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The complete guide to selling a home

You're ready to make the leap to somewhere new. So how do you get started with the whole selling process and how long does it all take?

Words by: Nic Hopkirk

Senior Editor

Ready to take the plunge and put your home on the market? Let's do this.

1. Find out how much your home is worth

The first thing you’ll want to know before putting your home on the market is how much it’s worth.

Over at My Home, we can tell you that in an instant. Our online estimate is based on powerful market data and even shows you your home’s sales history. 

We can also let you know what similar properties in your area have sold for, to give you a good idea of market rates. Because knowledge is king.

But nothing beats having an estate agent come to your home to have a proper look around for an accurate property valuation.

They’ll be able to see all the work you’ve done to your place while you lived there - and calculate how much value it’s added to your property.

They’ll also be able to take in how well looked-after it is, learn about its best features and then highlight them to potential buyers.

Thinking of selling?

Get the ball rolling with an in-person valuation of your home. It’s free and there’s no obligation to sell if you change your mind.

2. Get your home ready for sale

A major declutter and a deep clean will have a powerful impact when it comes to preparing your home for sale.

Don your Marigolds and look forensically at your home. Try to see the ingrained grime you might have stopped noticing.

If it’s really bad and won’t wipe off, consider a new lick of paint.  

If your home is feeling a bit too full and busy, take out a temporary storage unit.

Any spare bikes that normally live in the hallway, kids toys or piles of winter coats must be banished throughout viewings time. 

Light, airy and spacious is the look buyers are after.

And gardens are a big draw right now. Mow the lawn and weed the flowerbeds and you’ll be onto a winner. 

3. Decide how you want to sell your house

When looking for an agent, you'll want someone who can see all the best things about your home, just like you can.

You’ll also want someone with plenty of experience when it comes to marketing properties like yours.

Local agents can really help to sell a home because they’ll know an area inside out and can highlight all of its best bits to potential buyers.

How to find the best estate agent for you

Find a local agent on Zoopla

A couple looking around a warehouse-style apartment with an estate agent

4. Decide when to put your home on the market

Springtime is the best time for marketing your home.

Between February and June, the housing market bursts into action as buyers start looking for somewhere new.

The next best time is autumn, between September and October, as people hope to get settled into a new place in time before Christmas.

The quietest times of the year for the housing market are in the summer, from July to August, when everyone's on holiday, or just before Christmas, from November to December.

If you put your home up for sale in a quieter time, it could mean it hangs around for a while.

That in turn may mean buyers might think there's something wrong with it, so it's good to aim for a time when lots of buyers are looking for somewhere new.

Find out more in our guide: When should I put my home on the market

5. Prepare the documents you need to sell your home

When selling a home, you’ll need to have the following documents available:

  • An Energy Performance Certificate. A legal requirement for sellers since 2008, an EPC will tell buyers how well your home uses energy

  • FENSA certificates for windows and doors

  • A Boiler Safety Certificate

  • Gas Safety Certificate

  • Electrical Installation Certificate

  • Planning approval for any major works

Your solicitor will also ask you to fill out further forms about the property itself and what you're planning to include from it in the sale, such as curtains and appliances.

Get a conveyancer quote from Yourkeys

6. Accepting an offer

It's an amazing feeling when the offers start coming in. So how do you know which one to accept?

Firstly, decide if the offer is a fair price for your home by looking at how much similar properties in your area have sold for.

Find out how quickly the buyer is likely to be able to complete the purchase, particularly if you're in a hurry to sell.

Remember, you don’t have to accept the first offer you receive, and you can negotiate with the buyer.

If you receive more than one offer, you can opt for sealed bids.

Your agent will help to guide you through the process as they'll have plenty of experience when it comes to accepting offers.

Find out more with our guide: How to know which offer to accept on your home

7. You’re under offer! Here's how to manage your chain

Once the joy of going under offer subsides, you may find yourself in the dreaded property chain.

This is the part when the surveys start happening and the solicitors get busy with all of the relevant searches they need to conduct on your property.

This phase can take anything between several weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the chain and the properties involved.

Here’s how to chivvy yours along and keep everything moving.

8. Paying off or porting your mortgage

When you sell your home, your solicitor will handle the finances.

At the point of contracts being exchanged, the 10% (or 5%) deposit from your buyer will be paid into your solicitor's account. The date agreed for completion is then fixed in the contract.

Exchange is the point at which the purchase becomes legally binding and the buyer will lose their deposit if they back out at this stage.

At the next step: completion, your solicitor will also request the balance of the buyer's payment, plus any mortgage amount you're borrowing towards your new home from your bank or building society.

Once the cash has landed with your solicitor (it's usually done by CHAPS which can take a couple of hours), they’ll telephone you to confirm the completion and authorise the estate agent to release the keys to you.

You may be taking out a new mortgage for your new home, or you may choose to port your existing one.

Find out more on porting your existing mortgage to your new home with our guide: Can I take my mortgage with me when I move home?

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9. Let’s get moving!

You've exchanged and the deal is sealed! It’s time to organise the removals.

Are you going to go for the full shebang packing-and-unpacking removal service? 

Or is this going to be a DIY job with mates?

The cheapest way to move home is to hire a van and do it yourself. 

This may be manageable if you’re a young professional living in a studio or one bedroom flat, less so if you have five kids and 30 years worth of stuff.

If you’re planning to use a firm, removal costs can vary from between £420 for a one-bedroom flat to £1800 for a four-bedroom house.

Top tips for a stress-free home move

How much do removals cost?

How much does it cost to sell a house?

Coming in at between 1% to 3% of your home's sold price, estate agent fees will be the biggest cost you incur when selling a home.

  • Next up it will be your conveyancing fees (£800 - £1,800)

  • Then your removal costs (£420 - £1,800)

  • Your remortgaging fees (£1,000+)

  • And finally the costs for any paperwork expenses, such as the Energy Performance Certificate (£60 - £120)

Find out more with our guide on the costs of selling a home

How long does it take to sell a house?

Once you’re on the market, the first few weeks are the most crucial time for your home to go under offer.

‘That first four to six weeks of marketing a property is so important,  says Andrew Groocock, regional partner at Knight Frank. ‘You are fresh on the market and it’s your best moment to capture the maximum number of eyeballs.’ 

The whole process of selling a home, from the moment it’s first listed to the moment you hand over the keys to your buyer takes around 25 weeks on average.

However, selling a home is dependent on many factors and the process can take anywhere between 17 and 34 weeks in total.

See more in our guide: How long it takes to sell a house

What if I’m selling and buying at the same time?

If you’re looking to buy a new home at the same time as selling yours, the best thing you can do is to get all of your professionals lined up early.

Have a solicitor or conveyancer in place who’s ready to get cracking the moment you go under offer.

And make sure you have all of the relevant documents and paperwork ready for your solicitor in advance.

Delays in the conveyancing process are one of the biggest hold-ups in the buying-and-selling-a-home experience. 

You’ll want an efficient, on-the-ball professional and you’ll need to respond to all queries from your buyer’s solicitor pronto, so that everything moves along smoothly.

How to buy and sell a home at the same time

How do I sell a Shared Ownership, Help to Buy or Leasehold home?

The rules around selling Shared Ownership, Help to Buy or leasehold homes are slightly different. Find out more in our guides:

Also, if you’re selling a home in Scotland, the process works in a different way to in England and Wales.

How is selling a home different in Scotland?

Different reasons for selling a home

Sometimes the reasons for selling a home aren’t always straightforward.

If you’re selling a home because you’re separating from your partner, you may be wondering what your rights are - and if they differ according to whether you were married, co-habiting or have children. 

We explain how the law works in our guide: What happens to our home if we break-up?

If you’ve lost your partner and there’s still a mortgage on your home, we explain what happens next in our guide: What happens to our home if my partner dies?

You may be thinking about giving your property to your children. So let’s take a look at how inheritance tax works in that situation.

We try to make sure that the information here is accurate at the time of publishing. But the property market moves fast and some information may now be out of date. Zoopla Property Group accepts no responsibility or liability for any decisions you make based on the information provided.