Home Selling Guide

Selling your home can be 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.

Read our guide below

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Home Selling Guide

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 also be aware of what is going on in the housing market as well, both nationally and locally

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. 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 and OnTheMarket and in the property sections of the local newspapers. Also look at what prices properties have previously sold for.

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.

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.

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.

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. For example if you buy a house for £275,000, the SDLT you owe is calculated as follows:

  • 0% on the first £125,000 = £0
  • 2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500
  • 5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250
  • Total SDLT = £3,750

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.

It is also worth thinking about the stamp duty rates for second homes if you think your property may appeal to this kind of buyer. From April 2016, property buyers in England and Wales will have to pay an additional 3% on each stamp duty band for buy-to-let and second home properties.

Purchase price Stamp duty rate
Up to £125,000 Zero
The next £125,000
(the portion from £125,001 to £250,000)
The next £675,000
(the portion from £250,001 to £925,000)
The next £575,000
(the portion from £925,001 to £1.5 million)
The remaining amount
(the portion above £1.5 million)

For more help, use our stamp duty calculator.

Brackets Standard rate Buy-to-let/second home rate (April 2016)
Up to £125,000 0% 3%
£125,001 - £250,000 2% 5%
£250,001 - £925,000 5% 8%
£925,001 - £1.5m 10% 13%
over £1.5m 12% 15%

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.

When deciding on an estate agent, it’s always a good idea to 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.

We’ve put together a helpful guide on how to choose your estate agent. Click here to read.

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.

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. 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 or already have a mortgage agreed in principle, or if they don’t have to sell a property then they might be a better option for you.

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.

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.

  • 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. 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.