Selling your house - a guide
Before you go any further, take a look at our step-by-step guide to selling your home, which will tell you exactly what challenges lay ahead and how you can expect the process to unfold.
1. Find out how much your home is worth
The first task is to find out what your home is worth, and for this you may ask several local estate agents to provide you with a market valuation. You must remember that there is no guarantee your home will sell for the full asking price, so it’s important to consider the local market conditions along with your expectations.
You may find that you get differing market valuations so it’s important to remember that the highest price is not always the best to go with. If your property is ‘too expensive’ potential buyers are less likely to view and once a property has sat on the market for a long time the final sales price achieved is likely to be much lower. In comparison if you price your property keenly, you may receive interest from multiple buyers, this can result in the possibility of ‘sealed bids’, which can achieve in excess of an asking price.
So choosing the right price based on the current market conditions and bearing in mind your own situation and the reason for selling, is very important.
2. Choose the right estate agent
There are many factors to consider when you select an agent to sell your home, and you should avoid comparing them based only on the fee they charge. It is important to have a high-quality, knowledgeable and responsible agent acting on your behalf.
An estate agent will take on a variety of roles in the sale of your home. For starters, they will be able to market your property on a selection of portals (the best agents will use both Rightmove and Zoopla). In addition they are likely to have a pool of prospective buyers of which they have built a rapport who are actively seeking properties.
As well as marketing your property, the estate agent will arrange and conduct the viewings. Most buyers will want to view a suitable property at least a couple of times before making a decision and during this process an agent can ensure all of the right information is shared to help them with their decision. They should only show potential buyers who are in a position to offer and should ensure that the house meets the buyer’s needs to avoid wasted viewings. Sometimes it is best, especially on a property that is likely to attract a lot of interest, to host an open day encouraging as many people as possible to view the home on the same day.
3. Clean, tidy and improve your home
Remember first impressions count, so start at the front and work your way through your property with a critical eye, as if you were a potential purchaser and don’t forget about the outside including gardens.
It is often worth tackling those minor maintenance jobs you have put off for a rainy day before viewings start to make it more appealing to prospective buyers. A fresh lick of paint can make a big difference to the way people perceive your property and this is especially true if you have any ‘individually’ decorated rooms which might look bigger and brighter with a more neutral colour. One very important tip is to minimise any clutter, viewers need to be able to imagine the house with their personal belongings and furniture and this is easier if the rooms are clear and clean.
Minor improvements or repairs such as fixing a leaking tap, re-fitting cupboard doors that have slipped off their hinges or repairing broken lights cost little to nothing, but can make the difference between a potential buyer seeing it as their new home or seeing ‘lots of work’ to be done.
4. Wait for offers
There is no way to know how much time or how many viewings it will take before you receive an offer, but it is wise to have a figure in mind, based on the realistic market conditions, that you would accept for the property.
An estate agent is legally bound to tell you about and confirm in writing every offer that is made, regardless of its amount. While they will be happy to advise you on how good an offer is, it is your decision on whether to accept it or not.
When a potential buyer makes an offer, the estate agent will take on the role of managing the negotiations and if needs be encouraging buyers to increase their offers to a price you are willing to accept. If several offers are received, the agent can advise based on each buyers position which offer might be best for you. Remember once you are in receipt of an offer this may put you in a stronger position for any onward purchase, therefore it is worth considering what the offer allows you to achieve, even if it below the level you had originally anticipated. This is where an agent can help with negotiation and chain building.
5. Accept an offer
Sooner or later, you should receive an offer that you wish to accept. At this point, you can instruct your estate agent to move on to the next stage of the sale, subject to survey and contract. There is no legal reason for you to take the property off the market at this point, but it is common for the buyer to request you do so.
6. Instruct a solicitor
One of the most important people in your house sale will be your solicitor, who is tasked with carrying out all the conveyancing and legal work associated with the process. Among their key tasks are drawing up a contract of sale and releasing the necessary details to the buyer's solicitor.
Each party within the chain will have their own solicitor and only the estate agents can speak to all involved. So the agent can often make the difference in ensuring the sale reaches completion as they are able to ensure that you are kept up to date with and chase up outstanding paperwork or information.
If you are buying another property related to the sale, then you will use the same solicitor for both transactions. Leaders has an exclusive arrangement with Lifetime Legal which offers many benefits beyond conveyancing including mover protection, unlimited legal advice, legal Will drafting and others – please ask our branch for more information before deciding to appoint your own solicitor
7. Formal Valuation and Survey
Once the buyer has had their offer accepted they will usually begin the process of applying for their mortgage. One of the requirements of this will be for a formal valuation of the property by an independent surveyor and many buyers will also ask for either a RICS Home Buyers Report or Structural Survey at that same time. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on which type of survey they chose. You will need to be willing to allow the surveyor into the property to complete their work.
8. Finalising the sale
On some occasions, the legal process may highlight issues that the buyer will want to discuss before proceeding. For example, local and environmental searches may show details of proposed building plans, or telephone masts etc near to the property, or the survey can reveal damp or structural concerns, which may result in the buyer wishing to renegotiate the price.
Good advice from an experienced agent will help achieve the right outcome for you, if this situation arises.
9. Exchange of contracts
At the point of exchanging contracts you become legally committed to the sale, as does your purchaser. In other words, you could face legal action if you go back on your decision to sell after this point.
A completion date is agreed between you and your buyer, and they will hand over their deposit to their solicitor. You now need to start planning your move, so booking a removal van is likely to be the number one priority.
This is the final stage of the process; on the day of completion the purchase monies are transferred to your solicitor and you will receive a phone call from both your solicitor and the agent to confirm when these have been received. At that point you will need to have moved all of your belongings out of the property and hand over the keys to the new buyers – usually through the agents.