How to sell your house – or flat

Ready to up sticks to a new home? Then you’re going to need to sell yours first. Here’s how to maximise value and make the process as smooth as possible

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Selling a home can be a stressful time. You’ll be showing strangers round – or getting out of the way while the agent does it for you – considering offers from likely buyers, and seeing the process through until it becomes legally binding. Follow the steps that’ll get you to a successful sale with our guide - and find more helpful advice on our property pages

1. Get your home ready

It’s worth looking at your home objectively before you put it on the market. Now’s the time to give it kerb appeal and to declutter rooms and give each a purpose (think home office rather than junk room, for example). Home improvements probably aren’t worth it at this stage, but do:

  • Clean windows to brighten the interior;
  • Tidy the garden;
  • Fix anything that's broken or leaning;
  • Sort out scuffed or dirty paintwork;
  • Clean grout;
  • Make sure surfaces aren't covered by accessories;
  • Sort the interior of kitchen and other built-in cupboards – buyers will look inside and if they’re crammed they might think there’s a shortage of storage;
  • Full-on redecorating is generally not worthwhile but if your taste is very bold, or rooms look dingy, then consider it.

2. Decide on who's selling your home

Choose between a traditional estate agent or an online one. 

Traditional estate agents

You can opt for one agent – sole agency – which will probably mean you pay a lower commission; or use more than one agent. You’ll pay a larger commission on the sale if you use multiple agents although in theory it could speed up the sale.

Although you’ll pay more in commission with a traditional agent against newer online services, you should get the benefit of local market knowledge. Expect an agent to show you evidence of local sold prices when they value your home.

It’s worth getting valuations from three different agents before deciding on which one to go with. It’s possible to negotiate on commission, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Ask which online portals they advertise with to ensure you’re getting coverage on all the major sites such as Rightmove, Zoopla, OnTheMarket and PrimeLocation.

Check the contract term, too. If you’re unhappy with the agent’s service you need to be able to change to another.

Make sure the fee is only payable on exchange of contracts as otherwise you’ll be out of pocket even if the deal falls down before it’s legally binding.

Online estate agents

Online estate agents charge lower fees, but be aware that you’ll have to pay the fees upfront rather than on the sale of the property, and if your property isn’t sold you’ve lost the money.

An online agent may also tie you into other services like conveyancing or mortgage broking. Check any contract carefully.

Find out how they vet buyers. You’ll probably be showing people round and it’s your time that will be taken up by those who are never going to be in a position to buy.   

Remember that an online agent is unlikely to have in-depth local market knowledge, so make sure you’re well informed on selling prices in your area before you agree an asking price.

Sell your home yourself

There are sites where you can list your home but beware of valuing it inaccurately or failing to negotiate a good price as this could wipe out what you’ve saved on an agent’s commission. 

Other providers offer packages with valuation and photographs plus listing on sites like Rightmove.

3. Agree a selling price

Take the advice of agents but make sure you’ve done your homework, too, so you can agree a price at which your home will be marketed initially. 

Find information on sold prices in the area via the Land Registry’s UK house price index.  Rightmove and Zoopla can also reveal what local properties have gone for.

Online estimates should always be treated as a guide. They can be under or over by a considerable amount so local property knowledge is invaluable.

Bear in mind that you’ll probably get offers at 5 to 10 per cent under the asking price.

4. Find a solicitor or conveyancer

Although you won’t need a legal professional until you have agreed an offer, now’s the time to find someone you’ll be happy to work with. 

Ask for personal recommendations and get quotations, and remember that cheapest isn’t always best. You should reassure yourself that your file won’t be passed from pillar to post and your conveyancer will be responsive to contact.

Your legal professional will send you forms to fill out to provide information about the property and what’s included in the sale and returning these promptly will ensure you’re ready for the selling process to get going swiftly once you receive an offer.

5. Get ready for viewings

You’ve already done the major decluttering, sorted out the snags, and touched up any timeworn decor, but getting set for each viewing is worthwhile. Read our guide to what to look for when viewing a property to envision how your potential buyers might see your property. We'd recommend following these steps, too:

  • Don't cook anything pungent the evening before;
  • Open windows beforehand to air rooms;
  • Empty bins;
  • Avoid fogging up bathrooms just before viewings are scheduled;
  • Open curtain or blinds wide to maximise daylight;
  • Put on the heating if it's cold;
  • Go out if the agent's conducting the viewing – and that means everyone. No room should be off limits.;
  • Take the dog out for a walk.

6. Receive feedback

Your agent should give you feedback on each viewing. Much of it probably won’t help you sell your home – if viewers don’t like the house’s situation there’s nothing you can do about that. Do be prepared to act on comments if a matter can be remedied simply, though. For example, dark rooms might be brightened with mirrors.

7. Get an offer

Agents will pass on any offer to you. If it doesn’t get near enough to your asking price you can reject it or get the agent to negotiate it up.

When you’re ready to accept an offer, tell the agent, who will confirm and prepare the memorandum of sale to go to the solicitors on both sides. After this, the agent should stop marketing the property. 

An offer isn’t legally binding until exchange so you could in theory find another buyer in the meantime, but remember that your buyer will start to incur costs, so imagine the boot on the other foot. If a buyer saw you were still marketing, they’d be advised to walk away.

8. Go through the conveyancing process

Your solicitor or conveyancer will now do the legal work on the sale. Be prepared to answer any additional questions about the property the buyer’s solicitor raises with yours.  

Keep in touch with both your agent and your solicitor to keep up to date on where everything has got to. Yours is one of many sales to them, but the only one you care about so it’s worth making sure everything is proceeding.

You should expect appointment(s) to be made for a valuation for the purchaser’s mortgage and the survey they have asked for.

A date and time will be arranged for exchange of contracts. At exchange the deal becomes legally binding on both sides. If you pulled out, the buyer’s deposit would be returned with interest, and you could be sued for breach of contract.

9. Complete a house sale

The completion date will have been agreed before exchange via the solicitors although it’s often two to four weeks after exchange.

Make sure you leave all the fixtures and fittings as agreed when you move out. 

The buyer will be given the keys only once it is confirmed that the purchase money has been transferred.

Your solicitor will pay off your mortgage and also register the change of ownership with the Land Registry.

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