Guide to Selling Your First Home
Buying your first home can be quite a scary thing to do, and selling your first home can be almost as bad. But, with the right kind of planning and organisation, a good conveyancing solicitor and the assistance of a friendly and experienced estate agent, it needn’t be too stressful.
Remember, though, that it always takes longer than you think it’s going to – the usual advice is 12 weeks from when you agree the price to completion, although this will be longer for leasehold properties where there is the added complication of the third-party (i.e. the freeholder).
And there are so many different processes that need to be completed that unexpected delays are possible at almost any stage. On the other hand, sometimes things take less time to sort out than you think they’re going to as well!
Being aware of everything you need to do before you start means that you should be prepared for much of what is to follow. This handy guide will provide most of the information you need, but every sale is different and can throw up its own issues. For that reason, it’s important that you listen to any advice you get from the professionals you engage to help you.
Prepare your paperwork
As the sale progresses, your solicitor will need you to provide your prospective buyers and their solicitor with a number of documents that will give important information about your property. It’s worth getting as many of these ready at the outset as you can, so that when the time comes, you can forward them on immediately rather than holding up the process.
Among the documents you’ll need to provide are:
- Proof of your identity (this will usually be your passport and/or driving licence)
- An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing the energy-efficiency of your home
- Any guarantees or warranties relating to work carried out at your home – this could include any damp proofing, building work, replacement windows, etc.
- Planning permission documents if you’ve had any major work carried out
- Gas safety checks and record of boiler servicing
- Electrical checks
- Consent for works carried out if it is a listed building or in a conservation area
- If the property is leasehold, you might also need to get together any paperwork relating to accounts and correspondence with the freeholder
Research your estate agent
While you could sell your home privately, using an experienced estate agent is very strongly recommended. Not only will they know what needs to be done when, so that the sale has the best chance of progressing smoothly, but they’ll also have access to the best marketing tools that will ensure that your home is seen by more serious house hunters.
You should ideally look for an estate agent who has plenty of experience working in your local area and knows the housing market there well. They should have a creative, proactive and comprehensive approach to marketing and selling their properties. That should include high quality pictures and virtual tours, floorplans, listings on all the main property sites (such as Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket), use of social media sites, and traditional techniques like window displays and ‘For Sale’ boards outside the property in question.
One of the best things you can do is read verified reviews to find out what previous customers thought of the service they received. At Robert Ellis, we’re currently rating at 4.9 out of 5 stars based on over 2,500 reviews.
Finally, be careful about online-only estate agents, who are unlikely to know your area and will usually ask for their fees in advance, meaning that they have little incentive to do everything they can to sell your home once they’ve got your money.
Set your price
Your chosen estate agent should be able to give you a free valuation as to what they think your home can reasonably achieve. That figure will be based on a number of factors, including the location and condition of your home, whether the area is popular with families (for example, if it’s in the catchment area of a good local school), and recent local sales. It’s also important that you take a long-term view of the district to see if there are any planned developments, such as improved transport infrastructure, that could make it more attractive to potential buyers.
Of course, you don’t need to take their advice. For example, you might want to set the price a little higher if you want to achieve the highest possible price and allow a little room for negotiation, or a little lower if a quick sale is important to you.
Make sure you discuss with your estate agent what is important to you and they will use their experience and their local knowledge to help you come up with the most realistic price based on your priorities.
Make your home look presentable
Just like when you attend a job interview, you always want to make a good first impression with any potential buyers. The better condition your home is in, the more viewers you’re likely to attract and the higher the price you can expect to achieve. That means that – outside and inside – you’ll want to put some effort into making your home as appealing as possible.
The difficult balance you need to find is between spending money on doing your home up to the right kind of standard and not going over the top and spending more than you need to. After all, any decorating you do might not be to a buyer’s taste and they might just change it again as soon as they’re in.
Rooms that are looking tired and out of date can be transformed with a coat of paint – in a light, neutral colour – for relatively little time or money. It’s also worth patching up any marks that are obvious and getting your garden into good order, especially at the front for maximum kerb appeal. Your estate agent will be able to advise you on any cosmetic work that they think will help, so make sure you take advantage of their experience and knowledge.
Giving your home a thorough clean and tidy for when the estate agent photographer comes round is a must. Hide any clutter and fully open any curtains and blinds so that each room is getting the maximum amount of natural light and looks as spacious as possible. You might also want to avoid having personal items such as family photos on display.
You may not need to maintain that level of cleanliness and tidiness throughout the viewing process – after all, you still need to live your life and you might be getting lots of viewers. Nevertheless, you should still make an effort to stay on top of any mess so that it’s a quick job to get your home to an acceptable standard ahead of any viewing. In particular, you should avoid leaving personal or private documents around for anyone to see.
Discuss and negotiate any offers
Getting your first offer is always an exciting moment, but don’t get carried away, because there could be a long way to go! Don’t be afraid to reject it if you feel the offer doesn’t meet your expectations. This will especially be the case if your home hasn’t been on the market long and is attracting plenty of interest.
You can always negotiate if you think the buyer is serious – you may well have set an asking price a little higher than what you are prepared to sell at on the expectation that people will offer you less.
Even once the price has been agreed, there may well be further negotiation and compromise to follow. Your buyer will almost certainly have a survey carried out that might reveal problems and issues that were not visible or obvious at the time of viewing – such as signs of damp, poor insulation, and the state of guttering.
As a result, they may ask for a reduction in the selling price to allow for sorting out such problems after completion. Of course, you don’t have to agree if you’ve already allowed for such work when setting the price in the first place.
Legal and financial considerations
When selling a house, you have a lot of legal responsibilities, so you are always advised to engage the services of a good conveyancing solicitor, who will be able to guide you every step of the way.
One of the things you’ll need to do is complete a TA6 Property Information Form, which will provide important information for your seller on such matters as boundaries, any disputes with neighbours, problems with flooding, etc. The form is part of the contract between you and your buyer, so make sure you answer questions honestly. If you knowingly provide misleading information, you could be sued for breach of contract.
You’ll also have plenty of expenses to take into account, so it’s important you bear this in mind when setting your selling price and working out how much the overall process will cost. For instance, you’ll need to pay:
- Estate agent fees
- Solicitor fees
- Paying off a mortgage or cost of new home
- Removal costs
- Capital Gains Tax (if applicable)
Once a completion date has been agreed between you and your buyer, you need to make sure that your house is fully emptied in time for them to move in. You also need to advise any service providers that you are no longer responsible for the property. This is likely to include:
- Gas and electricity
- TV licence
- Council tax
You also need to advise other service providers of your new address. You can make sure you get your mail by arranging for it to be forwarded on to your new home – keeping this in place for 12 months means that you should cover bills and correspondence from everyone important.
Here at Robert Ellis Estate Agents, we’ve been trusted estate agents for homeowners across west and north Nottingham for decades. With branches in Beeston, Arnold, Stapleford and Long Eaton and a team of experienced valuers and professionals to call on, we can provide the kind of expert help and advice you need to ensure a smooth and satisfactory sale.
Want to know more about how we can help sell your home? Then pop into your local branch, give us a call or fill in our online form to ask for a free valuation.