How To Sell Your Property

Just as every decent funfair ride has a bloke with a spanner checking the nuts and bolts, so every exciting swoop onto a lovely new home must have its serious, practical side.

This short article is all about the finance and the forms and the legal details.

Yes, yes, you can sigh all you want, you can click away to something nicer on this website about interior design, but you do need to know a bit about this stuff.

And, look, we’re going to keep it light…

Inspire Me - selling your home

1. Do I really want to sell?

No, it’s not a dumb question.  The act of moving is itself expensive, and you need to be sure you’re doing the right thing.

So if you’re moving for more space, have you considered an extension? Or converting the attic? Would staying put actually be the better option?

And are you in negative equity – that’s when you owe your mortgage company more than your house is actually worth?  If that’s you, it will definitely be cheaper to stay put.

2. What can I afford?

So you’re definitely moving. OK, now work out how much you can afford.

First, find out how much money you can expect to carry over from your current home. You do that by estimating how much it will sell for, and how much of that will be left after you’ve paid off the mortgage. Factor in any mortgage admin costs.

Add any savings into the pot.

And then find out what mortgage lenders will want to lend you. A rough guide might be 2.5 times your combined income, but it depends on so many different factors, you’ll need to speak to actual mortgage lenders to firm everything up.

And finally, see what’s available in the area you’re moving to, and what it costs. It might surprise you. House prices in Yorkshire are literally under half the prices of those in the south-east (and we don’t even include London here).

3. Can I sell my house myself?

Yes. But that’s an essay in itself, and we can’t tackle all that in this simple guide.

If you are tempted – and it could save you thousands – there’s a decent introductory BBC article about it here:

But be aware that if you sell it yourself, you’re unlikely to get onto the three main property selling websites – Rightmove, Prime Location and Zoopla. They deal primarily with estate agents.

Of course, if you’re planning on buying a brand new property, you might find your housebuilder will help to sell your house for you – or even offer a part exchange deal. If that’s the case, you can skip the next section!

4. How do I get an estate agent?

If you’re among the 95 per cent of house sellers who use an estate agent, there are still decisions to be made.

Do your research on which estate agent to use, and especially how much each estate agent would charge. Nearly all estate agents calculate their fees as a percentage of the final selling price of the property. It’s usually between 1½ and 2½ per cent.

You will also need to decide whether to use just one estate agent or multiple agents. In simple terms, the more agents you have, the more potential buyers you reach, but the higher the fees you might have to pay. Bear in mind though, that most agents work on a “no sale no fee” basis.

Online estate agents have also become more popular – and you can go to them directly, and save money. The reason they are cheaper is you’re not paying for the high street presence of a traditional estate agent.

But if you go for an online firm, check carefully. You might have to be more hands-on with things like viewings, and – frankly – any fool can set up a website online for pin money, and call himself an estate agent.

5 How will I set the price of my house

Don’t let it cause too much soul-searching – just be logical.

Go online or flick through the local paper for a few weeks to get a feel for the market. Remember most of the prices you see will be asking prices, which even in a seller’s market might be 10 per cent more than the sellers will actually get.

Get at least three estate agents to value your home, and – remembering what we said about asking prices and selling prices – don’t just go with the one who gives the highest estimate. And don’t set the price too high – that just puts buyers off.

6. What sort of legal help will I need?

A solicitor or (often less expensive) a conveyancer will be needed to make sure this major transfer of property is all legal and above board.

Decide on one before you agree the sale of your house – a recommendation from a friend is as good a method as any. Then he or she is ready when you are.

If you’re buying a new home as well as selling your old one, it makes sense and saves time and money to get the same person to handle both transactions.

And keep in touch with your solicitor, your estate agents etc. Don’t suddenly disappear on holiday for two weeks without telling anyone.

7. What happens when I get an offer?

The estate agent is supposed to pass on all offers to you. Equally, if you’re using an estate agent, a buyer has to make their offer through them.

There are four possible responses to an offer that don’t involve swearing. You can reject the offer outright, tell the estate agent to negotiate a better offer, make a specific counter-offer, or accept the offer.

This offer and counter-offer part is a bit like playing poker. It doesn’t pay to show your true hand too early – unless you’re in a hurry to move and need a reasonable offer ASAP.

If several prospective buyers are interested in your home, pick the one who’s most likely to see the process through. The safest are the ones who’ve already sold their own property, or a first-time buyer.

When you get the offer you want, you formally accept it and instruct all the estate agents to take the property off the market.

8. What’s a ‘draft contract’ and an ‘exchange of contracts’?

Yes, we’re into the contracts phase now. The draft contract sorts out the basic rules under which your house will be sold.

You and the buyer have to agree not just the price, but also what’s included in the price. That could be anything from garden furniture to carpets and curtains.

There might also be ‘extras’ – for example, an extra £100 if you leave that almost-new two-seat timber arbour – or ‘discounts’, perhaps due to problems flagged up by the survey your buyer had done.

You will probably confirm where the house and land boundaries are, and any planning restrictions. You also need to decide the length of time between exchange and completion. That can typically be around four weeks.

‘Exchange of contracts’ follows. Basically it involves both sides’ solicitors/conveyancers agreeing the deal.

This is the solemn moment when the whole thing becomes legally binding. You now have to sell and they have to buy, and if either side pulls out now, there’s trouble. In practice, the deal will almost always go through though, so everyone can start to relax.

9. What happens next?

Well, the transaction then moves to the ‘completion’ phase, usually on an agreed date and time. Completion is when the house literally changes ownership, and you accept the payment and hand over the keys.

It’s on this day that the money and the legal deeds of the property are transferred between the two solicitors/conveyancers. Your solicitor/conveyancer will log the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry.

Once the buyer has transferred the money, your solicitor/conveyancer will pay off the mortgage for you on your old property.

Then you just have to settle up with your solicitor/conveyancer – he will send you a bill – and with the estate agent who sold the house.

And then … your old home is part of your history. Onwards and upwards!