You know how to buy a house. Now you’re thinking about moving on and you want to know how to sell your house. Because the process of selling a home is just as complex as the buying side of home ownership, it’s good to be prepared and know what to expect. If you’re about to take the plunge, read our guide to the most important things to know before selling a house. By the end of this article you’ll understand what’s involved in selling your home and be confident enough to do what’s needed to make it all happen.
Things to Know Before Selling a House
Selling a house involves doing a logical series of things in the right order. It may seem daunting but when you treat it the same way you’d eat an elephant – in small chunks, in elephant sandwiches – it’s a lot easier to handle. First, there are a few things you should know before selling your house.
It makes sense to thoroughly explore if selling is the right thing to do in the first place. Might it be better to rent it out? Next, take a long hard look at your finances without rose-coloured spectacles. Is selling a 100% viable option? Check your mortgage to see if you’ll have to pay any penalty fees for ending it early. If so, jot it down so you know how much – you’ll need to figure out the total cost of selling before you decide.
Don’t forget to include the cost of moving itself, which can be expensive. If you buy a country cottage or a terraced place down a tiny street your removals people might have to do something called a trans-shipment, where the big removals van parks up some distance from your new home and they transfer your stuff into a series of smaller vans to access it. If you move a long distance, high fuel costs mean the price can really stack up. Once you know where you want to move, ask for removal quotes so you’re prepared.
You might even want to spend time researching exactly where you want to move to before you make any moves to sell, narrowing your search down so when the time comes to view, it’s easier to choose places to visit. You can save a lot of wasted time that way.
Prepare Your House for Sale
It’s really important to prepare your place for valuation and sale. You might want to freshen up the paintwork, de-clutter, get the garden in order, and make the front of your home – the bit people see first – as attractive and welcoming as you can for estate agent photographs and for your valuers. The nicer it looks, the more you stand to make when selling.
If you’ve been using your home in unusual ways, for example someone’s sleeping in the living room, put it back to what viewers will expect so they can clearly see the potential for themselves.
If there’s been any work on the property, collect all the paperwork together for the new owners and their conveyancer. Do it at this stage and you won’t have to run around in a panic trying to find it later.
Is there anything you need to let potential buyers know about what the local area is like? Is there an ongoing issue or dispute with the neighbours? And what, exactly, are you going to include in the sale – will you leave the fridge, cooker, washing machine and so on, or take them with you? What about the light fittings?
Potential buyers will want to know if the property is listed or in a conservation area, and they’ll ask how much the council tax and average utility bills are. Get the information ready, along with details about internet connectivity and mobile connection speeds. If your water pressure isn’t as good as it could be, your estate agent and buyer will want to know about it, and the same goes for any other quirks you might’ve noticed while living there. Noise, nuisances, trespasses, breakings-in, it all matters to buyers.
And highlight the need to make properties look smart and appealing – ready to be valued and photographed.
Collate the Paperwork
Next, get the relevant certificates and paperwork in order. Find your EPC or energy performance certificate. It’s valid for 10 years and lets people know how efficient – or not – your home is around energy use and insulation. If it’s an old certificate and you’ve done work to improve your home’s energy efficiency since it was agreed, apply for a new certificate to give potential buyers an accurate picture.
Collect your HM Land registry documentation together. Add planning permission documentation for the work you’ve had done. If your home runs on gas find the Gas Check details. You’ll need evidence of any electrical checks and possibly an Electrical Installation Condition Report or EICR, NAPIT or NICEIC paperwork to prove you’ve met the building regulations, and any building work completion certificates. And add any warranties and guarantees for work done to your place, including Party Wall Agreements.
Basically, trawl through the paperwork you kept from when you bought your place, which will prove very helpful, then add the evidence for anything else relevant that’s happened since you moved in.
Get Your Property Valued
Next on the list of things to know before selling a house: the valuation. Ideally you’ll have spent time researching how much your home might sell for, checking what houses or flats in your street and the surrounding area are selling for. Because you’ve made an effort to prepare your home for sale, so it looks its best, the valuer will be able to give you the best price. You need a proper, professional property valuation, one from an expert.
The selling price matters a lot, so pick three recommended estate agents in your area, who have local property price and sales expertise, and ask them for valuations. After visiting your place, measuring up and taking details from you, they’ll send you the selling price they think will attract buyers while giving you a fair deal based on the market prices at the time.
Some agents give you a lower price, others value higher. Having three valuations means you can figure out an average that makes sense, at least to start with. If several people want to buy your place, the price can rocket. But for that to happen, you need to attract them in the first place. We’ll look at setting a selling price next.
Establish an Asking Price
You need to set a realistic asking price to attract buyers when selling your home. You don’t want to price it too high and put buyers off, nor do you want to price it too low and risk selling for less than it’s worth. When multiple estate agents are valuing your property in roughly the same price bracket, it’s a good sign they’ve got it about right and it’s a fair price to ask.
If an agent comes in with a selling price that’s way higher or lower than the others, it might be useful to know why. What have they seen that the others haven’t? Have you missed something important?
Select an Estate Agent
You can, of course, sell a house without the services provided by a professional local estate agent. But it’s rarely a good idea unless you have limitless time and are prepared to learn every step of the process yourself. How do you pick a great estate agent? There’s word of mouth, always worth listening to. Other than that you can check out how fast they’re selling properties, and how quickly they’re adding new ones to their books. And ask around to discover their track record around selling properties in your area.
Do they have keen buyers waiting for properties like yours? If so, it can save you time and hassle. Look at online, digital-only estate agencies as well as bricks and mortar agencies near you. But whatever agency you ultimately choose, take care to study the contract you’ll have with them in detail before signing on the dotted line. You might be able to negotiate the percentage charged by your shortlist of potential estate agents to cut the cost down. It’s always worth a try, especially if they have buyers lined up so have less work to do marketing your place.
Verify Marketing Materials and Information
Next, the estate agent you’ve picked will prepare the property details and marketing information, including images and possibly video, maybe even Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality presentations, in full 3D and great detail. They’ll measure the place carefully to create an accurate description supported by beautiful images, inside and out. It’s your job to carefully check the marketing materials before they’re released to the buying public, make sure there are no mistakes or misunderstandings, and all the best features of your home are properly highlighted.
Appoint a Solicitor or Conveyancer
Most estate agents have solicitors or conveyancers they like to work with and are happy to recommend. You might already have a solicitor, in which case they may be able to do it for you or recommend someone good. These days plenty of people use an online conveyancing service, where everything is done digitally and by post. Get the expertise you need lined up early on so you’re ready to move whenever you need to. As well as speeding things up, this tells buyers you’re serious.
Keep your home looking good for viewings
Hopefully your home won’t be on the market for long, selling fast. Keep it clean and tidy, fragrant and welcoming, and your viewers will easily be able to imagine how they’ll live in the property.
When anyone involved asks you to do something – sign paperwork, provide extra information, ask questions or whatever – respond straight away to keep the selling process on track.
Now you understand the main things to know before selling a house, you can go ahead and get busy. Once you’ve collected together the paperwork and information buyers and legal people will need, made your home look its best, chosen great people to sell it for you and sourced the right conveyancing support, you’ll be ready to press the selling your home ‘go’ button.