The House Sale Process Explained

Reader's Digest Editors

There’s a whole lot of free support out there for first-time buyers. It’s truly commendable how the financial services industry has encouraged a culture in which all major banks and lenders take great pains to explain the house buying process in easy to understand, jargon-busting terms for new and inexperienced home buyers.

When selling for the first time, however, there is far less of a proliferation of information. This is a shame as first time sellers are just as vulnerable and in need to guidance as first time buyers. If you’ve made the decision to sell your property, the inherent logistical considerations and unknown variables can be mind boggling and even make you second-guess whether or not you actually want to sell. If you’re having trouble separating the wheat of pertinent knowledge from the chaff of misinformation and marketing fluff, read on for our complete explanation of the house selling process…

Choosing the right estate agent

If you’ve chosen to sell your home, the chances are good that you want to actually sell it as opposed to allowing it to languish on the market for years and years. Choosing the right estate agent to help you to sell your property is instrumental in facilitating a quick sale at a reasonable price.

As such it behoves you to do your homework. You should invite a number of agencies (at least 3) to view your property to make a valuation. Check out their local sales records. Find out if they have sold property in your area of a similar type recently? Did they get the asking price (or close to it) for the seller? At the very least your estate agent needs to be a member of The Surveyors Ombudsman Scheme and The Property Ombudsman but further charterships can indicate higher professional standards. When vetting estate agents, be sure to ask them;

  • What is their charge for sole agency / multi agency? (You can choose for multiple agencies to advertise your property but in the event of a sale you will need to pay all parties their fee, regardless of who sells it).
  • What is the tie-in period for sole agency? (You don’t want to be stuck for years with an agent who’s incapable of selling your property).
  • Will they handle viewings? (You may or may not want them to)
  • Are they available in the evening or over weekends?

Deciding your asking price

When determining the asking price, the final decision lies with you. However, it behoves you to be realistic. Again, the more valuations you request, the better equipped you will be to make an informed decision as to what constitutes a reasonable asking price. Of course, taking a look at asking prices for similar property prices in your area is also a sensible idea.

Contact your mortgage company

It may be worth contacting your mortgage lender to advise them that you intend to sell the property. They will advise you if your mortgage product carries any early redemption penalties. Find out how much of your mortgage you have yet to pay off as this will inform the deposit that you will have available for a new property.

Of course you will also need to decide whether to enter into a chain by looking for a new property to buy or to rent for a while until the sale of your home has been completed and you have a deposit ready.

Marketing your property

Marketing your property is your estate agent’s responsibility, but it’s a good idea to keep checking in with them and ensuring that they’re doing all they can to facilitate the sale. A good estate agent will work collaboratively with you on an approach that you both feel will attract the right kind of buyer. At the very least they should market your property in the local papers as well as listing it on sites like Rightmove, Zoopla, On The Market and Prime Location. You may also want to consider a Rightmove premium listing.

For your own part you may want to take steps to improve your home’s kerb appeal as well as clearing your home of clutter and ensuring that it is enviably clean, tidy and inviting. You never know who may be walking past and see a vision of domestic bliss through your window. To ensure you get the best price for your home finish off any outstanding home improvements such as painting, gardening and DIY jobs to maximise the value of your home prior to the valuation and marketing of the property.

The conveyancing process and solicitors

You will need a solicitor to handle the conveyancing. This is the legal transfer of your property from your possession to the new owner’s. They also deal with things such as stamp duty fees, local searches and check for any local planning issues. Obviously this cannot be done until you have received an offer but it’s a good idea to have a solicitor in place before you start entertaining viewings. While your estate agent will likely be able to set you up with a solicitor if you need them to, it’s a good idea to get a quote from them and compare it to other solicitors in the area or compare online quotes.

Navigating house viewings

Some sellers prefer to conduct house viewings themselves while others prefer to leave them up to the estate agents. It really is a matter of personal choice, although an estate agent may not be free to show a prospective buyer around if they can only view in the evening or over the weekend.

Make sure that your home is clean, tidy and looks and smells inviting. Some choose to put on a pot of coffee or bake bread, while others simply choose to light some scented candles.

Negotiating the sale price

With any luck, it won’t be long until you receive an offer. Don’t be offended if it’s well below the asking price. The buyer is likely testing the waters. Your estate agent will facilitate the negotiation of the sale price but they will always consult you before making a decision. Just be aware that the recent surge in sellers this year means that property is very much a buyer’s market. Thus, if you play hardball the prospective buyer may walk away.

If you accept an offer this is not legally binding. You can always accept a higher offer, although the term for this is gazumping and can be extremely distressing for buyers.

If you need a quick house sale then you may opt for a cash buyer, who in most instances will offer around 85% of the open market value in exchange for a hassle free sale. While this doesn’t sound very attractive offer, these types of buyers can offer a lifeline if you have a difficult to sell property. These house buyers are generally larger organisations that purchase property at ‘trade price’. Susan Jones, cash house buyer at Ask Susan advertises that her team can complete on a 7 day house sale if you’re in a hurry. The site at a glance has an array of very positive reviews.

House surveys

After a sale has been agreed the buyer’s mortgage lender may well request a survey on your property. This is to ensure that the property and land are as described. The cost of this are borne by the buyer.

Fees involved

Needless to say when selling your property there are fees involved. Your estate agents fee will vary depending on the agent you choose, although you should try and negotiate on a fee of around 1%. You will also need to pay your conveyancing fees and your estate agent will also charge you a fee to generate an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which is a legal requirement when selling a property.

Contract of sale

The contract of sale is negotiated and exchanged between you and the buyer through your estate agents and is part of the conveyancing process. Here you will decide on the completion date (usually 7-28 days after the exchange of contracts) as well as additional costs borne by the buyer such as fixtures and fittings. It may also include any discounts owing to issues found in the survey.  

Completion date

Remember that you are responsible for the condition of your property right up until the completion date, so make sure your insurance covers this period. The completion date is when the property changes ownership, you accept payment and hand over the keys. It’s a bittersweet day, but one that can usher in a host of new opportunities for you.

Potential issues

Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s a lot that can go awry when selling your home. Your survey can bring unknown issues with your home to light which could compromise your asking power or leave you with hefty repair bills. What’s more, you can be left with hefty fees from your estate agent if you do not negotiate a reasonable fee in advance. Your buyer could back out prior to the exchange of contracts, sending your plans into disarray.

As in most things, forewarned is forearmed.

The more homework you do at the start of the process, the less likely you’ll be to face unexpected fees and nasty surprises!

Further reading:

Ask Susan’s top 13 ways to sell your property fast

7 easy DIY home improvement projects you can do on a budget