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 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.

  • Get an EPC – An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) is required for all properties being sold to show its energy efficiency. As an EPC makes recommendations for improving energy efficiency, this gives you the opportunity to implement the changes and may improve your chances of selling for a good price.

  • 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. Now is also a good time to go through your belongings and dispose of those you don’t want to move with. A clutter-free setting will help display your home at its best.

  • 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

Selling a home can be a lengthy process, sometimes taking up to several months, so it is important to find a good, experienced estate agent to help ensure the efficiency of your house sale.

  • 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, as they are the ones trying to get the best deal for your property. Ask for recommendations from family and friends, and ask some searching questions when talking to an agent. Don’t forget to compare both online and high street estate agents.

  • Types of agency – There are three main types of estate agency contracts: sole agency, joint agency, and multiple agency. Which one is more appropriate for you will be influenced by your requirements, so it’s best to research the differences. The fees charged will depend on the contract you select.

  • Check the contract –Take a look through the terms and conditions to find out what the estate agent’s fees are and what is included in the charge before you sign the contract. Most estate agencies charge a standard rate, but it is always worth seeing if you can negotiate on the fees.

  • 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 agree a maximum selling time and know how much notice they require, as being bound into an unsuccessful selling partnership can be frustrating and expensive.

Bear in mind to not just be influenced by the cost of the estate agents; it is important to choose an agent that you trust, as you will be working with them for a number of weeks and they are a pivotal aspect of selling a home.

Marketing your property

  • Valuations – Get your property valued by a number of estate agents to get a better indication of what price your house should be marketed at. Keep in mind that the highest figure may not be the best to go with, as it may reduce the amount of people wanting to view your property – remember to choose a realistic price.

  • Promoting your house – How do the agents market their properties? Do they use quality colour photographs and regional newspapers? Confirm your agent advertises on the internet, as online property portals are extremely popular for house hunters. You should also inform your estate agent of how quickly you wish to sell, as this will affect how your property is marketed.

  • 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 to your wishes.

  • Displaying your home – Presenting your home in an inviting way will help you to secure a buyer. Before any viewings, make sure your house is clean, tidy and well lit. It doesn’t take long for a home buyer to rule out a property, so good kerb appeal is crucial, too. You will soon develop a routine way of showing your house at its best.

Negotiating an offer

  • Estate agents – When an offer has been made on your property, your estate agent will pass it on to you. If price negotiations are on-going, they will be able to help you with the negotiation process and act as an intermediary to give you an opportunity to consider the offers.

  • 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. 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. Remember you have no legal obligation to sell until you sign the contract.

  • Understand your buyer – 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, arranging a mortgage, and if they have offers in on any other properties.

  • Instruct a solicitor – Once you have accepted an offer on your property, you will be able to instruct your solicitor. Ensure that you have agreed on the solicitors’ fee and check what they will include. Your solicitor will liaise with your estate agent and the buyer’s solicitor.

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Exchanging contracts

Once the contracts have been agreed, your conveyancing solicitor will ask you to sign it, and contracts will be exchanged. It is at this time when the completion date will be agreed.

  • 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 – Leaving a property in a dirty or disorganised state can cause considerable bad feeling. 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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