How to sell your house

Moving house can be expensive, time consuming and stressful. And selling one house to buy another only adds to the pressure. Before you decide to sell your property, make sure it's the right thing for you to do and that you can afford to do it.

Properties are not selling at the same speed or premium as they once were. It's currently a buyer's market. If you're upsizing, this could work in your favour because you could get more for your money. If you're downsizing, you may stand to lose a lot.

But you could still sell your property, make a profit and find the next house of your dreams.

Ask yourself if it's worth moving at all

You may have to pay extra on your mortgage to move

Most mortgages these days are portable. This means you can take your mortgage with you when you move house.

But if you're 2 years into a 5 year fixed rate mortgage, for example, you might have to pay extra fees to move. The same goes if you need to borrow more on your current mortgage to afford a larger property.

Borrowing more money may mean you no longer get the same rate because the loan to value (LTV) will have changed.

Check the terms and conditions of your mortgage or speak to your lender if you're unsure.

You may not always have a choice to sell your property. For example, if you're relocating. Your mortgage lender will not care why you're moving though, only how it affects the deal you have.

Work out how much it will cost you on your mortgage to move. Look at how you could save that money elsewhere, like lowering your budget for your next property.

There are other costs to consider too

When you sell your property, you need to consider extra costs, including:

  • Estate agent fees
  • Conveyancing fees
  • Removal costs
  • Mortgage fees
  • Final bills
  • Stamp duty (only if you are buying another property)

Stamp duty will most likely be the biggest extra cost. To get an idea of how much this will be, you need to know roughly how much your next property will cost. You do not have to pay stamp duty on the house you're selling.

The other fees vary depending on your provider, conveyancer and estate agent.

Improve your property to help you sell it

You can improve your chances of selling your property without having to spend a lot of money.

Before you make any cosmetic changes, fix structural damage first. It'll cost you either way because prospective buyers will often ask you to deduct the cost of structural repairs from the agreed price.

The better shape your house is in, the easier (and quicker) it will sell.

For the outside of the property:

  • Tidy the garden, if you have one
  • Clear the driveway (and clean your car if it will be there during viewings)
  • Sand and repaint wooden window frames or doors
  • Fix loose guttering or broken exterior pipes

For the inside of the property:

  • Declutter and organise
  • Make sure each room shows its no home office/spare clothes/drying laundry in the dining room
  • Deep clean, including carpets
  • Paint rooms in neutral colours

Your house can look lived in, but you want prospective buyers to be able to see themselves living there, not you.

You do not have to make major changes to your property to sell it. But you could always get planning permission anyway as it may help you sell.

Improve your property so you do not have to move

If you do not have to move and you've decided it's too expensive anyway, you could always stay put.

Maximise the space you have by getting rid of any unwanted clutter. Can you remodel the existing pace? Or do you need to extend to accommodate your growing family?

Explore our full guide on how to boost the value of your property. []

Market your property properly

To ease the selling process, you need to market your property in the best way possible.

Get a proper property valuation

According to Zoopla, the gap between the asking and selling prices is 3.9%. Use online property portals to see how much similar properties sold for in your area.

Do this before you get estate agents to value your home. That way, you know how accurate their estimates are. Invite at least 3 agents so you can calculate an average that you're comfortable with.

It's tempting to go for the highest valuation, but it may mean your house stays on the market for longer. It's equally damaging to price your property too low, unless you need a really quick sale - usually 10% below market value.

There are a few ways to sell your property. The main ones are:

  1. With a high street estate agent
  2. With an online estate agent
  3. Privately

Regardless of how you market your property, you need really good pictures to show it looking its best. See above for tips on how to improve your property to sell it.

When deciding on an asking price, think logically, not emotionally. Price it too high, and you'll get very few offers, if any. Price it too low and you may be able to sell it quickly, but you'll make less of a profit. This then directly impacts how much you can spend on your next property.

1. High street estate agents

High street agents are the most expensive option. They calculate their fee as a percentage of the sale price.

High street agents usually have the most comprehensive service, although online agents are starting to do more.

The level of service can largely depend on the individual agent you're assigned. That's why it's important to shop around and make sure you're happy with your choice.

High street agents usually:

  • Offer 'free' property valuations
  • Show prospective buyers round the property (hosted viewings)
  • Manage the sale from start to finish
  • Have local knowledge of the area
  • Negotiate the price with the buyer
  • Handle paperwork
  • Advertise properties online and in their high street branch

The downsides of using a high street agent are:

  • The high cost
  • They can be pushy to make a quick sale!
  • Sometimes hard to get hold of, which can cause delays

2. Online estate agents

Online estate agents are becoming more popular. They often charge a set fee upfront, which means you'll have to pay it even if you do not manage to sell.

Some of the good things about online estate agents are:

  • They cost less than high street agents
  • They advertise properties online
  • Some have dedicated account managers for your sale
  • Some online agents let you track the status of your sale via an online portal or app

The disadvantages of online agents include:

  • You may not get a dedicated account manager for your sale
  • The agent may lack local knowledge
  • You have to pay the fee even if your property has not sold
  • Hosted viewings and For Sale signs may cost extra
  • You could have to conduct the price negotiations yourself

You may have to take on more responsibility with an online estate agent, like hosting the viewings yourself. But some online agents offer almost all the same services as the high street for an extra cost.

3. Private sales

Selling your property privately means you avoid estate agent fees altogether.

But individuals cannot post their property ads on online property portals like Zoopla. This will affect how much prospective buyers will see your property.

Private sales are good if you already have a specific buyer lined up. And you'll need to be comfortable handling price negotiations yourself. When selling privately, it helps to have a good relationship with the buyer.

Even though you do not have an estate agent, you'll still need to hire a conveyancer to handle the paperwork.

Hire a solicitor or conveyancer

You need a conveyancer or solicitor to handle all the legal paperwork.

The buyer's conveyancer will conduct the searches on your property. They'll also register the property with the Land Registry under the new buyer's name and arrange stamp duty payment on completion.

Their conveyancer will liaise with yours to get the sale agreed and finalised.

You can use the same conveyancer to handle your house sale and the purchase of your next property.

Accept a good offer on your property

How do you know what's a good offer and what isn't? Your estate agent should be able to tell you, but you should have a minimum amount in mind. Your estate agent will tell you if it's realistic.

Keep an eye on how much other similar properties have sold for in your area so you know what's going on in the market. Things might have changed from when you first put it up for sale.

Try not to take low offers too personally, and be realistic about what you can get right now. Brexit has created uncertainty and the property market has all but ground to a halt. The market is currently in the buyer's favour, not yours.

Any offers should come via your estate agent, unless you're selling privately. They must relay every offer to you, even if they know you'll reject it.

When you receive an offer you're happy with, tell your estate agent. They'll tell the buyer whose offer you've accepted. Be prepared for the buyer to ask for you to take the property off the market. They'll want to protect themselves against gazumping.

Gazumping is where you've agreed a price with a buyer, but a new buyer offers you a higher amount. If you then go with the higher price, the new buyer will have 'gazumped' the original buyer.

Gazumping is not illegal, but it's not encouraged. You may make more profit, but it could slow down the whole process, impacting how soon you buy your next property.

Once you've accepted an offer, you can start looking for your next property. Most sellers will not consider you as a serious buyer without one.

Exchange contracts with the buyer

The house sale is not legal until you and the buyer exchange contracts.

The buyer will need to be happy with the searches and survey outcomes to go ahead with the sale. If the survey reveals problems but the buyer's still interested, you may have to deduct the cost of repairs from the agreed price. This is common practice and helps you push the sale through.

You exchange contracts via your conveyancers. As soon as you sign the contract, you are legally bound to go ahead with the sale. You cannot back out now, even if someone comes along with a better offer. If you do back out, you'll have to pay huge fees that may cancel out the higher offer anyway.

Move out of your house and complete

As you're selling your property, you'll have done the whole moving thing before. The biggest issue this time around is that you'll need to time it right with the move into your next house.

You'll know ahead of time when this will be because the completion date is laid out in the contracts.

Of course, there could be delays. If this happens, you may end up having to put some of your possessions into a storage facility.

Unless you've decided to DIY the whole thing, you'll need a removal company to help you move. They'll likely have a few options available:

  • Transporting pre-packed boxes from one place to another
  • Packing the boxes up for you and transporting them
  • Supplying the packing materials, packing the boxes and transporting them

Moving house is so expensive, you may want to do as much as you can yourself. But the cheapest option could cost you more in time. It depends on what your priorities are.

If you've not moved out by the time you complete, you'll essentially be squatting in the new owner's house! They get the keys when you complete, so you cannot be there when they cross the threshold for the first time.

When you move out of a property, be sure to tie up all loose ends. These include:

  • Paying final bills
  • Redirecting your post and providing the new owners with a forwarding address
  • Handing over all keys to the estate agent

And that's it. Congratulations on selling your home!

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Last updated: 2 October, 2019