A step by step guide to selling your house
Once you have decided to sell your property, there are several steps to navigate. To help with that, here is a step by step guide of the process of selling a house.
Know how much your home is worth.
Before you sell your house, you should get a rough idea of how much it is worth. This is especially important if the proceeds are going to buy another property or if there is still an outstanding mortgage. Try an online valuation tool and also have a look online at similar homes in the local area that have recently sold.
If you’re not sure on the status of your mortgage, speak to your lender and they will provide a statement of any outstanding amounts. Be sure to check if you’ll have to pay any early repayment charges for switching your mortgage or whether it is possible to take it with you to a new property (a process known as ‘porting’)
Remember to include the costs of selling in your calculation, such as estate agent fees, conveyance, Energy Performance certificate (EPC) and removals.
Prepare your home
Presenting or ‘staging’ your home well can often result in a faster sale and may also make it more valuable too.
Ensure your home is ready and looks its best for any viewings. Keep your home as tidy as possible and clear away clutter so as to maximise space. If you have the time, complete those minor repairs and some simple decorating in neutral shades can go a long way to attract buyers.
Decide if you want to use an estate agent
With the help of estate agents (local or online), your property can be brought on to the market and shown to buyers. Nonetheless, you may choose to market the property yourself so as to avoid agent’s fees, which vary widely from around 1.2% to 3.5% of the final selling price (inc VAT). Be sure to compare what the fee includes as lower agent fees may mean you having to do more of the work, such as viewings.
If you choose to use an agent, don’t just go for the one that offers the highest valuation; instead consider which one you got on with best, what you have heard from other people, and which one you have seen the most ‘Sold’ signs for. To help your decision, we recommend using an online service that can compare local estate agents based on how quickly they sell, how close they come to achieving asking price and how successful they are. It is okay to try to negotiate a lower agency fee.
Get an Energy Performance Certificate
An energy performance certificate (EPC) is a standardised document which provides information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, as well as recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money.
Before you put your home on the market, you are required to have at least applied for an Energy Performance Certificate or risk getting fined.
To get an EPC, you’ll need to find an accredited surveyor to assess your property and produce the certificate.
Find a conveyancing solicitor
It is advisable to hire a solicitor or licensed conveyancer to help you handle all the legal parts of the sale. They will, for instance, release details of the deeds to your buyer’s solicitors as well as create a contract of sale.
At this point you don’t need to hire (also known as instruct) the solicitor, but in order to keep things moving, it is a good idea to have found one ready to instruct once you’ve accepted an offer.
Your estate agent will most likely recommend the services of a conveyancer, which is worth considering, but ensure you compare it with others as their service may include a large referral fee which would increase the cost to you.
Get your paperwork ready
It can take hours, days or months to receive an offer you are happy with and it’s worth preparing some of the documentation you may be asked for as this will help keep the sale moving quickly.
For example, if you or previous owners have had building work completed, such as conversions, extensions and other structural changes check that the appropriate permissions have been granted, as potential buyers will not want to inherit any issues. Your local authority can help with determining if appropriate planning permission and building regulations are in place.
Other documents that are worth sourcing include boiler installation & service records, recent utility bills and guarantees to improvements, such as double glazing.
If you haven’t got the right documents, you may find you have to pay for them retrospectively before agreeing a sale.
Accepting an offer to buy your home
You’ve received an offer – congratulations! Your estate agent is legally required to inform you of the offer, irrespective of whether you will likely accept it or not. Also, your agent should be able to advise you whether an offer is good or not.
You do not have to accept the offer and have the option to reject it outright, wait for a better offer or negotiate it upwards.
There are many factors to accepting an offer and you should choose the buyer that is right for you, taking into account considerations such the amount offered, if they are in a chain or if they are a cash buyer.
Accepting an offer is not legally binding, and you can legally change your mind or accept someone else’s higher offer later (gazumping) but remember, this can be pretty distressing to the buyer
Once you are happy with an offer, you need to formally accept it. You are also now ready to instruct a conveyancing solicitor.
Negotiate the contract
Your solicitor and the buyer’s solicitor will now work to draft a contract for the sale. In order to do this, your solicitor will reach out to you to complete a variety of forms and questionnaires to give the buyer all the information about the property, such as agreed sale price, property boundaries, services to the property (water and gas) and which fixtures & fittings will remain in the property – and how much the buyer will pay for them.
If your buyer requires a mortgage, that provider will carry out a valuation survey. Further, the buyer may also decide to complete a survey on the condition of the property. If issues are found in the survey, it may be necessary to either reduce the sale price or have these fixed as a condition of sale.
Exchanging contracts is the last stage of the legal process. It happens once both sides are happy with the contract, have signed final copies and sent them to each other.
In England and Wales, once you exchange contracts with the buyer you become legally committed to selling the property. Equally, the buyer is legally committed to buying it from you. If either party were to pull out now, there are likely to incur financial penalties.
You do still have a responsibility to look after the property until the sale is completed, so you should make sure you have buildings and contents insurance cover until then.
At this stage, you become fully legally committed to the sale. You have to sign the contract and your solicitor will handle the rest. The buyer is expected to pay a deposit, which is around 10% of the sale price, to your solicitor.
Organise your move
The contract completion date is also the official moving day but you can, of course, move any time before this. It is often advisable to start your move as soon as possible to avoid stress or delays on completion day.
Moving day can be pretty busy especially if you are in a chain of moves, have children, pets or moving all household items yourself. To help relieve stress and keep the move on track, we recommend creating a plan and budget.
If you decide to use a removal company, be sure to shop around for quotes and carefully compare what services are included in the price. Several factors can affect the price such as distance between properties, the size of van(s) you need, which day you move, which time of year you move and whether the firm does the packing.
Your solicitor will contact you to confirm completion and then you can 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.
It’s polite to leave the property clean and in good order, and be sure to redirect 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
There is a little paperwork left to pay off any mortgage, transfer any funds to a new mortgage, pay the estate agent and pay the conveyance solicitor. Often your solicitor will agree amounts with you and then make all those transfer for you, including transferring any proceeds into your bank account.