Home Money Is Power Selling a home: our 19 top tips

Selling a home: our 19 top tips

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These tips are roughly in chronological order, but don’t feel like you have to treat them as an exhaustive list, particularly if you’ve already started the process.

Here we go..

  1. Check when your current mortgage deal ends (as you might have to pay a fee to move)

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Before you do anything else, check the terms of your mortgage to see if you’ll have to pay any penalty fees for moving.

  • If you’re on your lender’s standard variable rate – the rate your mortgage reverts to when a fixed-rate or tracker period ends – there shouldn’t be any penalty fees.
  • If you’re still on the introductory rate of your mortgage, find out if it’s ‘portable’. If so, you might also be fine to move, as long as your lender’s happy with the new property and the price you’re paying for it, and you pass affordability tests. If you get the green light, your mortgage moves with you at no extra cost – even if you’re in the middle of a fix or tracker deal.
  • If your mortgage isn’t portable and you’re still on the introductory rate, it’s likely you’ll need to pay an early repayment charge to your lender in order to move. This is typically between 1 and 5% of the remainder of your mortgage debt, meaning the penalty to move can be very expensive. For example:– A 2% early repayment charge on a £226,000 mortgage would be £4,520.
    – A 3% early repayment charge on a £226,000 mortgage would be £6,780.
    – A 5% early repayment charge on a £226,000 mortgage would be £11,130.While penalty fees can be large, it may be a price worth paying, depending on what interest rate you can get on a new mortgage. Put details about your current mortgage into our ‘Ditch your fix?’ calculator and it’ll give you a rough idea. If the calculator shows that the cost of ditching your current mortgage is too prohibitive, it might be worth holding off moving for now.
  1. Think about your next move

    If you’ve established that you’re not going to be stung by an expensive early repayment charge, it’s time to consider your next move. Why do you want to sell and how do you want to go about it? In general, you’ve got three options:

    • Remain a homeowner (selling to buy immediately). In other words, you want to sell so that you can bay somewhere else (whether upsizing, downsizing, or relocating) straight away.The advantage of this is that everything is done in one go – you use the same conveyancer/solicitor for both transactions and you only have to move once. But this approach can be stressful and you could end up in two chains, which could make you a less attractive seller/buyer.As well as following the selling tips in this guide, you’ll want to read our Buying a home timeline guide.
    • Move into temporary accommodation (selling to buy later). In other words, you’ll be moving into temporary accommodation, such as renting, in between selling your current home and buying your new one.This can be a good option if you’re relocating, for example, and not yet sure exactly where you want to live. It means moving twice, but there’s less pressure on you to find a property you like and you’ll be chain-free when you come to buy, which could be attractive to sellers.However, you need to factor in the cost of renting (if that’s what you plan to do) and the fact you might be tied into a fixed tenancy. House prices could also go up by the time you come to buy, plus you’ll have to think about where to keep the proceeds from the sale in the meantime (you can get six months of Temporary High Balance Protection).
    • Leave homeownership (selling with no view to buy). In other words, you’re moving into some form of permanent living arrangement which isn’t homeownership, such as renting, or moving abroad or in with family.There’s no chain to consider and you’ll be mortgage free. However, you do need to think about what to do with the lump sum you’ll receive after your property has sold. If you’re selling in order to raise funds for your retirement income, an alternative to selling your home would be equity release (which means you can stay in your current home).

     

  2. Consider the OVERALL cost of selling

    Selling a home can be an expensive endeavour.

    We’ll go through each of the costs you’ll face se in more detail, but in brief you’ll have to consider the following: estate agentslegal feesenergy performance certificatesremovals and more.

    Here’s an estimate of how much selling could cost you overall (do bear in mind that the cost will increase significantly if you’re buying a property at the same time):

    Average cost of selling your home based on £274,000 property

  3. Check if it’s worth paying to extend your lease BEFORE you sell

    Properties with long leases tend to be more attractive to buyers than those where the lease is short. So, if you’re selling a leasehold property (if in doubt, see our leasehold vs freehold guide), consider whether extending the lease will boost your chances of selling.

    The golden rule is that it become significantly more expensive to extend once leases drop below 80 years. So, if your property has between 80 and 90 years remaining, buyers may factor this future expense into any offer they make. If your property has less than 80 years remaining on the lease, buyers may struggle to get a mortgage on it, even if they did want to make an offer.

    Extending a lease can cost £1,000s (and sometimes more), but bear in mind that a healthy lease length can add property value that outstrips this outlay. Have a read of our Should I extend my lease guide, which covers:

    • Why lease lengths are so important
    • How much it costs to extend a lease and how much added value a good lease brings
    • Step-by-step on how to extend a lease

    If you’ve got a short lease but opt not to extend it, be prepared for buyers to use this as leverage to haggle on the asking price, as the buyer wouldn’t be able to extend it themselves until they’ve lived in the property for at least two years. If a buyer insists you extend the lease as part of the sale, beware that the legal process can take at least a few weeks – if not longer.

    Either way, when it comes to selling, make sure you have details about your lease to hand, such as it’s length, plus any information on service / maintenance fees that you have to pay.

    I recently got my flat valued with the intention to sell and was advised to get lease extended before the lease was less than 80 years left. I didn’t realise that I only have 79 years left. The difference in purchasing the lease with only 79 years on rather than 80 years is around £10K.

  4. Spruce up your home to attract buyers (and possibly add to the price)

    Once you’ve decided you’re definitely ready to sell, it’s time to start work on getting your home in good shape, as even the best-kept properties show signs of wear and tear. To increase the chances of selling your property quickly and for the best price, it’s worth trying these quick fixes before you get a valuation and start viewings:

    1. Clean up the property’s exterior. 

    First impressions always matter (in this context, it’s known as ‘kerb appeal’). So spruce up your property from the outside in. Some top tips, which don’t cost much, but could add value, include…

    • Mowing the lawn
    • Cleaning your windows
    • Getting your front door and driveway spick and span
    • Well-maintained fences and walls

    2. Sort out the interior. 

    Simple tasks such as cleaning, tidying and decluttering – which could even make you some cash – can make your home more sellable. For example:

    • Ensure any features that first attracted you to the property are visible
    • Make your home less personal to you to encourage viewers to see themselves there
    • Let rooms clearly show their purpose
    • Hang up mirrors, especially in small areas like hallways, to add light and the illusion of space
    • Get rid of any unpleasant smells
    • Light a fire (or turn on the heating) if it’s cold inside

    See this forum thread for more tips on boosting your home’s appeal and making it photo-ready.

  5. You’ll need to get an energy performance certificate

    When you sell your property, you must make sure you’ve got an energy performance certificate (EPC) in place. This is a legal requirement. An EPC rates a property on its energy efficiency. The best rating is A, while the worst is G.

    A certificate is valid for 10 years. You can easily check if yours is still valid by checking the EPC register. If your EPC has expired, you’ll need to sort a new one.

    Purchasing an EPC will typically set you back between £40 and £120, depending on your property’s size and location. You can either arrange one directly with an energy assessor or pay your estate agent to sort it out for you.

    These days, you’ll probably find energy efficiency is on an increasing number of buyers’ wish lists, as a poor rating means costly heating bills. With the price of energy spiking due to the cost of living crunch, an energy inefficient property might turn a buyer off. Our Housing and energy grants guide lists ways of finding free cash to improve your home’s efficiency.

  6. Get your home valued properly to save time and money

    Once you’ve got your property looking its best, it’s time to get it valued. It’s imperative you research thoroughly at this stage. Get it wrong and your home could either be on the market for a long time, or it could sell way below the market price.

    Here’s what we’d suggest:

    1. Check online first. Before you get an estate agent through the door, check recent sold prices in your area using RightmoveZoopla or Nethouseprices. This’ll give you a ballpark figure. We’ve got other tips on how to do this in our Free house price valuations guide.

    Compare your property to those of a similar size and spec – previous property adverts which include photographs should help with this. Be realistic and don’t let stubborn pride about the state of your property cloud your judgement and lead to overpricing.

    Having a clear idea of sales in the recent past helps you value your home accurately. Looking at those currently on sale helps you value your home competitively. Remember: not all properties sell for the asking price – if you’re fortunate, yours will go for asking price or more, but don’t be disappointed if it sells for less.

    2. Then get estate agents in. Once you’ve looked online, have at least two, possibly three, agents come to value your home (never reveal the values other agents have given, as it could skew their answer). Don’t worry if you don’t want to use an estate agent for the actual sell – you’re not committed to using any of them.

    To get the most balanced view, it’s worth asking different types of agents for valuations: a big high street chain, a smaller local one, and an online one. And get them to bring paperwork on sold prices in the surrounding area.

    If agent 1 values your property at £250,000, agent 2 at £280,000 and agent 3 at £350,000, the most realistic value would be £300,000.

    It’s perfectly normal for valuations to be diverse. We’ve heard reports of agents giving valuations that different by £100k. In cases like this, opting for something in the middle should give you the most sensible option.

    Other tips for getting your home valued

    Where you’re struggling to sell – perhaps because there are lots of similar properties on the market – dropping the price marginally might help attract more buyers. If you’re in a hurry to sell, you might also need to consider this tactic.

    Back in 2014 we were selling a thatched house and had only had a handful of viewings and no offers during the first four weeks. We were keen to secure another unique property so we dropped the price, making ours the cheapest five-bed period house within three miles of our village. This resulted in several viewings and three asking price offers within the next week.

  7. There’s no right or wrong way to sell your property, but deciding which to choose is one of the most important choices you’ll make. Essentially, you’re limited to three options: do it yourself (DIY)online agent or high street estate agent.

    The best way will depend on your circumstances, such as if you’re time-poor or don’t feel comfortable showing strangers around your home by yourself. If you’re perfectly happy doing most of the work yourself, bypassing an agent entirely can save you serious cash.

    For example, if selling a £300,000 property, you could DIY for a few £100s, or you could pay 2% commission for a high street agent, setting you back £6,000. Below we’ll talk you through exactly how the options compare, but in brief…

  8. DIY selling is the cheapest option (but most labour-intensive)

    Before going straight down the traditional route of using an agent, have you considered private selling (in other words, doing it yourself)? While it’s the most labour-intensive option, DIYing can save serious cash.

    One downside to private selling, however, is that you can’t advertise on platforms such as RightmoveZoopla or PrimeLocation. So, unless you already have a private buyer lined up, you’ll need to advertise the property yourself.

    Consider using your local press to do this, noticeboards and online marketplaces such as HouseWeb* (£349-£549) or TheHouseShop* (free), where you can create your own advert and liaise directly with buyers. You could even try your luck generating interest on Facebook – this help can word spread at the very least  – or post your ad on Mumsnet via your ‘local’ page.

    Here are some other handy tips for selling privately:

    • Be prepared to host your own viewings. As you’re selling privately you’ll need to host your own viewings, but this can tip the scales in your favour. You’re the expert in your own home so can tell prospective buyers exactly what it’s like to live there. However, don’t ignore the safety risk of inviting strangers into your home. If you’ll be conducting the viewings alone, tell a neighbour or friend first so they’re aware and call them once you’re done.
    • Source a ‘for sale’ sign. To maximise your home’s visibility, it’s worth putting up a ‘for sale’ sign. If you don’t have the DIY skills to rustle one up yourself, there’s a good choice of ready-made signs and ones you can personalise on eBay and Amazon*, ranging from £15 to £30.

     

  9. You can pay extra for an online agent to do most of the work for you

    Want some help with selling, but don’t want to pay full whack? Provided you’re happy to do some of the legwork yourself, using an online agent could be the right option.

    You’ll typically need to pay a one-off fee upfront (unlike with high street agents), though some online agents let you pay this fee later. It’ll normally set you back up to £1,000, though Purplebricks – the most well known – charges nearer to £1,500 if you’re in London. It’s also possible to sell your home for free through the online agent Strike.

    Using an online agent can save you £1,000s over traditional high street agents – though you won’t necessarily get as complete or personal a service. And by paying an up-front fee there’s a risk you’ll lose that money if your property doesn’t sell. Some argue this means there’s no incentive for online agents to go the extra mile.

  10. Want the full works? High street estate agents do it all for you – but you’ll pay a premium

    If you want all the legwork done for you and you’re happy to pay for it, you’ll want a high street estate agent. This remains by far the most common way of advertising a property.

    In general, their services are more complete, with energy performance certificates and hosted viewings included as standard. They tend to provide a more personal service too, effectively acting as a messenger between you and potential buyers.

    Find out which are the busiest and most experienced agents nearby, check the local press if you have one in your area and go online to see which agents have the most listings. Ask them how many properties they’ve sold in your area over the past months and what they charge.

    Personal recommendations are always valuable and having a presence on the high street also means potential buyers will see your property advertised in the office window.

    Get a few agents in. Pick the agent you like best, and say you’ll go with them if they can match the price of whoever is the cheapest agent. That often seems to work, but some estate agents will stand firm.

  11. Find yourself a conveyancer / solicitor

    Conveyancing is the legal process that sees the transfer of a property from one person to another.

    Solicitors and conveyancers are fully qualified and insured to handle the legalities around property sales. They do all the paperwork, Land Registry and council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of money. The primary difference is that conveyancers are specialist property lawyers.

    You don’t have to go with the solicitor or conveyancer your estate agent suggests – they’ll most likely have some kind of commercial arrangement in place which could end up costing you more.

    To speed up the long process of selling your property, it’s worth lining up a conveyancer or solicitor before you put it on the market. See our Buying a home timeline guide for more on how and where to find conveyancers.

    How much does a conveyancing solicitor cost?

    Basic fees for solicitors and conveyancers vary. According to the Homeowners’ Alliance, you’ll likely be charged anywhere between £850 and £1,500. When comparing, make sure you ask firms for a full breakdown of what’s included in their quote.

    On top of this quote, you’ll probably have to pay for:

    • Title deeds. Proof you own the property, normally held by HM Land Registry (approx £10-£20).
    • Bank or telegraphic transfer (CHAPS). Unless you’re remortgaging with the same lender, your funds are transferred to your bank (£20-£50).
    • Money-laundering checksEnsuring the buyer and seller are who they say they are (approx £10-£20).

    Do note that this is only the typical conveyancing cost for selling a property. You’ll have to pay even more in conveyancing fees if you’re buying a property at the same time as selling one.

  12. Accept the ‘best’ offer

    BEST OFFER text on the notepad with paper sheet with pen and wooden house

    With any luck, having priced your property carefully and spruced up its appeal, you’ll get at least a couple of offers from potential buyers. There’s a chance you’ll be inundated with offers (even better), or you might get none at all – meaning you’ll have to consider lowering the asking price.

    Where you’ve got offers coming in that are well below the asking price, you can either reject them outright, or encourage the bidder to come back with an improved offer.

    If you’re using a high street estate agent, the bidding and negotiations will be done through them on behalf of you and the bidder. In other words, they’ll be relaying messages of rejection, compromise and acceptance.

    When comparing offers, taking the highest bid might seem like the obvious choice. But also consider who’s chain-free, can move the quickest and is least likely to pull out. Try to get a sense of who you’ll have the easiest relationship with – buying and selling houses is stressful enough without being at loggerheads with your buyers.

    Also try to gauge how good their financials are – you don’t want to sell to someone who hasn’t got the money to back up the sale. Ask yourself how easy it will be to contact them. Being in touch directly rather than via solicitors is a huge plus as it will save time.

    Once you’ve decided on the ‘best’ offer, accept it!

    Playing devil’s advocate, some sellers may see a cash buyer as being more risky as they have less to lose from pulling out later (eg, they won’t have paid out any mortgage arrangement fees). A first-time buyer will be more emotionally invested and less likely to upset the applecart once an offer is accepted.

    Dinkylink, via forum

  13. Negotiate the finer details before exchanging contracts

    You’ll need to agree some final details with the seller before you both exchange contracts and become legally bound to go through with the sale.  This will include agreeing:

    • Any discount off the selling price for issues flagged by surveys. If a survey draws attention to any serious structural flaws, the buyer might use this as leverage to knock the price down. Worse, they might threaten to walk away.
    • Any fixtures any fittings you’re leaving behind / taking with you. Will you be taking the curtains with you, for example, or leaving them behind? What about any furniture, mirrors, kitchenware or appliances that you’re happy to leave behind. You can ask the seller to pay extra for anything you’re happy to part with. MSE Kit was told by his seller that she planned to take the carpet from the living room with her.
    • The completion date. This is the date you’ll hand over the keys and your home legally becomes the property of the buyer. You’ll need to agree on a date that works for both parties.

    Once you’ve sorted all these points, you should almost be ready to exchange contracts. But beware, once you do exchange, you’re legally bound – meaning you could face financial consequences if you then back out.

  14. Compare removal companies and prices

    When you’re ready to look at removals and shifting your belongings, the wheels of selling your home will be fully in motion.

    The average cost of hiring a removals firm can be anything from £550 upwards, and if you’re moving to the other end of the country during peak season this could easily be nearer to £1,000. You could save yourself a hefty chunk by DIY-ing if you can.

    Factors that affect the price of removals include:

    • Size of van (volume of belongings)
    • Distance between pick-up and destination (a 150-mile journey will be more expensive than a 15-mile journey)
    • Time of day and time of year (weekends are typically more expensive)
    • Who does the packing (you or removal firm)
    • Packing materials
    • Special and/or fragile items
    • Restricted access/difficult entry

    Get a few firms to give you quotes then ask your chosen company to break down the costs so you can check if there are ways you could save, such as doing the packing yourself. Quickly compare a few quotes using the reallymoving website.

  15. Don’t forget any final bills you might need to pay

    Final energy and water bills can come as a bit of a nasty shock, especially if you’ve been on estimated bills. If your energy firm has underestimated your usage, you could get hit with a hefty bill – so make sure you have a contingency fund for scenarios like this.

    Keep hold of your final gas and electricity readings too so that you can argue your case in the event you think you’re being overcharged.

    On the day of completion, contact your utility companies with final meter readings and ask for the final bill to be sent to your new address. Similarly give meter readings on the same day for your new address, to ensure you don’t end up paying for the previous occupant’s gas.

  16. Selling to buy? There’s significantly more leg-work involved

     

    If you’re selling your property to move abroad or rent you’re all done and dusted, so you can skip these final steps.

    But where you’re selling to buy another property, in order to be taken seriously you’ll need to get your current property on the market in good time. That’s because for a seller, the most attractive buyers are normally first-time buyers, followed by homeowners who’ve already sold, followed lastly by homeowners who’ve only got their property on the market.

    In terms of selling one property and buying another, the process usually follows this course:

    1. Research areas / properties you like.
    2. Visit potential properties.
    3. Find one you like.
    4. Realise you won’t be taken seriously unless your home is on the market.
    5. Rush to get your home on the market.
    6. Simultaneously look at properties while people look at yours.
    7. Hopefully have an offer accepted on yours so you can…
    8. … place an offer on the one you like

    In our Buying a home timeline guide, you’ll see that buying a new property can usually take anything from six weeks to eight months, so be sure to factor that in to your calculations.

  17. There’ll be extra fees too if you’re selling to buy

    As well as being stressful, the process of buying a property can be very costly – this outlay is in addition to the costs associated with selling a property which we describe above.
    Full info on what you’ll pay if you’re buying a property in our  Mortgage fees guide, but in brief:
     
    • Mortgage arrangement fees. Unless you’re a cash buyer or you’ve got an existing that you can port (in other words, moving your current mortgage from the property you’re selling to the one you’re buying), you’ll need to pay certain fees for taking out a new mortgage. The biggest one will likely be the mortgage arrangement fee – which can set you back up to £2,000 in some cases – and you might have to pay booking and broker fees too.
    • Valuation fee. This is for lenders to check how much the property you’re buying is worth. Budget for £300 to £400, though sometimes it can be free. This fee varies by lender and property value and is for the lender’s purposes only.
    • Survey. There are three kinds of surveys to choose from. A homebuyer’s report will cost from £500 to £1,000, while a full structural survey will cost up to £1,500. If you go for a snagging report (more appropriate for new-builds) this can cost £100s, but in some cases can be free.
    • Solicitor / conveyancer fees. This’ll cover all the legal work associated with buying a house. Budget for £500 to £1,500.
    • Searches. Local, drainage and environmental searches check to see if there’s anything you need to be aware of, such as building control issues or nearby road schemes. Your solicitor / conveyancer will take care of these searches. This’ll set you back approximately £300.
    • Stamp duty. Normally payable to HM Revenue & Customs on properties in England and Northern Ireland that are bought for over £125,000 (the thresholds are different in Wales and Scotland). See our Stamp duty guide for full details on what you’ll pay.
  18. Got a complaint? You should be able to raise it (and escalate – if necessary) for free

    Where you’ve got a complaint about a firm you used during the selling process, you should be able to raise this for free. Initially, you should raise the complaint directly with the company, and see if they can resolve the dispute.

    If you’re left unhappy with the firm’s final response, you’ll have the option to escalate the dispute for free. Depending on who your complaint, you can escalate to:

    • The Property Ombudsman or the Property Redress SchemeAll estate agents and online agents must be signed up to a redress scheme. Ask the agent or check online to see which of these two redress schemes it’s registered with, and follow the complaints procedure on the relevant website.
    • The Legal OmbudsmanThis is for unresolved complaints about legal firms, solicitors and conveyancers.
    • The Financial Ombudsman ServiceThis is for unresolved complaints about a lender, such as your mortgage provider.
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