How to Sell Your House
Congratulations! You’ve decided to sell your home. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as putting a “For Sale” sign on the front lawn and waiting for the perfect buyer to come knocking. There are countless factors to consider before you even list your home for sale.
From figuring out your finances and future plans to hiring an estate agent, you’ll be faced with some major life decisions. But, don’t worry! In this guide, we’ll cover every step of the house selling process so you can close one chapter and start the next without losing your life savings (or your mind)!
Ask Yourself, “Should I Sell My Home?”
Before you can list your home, you have to decide if the time is right and consider other options first. Start by asking yourself why you want to sell. Are you moving because you need more space?
If so, consider the cost of putting on an addition. This is especially cost-effective if you love your current home and location. Instead of selling your house and uprooting your life, see if you can transform your current home into your dream home!
If you’re relocating for work, school, or other personal reasons, that’s something you can’t fix with renovations. You can, however, think about renting out your current home rather than selling it. While being a landlord comes with a certain level of responsibility (and sometimes, stress), it’s also a great way to bring in passive income.
Once you’ve decided that selling your home is the best choice, you can start the process. Here’s how!
Consider Your Finances
When it comes to selling your home, the first thing to look at is your finances. Here are a few things to consider:
- Do you have a current mortgage on your home and if so, how much do you owe?
- What other debt do you have?
- How much is your house worth?
- How much money do you need to purchase your next home?
If you do have a mortgage on your current home, it’s important to find out if you’ll incur any penalty fees for paying it off early. Ask your lender or check your contract. You can also ask about taking your current mortgage with you to your next property. This is known as porting.
Remortgaging is also a popular option and best if your current mortgage agreement is coming to an end or your next property is more expensive than your current home.
Keep in mind that most of the figures you’re working with now are rough estimates.
There’s no way to know if you’ll get the asking price for your current home or if your new hours will require repairs or renovations.
When considering costs, don’t forget about realtor and attorney fees as well as closing and moving costs. Every expense should be calculated into your current finances and budget.
Choose Your Next Residence
Do you already know where you plan to move to? Perhaps you even have a house picked out. Are you planning to buy or rent? Some homeowners choose to rent for a short period of time before purchasing another home.
This is common when sellers get an offer on their current home but haven’t secured a new house yet.
Renting a property gives you plenty of time to shop around, research neighborhoods, and find the perfect fit for you and your family. It takes the pressure off of you and prevents you from making an impulsive purchase simply because you have nowhere to live.
Does the idea of renting a place and moving twice seem daunting to you? If so, you’ll need to plan on selling and buying within the same time frame.
While this can be complicated, preparing for this process will help things go more smoothly. You can also place a contingency in the contract that buying the new home is contingent on the sale of your current home.
This is a common practice and gives sellers a grace period of between 30 and 90 days to find and close on a new home.
Find an Estate Agent
While you can choose to sell your home yourself, you’ll have much greater success if you hire an estate agent.
Not only do agents have inside knowledge and information about the current market, but years of experience in selling and buying homes. They know the right avenues for advertising your home, they take quality photographs for your house listing, and they also handle most of the stress associated with a home sale.
This includes fielding all inquiries and questions from potential buyers, scheduling and conducting viewings, and negotiating a final sale price. These are often the most stressful and daunting parts of the sale process. The estate agent fees you pay are well worth the aggravation you’ll save by hiring a professional.
Before hiring an estate agent it’s important to weigh your options and do some research. Online agents are skilled in digital marketing and using websites like Zoopla and Rightmove to promote and sell your home.
They don’t, however, perform most in-person tasks like viewings and open houses.
Highstreet agents, on the other hand, are much more hands-on during the selling process. They also have extensive knowledge about the local real estate market. This is an important factor for tapping into the local market and appealing to local buyers. Hybrid agents offer the best of both worlds by performing both online and in-person services.
Once you’ve compiled a list of agents, do some research. Read reviews and talk to other people you know who’ve recently sold their home.
Most experienced professionals will have a good reputation and a long history of selling homes quickly. Check how often the agent gets the asking price for their listings. Don’t be afraid to meet with several agents before choosing one.
Once you’ve selected an agent and signed a contract, make sure you read it carefully to determine what agency services and fees are included. This prevents agents from charging you additional costs that weren’t agreed upon originally.
Get an Energy Performance Certificate
You can’t sell your home without an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate). This is a standard document that ranks properties based on how energy efficient they are. Homeowners must present this certificate to potential buyers.
The good news is, you can list your home once you’ve applied for an EPC but can’t close until it’s obtained. A qualified domestic-energy assessor must perform the energy performance test, after which they’ll award you an EPC.
Another benefit to hiring an estate agent is that they’ll likely have an assessor they use regularly. If not, you’ll need to find one yourself.
Choose a Listing Price for Your Home
Here comes the hard part. How much is your home worth? This isn’t an easy question to answer, especially for homeowners who are emotionally invested in their homes.
If you’ve lived in your current house for several decades or raised children there, there are memories attached. It’s difficult to put a price tag on nostalgia.
At this point in the selling process, you need to remove yourself from the equation emotionally. You need to objectively set a sale price for your home that’s reasonable. An estate agent can help with this process also.
The first step is getting to know the local market. This includes performing valuations that tell you what homes comparable to yours have recently sold for.
An estate agent can help explain why your home might be worth slightly more or less depending on its condition, location, and other additional features. You may also consider making small renovations and repairs so that you can list your home for a higher price.
Just be sure to research if the investment will be worth the return.
Most buyers offer between 5-10% lower than the asking price. Keep this in mind when pricing your home as well.
Prepare Your Home
It’s now time to stage your home for sale. Even the most gorgeous homes need a little TLC before putting them on the market and opening them up for showings and open houses.
Simple changes can make a big difference. Remove any family pictures and photographs from the walls.
Remove other personal items that might let buyers know who you are. Your home should be clean and neat, free from clutter and other random items. The ultimate goal is to create a home that potential buyers can envision themselves living in. You’re selling more than just a house, you’re selling the idea of a new home and a new beginning.
Not all homes need major renovations to get prepped for sale. A fresh coat of paint, new area rugs, and visual disrepairs are easy fixes that can make a big difference in whether or not you sell your home.
But staging your home doesn’t stop when you hit the four walls. Don’t forget about beautifying the exterior of your home as well. Curb appeal plays a large role in home sales. Clean-up your yard and landscaping. Plant some colorful bushes or flowers and make sure your lawn is mowed.
Add accent lights or new pavers. Repair any cracks in the walkway, driveway, or foundation. Not only are these safety issues, but they’ll stand out like a sore thumb to potential buyers.
In some cases, if a buyer doesn’t like the outside appearance of a home they’ll never get as far as the inside. This could mean lost opportunities for a quick sale.
Also check the windows and shutters, roof, the deck or porch, and any other outside structures.
Hire a Solicitor
As important as an estate agent is, a solicitor is equally as important when selling your home. There are certain legal documents that an estate agent isn’t permitted to draft or file.
Before you start the sale process, choose an experienced conveyancing solicitor. Consider things like their reviews and reputation and location. The closer their office is, the better. That way you can easily meet to sign or drop off important paperwork.
Most sellers choose a solicitor and firm before putting their house on the market, but you don’t have to. As long as you choose one once you have a buyer, your home sale should run smoothly.
Conveyancing costs can vary but the average price for a solicitor is between £850-£1500 plus the cost of disbursements.
Some estate agents will recommend a solicitor. While this is fine, just be sure to compare quotes and prices for other solicitors. In many cases, agents will get a referral fee which is then passed onto you.
Complete Necessary Questionnaires
Buyers want to know everything there is to know about your home before putting in an offer and buying it. And can you blame them?
To provide potential buyers with all the information they need, you have to fill out certain paperwork and questionnaires. This paperwork is provided by the conveyancing solicitor.
Entertain an Offer
In the best-case scenario, you’ll have more than one offer to consider. Once a buyer makes an offer on your home, you have to decide if you’re going to accept it or not.
By law, your estate agent has to tell you about every offer, regardless of what it is. Now it’s time for negotiations. You have several choices here.
You can either reject the offer from the start if it’s too low, counteroffer with another price or accept it. If you decide to counteroffer, your agent will contact the buyer’s agent with a price that’s more than the offer but slightly less than your original asking price.
Now, it’s up to the buyer to agree to this new listing price or come back with another offer. It’s this back-and-forth process that pushes most sellers to hire an agent. They handle all of the negotiations and act as a go-between when accepting and negotiating offers.
Once you receive an offer that you’re happy with, you can accept it. Congratulations! This is an exciting point in the home selling process but it’s far from over.
Just because you accept an offer doesn’t mean that the sale is final. A verbal offer is not a legally binding agreement.
The buyer can back out at this point and you can also accept a better offer if it comes in.
Negotiate a Contract Draft
Now that you and the buyer have agreed on a fair selling price, it’s time to draft up a legal contract.
Both estate agents will have a solicitor draft a contract. They will then share this draft with the opposing solicitor for review. Both the buyers and sellers must agree to the parameters of the contract and sign them.
This process can take anywhere from 7 to 28 days. The contract will include all stipulations, financial and personal information, as well as what fixtures and fittings are included in the sale price. If the property survey showed any problems that the seller must fix, these will also be detailed in the contract.
It’s important to note that once the contracts are exchanged between buyer and seller, you are now bound to the agreement.
That means the buyer can’t back out and you can’t accept another offer without a penalty. If you pull out, the buyer gets their deposit back and you could face legal ramifications.
On the other hand, if the buyer pulls out, you keep the deposit and may pursue legal action.
As the seller, you’re responsible for watching after the house and maintaining it in good condition until the buyer takes over ownership.
Get Ready to Move Out
The sale is almost done! You’re finalizing all the paperwork including the price and closing date.
Now, it’s time for you to move out and allow the buyer to start moving in their belongings. Some sellers prefer to remain in the home until the very last minute while others move out as soon as the contracts are signed.
This choice is yours. A lot of it has to do with whether or not you have somewhere else to go. If you’ve already purchased and closed on your new home, you can move in there. If you’re renting, negotiate with the landlord on a move-in date that works best for you.
Remember, the home needs to be in the same condition as agreed upon in the contract, including all fittings and fixtures.
Some sellers find it easier to maintain the home by living in it, while others would rather leave it vacant until closing.
Don’t be surprised if the buyer and their agent ask to see the home before the closing day to ensure it’s in good condition. Don’t leave anything behind unless it was agreed upon in the contract.
Some buyers are interested in purchasing your existing furniture. If you’re willing to sell, not only will you save money on moving costs but you’ll make some money by leaving these items behind.
Inform your letting agent or tenant
If the property you’re selling is a rental property, you will need to inform your letting agent and current tenants of the property.
In the tenancy agreement, there will be an end date which would mean that unless you can agree with the tenant an early exit, they may be eligible to remain in the property even after the property is sold. This would of course be information you would need to tell the buyer.
The letting agent would need to update paperwork to sign over the tenancy agreement to the new property owner (depending on how the tenancy agreement was drawn up). The could incur a fee from the letting agent
Finalize the Sale
All sales are final. You’ll never be happier to hear those four words. Certain things must happen before the sale of your home is considered complete.
The property must change ownership from you to the buyer, you must accept the payment, and deliver the buyer the keys.
This happens on an agreed-upon date at an agreed-upon location. In many cases, the agents and solicitors are also present to ensure everything goes well.
Your solicitor or conveyancer will deliver the deeds to the buyer. They’ll also complete any money transfers into your account from the buyer and register the transfer of ownership with the local Land Registry.
On the day of the final sale, you also need to settle-up with your current mortgage company.
The lender will let your solicitor know the outstanding balance of your mortgage. Your solicitor will take this amount and deduct it from the transfer of funds from the sale price.
Most solicitors will even make this payment for you.
Pay Any Remaining Bills and Expenses
If you had help with selling your home, you need to pay those individuals. This includes the estate agent and solicitor.
Estate agents get a certain percentage of the sale price. Most conveyancing solicitors have a set fee which was previously discussed before hiring them. If you’re buying and selling property at the same time, the solicitor can settle the stump duty for the house you’re purchasing.
This is the tax placed on legal documents associated with transferring assets and property.
As stressful as the house selling process is, it’s well worth the reward at the end. You’ve successfully sold your home and now, the only thing left to do is enjoy the new life you’ve built. Congratulations.