How to… Sell a Home


Selling a home can be an exciting experience as you’re moving on to somewhere new. However, getting it right can be tricky, if you are not sure where to start or when to get legal advice.

Infographic: How to Sell a House

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How do I start the process of selling my house?

Firstly, you must get an accurate valuation of your house. Ask for valuations from at least 3 different estate agents so you can be sure that you are advertising your property at its correct market value.

Do your own research, look online at how much similar properties in the area are valued at and search for prices of recently 'sold' properties.

How do I choose an estate agent?

The role of the estate agent is to take responsibility for advertising the property, handling viewings and negotiating the price and fixtures and fittings with potential buyers.

To get your house the maximum exposure on the market it is important to consider:

  • The opening hours of the estate agent
  • When they can conduct viewings
  • How well known they are
  • How they will market and advertise your property
  • The cost - estate agents will usually charge a fee that is a percentage of the price you sell, or market your home

You can instruct an estate agent to sell your home in one of the following ways:

  • A ‘sole agency’ only using one agent - but if you find a buyer yourself you do not have to pay commission to the estate agent
  • ‘Sole selling rights’ - the estate agent has the exclusive right to sell your home and you will have to pay them even if you find a buyer yourself
  • Enter a multi agency arrangement for your house to be sold by more than one agency - the fees are usually higher but you only pay the agency that introduces you to the buyer

Most estate agents prefer the first two options - if you want to go with the third option then check your contract carefully to ensure it accurately reflects what you want.

I don’t want to use an estate agent - what should I do?

Before you decide to put your property on the market, you must get an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). This certificate will tell the home buyers how energy efficient your house is and what improvements can be made to increase its energy efficiency. You will need to find an accredited assessor to do this - you can find an assessor online or ask an estate agent for recommendations.

You can market and sell the property yourself online. This might mean you avoid the cost of paying an estate agent, however it could limit the audience your property is exposed to. You can also advertise your house in the local paper or in local shops.

Arranging viewings yourself gives you the freedom to decide when they take place and you can speak to potential buyers before they view your house.

Negotiating the price takes some professionalism and you should not go below your minimum price, no matter how much you want a quick sale. Once you have secured a buyer, you must contact a solicitor to help you complete the sale.

How do I decide who to sell to?

You can decide to sell to whoever you want, they do not need to be the highest bidder. You may want to bear in mind whether they are a first time buyer, or if they have a property to sell and are in a 'chain'. If they are in a chain, check that they have found a buyer for their own property. Finally ask if they are paying by cash or with a mortgage and if they want to move at the same time as you.

What happens when I accept the offer?

Accepting an offer is a huge step in the sale of your home. However, a lot can happen at this stage. There is nothing in the law that will stop you from changing your mind and accepting a later higher offer before contracts are exchanged. For example, you accept an offer for £250,000 but then another person offers you £270,000. You can then accept the offer of £270,000. Although the first buyers will be disappointed, you are within your right to accept a later offer.

Remember that the buyer can also back out of the sale by withdrawing their offer at any time, even if you have accepted it. This might be because they have not received the mortgage they expected or they have problems with securing their deposit. Hopefully, you have a reserve list of buyers in case this happens.

Why do I need a solicitor?

Once you have accepted an offer, 'conveyancing' can begin - this is the process of buying or selling a property.

You can do the conveyancing yourself. However, this can be complicated if you have no previous experience of doing this and can sometimes add to an already stressful situation. Most people will opt for a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer. Be sure to get at least 2 or 3 quotes because costs will vary.

Your conveyancer will obtain any title documents held by the Land Registry then draw up a contract with all the agreed terms including the price and fixtures and fittings, deal with redeeming any mortgages on the property and exchange contracts.

What happens when I exchange contracts and complete the sale?

Your conveyancer will arrange a time with the buyer to exchange the contracts. Once the contracts are exchanged you are legally bound to sell and the buyer is legally bound to buy your house.

If you or the buyer pull out at this stage then you may have to pay compensation to the other party.

On completion, your solicitor will receive the rest of the purchase price from the buyer. They will then pass this on to you along with the earlier deposit minus any mortgages registered against the property.

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