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The sales process

The prospect of selling your home can be daunting – all the more so if you are looking for another property to buy at the same time.  The decisions you make along the way could save you – or cost you – many thousands of pounds.  Here’s our step-by-step guide to help you out:

1. Should you sell at all?

If you are considering selling because you need more space, have you instead considered building an extension, converting the attic, or digging out the basement? Moving home is not cheap and you may save money by expanding your existing home.

Depending on your circumstances, you could be better off renting your home out rather than selling.

2. Figure out your finances

You should notify your mortgage lender that you are planning to sell your home.  Find out how big your outstanding mortgage is and if there are any early redemption penalties.

You need to get a rough idea of how much your house is worth, then you can calculate how much money you will be left with after you have paid off the mortgage.

If you are buying a new home, you should consider what size mortgage you will need for that. Get an idea from mortgage lenders how much they would be willing to offer or talk to an independent financial adviser to get an overall view of the market.

At the early stages, the figures will be approximate only – you don’t know how much you will sell your house for, and you will only get a precise redemption figure for your mortgage once you have an agreed completion date when you have exchanged contracts.

3. Would it benefit you to rent for a bit rather than buy straight away?

Renting for a while can add to the overall expense, but reduces the critical time pressures of buying a new home.

You won’t have to sell at a low price because you have found the home of your dreams, nor will you feel rushed into buying a less-than-perfect new home because you have found a buyer for your current home.

As an added benefit, by breaking out of the housing chain means you will become a more attractive buyer.

4. Consider who will sell the property

You will need to do some research into which estate agent to use. See which agents are selling properties like yours in your area. Talk to friends and neighbours to find out their experiences and recommendations.

Most sellers will use a sole agent and it’s vital to find an agent you have confidence in and are comfortable with.

Fees will vary depending on the service provided so make sure you know what you are being offered. Will viewings be conducted by the agent? What feedback will you be given after viewings and will you receive progress reports? What promotion and advertising will be carried out both online and in print. How long is their contract? Beware of contracts that last beyond 12 weeks. Ask for examples of how your property will be presented to the market and make sure your agent is using good photographs.

It’s also vital to find out what happens when you have agreed a sale. You don’t want an agent who moves on to the next sale and leaves you to fend for yourself. Look for an agent offering a sales progression as part of their service, who has good communication and problem solving ability.

As with all things you usually get what you pay for so balance fees against your confidence in the agent and the levels of service being offered.

5. Decide what price to sell it for

One of the most difficult decisions when selling your home is what price to put it on the market for.
Do some research and get an idea of the local market. However local agents dealing with property sales in your area will be best placed to give you a figure. Sometimes there are good reasons why properties near you appear to have gone for unusually high or low figures.

If you ask several estate agents to provide valuations then don’t necessarily go for the highest figure suggested. Ask the agent to explain what their figures are based on and make sure it is realistic particularly taking into account your own timescales for selling.

6. Ready your home

If you “stage” your home well you may achieve a faster sale and a better price.

Tidy up, and get rid of excess clutter; give it a fresh lick of light coloured paint; put up a mirror; fix those little snagging things; keep it clean. Some small changes can make a big difference.

When you have potential purchasers visiting, light a fire; bake bread; and be sure to get rid of bad odours.  Make it a warm and inviting space for people to feel at home.

For more tips on how to present you property, check out our Selling Advice.

7. Appoint a solicitor or conveyancer

You need to choose a solicitor or conveyancer to handle the legal work to transfer ownership of the property.

To ensure as few delays as possible, you should decide which one you want to use before you agree the sale of your house – but you can obviously only instruct them after you have agreed an offer.

Your estate agent will usually be able to make suggestions but also ask family or friends for their recommendations.

8. Fill out the relevant questionnaires

You will receive a variety of forms and questionnaires to fill out from both your estate agent and your legal representative, to give the buyer all the information about the property, and about the sale.

9. Accept an offer

You’ve been made an offer – hooray! If you are not happy with it, you can either reject it outright, wait to see if a better offer comes along, or tell the estate agent to try to negotiate it upwards.

Once you are happy with an offer and the conditions it is subject to, you need to formally accept it. You would then normally instruct the estate agent to take the property off the market.

Accepting an offer is not legally binding on either you or the buyer until contracts are exchanged but there is a lot of emotional and financial commitment so it’s not something to take lightly.

10. Negotiate the draft contract

Your legal representative will deal with the legal aspects of the sale and a good deal of time is taken going backwards and forwards between them and the buyer’s legal team in order to agree the contents of the sale contract and matters like the amount of deposit and length of time between exchange and completion (usually 7-28 days after exchange of contracts).

A good estate agent who can talk to other people involved in any chain and deal with any problems can be a godsend at this time.

11. Exchange of contracts

When you exchange contracts with the buyer you become legally committed to selling the property – and they are legally committed to buying it from you. At this time a completion date is fixed (this is when you receive the money for the property and your buyers are entitled to move in.

12. Completion Day

You can actually move out whenever you like up until the day of completion (although clearly, you need somewhere to move to) and it can be less stressful to move out beforehand, if that is possible.

At the time of completion, the property has to be in the condition agreed in the contract – including all the fixtures and fittings. At this time you hand over keys (best if done through the agent).

On the day of completion, the money is transferred and the deeds of the property are transferred between each side’s legal representative.

Your solicitor/conveyancer will register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry.

13. Pay off the mortgage

The mortgage company will have given you and your legal representative a precise redemption figure for your mortgage for the day of completion.

The buyer’s legal representative will have transferred the purchase money to your solicitor or conveyancer and they will pay off the mortgage for you.

14. Settle up with the solicitor/conveyancer and estate agent

After completion, your solicitor/conveyancer will send you an account, covering all their costs and disbursements, as well as the sale price of the house and redemption of the mortgage. In addition it is usual for the solicitor to pay your agents sale fees from the proceeds.

If you are buying and selling at the same time, the solicitor/conveyancer can settle up for both transactions at the same time, including paying stamp duty for the house you are buying.