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The Process of Selling a House

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

19th Feb 2020 (Last updated on 30th Nov 2020) 20 minute read

Selling a house can be a lot more daunting than buying one as it’s usually a more complex process. From finding the right conveyancer to preparing for your completion day, there’s a lot more to think about and it can often feel like too much to handle at once. But with the right help, it can be a lot simpler than you think. 

Compare My Move has created this guide to help you through the process of selling your house, breaking it down step-by-step to make it a lot easier to digest. We will go through each section in detail, helping you plan what to do and when to do it.

This article will cover the following:
  1. 1. Organise Your Finances
  2. 2. Find an Estate Agent
  3. 3. Have Your Property Valued
  4. 4. Set an Asking Price
  5. 5. Hire a Conveyancer
  6. 6. Get the Necessary Paperwork in Order
  7. 7. Prepare Your Property
  8. 8. Help With the Marketing of the House
  9. 9. Arrange Viewings
  10. 10. If it’s Not Selling, Reassess the Situation
  11. 11. Accept or Negotiate an Offer
  12. 12. Find Yourself New Accommodation
  13. 13. Get Ready to Move Out
  14. 14. Exchange Contracts and Complete
  15. Alternatives to Selling Your House
  16. Next Steps of Selling a House

1. Organise Your Finances

Before you commit to selling your home, you need to make sure that you can definitely afford to sell and move out. For example, if you’re paying a mortgage on your current home, you’ll need to contact your lender and find out if there are any charges for exiting early or for transferring it to another property.   

If you find out how much you can borrow for your new home, this will help you set a budget for how much you’ll be willing to pay for your new home. You’ll also need to calculate how much stamp duty you’ll be paying if you’re buying a property after you sell.

According to our data, it costs £5,542 to sell a house priced at the UK average of £235,673. This includes a variety of factors that sellers may not originally be aware of, such as the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). You will not only have to prepare for the estate agent fees and conveyancing costs but also the fees that come with remortgaging or porting your mortgage. We’ve also taken the average removal cost into account for when you’re prepared to pack up and move to your new home.  

Below, we’ve provided you with a table listing the average costs included when selling a house:

ServiceAverage Cost

Estate Agent Fees

£2,780

Conveyancing Solicitor Fees

£1,046

EPC

£85

Porting a Mortgage

£450

Removal Company Cost

£1,181

Total Cost of Selling a House:

£5,542

The costs included are based on a freehold property worth £235,673 that is porting a mortgage.

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2. Find an Estate Agent

Next, it’s time to choose an estate agent to help you sell your property. It’s possible to do it alone but there are many benefits to using a professional estate agent to list your house for sale. Hiring an estate agent will take a lot of the pressure off you as they’ll advertise your property and arrange viewings with potential buyers. 

Study the property portals, local agents websites and local property newspaper supplements to see which agents sell your type of home in the local area. This should give you a shortlist of estate agents to choose from.

You should compare up to three estate agents’ market appraisals, this will include their suggested asking price for your home, details of their marketing strategy and evidence of similar homes they have sold close by in recent months. Make sure you have all the necessary information before choosing someone and to ask all the necessary questions. 

Shop around to find the best price and don’t neglect online estate agents as an option. The more research you do, the better chances you have of hiring a professional estate agent, reducing the risk of having to make a complaint or cancel your contract.

3. Have Your Property Valued

Before deciding on an asking price, it would be worth getting your property valued. If you set a high and unrealistic asking price you risk putting buyers off, whilst going too low can leave you out of pocket. Research other properties for sale in your local area for comparison and have your house valued by a number of different estate agents. 

Your potential buyers will most likely need to conduct a mortgage valuation so it’s also good to have your own for comparison. You can even use the Land Registry as a way to get a basic valuation of your house and properties in the surrounding area. Don’t forget to use websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla to get a better understanding of how to market your property and at what price.

4. Set an Asking Price

Deciding on an asking price can be daunting, but it’s an important step to get your house on the market. Your estate agent can advise you but the decision is down to you. Try to be realistic with the price but keep in mind that many buyers will try to negotiate the house price. However, typically, sellers can expect between 95% and 99% of their asking price.

Take your chosen estate agent’s advice on this. Good agents vary their advice according to the state of the market in the area. Sometimes they will suggest a relatively low price to encourage rival buyers who will, in turn, offer more - perhaps well above your asking price. If the market is relatively weak, they may suggest a realistic price to avoid your property being seen as too expensive compared to similar homes nearby.

For further help, Compare My Move also has a guide discussing how much your house is worth. This article will go through the necessary steps to take to help you make a final and informed decision on both what your property is worth how much you can sell it for.

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5. Hire a Conveyancer

While you’re waiting for the house to sell, you should begin comparing conveyancers. The sooner you find a conveyancer, the more quickly you can begin the process once you accept an offer. If you're selling circumstances aren't as straightforward, if you're selling a Help to Buy property or an inherited property, a conveyancer will provide you with expert advice.

The conveyancing process is incredibly important when buying and selling a house. It’s the legal process of selling a property and is widely considered as too complicated to do yourself. A conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor will help organise and complete any legal documents, conduct the necessary conveyancing searches, draft the contracts and legally transfer ownership of the property. Make sure you compare quotes before choosing a conveyancer to see the different options available to you.

Here at Compare My Move, our conveyancing partners are put through a strict verification process to ensure they’re fully regulated, trained and qualified to provide the highest quality services.

To help you prepare your budget for selling a house, we’ve provided you with the average solicitor fees for selling a house (VAT included):

Property ValueAvg Freehold Cost*Avg Leasehold Cost*

Up to £100,000

£820

£990

£100,001 to £200,000

£880

£1,050

£200,001 to £300,000

£1,000

£1,170

£300,001 to £400,000

£1,090

£1,260

£400,001 to £500,000

£1,160

£1,340

£500,001 to £600,000

£1,330

£1,490

£600,001 to £700,000

£1,390

£1,550

£700,001 to £800,000

£1,600

£1,770

£800,001 to £900,000

£1,730

£1,880

£900,001 to £1,000,000

£1,840

£2,000

*We took a sample of fees from 50 licensed conveyancers across the UK to find these averages, but this is just an indication of costs. Fees will greatly vary depending on your situation and conveyancer.

It’s important to note that prices will vary depending on the solicitor you use, their location and your personal circumstances. There may also be other fees included such as the cost of obtaining official Land Registry documents and possible bank transfer fees.

6. Get the Necessary Paperwork in Order

To help move the process along, you need to get your paperwork organised as early as possible. Your conveyancing solicitor will remind you if there are additional documents required. Here’s a list of the main documents you’ll need to sell your house:

  • Property title deeds
  • Energy performance certificate (EPC)
  • Property details and floorplan
  • Recent utility bills
  • Electrical certificates
  • Building regulation certificates
  • Planning permission certificates
  • Buildings insurance policy
  • Contents insurance policy
  • Mortgage account number
  • The lease if it’s a leasehold property 

If you cannot locate some documents, particularly building regs or planning consent documents, then you may be recommended by your conveyancing solicitor to take out a relatively low-cost insurance policy against future claims.

7. Prepare Your Property

Once everything is in order, it’s time to prepare your property for any upcoming viewings. Give your house a deep clean and start removing any personal touches. You can’t think of it as yours anymore as it needs to be attractive to a range of people. Declutter the rooms, spruce up your garden and fix any minor issues to increase the chance of selling. This is where you can do a more thorough job of preparing your property and fix any issues that may take a while to resolve. 

A study conducted by the HomeOwners Alliance found that 68% of homebuyers in 2019 believed that “kerb appeal” was an important factor when buying a house. In the survey of over 2,000 British homebuyers, it was discovered that the key features they were looking for were well-maintained windows and a roof in good condition. These are just two factors to consider when preparing your property. 

To help improve your property’s kerb appeal, you could:

  • Add a fresh coat of paint to the exterior 
  • Trim and clean your garden
  • Replace any loose or broken tiles
  • Clean your windows inside and out
  • Add hanging baskets 
  • Clean the gutters 

If you discover any major issues inside your property, it could be worth having a property survey to calculate the potential repair costs. You can then use the results to either renovate and improve the property or to alter the asking price. Many buyers will use a house survey to negotiate on the price and so having one to compare the results to can be vital.

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8. Help With the Marketing of the House

Preparing your house not only makes it more attractive during viewings, but it also helps with the marketing side of the sale. Your estate agent should send a photographer to your property to take professional photos before putting it on the market. Cleaning and preparing your house will make the photos look even better, attracting potential buyers. 

Along with the images, your estate agent will also need to write a description of the house and include a floor plan. Make sure you check these carefully before they are finalised and sent to prospective buyers and property websites. Once this is completed, your property will be advertised online.

9. Arrange Viewings

Many high-street agents will conduct viewings on your behalf, but if you’re selling a house alone or through an online agent, you may need to conduct them yourself. If possible, it would be wise to have your estate agent conduct them for you as they have experience and can help make potential buyers feel more comfortable. 

Once you know the dates of the viewings, try to ensure that you and any other occupants are out of the house. If you have children or pets, make sure they’re either with you or with friends or family. You don’t want too many people there as a distraction and so the fewer people there the better. Give your home another quick clean and ensure it appears in perfect condition.

You don’t have to do as thorough a job as before, just make your home presentable and ready for guests. If you make a list of tasks to complete before the viewings, you may find yourself getting organised sooner. A few steps to include could be to:

  1. Remove any pet or children’s toys
  2. Organise care for any pets or children for the day of the viewing 
  3. Declutter the rooms
  4. Fix any remaining repairs 
  5. Stage your home with any remaining furniture
  6. Remove personal decor
  7. Add fresh flowers or fruit in the kitchen and living room
  8. Make the beds in the property
  9. Add mirrors to any dark rooms or hallways
  10. Remove any stubborn stains

To help you prepare, take a look at our house viewing checklist to see things from a buyer’s perspective.

10. If it’s Not Selling, Reassess the Situation

If your property isn’t selling or you haven’t received any offers, don’t panic - talk to your estate agent and reassess the situation. It could be as simple as waiting for market conditions to improve or to lower the price. Look over your property’s online page - are the photos blurry or unappealing? Can you see all of the property? Although most estate agents will hire a professional photographer for you, perhaps you would prefer finding your own? Think of it from a potential buyer’s point of view. In extreme cases, you may want to consider changing estate agents. 

Data collected by the independent property website, Property Road discovered that 78% of house sellers in the UK fail to sell their properties due to 15 specific reasons. The top 10 reasons include:

  • A high asking price
  • Not enough kerb appeal
  • A cluttered property
  • Bad photographs on the website
  • Not enough photographs
  • Your property isn’t listed in online portals 
  • Poor property listing description 
  • The lack of a floorplan
  • The listing is missing vital keywords
  • The estate agent isn’t responsive enough.

These are just a few of the things for you to consider if you’re concerned over not receiving enough offers. Each point can be easily fixed and so the sooner you address each issue, the sooner you may receive a more appealing offer.

Do You Need a Property Survey? 

Most people only organise a property survey on a home they’re buying, but it is also possible to have a survey conducted on a property you’re selling. This can be especially helpful if your home isn’t selling as the report may highlight issues you can resolve before the next viewing or before it’s put back on the market - this can help increase your chances of a sale. 

You should always compare surveying quotes before finding a registered surveyor to ensure you’re getting the best deal. You don’t necessarily need a thorough survey such as a building or homebuyers survey, but it all depends on the property type and your personal circumstances. 

There are a variety of things to look out for when reading through the survey report as some issues can greatly affect the chances of your property selling. Below, we’ve highlighted a number of problems that may delay the sale of your home:

  • Damp - Many homes, especially older ones, will have the odd patch of damp. However, if the issue is serious, it may be why buyers refuse a sale. To uncover the extent of the damage, you can either organise a homebuyers survey or hire a damp proofing expert to view the property. Some types of damp can be easily fixed whilst others can be fairly costly. 
  • Japanese Knotweed - Japanese Knotweed is another serious issue a property survey could uncover. It is a highly destructive plant that can force its way through concrete, drains and a property’s foundations. If the issue is serious enough, it can leave some homes unmortgageable. If the plant is discovered on the property, you will have to hire a professional to remove it.  
  • Subsidence - If there are cracks in the walls that are more than 3mm wide, your property may be displaying signs of subsidence, a very serious issue for homeowners. Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath your home moves, affecting the building’s stability and potentially causing it to sink. There are many insurance companies who will refuse to insure a property with this issue. If you suspect your home is at risk of subsidence, you should organise a building survey.

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11. Accept or Negotiate an Offer

If you receive one or more offers, it’s time to start thinking about whether you’re going to accept the offer or negotiate. Most offers will be less than your asking price so you may want to think about haggling until you reach a happy medium. In most circumstances, the agreed sale price is between 95% and 99% of the asking price.

If there’s no compromising, you’re within your rights to reject the offer outright. But negotiating can be a good way to ensure both parties are content with the deal.

Once you’ve found an offer you’re happy with, you must formally accept it. However, this agreement is not legally binding until you sign and exchange contracts and so it is possible to accept another offer from a separate buyer. However, this act is called gazumping and it’s often frowned upon due to its unfair nature.

What Should You Look for in a Buyer?

It’s important to remind yourself that you don’t have to accept the first offer that comes in. Before accepting an offer, you should take the time to carefully evaluate the situation and decide if they’re the right buyer to commit to. 

Although you may be tempted to accept the highest offer, there are other factors you should consider. For example, if they are a cash buyer, the process will be completed much more quickly. Don’t be afraid to ask the buyer, or the buyer’s solicitor, questions to help you ensure you make an informed decision. You should ask:

1. Is the buyer a first-time buyer?

First-time buyers are often very popular amongst sellers as they won’t need to sell their previous home before buying a new one, thus making them chain-free. This means that the process of selling your home will be much quicker compared to other types of buyers. 

2. Is the buyer chain-free?

A buyer doesn’t have to be a first-time buyer to be chain-free. If they are currently renting or are buying a second home, then that will also make them a chain-free buyer. Make sure you double-check their current situation with their solicitor so you know for certain what type of buyer they will be - don’t make any assumptions.  

3. What is the financial position of the potential buyer?

Another major factor that could persuade you to accept or decline the offer, is if they have a mortgage agreement in principle. This will indicate how financially capable they are of continuing with the sale and what the likelihood is of their mortgage application being accepted is.

12. Find Yourself New Accommodation

Selling a house can be a daunting and time-consuming process so don’t forget to focus on your own situation too. As you’ll need to move out before the buyer can move in, it’s important to make sure you have somewhere to stay before ownership of the property is transferred.  

You can start house-hunting whenever you feel ready. But if you’d like to focus on putting your house on the market first then it would be wise to start looking when your house is under offer or Sold Subject to Contract (SSTC). The sooner you buy a house, the quicker the process can continue for both you and the buyer. Moving out early also reduces the length of your property chain, meaning a lower chance of delays and a quicker transaction.

If you find yourself in a position where you have found your ideal home prior to selling you existing property, you could consider a bridging loan. This is a high-interest rate loan designed to offer short-term finance before your longer-term funding - the funds from the sale of your previous home - comes through. 

13. Get Ready to Move Out

Whilst you’re negotiating the contract with the buyer, you should start preparing to move out of the property. Keep a clear line of communication with your estate agent and conveyancer so that you’re updated on any changes. The next step will be to exchange contracts. This is when you legally transfer ownership of the house and so you should be ready to start moving out by completion day the latest. The sooner you’re out of the property, the less stressful it will be.  

Now is the time to start comparing removal companies to ensure you get the best deal from the most professional company in your local area. All Compare My Move removal partners are regulated by RICS and have gone through our strict removals verification process to ensure they deliver the highest of standards that our users expect. Take a look at our moving checklist if you’re not sure how to begin.

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14. Exchange Contracts and Complete

This is the stage where the buyer becomes the new legal owner of the property. The buyer must pay the deposit for the house and the contracts must be signed and exchanged, making the transaction legally binding. 

By now both parties should’ve come to an agreement on the contract. If there are any changes you want to make, you need to make sure they’re done before you exchange contracts. Once everything has been signed, it’s too late to pull out of the sale or to make alterations. If you withdraw from the sale without due reason, the deposit will be handed back to the buyer and there’s a possibility that you could be sued.  

Once the contracts have been exchanged, you must agree on a completion date. It’s possible to exchange and complete on the same day, but it’s rare. Completion day often occurs 7-28 days after the exchange of contracts. On this day, your estate agent must hand over the keys to the buyer and you should move or be in the process of moving out. Completion day is when all the payments are made, the deeds are transferred and your house is officially sold.

If you'd like a few top tips for selling your home, we have a previous article that will also be helpful to you when you start the selling process. 

Alternatives to Selling Your House

If your property doesn’t sell or you’re not convinced that selling your home is the way forward, then there are a number of alternatives to consider instead. For example, you could rent out your home until you feel ready to put it back on the market. However, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax when you finally come to sell it so this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.

Other options could include selling your home at auction or using a ‘quick sale company’. If you’re looking to sell your property via an auction, you can either choose a traditional sale-room, an online auction or the process of sealed bidding. A ‘quick sale company’, however, is a company that will provide you with a sum of money for your home - typically around 75% of its value if it were on the open market. There are a number of disreputable companies so if you choose this method, make sure you research the company thoroughly.

Next Steps of Selling a House

This article has been part of our home selling guide. Now that you know the process, the next step will be learning the true cost of selling a house. In our next article, we explore the total costs involved with selling, from solicitor fees to removal costs. To find out more read what is the cost of selling a house.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Graham Norwood

Reviewed by Graham Norwood

Property Journalist and Editor,

With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.