Everything you need to know about the house-selling process

Everything you need to know about the house-selling process

The process of selling your house can sometimes be complicated and time-consuming.

So, it pays to be prepared for what's to come once you have decided to get the For Sale board up.

We've listed the main things you need to consider when selling your home and outlined the process of selling, so there are no surprises along the way...

 

How to sell a house

So, you've decided to sell, but what happens now?

This is the process you can expect to go through from making the decision to sell up all the way through to completing your sale…

 

Step one: Go through and sort out your finances

The first thing to establish when selling your home is whether you can actually afford to do so.

If you’re in the middle of an existing mortgage term, you might have to pay an early repayment charge or fees to transfer your mortgage to a new property – known as ‘porting’.

You should also find out how much you can borrow for your new home – especially if your circumstances have changed since the last time you applied for a mortgage.

Finally, if you’re buying another property, you’ll need to factor in stamp duty and other moving costs.

 

Step two: Get your property ready to be sold

You might be ready to sell, but is your property?

If your home is suffering from the equivalent of a bad hair day, you should consider spending some time and a little money to get it looking its best.

Speak to some local estate agents and check out other, similar homes in your area that are up for sale.

How does yours compare?

Often, it’s small changes that make a big difference, such as a fresh coat of paint on the walls and fixing things like leaky taps, broken tiles or discoloured sealant around baths and showers.

A good local agent should be able to pinpoint the things you can do to make your property stand out, based on their knowledge of what buyers in the area are looking for.

Once your home is looking its best, you should have it valued by a local agent.

 

Step three: Have your home valued

Your asking price is the single most important decision you’ll make when selling.

Setting a price that’s attractive to buyers but is enough for you to take your next step, is crucial.

Your agent will be able to guide you on a suitable price for both the market conditions and how your property compares with others in the area.

But ultimately, the asking price is a decision for you as the seller, so make sure you have all the information to hand, including a range of valuations from several different agents.

 

Step four: Instruct your estate agent

As well as their valuation of your property, you should take an estate agent’s fees into account when making the decision on which one will sell your home, as well as how they will market your property online and offline.

Agents’ contracts can also vary from company to company, so you should also ask them about the kinds of contracts they offer and whether there are any tie-in periods.

 

Step five: Presenting your home for listing

Your agent should send a photographer to your property to take the photos that will appear on its online listings.

Make sure your property is clean and free of clutter and if you need to move out large pieces of furniture prior to the shoot, don’t be afraid to do this so you can really show off your home’s square footage.

Add a few finishing touches like a vase of flowers and cushions or throws to bedding – the more you can make your property look like a home, the better.

 

Step six: Sort out your documents and paperwork

Once your property is on the open market, the offers could start coming in at any time – so you’ll need to be prepared.

And the more prepared you are, the faster your sale should go through once you’ve found a buyer.

Sort out all the documents you need when selling your home as soon as the property goes on the market.

That way, as soon as your solicitor or agent needs anything, you’ll have it to hand.

 

Step seven: Be ready for viewings

Eager buyers could be ready to view your home at any time, so be prepared to welcome them to a property they won’t be able to resist.

Always keep your home clutter-free and clean while it’s on the market and be ready to accommodate a viewing at short notice.

 

Step eight: Instruct a solicitor

Once your home is on the market, you should instruct a solicitor or conveyancer to do the legal work when you’ve found a buyer.

Getting a solicitor engaged and briefed before you start receiving offers can speed up the sales process hugely, as you’ll be able to provide key documents right away.

Your solicitor or conveyancer will often be key to how quickly your sale goes through, so speak to family and friends for recommendations.

 

Step nine: Offers and negotiation

When you start receiving offers for your property, you should look at the buyer’s position as much as what they’re offering.

Consider your own needs and what you want to achieve.

If you need to move quickly, you could consider a lower offer from a buyer with nothing to sell.

Or if you need to achieve a certain price, you might be more willing to accept a slower process from a buyer in a long chain to sell for more money.

Buyers will often test the water with a lower than asking price offer, so be prepared to negotiate and hold your nerve if you need to.

 

Step 10: The transaction process

Once you’ve accepted an offer, your role as a seller is to do your best to keep the transaction process moving alongside your buyer.

Keep the lines of communication open with your estate agent and solicitor and don’t be afraid to chase if you feel things are running a little slowly.

 

Step 11: Exchange and completion

Exchanging contracts with your buyer makes your sale legally binding and is usually a moment of huge relief for both sellers and buyers.

Once you’ve exchanged, you’ll agree a completion day with your buyer, and you’ll need to ensure your property is empty by that date.

 

Nine things to consider when selling your home

1. Be realistic about timeframes

Time is a hugely important factor to consider when deciding to sell your home, particularly if you are buying another property.

Many sellers simply neglect to factor in how long a property sale takes in the UK.

And it's easy to see why.

Once the For Sale board is up and your home is shown in all its glory across the major online property platforms, the only goal in your mind is getting an offer. Right?

Only once that acceptable offer is received does a seller realise that the hard work is ahead - and it can often take around four months from accepting an offer to completing your sale.

Once you have made the decision to sell, be realistic about the timeframes...

 

2. Choose the right estate agent

Selling your home now can be just as tricky and stressful as it was decades ago.

The good news compared with yesteryear, though, is sellers have plenty of options when it comes to marketing their properties.

Gone are the days of the local paper and estate agent's window being the only way to show off your home to eager buyers. Now, digital is king.

But even in these days of cheaper, nationwide online-only agents, the values and experience of a local property expert can be the difference between a quick sale and months of frustration.

 

3. Is it the right time to sell your house?

While it's possible to sell a home at any time of year (even Christmas), there are certain times when you might stand a better chance of a quick sale compared with others.

Spring tends to see a boost in property market activity, while the lighter evenings and improved weather can make your home look amazing.

Summer can be difficult for sellers as many families and couples go away on holiday at this time of year and while autumn can see a resurgence of activity at times, winter tends to see buyers return to hibernation.

If you are keen to sell but the market is slow, consider holding off for a while.

You could get the For Sale board up and wait and see but consider that the longer your home is on the market without selling, the more likely buyers are to wonder if there is a reason why it's not selling.

 

4. Be realistic with your expectations

Try to keep an open mind when it comes to offers on your property.

Take some time to consider the market conditions and, again, be guided by the experience of your estate agent.

In a slow market favourable to buyers, you should be prepared to receive offers at least between 5% and 10% below your asking price, potentially more.

However, in a seller's market where there may be a lot of interest in your property, weigh up whether price or a quick sale is more important to you.

If time is on your side, you may be better holding out for a bigger offer.

 

5. Try to leave emotion at the door

Homes can be extremely difficult to leave behind, particularly if they contain dozens of memories.

You may have brought your children home for the first time after they were born or spent a long and happy marriage in the property you are now selling.

Letting go of a home packed with memories can spark similar feelings to grief, so it's important you say goodbye to your property and start to treat it as a business transaction as early in the process as you can.

 

6. There’s a lot of paperwork

Having an organised mind is a much-needed trait when selling your home.

There is a lot of paperwork to wade through - and as a seller, you'll need to be able to put your hand on an important document at the drop of a hat if you want to sell your home quickly.

Once you have decided to sell, go through all the documents relating to your house and dig out the most important ones.

They could include:

 

  • Personal ID (passport or driving licence)
  • Proof of address (utility bill / bank statement)
  • Title deeds (proof you own the property)
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
  • Details on your current mortgage

 

It can also be useful to have the following to hand:

 

  • Electric or gas service history
  • Receipt / guarantees of any major work

 

Being able to provide these key pieces of information quickly when requested by your solicitor or estate agent will help keep your sale firmly on track.

 

7. Be patient during the conveyancing process

One of the most frustrating aspects of the sales process can be the conveyancing.

However, there are things you can consider in advance to help.

While most of the work will be done by your buyer's solicitor, choosing a good solicitor yourself can help keep the sale on track and you should chase when appropriate - but not too often! Bear in mind your solicitor and your buyer's will be working on several cases at once.

Unfortunately, things like searches do often hold up the process and, as these are completed by the local authority, you are essentially powerless to speed them up.

However, you can prepare yourself for this part of the sale being sluggish and ensure you have everything in order at your end so you can keep your side of the bargain moving smoothly.

 

8. Consider renting to get your buyer in quicker

Once you have received an acceptable offer from a buyer, you'll want to complete your sale as quickly as you can - particularly in a slow-moving market.

So, if you still haven't found your new home several weeks after the offer was made, consider renting for a while to give you more time to scour the market.

That will be music to the ears of your buyer, who should be able to move into your home sooner.

It should also be beneficial to you to get the sale completed as early as possible and ensure that your buyer doesn't get tired of waiting, opt to pull out and put you back at square one.

 

Further reading…

Top tips to avoid ‘We Buy Any House’ scams

The best questions to ask estate agents