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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.

LARGER 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 mortgage?

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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