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Step-by-step guide – How to sell your home (without losing your sanity)

A simple guide to selling your home

Selling your home can be a stressful and complicated process, so we’ve put together this simple guide to help you out.

FINANCES

Before you do anything else, make sure you know exactly what you can afford. If you’re looking to downsize this is more straightforward. But if you’re upsizing, or moving to a similar property in another location, then there are a number of factors to consider.

If you currently have a mortgage, there may be early repayment fees, or a fee for porting the mortgage to a new property.

Consider speaking to an independent mortgage advisor. They can help you to figure out your borrowing limit and find the best deal for your circumstances.

Stamp duty can be quite a substantial expense, in addition to the usual costs of buying and selling property. We will cover these costs in a separate article later this month.

PREPARE YOUR HOME

Next, prepare your property for marketing. Check out our article on home staging for more in-depth guidance on preparing your home.

A simple approach is to simply ensure your home is clutter-free, tidy and clean. It’s the perfect opportunity for a spring-clean. It’s also a great time to get rid of things that have been lying around unused for years.

You’ll be moving home soon anyway, so decluttering might include putting some things out of sight into boxes. Don’t worry, it’s only temporary and gives you a little head start on packing up ahead of moving day.

If your home is looking a bit tired and worn out, or painted in strong, bright colours, it may be worth adding a fresh coat of paint in neutral colours. This helps your prospective buyers to imagine your home as their own.

LAGER ISSUES

For larger issues (worn out kitchen, suspected structural problems etc) it might be worth seeking advice from an estate agent before spending large sums of money.

Any money you spend on a large project may not be recovered in your asking price. Also, not every buyer will share your taste. There are usually simple and inexpensive solutions to make a property more presentable without spending a fortune or doing a full renovation.

If there is a problem which requires major works (damp, timber, roof and so on), then it may be best to get a survey and a quote, and factor this into your asking price.

VALUATION / APPRAISAL

Now is the time to find out what your property may be worth.

Pricing your property correctly when it goes onto the market can be key to getting the best possible price as quickly as possible. Setting it too high can price out serious buyers, and could mean reducing the price several times to achieve an eventual sale.

It’s worth having 3 or 4 valuations in order to get a good range of opinions from experienced agents. If you are using online house valuation sites or tools, remember that they use an algorithm. These algorithms can’t know the exact condition of your home, if you have extended or upgraded, and so on.

The agents should be able to give you examples of comparable properties nearby which have sold recently. This is more accurate than looking at current asking prices, as these may not represent the final selling prices.

SELECT AN AGENT OR SELLING METHOD

Choose your agent carefully! You could be working together for several months as your transaction progresses, so base your decision on more than just their fees. The lowest fee doesn’t always get you the best price for your house – and in the end this could cost you more.

The way your property is marketed, the level of customer service, and even your gut feeling are all important.

Be wary of valuations which vary significantly. Ask for evidence to back up any valuations which seem out of line with what the other agents are saying. It may seem tempting to go with the agent that gives you the highest valuation. However, it is an unfortunate fact that some agents will overvalue properties to win the business. If locked in to a lengthy contract term, this can lead to repeated price reductions and a lower selling price.

Once you have selected your agent, or chosen another method of selling your property, make sure you understand all the costs and fees and any important contract terms.

MARKETING

Once instructed, your agent will need to take photographs.

Try to ensure that on the day of the photographs the property is tidy and free of clutter.

Where possible, be prepared to move some objects out of shot between photographs. You can also add some simple touches such as a bowl of fruit or some flowers.

The agent should also prepare a floorplan and property description. They may have already measured up and prepared the floorplan as part of the valuation / appraisal. If they are not providing a floorplan, ask them why. Potential buyers find this information useful in their decision-making process.

Your agent will then list your property on their website, and online property portals such as Zoopla, Rightmove and OnTheMarket. There are also several other smaller portals currently growing their online presence. Make sure you check the written description for accuracy.

Once the property is listed, your agent should be communicating with you regularly. If you find that some time has passed and you haven’t received any offers, your agent should approach you with a strategy to increase interest. This could be about altering the marketing, changing the pricing strategy, or there may be some other reason which viewer feedback might identify.

VIEWINGS

Most traditional estate agents will conduct accompanied viewings and are experienced in knowing how best to present your property. Where possible, allow viewings to take place whilst you’re not home. It’s easier for viewers to give honest feedback and to ask questions without the vendor present.

If you choose to be present, or to conduct viewings yourself, try to remain as objective as possible and not to take comments personally.

CONVEYANCING

Selecting the right licensed conveyancer or solicitor is extremely important. Select your solicitor or conveyancer early in the process.

You should also ensure that you have your paperwork in place as early as possible, and we will discuss this important point in more detail in a forthcoming article later this month.

OFFERS

The agent should pass on all valid offers to you, along with any pertinent information.

In some cases, you may receive more than one offer, in which case you should consider carefully any additional information you are given. It is tempting to always accept the highest offer, but other factors should be taken into consideration.

Home mover who has not yet sold their property:

There’s no way of knowing how long it may be before they find a buyer, and what chain position that buyer will be in. Rather than hang on indefinitely, they can always come back to you with an offer when they are more proceedable (assuming your property is still on the market).

Home mover who has sold subject to contract (SSTC):

It is important to find out what their chain position is like. For example, is their buyer also selling a property? Has that property also SSTC? And so on until there are no more buyers down the chain. Also, are mortgages involved, or are the buyers paying cash from the equity in their home?

Home mover who has already completed on their sale:

These buyers are in an excellent position to proceed and there is no downward chain.

Investor, or first-time buyer:

There is no downward chain, but there is probably a mortgage required.

Cash purchaser:

Cash purchasers are often investors, people with an inheritance, or home movers who have sold their property and do not need additional funds to buy yours. Occasionally a cash offer will be lower than others – if so, weigh this up alongside the other pros and cons. But if squeezing every penny out of your sale is more important than a quick, hassle-free transaction then a lower price might be worth it to have a quick, cash purchase.

NEGOTIATION

Depending on your marketing strategy, buyers may offer less than your asking price. You can either accept the offer as it is, or reject the offer and hope that they will return with a higher offer. Alternatively you can suggest a compromise, and hope that they accept.

Negotiating can be nerve-wracking, and if you’re using an Estate agent they should be able to help and offer some advice. They should be helping you to get the best possible price for your property, and hopefully they gave you a realistic valuation in the first place.

Try to be realistic. If your asking price is higher than any similar properties in your street or area have ever sold for, then this may be an indication that your asking price is too high.

If your property requires structural work, then it may be possible to negotiate on the basis of the survey, if they are having one.

Consider the position of the buyer. Is there a long chain? Have they sold their property? Do they require a mortage?

Perhaps timing is a critical factor in your transaction. If your property has been on the market for a few months and this is your first offer, is it likely that you will get higher offers by waiting longer?

Find out what the average time from listing to offer is in your area. Perhaps other properties have been on the market for some time. If this is the case, then it may be possible that the listing prices in the area are too high.

HOUSE-HUNTING

Once you have accepted an offer on your property, this is the time to find your onward purchase. It’s likely that you’ve already started looking, but some sellers won’t allow viewings or accept an offer from you until you have found a buyer. Alternatively, you can make plans to move into temporary accommodation – we will cover this soon in another article, and this approach can make your transaction and your search a lot less stressful.

If you do decide to buy your onward purchase straight away, you will need to be aware of the onward chain position. Sometimes chains can involve 5 or 6 properties, or more.

If you find yourself in a long chain, there is a much higher chance of the transaction falling through or a break or problem along the chain causing additional delays.

SALES PROGRESSION

Once you have your buyer and your onward purchase in place, and the top of the chain is established, your estate agent should help to keep you informed with progress.

Try and agree suitable target completion date/s early on, to avoid disputes later on. These dates are not legally binding, but it does give everyone something to aim for and can help avoid delays.

Try and ensure that you remain in communication with your agent and solicitor. You should aim to receive an update at least once every couple of weeks. If there is anything you don’t understand or need more clarification about, your conveyancer should be able to advise.

MOVING DAY!

Once all the legalities and paperwork have been dealt with, the time will arrive to exchange contracts. Once contracts are exchanged, each purchaser pays a deposit and the transaction/s become legally biding.

This is the date from which you should arrange buildings insurance on your onward purchase, if applicable.

You will need to arrange to have everything out of your house as early as possible, and get the keys to your estate agent for them to hand over after completion.

If your sale and completion are completing on the same day, you will not need to place your property in storage – you can move out and in on the very same day.

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How much do estate agents charge?

How much should I be paying my estate agent?

Traditional ‘high-street’ estate agents usually calculate their commission fee based on a percentage of the price for which the property is sold.

Commission fees can vary based on various factors, such as whether or not you choose to list with a single agent or multiple agents. The commission percentage is usually somewhere between 1% and 4% (including vat).

Some agents may also charge a listing fee or marketing fee. It’s always worth checking if this initial charge is deducted from the commission at the end, or is an additional cost.

So-called ‘online agents’ tend to charge a flat rate fee, ranging from around £600 to about £2,000. They often also charge for added extras should you require them. Traditional estate agents may also offer a cehaper fixed fee service, payable in advance.

Estate agents are required to let you know their full fee INCLUDING VAT, as required by The Property Ombudsman.

Why not just select the cheapest agent?

It might be tempting to select an agent based on price alone.

Depending on the value of your home, an estate agent’s fee can seem like a lot of money. However, choosing the agent which offers the lowest fee will not always save you money – selecting the right agent carefully can actually end up saving you more money in the long run, regardless of their fees. A faster sale at a higher price can literally save you thousands.

It’s a good idea to invite around 3-4 agents to value your property and provide you with a quote. Check exactly what is included in their service and whether or not there are any added extras they charge for.

Questions to ask

Before you sign up with your estate agent, make sure you understand the terms which you are agreeing to. If there’s anything you don’t understand, are unsure of, or you feel unhappy with, you should seek to clarify this before you sign the paperwork.

Some specific questions you might want to ask could include:

  • Can I use more than one agent?
  • How long is the tie-in period? (This should be no longer than the estimated time to find a suitable buyer)
  • If I wish to end the contract, how much notice am I required to give?
  • If I manage to find a buyer privately, will any fees be due?
  • Are there any extras I might be required to pay for?

For more information related to this topic, here are some other articles you might find useful:

Our services and fees

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Is home staging worth it?

The must, should, could approach to home staging that will turn viewers into buyers

Let’s be honest, selling your home can feel like riding an emotional roller coaster.  Often, that’s because we feel guilty, knowing that we should be doing something to influence potential buyers, but not quite sure what. Instead, we bury our heads in the sand, become overwhelmed, or worse: do nothing at all.

It doesn’t need to be like that.

There are clear steps you can take to ensure you are raising a celebratory glass of bubbly in your dream home within weeks rather than months.  Nothing, though, happens by magic; you have a job to do here, and it’s a job that is definitely worth doing.  Your home needs to be spruced up ready for photographs, for marketing and for receiving visitors – and that’s down to effort on your part.  We’re not talking about hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears, but our suggestions for home staging will inevitably take up ‘some’ of your precious time.

Yet it’s important, if you’re investing time in the selling process, to prioritise the right things.  Below, in our must, should, could approach, we guide you towards choosing what to focus on, whether you’re constantly twiddling your thumbs with time on your hands, or whether full-time work has you begging for a break.

Must do

Presenting a clean and tidy home is quite simply non-negotiable.  A clutter-free home is much easier to clean, so these two things go hand in hand.  Remember that your objective is to sell, so it really is worth putting in the extra effort to achieve this.  It’s not always easy, but call in help from friends or relatives to free you up.  Tell them how important this is.  If they need persuading, tell them how important they are.  Tell them they’re on the invite list for the housewarming party when you move into your next house.

First, make sure you clear surfaces of papers and magazines that are no longer needed.  Pop them into recycling, then straighten up the things you want to keep.

Decluttering goes for other items too.  Be ruthless about what needs to go.  We’re not asking you to chuck out anything of real sentimental value – that’s not what we mean by clutter.  But ask yourself whether you really need everything you propose to keep.  Piles of randomly abandoned objects have a nasty habit of gathering dust, and that’s the last thing we want.  Help out a local charity by donating your unused china, old books and any toys that are no longer wanted; someone is bound to benefit from them.

Now, set about giving your home a really deep clean.  It’s not just a case of having a quick flick round with a duster.  Rows of books need to be taken down, and shelves need to be cleaned and polished before your favourite volumes are dusted off and put back in place.  Get to work on bathroom and kitchen tiling, as well as enamelled and stainless-steel surfaces.  A great tip here is to invest in hiring a steam cleaner (or even booking a one-off professional house cleaning) to make the job as effortless as possible – a small price to pay to have your home gleaming… and potential buyers beaming at the prospect of living there.

Should do

So, you’ve cleared the clutter and cleaned up – excellent.  Now, you really should consider embarking on a little painting.  If you’re cash rich and time poor, you could get a professional to help with this, but there’s really no need to.

It’s no secret that first impressions count.  What this means for you is ensuring that when potential purchasers come to call, they want to cross the threshold of your property.  A brightly-painted front door is pleasing to the eye, and helps to give your home kerb appeal.  If your front door could do with a lick of paint, it’s likely that window frames will need a touch up too.  Set about this without delay: remember that procrastination is the thief of time.

Before you tackle the paintwork on the inside of your home, cast a critical eye over your garden.  Is it looking overgrown? Could it do with a little weeding?  An hour spent on pruning and tidying up is definitely going to be time well spent.

And now to the inside.  You will know better than anyone where the stains and blemishes are in your home: these really do need touching up.  But, if you can manage it, a weekend spent painting walls and skirting boards, in relatively neutral colours, will enhance the positive features of the space you are presenting to potential buyers.

Could do

This is about dressing your home so that it looks good; it’s about the fine detail. Think of it as a final seductive flourish to woo viewers.  Think of it as selling a lifestyle.  The following are powerful steps we think you could take once you have sorted out the absolute essentials outlined above.

Make sure that your kitchen looks inviting, and remember, buyers have to be able to imagine themselves relaxing and cooking up a feast in there. During colder months, switch on the radiators so that the kitchen feels warm, cosy and enticing.  Perhaps have some soothing music playing in the background.  Add one or two props such as a colourful bowl of fruit, or a pair of glasses alongside a bottle of good red wine.  If this is a kitchen diner, allow viewers to see how it might look at mealtimes, by placing brightly-coloured placemats on the table.

If your kitchen cupboards are a little tired and worn, there’s no need to buy a whole new kitchen. Repainting or replacing the cupboard doors and handles is a quick, low-cost option which can completely change the feel of your kitchen.

It is essential that your lounge looks as comfortable as possible.  Make sure you pull chairs and sofas away from walls.  Group these to convey a convivial air.  Plants in planters will really enhance this space as will plumped-up, colourful cushions on furniture.  Use a standard lamp to light up a dark corner.

Upstairs, create a sense of luxury in bathrooms by displaying fluffy towels and a bright, thick bath mat.  Make sure that bottles of shampoo, toothpaste and shower gel are stored tidily.  In bedrooms, crisp, clean, neutral bed linen and duvets will really make the space look appealing.

Aim to neutralise odours throughout the house.  It is often difficult to detect these when we’re so used to them ourselves, but don’t take any chances.  Light up scented candles, brew up a pot of coffee – anything, in fact, to please the senses.

Home staging can seem a bit of a chore, but we think it’s vital for a quick sale.  Hopefully, we have given you some ideas for adopting a less stressful, more structured approach to the task, one that will have buyers falling over themselves to part with their cash.