There’s a lot to get your head around. We break it down to help you on your way.
If you’ve decided this is the year to sell your home, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed – especially if you are trying to buy at the same time. The key to success (and keeping stress to a minimum) is to be methodical and organised.
Here we guide you through the steps involved, from getting your finances in order, preparing your home, choosing an estate agent, right through to exchange and completion. That way, you know what to expect further down the line.
Ready to start the journey? Then here we go.
Sort your finances
Once you’ve decided to sell your home, you need to speak to your lender and let them know about your plans.
You should ask how big your outstanding mortgage is, and, if you plan to purchase a new home at the same time, whether you can ‘port it’ (which essentially means you take it with you).
If you can’t port it, you need to watch out for early repayment charges that can often be between 1% and 5% of the remainder of your mortgage, making moving very costly. It’s vital to do your sums to ensure you’re making the right decision.
You will need to do some research on how much your current home might sell for – estate agents can help with this. You can also get sold house prices and current estimated values for any UK property on Zoopla.
With so much to think about in terms of your finances, it may be worth seeking help from an independent mortgage broker who can help you do the maths. This can be particularly helpful if you are both selling and buying.
Decide whether to buy and sell at the same time
As mentioned above, one of the key decisions you need to make is whether to try and sell and buy at the same time. If you do this, you risk ending up in a chain, which can slow things down considerably.
Read more about this at: How to stop a property chain collapsing.
The alternative is to rent for a period while you sell, but before going down this route, you need to weigh up the pros and cons.
Renting will make the sales process easier as you won’t have to contend with the complications of being in a chain, but you will have to fork out for rent which can be very costly – and could add to your overall moving costs.
Prepare your home
Once you’ve made the decision to sell your current flat or house, you need to get it ready first for the estate agents to value it – and then for potential house-hunters to view it.
Your home needs to be spick and span, so be prepared to put in some hard graft.
Getting your home ready for market can be a great time to do a massive de-clutter, and to get rid of things you no longer need or use.
In addition, now is the time to think about giving the place a fresh lick of paint, and fixing those things you’ve been meaning to for ages.
Here are the top 10 improvements to make to your home.
Appoint an agent
When selling your home, your choice of estate agent is important.
It is usually worth getting two or three agents in to value your property – get them to bring paperwork on sold prices in the local area. But remember, you’re not committed to using any of them.
You should quiz all potential agents on how they plan to market your property – make sure they'll show it to the widest possible audience and advertise it on all the property websites, such as Zoopla and PrimeLocation.
Also ask them to provide details about what they’ve sold recently. You need to have an agent who is used to selling your kind of home.
While it’s tempting to go for the estate agent that gives you the highest valuation, you need to make your choice based on sales success and service offered.
Zoopla has a comprehensive directory of estate agents to help you sell your home. Use the AgentFinder tool to help you.
Don’t forget there are also online agents to consider. With one of these agents, you may be able to save money compared to using a traditional high street agent, but you may have to do a lot more of the legwork yourself – such as showing potential buyers around your home. The key is to weigh up the pros and cons.
Here's our property expert Phil Spencer's tips on how to choose the right estate agent.
Decide on a contract with the estate agent
Before signing on the dotted line with any estate agent, make sure you check the terms of the appointment.
A contract with an estate agent is legally binding, so it is important to know exactly what you are getting into – and exactly what you’ll need to pay – before you instruct them.
High street agents typically charge anywhere between 1% and 3% commission – plus VAT – on the sale price.
See if you can negotiate on cost – some agents may be willing to do this.
As a rough guide, you can expect to pay between £100 and £1,700 to an online agent, and between £2,000 and £8,000 for a high street agent – but costs can vary.
Set a realistic price
If you want your property to actually sell, don’t price it too high. The asking price needs to appeal to buyers and make your property stands out.
Equally, beware of asking for too little, as you won’t get the full value.
A lot will depend on how quickly you need to move. Selling fast may be a priority if you’re selling and buying at the same time, and have already found the place you want to buy.
Also bear in mind that buyers will usually try and negotiate a discount, so add around 5% to 10% to what you are prepared to accept.
Market the property
Once you have chosen your estate agent, it’s crucial the photos of your home showcase its best features. The description also needs to be engaging. If you are not happy, don’t be afraid to say this.
Ensure your property is clean and tidy for all viewings. Where possible, keep pets away.
After each viewing has taken place, call up your agent and request feedback. This will help you understand if there are steps you can take to improve your home’s appeal.
Accept an offer
If a potential buyer makes an offer, your estate agent is legally required to pass this on to you – no matter how low or outrageous the offer may seem.
You then have the option to reject any offer outright, or to try and negotiate it upwards.
While you don’t have to sell to the highest bidder, you need to choose the buyer that is right for you.
You may, for example, prefer to sell to a first-time buyer, a cash buyer, or someone who is not in a chain, as this can make the whole process move a lot more quickly.
Once you are happy with an offer, you need to formally accept this.
Instruct a solicitor
Once you have accepted an offer, you will need to appoint a solicitor to handle all the legal work.
Also known as ‘conveyancing,’ this process involves a solicitor drawing up a legal contract to transfer ownership from one person to another.
Find out more at: What does a conveyancer do?
It is worth asking family, friends and colleagues for solicitor recommendations. Also check out reviews and recommendations online. Another option is Zoopla’s partner, MoveIt, which you can use to compare solicitors based on price, service and location.
If you are buying and selling at the same time, it is likely to be a lot cheaper and easier to use the same solicitor for both transactions.
Read more about choosing a solicitor at: How to find a solicitor
Once you have appointed a solicitor, you will need to complete a pile of paperwork about the property and about the sale.
This will cover matters such as the sale price, property boundaries, fixtures and fittings, planning restrictions, services to the property, such as drainage and gas, and when the sale will complete.
You are legally required to reply truthfully.
Expect to pay between £500 and £1,500 for conveyancing – but note there are a number of extra charges on top, such as title deeds, transferring ownership fee, and search fees, so make sure you budget for these.
Keep things moving
Once you’ve got to this stage, momentum is key to push the sale through to exchange and completion, so don’t be afraid of making regular calls – or sending frequent emails – to the estate agent and solicitor.
The quicker things progress, the less chance there is for any party to change their mind and pull out.
In England and Wales, exchange is the last stage of the legal process. It happens once both sides are happy with the contract, and sign final copies and send them to each other.
Once you have exchanged, you are legally committed to selling and the buyer is legally committed to buying from you. Neither side can then pull out without paying compensation.
At exchange, a date of completion will be set. This will usually be two weeks later – giving you time to arrange removals.
Organise the move
Be sure to shop around for quotes for removals firms, and be aware of the factors that can affect the price, such as the size of van (or vans) you need, how far you are moving, which day you move, which time of year you move, whether the firm does the packing or whether you do it yourself, and so on.
Check out Zoopla’s partner AnyVan, where you can get a quick quote based on factors such as your move date, distance, and the size of your current property.
And have a read of their stress-free moving tips.
Completion is when the property changes ownership. As part of this process, money is transferred from the buyer to the seller, and the legal documents needed to transfer ownership are then handed to the buyer.
At this stage, your property has to be in the state agreed in the contract – including the fixtures and fittings.
All is left now is to hand your keys to the buyer. And to crack open the bubbly.