Selling my house—what do I need to know?

Selling a house is a complicated process. The following is a simple step-by-step guide to give sellers a realistic idea of what to expect. However, each sale will be unique, with its own range of unforeseen hoops to jump through and hurdles to leap over.

Working out your finances

The first step of your journey should be calculating—not guesstimating—whether or not you can afford to make the move you want to. You need a selection of accurate valuations of the property, not just your personal best guess. Too many of us are emotionally connected to our homes and inflate the price accordingly.

Then you need to weigh up your income (or incomes for joint buyers), expenses, and what the banks and lenders are prepared to offer you. This is the time to compile a complete budget into what the buying, selling and moving house will cost. And as accurately as you possibly can.

Finding the right mortgage

Ask yourself, What documents do I need for a mortgage?” “Are there early repayment fees on my current plan?” and “Could I still find the repayments if there’s an emergency to contend with?”

Have you discussed the cost of amending your policy to cover the changes you’ll need to make to pay for your next home? Would you be better switching to another provider? This is the time to consider remortgaging and porting options.

Choosing an estate agent

Are you going to engage with a high-street estate agent, an online agent or a hybrid agency?

Each comes with their advantages and disadvantages. You’ll need to decide how much work you’re prepared to do if you fancy a crack at reducing costs by using a lower-priced online option.

If you’re opting for a local high street estate agent, don’t just compare their costs and rates, but their success rates, typical times it takes to sell, and how close they get to asking prices.

Solicitor or conveyancer?

“Do I need a conveyancer to sell a house, or is a solicitor as good an option?”

Just as you would, when choosing an estate agent, you should invest time and energy into picking out the best option to carry out the legal work involved in selling your home.

Solicitors and conveyancers are both positioned to provide you with what you need to sell your home. Ideally, you should choose who you intend to use before the sale, despite only being able to provide them with any instruction after agreeing to one.

We appreciate that cost is generally the key factor, but don’t disregard their location and reputation. Their efficiency and performance could be more than worth a slightly higher fee. 

Press them for information; it’ll help you get a feel for how they’re likely to perform. For example:

  • Who will handle my case? 

  • How often will I hear from you?

  • Whether I’m buying a house or buying a flat, what survey do I need

  • What costs will I incur if the sale falls through?

  • Are you approved by my mortgage lender?

  • When will I need to pay?

  • What is your dispute procedure?

Organising your Energy Performance Certificate

The Energy Performance Certificate is your responsibility to organise. It covers the various aspects of your home’s energy efficiency and must be provided to all potential buyers.

You’ll need your EPC before you can start marketing your property, so it’s essential to get one sorted early on.

Fixing on a price

Deciding on how much you think your home is worth is a difficult decision to make without some proper data. You’re emotionally invested, and you also know how much you need to move into your next home. What you need and what its worth isn’t necessarily going to be the same figure. Yet, your wishful thinking will try and force them to be the same.

Get some professional valuations by local estate agents. You should also remember that every buyer in the country will try and knock you down in price. The only time the price will go up is if you’re lucky enough to have a bidding war between hopeful buyers.

Preparing for viewings

You’re much more likely to achieve your asking price and sell your home quickly if you present it at its best. Get rid of the clutter, tidy up the décor, clean it thoroughly, inside and out, and make it shine.

Use the lights to make it appear nice and bright, open the curtains, make it smell homely and welcoming—but don’t be so obvious that your buyers see through your plan.

Kerb appeal is huge. Make sure your garden looks as tidy as the rooms inside, the windows are clean and well kept, and that there isn’t anything off-putting as buyers approach the property.

Accepting an offer

If you’re happy with an offer, excellent! You’re almost there. If you’re not, have your estate agent let them know, or have that conversation with them if you’re acting on your own behalf.

Negotiating is part of the process, so be prepared for it. Always remain polite and fair. It’s fine to say no, or suggest a counter-amount, as long as you do it courteously and leave the offer open for debate.

If you accept an offer, it isn’t final until the paperwork goes through. You’ve still got time to change your mind at any point until the contracts are exchanged.

Negotiating the final contract

At this point, you need to agree with your buyer when completion is to take place. You should also discuss what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale. Buyers may offer you more to leave specific items you hadn’t planned to leave, or you could ask if they’d like anything they’ve seen that you might prefer to leave behind.

There is also the possibility of last-minute discounts for any issues flagged up in the buyers’ survey.

Exchanging contracts

At this point, the process becomes legal and binding—your buyers are now committed to buying. After this point, if you pull out of the sale, you could be sued.

You are responsible for the property right up until the contracts are exchanged, so you should make sure you continue to hold the correct insurance for the buildings and contents.

Completion doesn’t quite mean complete!

Even though all the anxieties of selling your house will be starting to dissipate, there are still a few more ends you need to tie up.

There’s moving out of your old home and into the next—whether that’s a holding rental or your new purchase.

You need to complete the sale, including handing over the keys and taking payment.

Finally, you need to pay off your previous mortgage or transfer the money via your solicitor to the bank if you’re amending an existing policy to incorporate your move. Then there’s stamp duty to pay, your addition to the Land Registry, and finally, your solicitor will need paying, as will your estate agent.