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Selling your house: a guide to the process

Selling your house: a guide to the process

Selling your home can be exciting, but it can also be quite a daunting process, whether you are selling for the first time or have done it several times before. After all, you are not only carrying out one of the largest financial transactions of your life, but you are also leaving and passing on to somebody else somewhere that has been your home, possibly for a long time, and therefore contains many special memories for you.

Selling your home is therefore a major event emotionally as well as financially, and it is important to do it right. This guide provides an overview to some of the key issues in the house selling process to help you to do this.

Choosing the best time to sell
If you have the luxury of choosing when to put your home on the market, you will most likely want to put it up for sale at a time when demand for property is high to give it the best chance of selling. The most popular times of the year to sell a property are spring, early summer or the autumn. You should avoid the height of summer and the winter, as many people are away on holiday or preparing for the festive period and not wanting to go out house hunting in the cold and dark. You should also be aware of what is going on in the housing market as well, both nationally and locally.

Valuing your property
Do your research
One of the first and most important decisions you need to make when selling your home is how much you are going to sell it for. Ultimately that decision is yours, but there are a number of factors you should consider when reaching your conclusion. Firstly, you need to think about the local market. Look at what price similar properties to yours are selling for in your local area by looking in estate agents windows, on their websites, on property sites like Rightmove, Primelocation and Zoopla, and in the property sections of the local newspapers. Also look at what prices properties have previously sold for.

Getting valuations

You should get at least three estate agents to visit your property and give valuations, not just one. See our section below on choosing an estate agent to help you decide which three agents you should ask. Some estate agents will deliberately over value a property to impress you so that you choose them to market your property. Don’t fall for this trap! You shouldn’t just go for the highest valuation; if a property is overvalued it will not sell.

Pre-empt buyers’ offers
Remember also that buyers will probably make you an offer rather than agreeing to pay the amount you are asking for the property. They will typically try to negotiate a discount of around 5 – 10%, so bear this in mind when deciding what price to put your home on the market for.

Stamp Duty thresholds

When deciding on the price to put your property on the market for it is important to think about the impact of the stamp duty land tax, also known as stamp duty or SDLT, on buyers. Stamp duty is a tax that anybody buying (not selling) a house or land over a certain amount has to pay. The rate varies according to the price of the property, with specific thresholds dictating what percentage of the purchase price the buyer has to pay.

The thresholds are currently as follows:

PURCHASE PRICE STAMP DUTY RATE
Up to £125,000 0%
£125,000.01 - £250,000 1%
£250,000.01 - £500,000 3%
£500,000.01 - £1,000,000 4%
£1,000,000.01 - £2,000,000 5%
£2,000,000.01+ 7%
As you can see, anyone buying your home for up to £125,000 will not have to pay stamp duty, but any purchase price over that amount will be subject to stamp duty. The percentage they have to pay is based on the entire purchase price, not just the amount over the threshold, so if they bought your house for £125,000 they would not pay a penny of stamp duty, but if they bought your house for £125,000.01 they would have to pay an extra £1,250 in stamp duty. If your asking price is near to any of these thresholds, you need to remember that potential buyers are likely to want to bring you down to under the threshold, for example if you put your house on the market at £128,000 or £252,000.

Choosing and using an estate agent
Why use an estate agent?

You can choose not to use an estate agent and instead sell your home privately, but this is a risky strategy. Your home is probably your biggest financial asset, and therefore selling your home is probably one of the largest financial transactions you will carry out in your life.

By getting an estate agent to sell your home, you are hiring professionals with a vast amount of property selling expertise, local knowledge, marketing power, legal protection and time. They spend all day, every day selling property, and will value your property, market it, give you advice and handle viewings and negotiations on your behalf. They are the link between people who want to buy property and people who want to sell property, and may already have people waiting who want to buy a house like yours. Ultimately, they will aim to achieve the best possible price for your property and deliver the best buyer to you, taking out the stress and disappointment caused from less serious potential buyers letting you down.

Choosing an estate agent

When deciding on an estate agent, start with word of mouth. Ask friends, colleagues, neighbours, family etc. for any experience they may have on recently selling their home. You should choose a local estate agent to the property you are selling, as they will have knowledge of the local market, and ideally they should be a member of a national support network, such as The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors or the National Association of Estate Agents. You should also choose an estate agent that is experienced in selling your type of property.

Get to know them before you make a decision. Pay their offices a visit and check out their window displays. Are they enthusiastic about your property? If they aren’t, then chances are they won’t be positive with potential buyers either. They should be personal, professional, competent and independent – if they aren’t, you will not have a good working relationship with them, but more importantly they will put off potential buyers. Also, check when they are open – most buyers go house hunting at weekends, so you want an estate agent that will be accessible to buyers when they are most active. Ideally, your estate agent should be open seven days a week.

Finally, find out where the estate agents will be advertising your property and what type of adverts they produce. The photos should be attractive and portray the property at its best. The descriptions should be enticing and well written and include floor plans. They should put up “For Sale” signs to attract any passing potential buyers. They should be marketing houses in the local press, on their website, and through property portals such as Zoopla and Rightmove. Over 80% of buyers now use the internet when looking for a property, and these sites attract over 80% of internet property searches.

For more information on what you should look for when choosing an estate agent, please click here.

Energy Performance Certificates

Sellers must provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for the property they are selling, and should order it for potential buyers before marketing the property to sell, as it must be available within seven days of the property first being put on the market. Failure to do so can result in a £200 fine from Trading Standards.

EPCs give information about a property’s energy use and typical energy costs, and also provide recommendations about how to reduce energy use and save money. An EPC gives a property an energy efficiency rating, with A being the most efficient, and G being the least efficient. An EPC is valid for 10 years.

An accredited assessor will assess your property and produce the certificate for you. You can find an accredited assessor by clicking here if you are selling a property in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, or here if you are selling a property in Scotland. Prices vary for an EPC but generally cost between £60 and £90.

Choosing which offer to accept

Buyers must make their offer through your estate agent if you are selling your home through one, or directly to the seller in the case of a private sell. The offer can be made verbally (either over the phone or in person) or in writing.

Estate agents must show any offers promptly and in writing to the person selling the house, and are legally obliged to pass on any offers for the property right up to when contracts are exchanged. Even if an offer is ridiculous the estate agent must show it to the seller.

You can negotiate when a potential buyer makes an offer – you don’t have to just accept it or reject it. You also don’t necessarily have to sell to the highest bidder. One person might make a lower offer than another person, but if they are a cash buyer (i.e. they don’t have to wait for mortgage approval), or already have a mortgage agreed in principle, or if they don’t have to sell a property and so aren’t part of a property chain then they might be a better option for you.

Once you have decided to accept an offer on your house, you will probably be asked to take your property off the market. It’s up to you whether or not you want to do this. If you do this, you might want to tell your estate agent that you will put the property back on the market again in a couple of weeks if the sale hasn’t progressed.

Conveyancing
Conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal ownership of property or land from one person to another. It is very time consuming and complex, so you will need either a solicitor or professional conveyancer to do it for you. You should choose which solicitors you want to use before agreeing the sale of the house, but you can only instruct them after you have agreed an offer.

Transferring ownership, exchanging contracts and completion
Inside your new home
Once you have formally accepted an offer on your house you are responsible for drawing up a legal contract to transfer ownership. An offer isn’t legally binding until contracts are exchanged. Until this happens, you can still change your mind and accept an offer from someone else. If you have hired a solicitor or conveyancer they will draft the initial contract on your behalf, negotiate the details of the contract and answer any questions from the buyer’s solicitor or conveyancer. They will usually need your help to do this.

The contract contains details about:

the sale price
when the sale will complete
the property boundaries
services to the property, such as drainage and gas
any planning restrictions
any legal restrictions or rights, such as public footpaths or rules about using the property
which fixtures and fittings are to be included e.g. kitchen units and carpets


Only when both the buyer and seller are happy with the contract should both sides sign the final copies and send them to each other. This is called the Exchange of Contracts. The agreement to buy and sell is then legally binding and neither party can pull out without having to pay compensation. If a buyer makes you an offer “subject to contract” that means that the price can still be negotiated at a later date, for example if a survey highlights a problem with the property.

Once contracts have been exchanged, a date for completion is usually set. This is generally between two weeks and a month later to give you time to arrange removals. The money is transferred from the buyer to the seller, and the legal documents needed to transfer ownership are handed over to the buyer. Once this happens, the final step is for the seller to move out and leave the property in the stage agreed in the contract. The seller then hands over the keys to the buyer, and the property now legally belongs to the buyer.

For more information and advice about selling your home, please contact Hudson Moody Estate Agents on 01904 650650.

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