The task of selling your home can feel as big as a house. Once you've decided to make the move there's a lot to consider, from which estate agent to choose - if you really need to use one - to knowing the best time to put the property on the market.
But we've got lots of info to help you through the process step-by-step. In this guide we'll tell you how to value your property, explain the true costs when selling, give you help on how to decide who is going to sell your property and tips on how to get the maximum price.
In this guide...
Before you think about selling...Stop! Are you still in your mortgage term?
If you're thinking about selling up but are still within your existing mortgage term, before you do anything else you'll need check what fees you'll be liable to pay by moving.
If you're on your lender's standard variable rate (SVR) - the rate your mortgage reverts to when a deal ends - then you're fine, you can think about moving.
If you're buying another property and your mortgage is portable, you're also fine (as long as the lender is happy with the new property and the price and you pass its affordability tests, as you will still have to show you can afford the mortgage even when porting an existing deal).
Here, your existing mortgage moves with you to your new property at no extra cost and then when that deal comes to an end, you can simply remortgage on your new property. For more on porting, read our Can I Take My Mortgage With Me? guide.
But if it's not portable, you may face large fees to get out of the mortgage before the deal you're on ends, making moving very expensive. These are called early repayment charges and are often around 1-5% of the remainder of your mortgage debt.
For example, early repayment charges of 2% on a £226,000 property would be £4,520.
So the first thing you need to do before considering moving is to find out how long you have left on your current deal. If you only have another six months for example, it may be better to sit tight so you don't waste money unnecessarily - you can use that time to start getting everything in order for when you do eventually think about selling. Obviously you may not have this luxury of timing, but it is worth considering if you do.
Do your sums to find out – use our 'Ditch your fix?’ calculator. If it would cost too much to free yourself from your current deal, then it’s all the more important that you do your homework, and be ready to move as soon as you can. For more on fees, see the Remortgaging Cost guide.
Make your home look the best it can
Even the best kept properties show signs of wear and tear. So before you do anything else, it's probably best to sort these out to give you the best chance of selling your property for the maximum price.
Up your property's kerb appeal
First impressions matter, so spruce up your property from the outside in. Some top tips, which don't cost much but might include some elbow grease, include:
- Mow the lawn and dig up weeds.
- Clean your windows and paint wooden window frames if you have them.
- Spruce up your front door. Either repaint it or get a new handle or knocker.
- Hang up a colourful hanging basket.
- If you've got a car in the driveway, wash it.
Sort out the interior of the property
Even without time or money to decorate your home in preparation to sell it, you can do an awful lot to make it more sellable, such as:
- Tidy up and declutter. Move those clothes from the floor and those trainers from the hallway and put them away in the wardrobe. Sorting through your belongings could even make you some cash.
- Make sure any features that first attracted you to the property are visible.
- Give the whole property a thorough clean.
- Depersonalise the space to encourage viewers to see themselves in the property, ie, remove a few photo frames or, err...'unique' artwork from the walls, and paint over busy wallpaper.
- Make sure each room clearly shows its purpose. If your dining room doubles up as an office, sort out all your papers and, if you can, get rid of the desk. If you've not got space to store it, see if you could sell it. See our eBay Selling Tips guide.
- Hang up mirrors, especially in small, cramped areas like hallways. They'll add light and the illusion of space.
- Don't take the mick. If it's a two bed, don't put a sofa bed in the living room and claim it's a three bed - you'll only alienate prospective buyers.
Ultimately you'll need to do your sums to work out what's worth spending money on to up the property's value and what would just be throwing money down the drain. For example, kitchen renovations are expensive (costing on average £8,000), but re-painting your cabinets and replacing the handles with shiny, new ones is easy and cheap.
Typically, a completely new kitchen will increase your property's value by around 4-6% and a new bathroom by 2-3%. Remember, some people want a doer-upper, so making a room your version of perfect may not be the best way to sell. However, if there are structural issues, prioritise these over any cosmetic changes as they'll be a huge deterrent to buyers. Forumite Marcus (an ex-estate agent) said:
"In my experience decor makes only a little difference to the end price (within reason). However, decor does make a big difference to how quickly you sell."
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Get your home valued
Once you've got your property looking its best, you need to get it valued. It's imperative to research thoroughly at this stage as getting it wrong could leave your house on the market for a long time, or it could sell way below the market price.
1. Check online first
To do this, follow the links above, enter your postcode or town, then press search. If you don't go via those links, click on tabs at the top of the homepage labelled either 'house prices' or 'sold prices'. Results are listed in date order starting with those that have sold most recently. See our Free house price valuations guide for more.
Compare your property to those of a similar size and spec. You can do this pretty accurately with Rightmove, which shows the original house adverts (including photos) at the point of sale.
If you find a similar home nearby, but the photographs show it's not in as good condition as yours, you'll know you can price yours higher. Likewise, if the ad you see shows it's in a much better state, price yours lower.
Be realistic (and honest with yourself) and don't let stubborn pride about the state of your property cloud your judgement and lead to over-pricing.
Having a clear idea of sales in the recent past helps you value your home accurately. Looking at those currently on sale helps you value your home competitively. Remember, very few properties sell for the asking price - hopefully yours will go for more, but don't be disappointed if it sells for less.
A lot can change in a couple of years, so you should only be comparing your property to those that've sold within the last 12 months (although also bear in mind the ups and downs of the housing market).
2. Get estate agents to come in
Once you've done your ownb research, have at least three agents to value your home (but never reveal to them the values other agents have given you as it could skew their answer). And don't worry if you don't want to use an estate agent for the actual sell - while asking for a valuation, you're not committed to using any of them.
To get the most balanced view, it could be worth asking different types of agents for valuations: a big high street chain, a small local one and an online one.
Get the estate agents to bring paperwork on sold prices in the surrounding area - it'll show they've done their research and know the area well.
It's perfectly normal for valuations to be very diverse. MSE Jo said the highest and lowest values she received differed by a whopping £100k. In cases like that, opting for something in the middle should give you the most sensible option.
If Agent 1 values your property at £200,000, Agent 2 at £230,000 and Agent 3 at £300,000 - the most realistic value would be £250,000.
However, having said that, ultimately, it's up to you to decide on price. Some estate agents have a reputation for inflating asking prices to get the sale and then make big commissions, so could not be working in your favour. However, if they have valued it too high and there is no interest, they may later suggest a price cut.
It's important you price your home realistically. Ask for too much, and you won't get any interest. Ask for too little and you won't get the full value. If all goes well, you'll have a number of interested buyers which allows enough competition to drive the price up anyway.
If you need to sell your house quickly, drop the asking price to about 90% of the market value. It's a much more cost effective way than simply waiting to sell at the original asking price or using a quick house sale company, which pay on average 75% of market value.
What factors affect the asking price?
The value of a property won't always match up to the price. For instance, the number of bedrooms, size and location affect the value, but other elements (like the time of year you sell) affect the price.
According to The Homeowners Alliance and online estate agent eMoov*, the market tends to slow in the run up to Christmas and during the summer holidays, meaning many sellers are forced to drop the asking price. The best times of year to sell are the start of the year, spring or early autumn. Bear in mind national events like election results and Brexit hugely affect the economy, thus implicating changes in house prices.
New rail links and being within catchment areas of good local schools help increase the price, as do local amenities such as a nearby Waitrose (the closer you are, the higher your house price, this is known as 'The Waitrose Effect').
Of course, there are things which negatively impact the price that you might not be able to do anything about - see MSE Guy's story on how a neighbouring Nando's nearly cost him his mortgage.
How do I know the best person to sell my property to?
Provided you market your property well, you should have a number of interested parties. While taking the highest offer might seem like the obvious choice, consider who's chain free, can move the quickest and is least likely to pull out.
Buyers who've already sold their properties and first-time buyers' are the safest options, with buyers who haven't yet sold theirs at the opposite end of the scale. Try to get a sense of who you'll have the easiest relationship with - buying and selling houses is stressful enough without being at loggerheads with your buyers.
Also try to gauge how good their financial's are, you don't want to sell to someone who it turns out hasn't got the money to back up the sale. Ask yourself how easy it will be to contact them. Being in touch directly rather than always speaking through solicitors is a huge plus because it will save time.
Decide how to sell your property
There's no right or wrong way to sell your property, the best way for you will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you're time poor or don't feel comfortable showing strangers round your home by yourself, it may be best to get an estate agent to do it for you - even if it does come at a higher price.
However, if you're perfectly happy doing most of the work yourself, you can bypass an estate agent all together and save yourself some serious cash.
The important thing to say is, if you don't need your hand held, it's worth doing as much as you can yourself to save money - MSE Amy reckons she saved over £5,500 by using an online agent and DIY-ing the rest.
I want someone to do it for me - High street estate agents
Despite online estate agents becoming more popular over the past couple of years, high street estate agents are still used 94% of the time. In general, their services are more complete with Energy Performance Certificate (EPCs) and hosted viewings included as standard. But...
Traditional high street agents are much pricier than online agents. However, you only pay once the property has been sold, so you don't lose money if the property doesn't sell.
If you do decide you want to go with a high street estate agent, then before you even get one through the front door, find out which are the busiest and most experienced in your area and be prepared to haggle - because they don't come cheap. See below for costs.
Check the local paper and go online to see which agents have the most listings, and ask them outright how many properties they've sold in your area over the past three months and most importantly, what they charge.
Personal recommendations are always valuable, so if you know anyone local who's moved recently, ask them which agent they used and if they were happy with the level of service. Check how long it took for their house to sell, if the agreed price was close to the asking price and how much contact they had with the agent.
Having a presence on the high street also means potential buyers will see your property advertised in the estate agent window. Ultimately, the more people who see your property, the more likely it is to sell.
High street estate agent costs
High street agents charge a percentage of the agreed house sale price, which is typically 0.75% - 3% + VAT. So, if you were to sell a property for £226,000 (roughly the UK average), it could cost you between £2,034 and £8,136 (total cost including VAT). The Homeowners Alliance suggests you aim for 1% + VAT, which in this instance would set you back around £2,712.
Don't accept your chosen agent's first commission rate offer - always haggle. A number of our forumites have successfully haggled estate agent rates. One advised:
Be polite. Be friendly. Be firm. And be willing to give in if you really want to go with a certain agent and they won't budge. - LateStarter
Ultimately, how much you pay depends on which agent you choose and how good your negotiating skills are.
There are two different types of agency contracts, sole and multi. Sole agency contracts - where only one agent markets your property - are usually at the lower end of the cost scale whereas multi-agency contracts, are at the upper end. As it can take longer with just one agent, it's worth writing in a timeframe into the contract after which you can advertise with others if the first one's not managed to sell your property - this is usually around six to eight weeks.
While some would say multiple contracts make it easier to sell, having more than one agent advertise your property will mean it appears multiple times on sites like Rightmove and Zoopla, which can make you appear desperate. Let buyers smell this desperation and they're more likely to submit low offers, and with commission rates so high, you may find agents encourage you to accept a lower price.
A bit of hand holding - Online estate agents
Selling your property through a high street estate agent will cost you the most money, so if you're happy to do some of the legwork yourself using an online agent could be a better - and cheaper - option. See our Forumites' discussion on using online agents.
Online agents charge a one-off, upfront fee of between £95-£1,695 - a big saving compared to the traditional high street agents. According to the Land Registry's UK Housing Price Index (HPI), the average UK home sells for around £226,000, meaning you could spend a total of anything from £2,034 to £8,136 with a high street agent. But as online agents charge between £99 and £1,695, you could save more than £6,000. Of course, exactly how much you save depends on the size of your property etc.
However, this upfront cost can just be for a basic package and you may have to pay for costly extras. Before you start the process, think carefully about all the things you want from an agent and check which are included in the upfront cost.
This big saving does come with a bit of a gamble though:
You may be charged a lot lower fee, but unlike a traditional high street agent, you will be charged upfront. This means you will be charged whether you sell your property or not.
Some have also argued the upfront fee means there's no incentive for the online agents to go the extra mile to sell your property - as they already have their fee.
Although not on the high street, all the online agents we spoke to said you'd be assigned a local property expert to conduct the initial valuation. Exactly how local they are depends on the agency you choose and where you live, so make sure you check before you sign up.
Unlike high street agents, you'll need to pay extra for hosted viewings (you'll see from below some don't offer them at all), but we were told by the online agents we spoke to the majority of sellers prefer to host their own viewings anyway.
If you have the flexibility to conduct the viewings yourself, then do it. You'll save some money and be able to tell prospective buyers what it's really like to live there. However, if you're conducting the viewings alone, make sure to tell someone what you're doing and call them when it's finished.
There are loads of online agents, with new ones cropping up all the time, but the biggies are Doorsteps, Emoov*, Housesimple, and Purplebricks*. They all give face-to-face valuations, arrange viewings and liaise with buyers and solicitors on your behalf.
Below is a rundown of some of the top online players at the moment in alphabetical order:
Not the most well-known, but by far the cheapest online estate agent. Doorsteps says it covers 95% of the UK. It offers a 24-hour hotline, free property valuation, property site listings, an account manager and weekly reports as part of its Basic Package, which only costs £99.
The local agent will carry out the initial valuation and (if choosing the Complete Package) take the photos, draw up the floorplan and send a draft of the ad by the next working day. It doesn't have an app.
Fee: Basic Package £99. The Complete Package costs £199 and also includes professional photos, 2D floorplan and full property description. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) costs an additional £72.
The ad: Will appear on all the major property sites including Rightmove and Zoopla. Remains up until the property is sold or taken down by the seller. Can be reinstated for free up to four weeks after taken down.
Hosted viewings? £400 for unlimited. Or £60 for assisted viewings (you're there too), or £100 per hour for an open house.
For sale sign? Not included. £60 extra.
Contact: www.doorsteps.co.uk, 0208 012 8566, instant online chat.
Emoov may be one you've heard of, but since it recently rebranded you may not recognise it as much. Its basic package - The Up Front Saver package - includes a 12-month ad on the major property sites, a For Sale sign and a property expert who'll do the initial valuation, photos, floorplan and account manage the entire sale.
If you can't pay upfront, you can defer your payment (for a price), but you will have to pay even if you don't sell after six months. It doesn't have an app.
Fee: Up Front Saver package, £795. Pay When Sold package £1,495 for six-month ad (meaning you pay this even if you don't sell after six months). An EPC costs an additional £59 + VAT.
The ad: Will appear on all the major property sites including Rightmove, Zoopla and Prime Location. Remains up until the property is sold or after 6/12 months (depending on which package you choose), whichever's soonest. Ad can be taken down and re-instated for free within the months you've paid for.
Hosted viewings? Free, provided Emoov has an agent in your local area.
For sale sign? Included.
Contact: www.emoov.co.uk, 0333 121 4950.
Housesimple is at the more expensive end of the scale, but covers the whole of the UK. The Up Front Package includes a free seven-day trial, property expert, For Sale sign, professional photos, floorplan and six-month ad on two property sites. It also offers a no sale, no fee package which could work in your favour if you're just testing the water selling your property.
However, it's an expensive option if you do choose it and manage to sell your property, because there are other cheaper agents. There's no app, but Housesimple told us this is in the pipeline.
Fee: Up Front package, £695 + 15% admin fee (£799.25 in total). No Sale, No Fee Package, £1,495. EPCs cost an additional £90.
The ad: Rightmove and Zoopla listings included, though it's an extra £195 for Primelocation. Remain up until the property is sold or after six months, whichever's soonest.
Hosted viewings? £65 per viewing or £295 unlimited.
For sale sign? Included.
Contact: www.housesimple.com, 0333 920 7098.
Perhaps the most well-known of the lot, Purplebricks is also the most expensive. It covers the whole of the UK and is the only online agent we found that has its own app, available on iOS and Android. The package includes a property expert to cover sale from start to finish, professional photos, floorplan, full description, ads on all major property sites and a For Sale sign.
Fee: Up Front and Pay When Sold Packages both cost £849 (or £1,199 in London and surrounding areas). Premium listings on site (meaning you'll show up in more searches, have more thumbnail photos on your listing and appear in a green box at the top) cost £95 extra. If paying when sold, you must use Purplebricks' own conveyancing service.
The ad: Will appear on all major property sites including Rightmove, Zoopla and Primelocation. Remains up until the property is sold. If you've opted for the deferred payment, you must pay after 10 months, even if the property's not sold, but the ad will remain up.
Hosted viewings? £300 unlimited.
For sale sign? Included.
Contact: www.purplebricks.co.uk 0800 810 8008
No help wanted - Private selling
Probably the most labour-intensive option, but private selling would give you the biggest savings.
One downside to private selling is that you can't advertise on Zoopla, Primelocation or Rightmove, so unless you already have a private buyer lined up, you need to advertise your property yourself. Use your local press and noticeboards and/or online market places like Houseweb (£195-£395) or The House Shop* (free), where you can create your own advert and liaise directly with buyers.
You could even try your luck on Facebook - especially if you're a member of a local network - or post an ad on Mumsnet via your 'local' page, and adding a thread. If you've any questions, you can email Mumsnet for help.
You'll need to host your own viewings if you sell privately, but this can tip the scales in your favour. You're the expert in your own house so can tell prospective buyers exactly what it's like to live there. However, don't ignore the safety risk of inviting strangers into your home. If you'll be conducting the viewings alone, tell a neighbour or friend first so they're aware and call them once you're done. It's better to be safe than sorry.
To maximise your home's visibility, it's worth putting up a For Sale sign. A lot of prospective buyers will spend time walking around their chosen area, so showing them your house is available could really help your cause. We found a decent selection of ready-made signs and those you can personalise on eBay and Amazon*, ranging from around £15 to £30.
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Find a reliable solicitor or conveyancer
Conveyancing is the legal process that transfers a property from one person to another, and requires either a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer.
Both solicitors and conveyancers are fully qualified and insured to handle house sales. They both do all the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of money. The primary difference is that conveyancers are specialist property lawyers.
You don't have to go with the solicitor or conveyancer your estate agent suggests - they'll most likely have some kind of commercial arrangement in place which could end up costing you more.
How much do they cost?
Fees for both solicitors and conveyancers vary. According to the Homeowners Alliance, they can cost between £500 and £1,500 for the legal fees alone.
On top of this you will have to pay for:
- Title deeds - proof you own the property, normally held by the Land Registry (£25)
- Property fraud fee - protects your property from being sold or mortgaged fraudulently (£10)
- Transferring ownership - a fee paid to the Land Registry on completion (£200-£300)
- Bank or telegraphic transfer (CHAPS) - unless you're remortgaging with the same lender, your funds are transferred to your bank (£20-£30).
- Money-laundering checks: Checking the buyers are who they say they are (£8 per person)
- Searches: To check whether there are any local plans or problems. (£250)
Ask your solicitor or conveyancer for a full breakdown of costs to check what's included in the quote. You can then compare prices between solicitors in the same way you did for estate agents - you don't need to go with the first one you speak to.
To speed up the long process of selling your house, it's worth lining up a solicitor before you put it on the market.
Like with estate agents, you can now go online for conveyancing services. They market themselves as cheaper than their high street counterparts, but you most likely won't have a singular point of contact as many run a call centre type service.
Check reviews of both online and high street conveyancers and solicitors. It's important to hire someone you're happy to work with as you'll most likely have a lot of contact with them. Going with a bad solicitor could really slow down the selling process and risk a sale, so it's worth doing your research.
Ask anyone you know who's moved in the past year if they'd recommend their solicitor. Personal recommendations are preferable to those put forward by your estate agent for example, as they may have a commercial agreement with solicitors, making them more expensive than what you could get elsewhere and they may not be as good.
See our house buying guide on finding cheap conveyancers.
Other costs involved with selling a property
There's more to selling your house than valuations and estate agents. Regardless of whether you sell with an agent or privately, you must have either a solicitor or licensed conveyancer REP and an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). You may also need removal services once it's time to vacate the property.
All this can add up, see below some estimates of cost:
Average cost of selling your property based on £226,000 property (table correct as of March '18)
|Private selling||Online agent||High street agent|
|Agency fees||£0 - £395||£95 - £1,695||£2,034 - £8,136|
|Conveyancing fee||£500 - £1,500||£500 - £1,500||£500 - £1,500|
|EPC||£35 - £120||£35 - £120||£35 - £120|
|Removals||£400 - £1,200||£400 - £1,200||£400 - £1,200|
|TOTAL||£935 - £3,215||£1,030 - £4,515||£2,969 - £10,956|
Of course, if you're selling your property to buy another one, there will be additional associated costs.
Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)
An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rates a building on its energy efficiency, from A (highly efficient) to G (inefficient). Each certificate is valid for 10 years.
Prospective buyers look for efficient energy ratings as poor ratings mean costly heating bills, which range from A to D. See our Housing and energy grants guide to find free cash to improve your home's efficiency before you sell.
Don't know if your EPC's in date? Check the EPC Register.
When you're ready to look at removals, the wheels of selling your home will now fully be in motion and soon, so too will your belongings.
As the average cost of a removal firm can be anything from £500 upwards, you could save yourself a hefty chunk of change by DIYing it if you can.
Factors that affect the price of removals include:
- Size of van (volume of belongings)
- Distance between pick-up and destination
- The time of day and time of year
- Who does the packing (you or the removal firm)
- Packing materials
- Special and/or fragile items
- Restricted access/difficult entry
Get a few firms to give you quotes then ask your chosen firm to break down the costs so you can check if there are ways you could save, like doing the packing yourself.
Final energy and water bills can come as a bit of a nasty shock, especially if you've been on estimated bills. If your energy firm has underestimated your usage, you could get hit with a hefty bill. Keep a record of your final gas and electricity readings, and always have a contingency fund for instances like this.
And don't forget niggly extras like redirecting your post, which costs £34.
Selling to buy a property
If you're selling your property to move abroad or rent, you're all done and dusted. Those of you selling to buy another property (which is likely to be most of sellers), in order to be taken seriously, you need to get your current property on the market, pronto!
Think about it. The most attractive buyers (in order) for your property are; first-time buyers', those who've already sold, followed by those who've got their property on the market. Would you consider selling to someone who's not even got their house on the market? Same goes for those selling to you.
In terms of selling one property and buying another, the order of things normally looks like this:
- Look at areas/properties you like
- Go and visit some
- Find one you like
- Realise you won't be taken seriously unless your house is on the market
- Rush to get your house on the market
- Simultaneously be looking at properties whilst people look at yours
- Hopefully have an offer accepted on yours so you can...
- ...place an offer on the one you like
In our Buying a Property Timeline guide, you'll see that buying a new property can usually take anything from six weeks to eight months, so be sure to factor that in.
Unsurprisingly, as well as being incredibly stressful, buying a property is very costly so you need to factor that in, and not just the selling costs mentioned above, if you're selling to buy somewhere else. The charges include:
- Mortgage fees - Arrangement/booking fee (£0 - £2,500) and exit fees, early repayment and new home loan charges. See Can I take my mortgage with me? for a full breakdown.
- Deposit for the new property - See our Mortgage Deposit Calculator.
- Surveys/Valuation fee - Homebuyer's report, full structural or snagging, £400 - £700 (depending on survey type). Valuation is for lenders to check how much your property is worth, £300 - £400. This varies by lender and property value and is for the lender’s purposes only. You can generally upgrade to a homebuyer’s survey, or you could go for a full structural survey.
- Searches - Local, drainage and environmental searches. Checks to see if there's anything you need to be aware of like building control issues or nearby road schemes.
- Solicitor/conveyancing fees - covers all the legal work associated with buying a house, £500-£1,500.
- Stamp duty - on properties over £125,000, payable to the Government. See Stamp Duty Calculator for full details.
- Bank transfer - £25 - £30.
- Land Registry fee - charges a fee to transfer their register entry into your name, up to £500.
For all those things you may have forgotten (or blocked out) since you bought your current property, see our 50+ House Buying Tips.
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