How to sell a house

Ready to sell your house? Make sure you’ve got everything sorted with our 15-step guide.

Tips & guides

21 September 2020

Looking to sell your house? Maybe you’re downsizing after an emptied nest, upsizing to accommodate new family members, or just want to swap city-tarmac for country life. Moving home is a huge, exciting undertaking, but it does have its stresses. Our 15-step article will help guide you through the basics. From organising your finances, to choosing the right solicitor, let’s get you prepared.

Work out your budget

Before you do anything (including shopping for your dream home), it’s good to get a realistic picture of your finances. The criteria for granting a mortgage changes all the time, and you may be entitled to more or less than you’d expect.

Talk to several banks about what they’re willing to lend, but also consider what you’re prepared to borrow. Are there future costs to anticipate, such as helping a child out at university, or planning a wedding? And if not, do you need to set anything aside for holidays, renovating or just plain enjoyment? Getting clear about your budget now can save you heartache later on. You don’t want to fall in love with your perfect sandstone cottage, only to discover that it’s £20,000 over budget.

Give your current home some TLC

It shouldn’t matter how tatty your wallpaper is, but buyers can be an irrational bunch, and it’s easier to imagine living somewhere with a bit of polish. Help your house put its best foot forward with a quick sprucing up. This doesn’t need to be expensive: a lick of fresh magnolia paint in the hallway, some new cushions for the living room, and maybe a hanging basket, if it’s that time of year.

Get your property valued

Recent, local sales can give you a good idea of what your house is worth, but bear in mind that even identical homes can differ in price. Factors such as converted garages, south-facing gardens, and proximity to that noisy railway line could account for a £10,000 price difference. You don’t want to get your hopes up (or keep them squashed) before you’ve spoken to the experts. And ideally, you’ll want to speak to a few.

Set an asking price

So, the (multiple) estate agents have called around, and you’ve been given a realistic price range. Which end of the spectrum you choose will depend on how fast you want to move. If you’ve got a minimum sale price in mind, advertise a little higher, knowing that a buyer may want to haggle down. The new regulations about stamp duties might also play a factor: if your home is hovering around the £500,000 mark, keeping it just shy of half a million could open you up to more interest.

Decide how to sell

Going through an established estate agent is the surest way to avoid risk (and paperwork), but it isn’t the only way to sell your home. You might want to privately sell to the neighbour who’s pushed an enquiry through your letterbox, or to the family member who’s asked for first dibs. If so, make sure you get a decent solicitor on board, and compare the agreed price with an estate agent’s valuation. And if you want a quick sale, an auction, or even an online ‘raffle’, might be your best bet.

Get your home brochure-ready

If you’re selling through an estate agent, they’ll likely send out a professional photographer to take snaps. This is your home’s chance to shine. If possible, check the forecast before they come around (sunny gardens are more attractive than soggy ones), and make the stylist’s job easier by locking shampoo bottles, children’s toys and crockery away. And when you’re sent final proofs, give that floor plan a good look-over. You don’t want to advertise the bedrooms as being on the wrong storey!

Get the paperwork sorted

Nobody likes paperwork, but when it comes to selling, there’s no skipping the boring stuff. Get those energy certificates ready, and make sure that you have property title deeds and proof of identity to hand. You don’t want lost documents to hold you up if you’re faced with an immediate offer!

Prepare for viewings

An estate agent will probably do the tours themselves, but you’ll still want to unpeg the clothesline before the viewers come around! And if you’re the one hosting, be ready with answers about energy costs, friendly neighbours, and access to fibre broadband. The buyer will want to picture themselves in your home, so avoid: ‘This is where my daughter learned to play piano.‘ But do highlight any features you love most: a sunny spot on the patio, a safe walk to the local school.

Hire a solicitor or conveyancer

Just heard yourself say: ‘I need to talk to my lawyer’? No, you’re not in an American crime drama – you’re just selling a home. Solicitors are the key cog in the property-selling wheel, and a good one can mean the difference between exchanging in three months, or six. Ask recently-moved friends or family for recommendations, or speak to your lender, mortgage broker, or estate agent.

Home not selling?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, homes can be left on the bench. There may be a lull in the market, or you may need to reconsider that pink-toned bathroom. If several months have gone by without an offer, consider lowering the asking price. If there’s still no luck, consider a new estate agent.

Bidding Wars

Is your home hot property? Have you had not one offer, but four? Lucky you – you get your pick of the bunch. However, choosing the right buyer doesn’t mean deciding who’ll get on best with Jillian next door. It can be the difference between a fast completion, or no completion at all. The safest buyers are the ones without a chain. Prioritise first-time buyers, people who have already sold, or anyone prepared to pay in cash.

Accepting and negotiating an offer

Like market stalls and bazaars, the property market is known for haggling. If your first offer is 5-10% lower than your asking price, don’t panic: the buyer is expecting you to push back. Once you’ve reached a figure you’re happy with, take a few day’s breathing space before accepting. It’s a big decision; there’s no rush.

Negotiate the draft contract

Once you’ve accepted an offer, it’s time for your solicitor to negotiate the draft contract. You should get a good idea of timescales at this point - when you’ll exchange, when you’ll complete. And if you’re still shopping for your own dream home, you’re now in a great position to make a move.

Exchanging and completing the sale

Buyer put down their deposit? Contracts exchanged? With the move now legally-binding, you’re officially free to get excited. Just remember to inform your current home insurance provider about your move.

We hope our guide has taken some of the frazzle out of moving. Now that you’re (mentally) moving the furniture about in your new place, it’s time to think about insurance. From accidental damage to personal possessions cover, AXA offers full, peace-of-mind protection for you, your home, and your family. Get a home insurance quote today.