There’s no doubt that moving home is up there with life’s most stressful events.
Not only is there the emotional and physical upheaval to deal with, there’s the legal complexity, admin marathon and uncertainty around whether you’ll actually cross the finish line that can leave nerves feeling frayed.
‘When you are thinking of placing your property onto the market, in order to move up or down the ladder, it is important to start as you mean to go on, in an orderly manner,’ advises Philip Norgan, Sales and Lettings Manager at Martin Kemps estate agents. ‘This will reduce your stress levels, [and] it should make the move smoother and quicker.’
And so here’s OnTheMarket.com’s guide to selling (and a bit of buying) to help you get in peak condition for the test of endurance ahead…
When to go to market?
You’ve decided to sell. The question is, when? Life events might dictate – for example, jobs and babies. But if there’s nothing pressing, you’re likely to get a quicker sale when the market is strong and there are lots of people ready to snap up a new home.
In spring, the market generally blossoms. But with the summer holidays out of the way, the children going back to school and winter not yet at the door, mid August to the end of October is also one of the sweet spots for sellers. That’s if there are no other major market-impacting events, of course. Read our guide to making sure your home is ready to sell in the autumn.
Get your ducks in a row
According to the government’s website, selling your property usually takes two to three months. If you’re in a chain, it can take even longer. And so it’s a good idea to try and head off time-consuming issues sooner rather than later. Here’s a handful to bear in mind…- Pull your paperwork together
Even before you’ve got an offer, there’ll be questions you’ll need to answer about your property. And so it’s better to gather up all the relevant documents well in advance so that nothing gets held up later on.
Edward Hartshorne, Managing Director of Blenkin & Co estate agents in York, says organising the papers you’ll need is his biggest tip for a smooth process. ‘If you get the paperwork organised in advance, it does speed up the sale and minimises the opportunity for unanticipated delays, one of the principal reasons behind collapsed sales at the final hour.’
For example, if your property has been extended, where are the planning and building regulation papers? Have you had any works like damp proofing carried out that you’ve got a guarantee for? Add to this the gas safety certificate, electrical report, FENSA certificate for any double glazing, and more. ‘Be aware that, when selling and buying a home, your time will be eaten up with questions concerning both,’ says Philip Norgan. Not having all the information you need can delay things.
You’ll also need to fill in lots of forms as the sale progresses. Although it can be tedious, keep on top of them to make sure things keep moving along as quickly as possible. And if you’re struggling to decode some of those legal terms, take a look at our property jargon buster.
– Mortgage matters
If you have a mortgage, you’ll need to decide what to do with it once you’ve sold your property. For example, if you’re paying it off, you might be liable for an early repayment fee. And if you’re buying a new property, you might be ‘porting’ it across. Speak to your mortgage company as soon as you can to work out your options as the business of applying for mortgages takes time. For more on mortgages if you’re buying, there’s information at the bottom of this page.
– High energy
If you don’t have one already, you’ll need an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) before you put your property on the market. This provides your home with an energy efficiency rating and is valid for 10 years.
– A list opportunity
You could get a head start on creating a list of the things you want to take with you, and fixtures and fittings that will be staying such as curtains and white goods. Have a think about what you might like to offer for sale, too. This will come in handy further down the line.
– Knotty issues
When it comes to your sale going smoothly, some things you can’t predict – such as that little matter of subsidence your survey throws up. But there are some situations you can identify early on and take action over.
For example, your buyer might not be able to get a mortgage if your property is affected by Japanese knotweed. So get out there and see if it’s growing in your garden. If it is, fear not, as we have advice from an expert.
Another current issue, says Edward Hartshorne, is the changing law on septic tanks. If you have a septic tank that discharges into water, homeowners have to pay to change it. He advises dealing with issues now, ‘rather than find yourself under pressure from the buyer who might use this opportunity to drive the price down’.
A further challenge could crop up if your lease is less than 70 years. According to the government’s Money Advice Service, that means a potential buyer might find it difficult to get a mortgage. Making a decision on extending the lease before you go to market may mean things don’t get bogged down later on – but it’s worth doing lots of research on what your options are.
As Philip Norgan says: ‘This is a common problem for agents and sellers. The “do I extend the lease or not?” question.’
The decision, he says, depends on circumstances. ‘Some lease extensions, initially, can be cost prohibitive so you may choose not to extend it. This gives you two options. You can either try and sell the property via the traditional route of using an agent or by selling at a property auction. Personally, I always recommend the auction route.’
Find out more about leasehold and freehold in our guide.
Get a valuation and find an agent
You can get a rough idea of what properties in your area are selling for using OnTheMarket.com’s quick online tool. You can then get on with organising a valuation and choosing an estate agent. Start by searching for people near you who can provide a valuation on our website.
Finding an agent might seem like a mammoth task. But choosing the right one is ‘paramount, yet overlooked for a minimal saving’, says Philip Norgan. ‘Not all agents are the same, just as not all car repair places, restaurants and other trades are the same.’ Philip advises getting three or four to come and quote. His top tips include:
– Choose those who have sold houses in your area.
– When they are quoting, ask what level of service you can expect. Do they do their own sales progression within branch? Who will doing the viewings? How do they financially verify their buyers, and offers? What standards do they set for buyers, as a minimum requirement? A reputable agent will be able to answer all these questions and more.
– They should also be able to provide you documented proof of how they have arrived at the price they think your property will achieve. If they can’t, then that agent is not for you. The agent’s fee should be based upon the service they will deliver. Don’t be fooled by low fees and high values.Philip also advises that you should instruct a solicitor at the same time as your agent. ‘This can cut up to four weeks off the sale process, once a buyer is found,’ he says. For more help choosing an agent, read OnTheMarket.com’s top ten tips.In regards to cost, according to the Money Advice Service, estate agent fees are usually between 0.75% and 3.5% of the sale price. And don’t forget to check if this includes VAT.
– The right price for your property Setting an unrealistic asking price for your home is a common pitfall. You an read more about the importance of setting the right price from the start in our handy guide.
Once you’ve chosen an agent, you’ll sign a contract, which will be legally binding. It’s important to keep in mind that you’ll need an agent you can really work with if your sale is to go as smoothly and quickly as possible. Read OnTheMarket.com’s top tips for working with an estate agent.
Max your property’s appeal
Now you’ve chosen your agent, it’s time to make your property as appealing as possible for prospective buyers. Doing that before you have any photographs taken will obviously mean your property will look its best in marketing materials. A few areas might need a lick of paint. Perhaps a bit of decluttering and clearing is in order. Put yourself in a buyer’s shoes.
Here are three top tips from Edward Hartshorne at Blenkin & Co:
– Give your property kerb appeal. ‘Make sure the visible front elevation of the house, including the approach, the front door, the soft and hard landscaping, is immaculately presented.’
– If you’re lucky enough to have one, stripe your lawn. ‘Cut your lawn every three or four days if you’re on the market. Ensure the garden is tidy and trim, and the patios and terraces scrubbed and swept. If you spend £500 on it, it’s well worth it.’
– Give the floors a spruce-up. ‘I’ve started advising people to replace carpets that are outdated, faded or worn. It improves the photographs and helps with the overall presentation.’
Read our top tips on how to make your garden market-ready.
– Say cheese If you’ve got a professional photographer coming, you could turn snapper’s assistant and help them by plumping up the cushions, and making sure everything is looking its very best. After all, two pairs of eyes are better than one. Find more ideas on how to get the best pics of your property.
Make the most of viewings
Your property’s online. The board’s up. Now for the viewings. But should you bake bread? Or make coffee just before someone walks through that door? Well, if you’ve put in the hard work above to get your place in tip-top condition, there shouldn’t be too much more to think about – except how to make those all-important viewings as successful as possible.
Top tips include cleaning the windows and letting in as much light as possible in the day. And think about what lighting you want for viewings in the evening so that your home feels cosy and appealing.
You also need to consider who’ll be there when people come to see your home. Children and pets can be a distraction. It might be best for you not to be in, too, so viewers feel free to explore. For more of this inspiration – including why you should make sure your kitchen and bathroom are spotless – see our guide to viewings. You can also find advice on maxing your chances of a speedy offer.
Accepting an offer
Your hard work has paid off. You’ve got an offer. Maybe even two. But if there is more than one, how do you choose? Philip Norgan at Martin Kemps says beware the pound signs popping into your head: ‘Just because someone has substantially outbid all other buyers, doesn’t necessarily mean you will get that amount.’ He says sellers should be wary of:
– Offers that are 10% or more over market value, where the buyer needs a mortgage with a loan-to-value ratio of 80% or more, because the mortgage surveyor will down-value it anyway.
– Offers with chains longer than four links, even if they offer what you want or more.
– Offers where they can’t complete in your timescale, especially where they say they’re waiting on an inheritance or something similar.
– Offers where your agent has been unable to verify their funding.
– Offers that look too good to be true, because invariably they are.
Once you’ve decided on an offer, Philip says you should ask your agent to set out proposed deadlines and timescales. ‘This will give you control over your sale and it could also flush out a dodgy offer, if they immediately respond to say they can’t meet the deadlines.’ He adds: ‘Ideally, you would ask for a six-week exchange of contracts, with completion no longer than two weeks after that.’
Finding a solicitor or licensed conveyancer
You’ve accepted an offer. Now for the conveyancing – or in simple terms, transferring ownership of your property to the buyer. Conveyancing a solicitor or licensed conveyancer will have expert knowledge. And the contract they draw up features details such as the sale price, fixtures and fitting, and timescales.
‘Don’t opt for the cheapest solicitor,’ is Edward Hartshorne’s hottest tip. Philip Norgan agrees that sellers shouldn’t be seduced by low prices, and says that the solicitor is key to how fast the process will happen. ‘Do not get hoodwinked into trying to save a few quid here, it will end up costing you a lot more later on,’ he says.
Philip recommends asking the following questions: ‘How easy will it be to contact them when I need to? What do their Google reviews say? What does my agent think of them? Are they relatively local? Who will be looking after the sale of my most valuable asset, a qualified solicitor or a paralegal or, even worse, a “team”.
According to the Money Advice Service, legal fees for buying and selling your home will cost around £850-£1,500, including VAT. Read more about finding the right solicitor in OnTheMarket.com’s guide.
Buying a property too?
If you’re buying a property as well as selling one, you’ll be on the other side of the fence when it comes to the scenarios above: attending viewings, putting in offers and negotiating on price, for example. The same solicitor as your sale can usually deal with a purchase as well and you’ll obviously have more associated conveyancing costs.
Don’t forget you’ll need a deposit and there’s Stamp Duty Land Tax to pay on residential properties costing £125,000 and above.
If you’re applying for a mortgage to buy your new property, your lender will carry out a valuation survey to check it’s worth the amount you’ve agreed to pay. Some lenders won’t charge you for the survey but if they do, it can cost between £150 and £1,500, according to the Money Advice Service. A lender survey won’t highlight everything that could need doing to the property and so the Money Advice Service advises that you ‘commission a survey on the property to help you avoid hidden costly problems in the long run.’ The cost can range from around £250 for a basic home condition survey to £600 upwards for full structural survey. Read our guide on choosing the right property survey.
There may be other fees to pay for a mortgage. According to the Money Advice Service, these could include a booking fee of £99-£250 and an arrangement fee of up to £2,000.
Exchange and completion
Exchanging contracts is when the buyer and seller agree to the terms of the sale. They sign copies of the contract and each receives a copy. Only now is the sale legally binding. Completion happens when money is transferred to the seller, the buyer receives legal documents transferring ownership, the seller moves out of the property and the keys are handed over. Citizens Advice recommends you tell fuel companies you are moving, and that you take final readings on completion day. You should also tell other providers like water, phone and internet.
Of course, one last cost might be removal fees which, according to the Money Advice Service, can range between £300-£600.
Content provided by OnTheMarket.com is for information purposes only. Independent and professional advice should be taken before buying, selling, letting or renting property, or buying financial products.
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