fixing, or the buyer will need to pay out to fix damp, they may ask for a reduction in price to allow for those costs to be covered. These costs will be approximated by a surveyor when they do a Building Survey.

Whether the buyer gets a HomeBuyer Report or Building Survey, the issues highlighted by the surveyor can be really useful to you. It may be that the buyer doesn’t require a discount, but asks that you undertake certain repairs before the property changes hands.

In some cases, the buyer may pull out of the sale based on what they discover in the survey. If they are happy to share the issues with you, you may be able to fix things in order not to go through the same issue with another buyer. It may be worth investing in a survey on your own home to find out what problems may put a buyer off.
 

Dealing with gazundering

Whilst you might be aware of ‘gazumping’ – where the seller agrees to sell to a buyer, but at the last minute accepts a higher offer – you may not have heard of ‘gazundering’. This is where the buyer at the last minute requests a reduction in price, often forcing the seller to agree to a lower amount, or risk starting the process all over again in searching for a new buyer.

Chances of gazundering are less likely if you have a good relationship with the seller, the sale goes through as expected with no surprise issues with the property, and it doesn’t take too long. The longer a sale is drawn out, the more chances there are for a buyer to think they could get a better deal.

Most of the time, sellers and buyers treat each other with respect and (apart from appropriate renegotiations due to survey results) won’t gazunder or gazump. If both seller and buyer feel they are getting a good deal, having met in the middle of their expectations, then last minute changes are less likely.

However, in England and Wales, nothing is legally binding until the point of exchange, just before completion. These tactics can be upsetting, but they are not illegal. Your buyer has no obligation to stick to the offer you agreed to until you exchange contracts.
 

Exchange and completion

People can quite easily get confused between exchanging and completion. Exchange is the literal exchange of contracts, when you sign the documents and confirm the sale of the property. When this happens your solicitors will change over the deeds and work on legally ensuring the property changes into the buyer’s name.

Completion is when the buyer collects the keys and you’ve moved out so they can move in. Some people try to arrange on exchanging and completing on the same day, but most conveyancing solicitors recommend leaving a few days in between so everything goes through.

When the exchange happens, you’ll receive payment for your property, and then you can focus on either using that money to complete your own purchase transaction, or whatever you want to do with it.
 

Moving out

You will have confirmed a moving out date with your conveyancing solicitors, and will leave the keys with the estate agent, or perhaps arrange to hand them over directly to the buyer.

Be sure to collect up all keys to the property, as well as other keys to sheds, windows and doors so that the new owner can get access to everything they need. Be sure to leave everything in accordance with your TA10 form.
It’s polite to leave the property clean and in good order, and be sure to forward your post to your new home, so that you don’t miss out on any bills or important letters in the run up to your move.

Try to make sure you are ready to leave at the appropriate time – holding up the time that your buyer can move into the property can cost both of you a lot of money in removals fees, so ensure you get a removals valuation to avoid underestimating the amount of stuff you have to move.
 

Issues

What happens if I no longer want to sell?

If you are buying in England or Wales you are within your rights to pull out of the sale at any point before you exchange. If you change your mind it is best to let the buyer know as soon as possible so that you both minimise the costs when it comes to conveyancing, surveys and other services.
 

What happens if the buyer drops out?

In the same way, the buyer can drop out at any point before exchange, as you have not entered a contract. For both of you, there may be some payments required if you have started the process of conveyancing, so be sure you check how much you’ll need to pay if someone backs out.
 
 

Selling in Scotland

The property process in Scotland is different, and you can learn about it in our article on conveyancing in Scotland.

If you’re selling in Scotland, the most important difference is that you are legally obligated to proceed with the sale much earlier on in the process. This limits the chances of gazundering or gazumping, but does mean you have to be certain about selling your property.

You are also responsible as the seller for getting a Home Report that is up to date and available for the potential buyer to view in advance.

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