This is a guide for those who are selling a property for the first time and those who need to refresh their memories.
1. Choosing your sales method
Selling your property is likely to be the biggest transaction you will ever make. Doing this privately is possible, but could prove expensive and risky.
Using a professional property service provides expert knowledge coupled with legal protection and so most vendors therefore instruct an estate agent and a conveyancer to help them sell their property.
A good estate agent will:
- Conduct a valuation to tell you how much your property is approximately worth.
- Extensively market the property.
- Negotiate offers.
- Provide advice – guidance on conveyancing and surveying.
- Facilitate the whole transaction process from start to completion.
2. Choosing an estate agent
Estate agent's charges are usually commission based and calculated as a percentage of the selling price. However, at times a fixed fee may apply.
Charges will differ depending on which agency you use and in some circumstances you may pay additional fees for:
- Preparation of property details (e.g. floor plans).
When deciding upon an estate agent, they must confirm all charges in writing within an official agreement as part of the process of acting for you. Your choice of estate agent should be based on more than just their fees, you should also consider:
- Evidence of local success.
- What type of property the estate agent specialises in.
- The agent's local reputation.
- The agent's expertise and longevity.
- The agent's national coverage (an agent limited to just one area will not have as much scope to market your property to potential buyers across the UK).
- How the agent will market your product.
- How quickly they answer the phone and respond to emails.
- How positive and enthusiastic they are.
Countrywide has a network of market leading estate agencies across the UK, all of which have had huge success in property sales.
Once you have chosen an estate agent, you must decide on what basis to instruct them:
- Sole agency – one agent will handle the sale and commission will only be paid if they sell the property.
- Sole selling rights – one agent will handle the sale and you are obliged to pay commission on exchange of contracts for any circumstance in which a buyer is found.
- Multiple agency – two or more estate agents will handle the sale independently, commission is only paid to the agency that sells the property. It's normal to expect a higher commission under this agreement.
- Joint agency – two agencies act together to sell your property and share the commission when the property is sold.
- The contractual arrangement and fee should be confirmed in writing through an agreement that you sign to confirm acceptance.
3. Property appraisal
A professional appraisal by an estate agent will help determine a realistic asking price.
When getting an appraisal it is important to consider:
- The highest valuation may not always be the right one - some estate agents may provide an inflated valuation to grab your interest but an over-priced property may be difficult to sell.
- How the valuation is calculated – ask how the valuation was made, what compatible evidence was considered and what other information was bought into consideration.
- Understanding of your personal situation – a valuation should take into account your personal circumstances – i.e. if you need to move quickly or if you're prepared to hold out for the best price.
The above considerations along with the agent's fee, their level of enthusiasm and marketing methods should enable you to make an informed decision.
4. Preparing your property for sale
Getting your property ready for sale is vital if you want to achieve its maximum selling price.
First impressions are important, so ensure your home looks its best to help you achieve your asking price.
External view – the outside of your property needs to create a good impression:
- Ensure the garden is neat and tidy.
- If required, paint window frames and doors.
- Put some flowers in the window to create a welcoming feel.
- Keep rubbish out of sight.
Interior – the inside of your property needs to look and feel like a potential home:
- Tidy and clean your home - hoover, dust, wash floors and put down toilet seats!
- Do some basic DIY – freshen up rooms with a lick of paint and make sure everything is in working order.
- De-clutter – move items of furniture into storage to create a feeling of space.
- Don't smoke in your property or allow pet smells to linger.
- Brew coffee – pleasant smells will create a homely feel.
These tasks may require some effort, but they could help you sell your property more quickly.
5. Energy Performance Certificate
All sellers must commission an EPC before the property is put on the market – although marketing can begin before it is received. Sellers must make sure that prospective buyers have had a chance to see the EPC before contracts are exchanged. If you are unsure whether the EPC has been, or will be, made available to your buyer, ask your estate agent.
6. Marketing your property
Your estate agent should promote your property in the following ways:
- In branch - your agent should inform other negotiators, place the details in their window and circulate your details to neighbouring branches.
- By telephone - your agent will have a list of 'hot buyers' they'll call as a priority.
- Creation of property details - your estate agent will create a set of details that adhere to the property misdiscriptions act, for your property. These will act as a sales tool and ensure your property is portrayed in a positive light.
- By post - your property details will be sent to those looking for a property in your area and price range.
- Via the internet - your agent should immediately add your property to their website and the major property portals.
- 'For Sale' board - this is a vital tool for marketing and many sales are made following direct enquiries.
7. Making the most of viewings
When hosting a viewing make your property feel homely by tidying up and ensuring it looks and smells pleasant:
- Be friendly – offer them a drink and don't be impatient - the person attending the viewing could be your buyer, however don't go over-the-top, they might think you are desperate to sell!
- Be positive – point out positive aspects, such as built-in storage, or a south-facing garden and explain what's included in the sale.
- Where possible, always try to let your agent answer any questions.
- They will understand your viewers requirements and be best placed to position appropriate responses.
- Give them space - let them know you'll answer any questions then leave them to look around on their own – they'll feel they've had a thorough viewing.
Your estate agent will act as a buffer between you and the buyer, but you will still need to:
- Play your role - you should speak to your agent on a regular basis to communicate your price requirements.
- Understand your buyer's position – can they pay cash? Are they part of a chain? A quick transaction could be beneficial if you have another property lined up.
- Prepare to compromise - it may be tempting to stick to your asking price but you should weigh up the pros and cons and consider what would happen if you lose your buyer.
- Don't sell your property short – don't be pressured into selling your home for less than you are comfortable with.
9. Accepting an offer
Once you have concluded negotiations and if you decide the offer is acceptable you will need to let your estate agent know, and if you haven't already done so, you should also instruct a conveyancer.
Your estate agent will then obtain conveyancer details from both you and your buyer and circulate details of the sale to all parties.
10. Conveyancing and completion
The legal process of buying and selling is known as conveyancing. When buying or selling property in the UK, it is advisable to employ the services of a specialist property lawyer.
Your conveyancer will:
- Obtain copies of the title deeds for the property.
- Prepare a contract.
- Provide the buyer's lawyer with the contract and copies of the deeds.
- With your help, answer any questions about your property raised.
- Obtain any mortgage redemption figures from your lender.
With your help, liaise with the buyer's conveyancer to agree a moving (completion) date.
- Exchange contracts with the buyer's lawyer - at this point you are both committed to move house on the day fixed for completion.
- Complete the sale by receiving the proceeds on your behalf, hand over the deeds and documents to your buyer's lawyer, pay off any mortgages and arrange payment of your estate agents fees.
Legal completion happens when the outstanding balance required to complete the purchase is transferred from the buyer's conveyancer to the vendor's conveyancer. In return the buyer receives the property deeds and the keys.