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How to sell your home

Follow our steps for a stress-free sale

The process of selling your home can be incredibly stressful. This guide aims to arm you with tips to help remove unnecessary hassle and expense.


1. Get your home market ready

Spending a bit of time and money on improvements and repairs may be the last thing you feel like doing if you're moving – but even small changes could mean you'll sell your home faster and at a better price.

Before you start, allocate a budget (see point 4, below) to any improvements you need to make and stick to it.

Start by maximising your home's 'kerb appeal' – ensure the lawn is cut, the path is weed-free and doors and window frames are clean.

Inside, remove the clutter and 'depersonalise' your home to help potential purchasers imagine how they could fill the space. Undertake any minor repairs that need doing.

You could consider getting a survey done on your property – so you can either fix any problems, or use it to attract buyers by demonstrating how good the condition of your house is.

Now is also a good time to make sure you have the all necessary documents ready in order to help avoid delays later on. The following may be required either from your own solicitor or your purchaser's:

  • Copies of planning permission, plans and accompanying documents
  • Building regulation approvals and completion certificates
  • FENSA certificates for glazing  Link opens in a new window
  • Appropriate gas safety inspection certificates or the service history of the boiler and other gas appliances/Gas Safe Certificate
  • Part P Certificate  Link opens in a new window for any electrical improvements
  • Any other guarantees, together with contracts, quotations and plans. This is particularly useful for insulation or damp proofing
  • Indemnity insurance policies in place when you bought the property

2. Get a realistic valuation

Take a tour around your neighbourhood and make a note of estate agents selling similar types of property to yours. They will be up-to-date with what buyers are looking for and, crucially, what they are prepared to pay for a home like yours. Property websites such as rightmove.co.uk  Link opens in a new window can help with this too.

It's also worth checking how much similar local properties have sold for recently. Websites such as zoopla.co.uk  Link opens in a new window are ideal for this – all you need to do is type in your postcode.

Ask a selection of local estate agents to value your property. Be sure to ask each of them for two prices – what they would place your home on the market for, and what they think you could realistically achieve. Use the lower figure to calculate your budget.

Check how much similar local properties have sold for recently

3. Choose your estate agent

You can use the valuation process to get a good feel for each estate agent. Ask for information on their experience in selling similar types of property, evidence of their local area knowledge and how they will market your home.

You will also need to be clear on their fees. The national average is 1.3% of the sale price but it can vary from under 1% to around 3.5% depending on whether you instruct one or more estate agents. (If you do the latter, bear in mind that each agent may charge a premium as they have effectively reduced their chances of selling your property).

Calculate your estate agency costs using your estimated sale price and use this figure in your budget.

Once you've decided on an agency you'll sign a contract with them. Make sure you understand the terms fully, as they outline your responsibilities as well as those of the agent.

An alternative to a traditional high street estate agent is an online estate agent, examples of which include purplebricks.com  Link opens in a new window, eMoov.co.uk  Link opens in a new window and Tepilo.com  Link opens in a new window to name a few. Typically these offer lower fees than high street agents but you may miss out on the local knowledge and contacts that high street agents can provide.

It is a legal requirement to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)  Link opens in a new window in place before you market your property. These are intended to give potential buyers a guide to the energy efficiency of a property. Your estate agent will be able to help you source one, or you can use the Government's list of accredited assessors  Link opens in a new window

You should also carry out a full inventory specifying exactly which fixtures and fittings are included in the price and ensure your estate agent has a copy – particularly if they will be conducting viewings on your behalf. Anything from curtains to freestanding cookers and outbuildings could become confused in a sale.

An alternative to a traditional high street estate agent is an online estate agent

4. Create your budget

It's wise to capture the key costs associated with selling your home as you run through each of the steps in the process.


5. Manage viewings

You should discuss with your agent who will conduct viewings. They will know the art of showing a potential purchaser around – but you will be best placed to answer specific questions about the house and to ensure the viewers know about plus points that may not be immediately obvious, such as great views of the sunset.

Some agents hold open days inviting a selection of potential buyers around your home at once. This is a great way to stimulate competition among potential bidders. Make sure you explore all the options with your estate agent.


6. Accept an offer

Once an offer has been made, your estate agent will get in touch. They are legally obliged to let you know about every offer they receive, regardless of whether they think you will accept it. Be prepared to negotiate. However, you don't have to sell to the highest bidder. A lower bidder might be better if they:

  • Are paying cash (so don't have to wait for mortgage approval)
  • Already have a mortgage decision in principle
  • Don't have to sell a property first (they could be first-time buyers or investors) or are in a short chain
  • Can fit in with your timescales better than other buyers

Once you've moved through any negotiations and are happy the offer represents a fair price, you can accept it subject to a satisfactory survey and contract. Make sure you update your budget sheet with the final sale price.

Now is the time to appoint a solicitor or conveyancer to do the legal work required as part of the sale. Ask friends or family for any recommendations.

You can typically expect to pay between £500 and £1,500 in legal fees. Once you've agreed the fees, make sure your budget sheet is updated.

Your estate agent will then write to your purchaser, both sets of solicitors and yourself to confirm the property sale. At this point they will request a draft contract to be prepared between the solicitors.

Note: in Scotland, the legal process is slightly different and buyers are committed at an earlier stage.

Here, the seller usually sets a guide price and interested buyers – who need to have already arranged a mortgage, if they need one – put in bids and suggested completion dates. Once the seller accepts their preferred bid, there is a penalty to be paid if one of the parties changes their minds.

If your house isn't attracting viewings or doesn't sell after a few weeks, ask your agent for feedback and explore options. Enhanced photos, floor plan or description on their website may attract more attention, or if you're in a hurry to sell you may be wise to reduce the asking price.

If a survey revealed a problem that led to a buyer pulling out, consider getting repairs done.

You don't have to sell to the highest bidder – a lower bidder might be better

7. Surveyors and final negotiations

Your estate agent will let you know what type of survey your buyer has commissioned.

  • A basic Condition Report is the cheapest option and will highlight any urgent defects requiring attention.
  • A Homebuyer Report details the condition of the property, offers a market valuation and guidance to legal advisors. It also highlights any defects, offering advice on repairs, ongoing maintenance and their effect on value.
  • A more detailed structural survey, also known as a Building Survey, is essential for larger or older properties, or if major works are planned. This is the most comprehensive and therefore expensive type of report. It gives the buyer an in-depth analysis of the property's condition, including advice on defects, repairs and maintenance options.

The survey is carried out at your purchaser's expense and is used to ensure the agreed price offers them fair value when considering the condition of your home.

If the survey reveals significant work is required, they may ask to renegotiate the agreed sale price. It's important to be realistic – it may be fair to reduce the price, although it could be worth obtaining your own quotes for any required work.

Either party is within its rights to pull out of the sale if an agreement can't be reached, although you may not recover many of your costs should you need to restart the process with a new buyer.


8. Keep in touch

To minimise the risk of delay leading up to exchange, keep communication going with your agent and your buyer.

You could establish a likely completion date that suits both parties. This doesn't need to be set in stone but it will give both you and your buyer a date to work towards.


9. Exchange contracts and prepare to move

Exchange of contracts is the point when all parties become legally committed to the sale. You need to sign the contract and your solicitor will do the rest.

Your buyer should pay a deposit, typically around 10 per cent of the sale price, which will be held by your solicitor. At this point you'll also agree a 'completion date' – the date and time by which you will need to vacate your property.

Finalise how you intend to move your belongings from the property. This can be expensive, so obtain quotes from several companies, or get a quick estimate from the British Association of Removers  Link opens in a new window' website. Remember to update your budget sheet too.

You could ask the removal firm to pack your belongings for you. They will be able to do this quickly – but you'll be charged for it. One way to keep costs down is to avoid moving on busy days such as Fridays or bank holidays, if you can do so, as they cost more.

Don't forget to ensure your belongings are insured in transit – reputable firms will be able to arrange this for you.

It's also a good idea to arrange for your post to be redirected by the Royal Mail  Link opens in a new window – a good precaution against identity theft.


10. Completion

Your solicitor will contact you once the sale has gone through. Take some final meter readings just before you leave. You can then drop the keys around to your estate agent.

If possible, move out and in on separate days so you don't have to squeeze everything into the same day. Leaving a few days before moving in will free up time to get essential work to your new home completed without needing to work around piles of boxes. It's a great time for carpet cleaning, decorating or any DIY projects that might be dusty like sanding woodwork or floorboards, replastering etc.

Make sure you review your budget against actual expenses coming through in the days and weeks following your move. This safeguards against mistakes creeping in and will give you peace of mind.

Congratulations – you've survived selling your home!

YOUR HOME MAY BE REPOSSESSED IF YOU DO NOT KEEP UP REPAYMENTS ON YOUR MORTGAGE.

 

Links to external websites are for information only. Virgin Money receives no income from them and accepts no responsibility for the website content. The information in this article is correct as at 30 April 2016.