Selling a home can be a big undertaking, and the process is often unfamiliar as, on average, we only move every 15 – 20 years. It is really important you are able to get advice from the right people at the right time. Using a Property Drop Estate agent and checking the advice available from the gov.uk website on Selling your home is an excellent place to start.
You can avoid stress and speed up the process by understanding what questions to ask, what your rights are, and what responsibilities you have as a home seller.
Understand your finances
When you sell your home, you will need enough money to pay off the remainder of your mortgage, if you have one. You should speak with your lender or broker to find out how much you owe, including any possible penalties for early repayment.
In addition, when selling, you may also need to pay:
- any other outstanding debts secured against the property
- estate agent fees
- Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) fees (unless the property is exempt or a valid certificate already exists)
- legal fees
- land registry fees
- removal costs
- capital gains tax if the property is not your primary home or includes a lot of land
- for essential home repairs or improvements
It is therefore very important you know how much your property is likely to be worth so you can compare it to the outstanding balance on your mortgage and the other costs of moving. When you know how much money you are likely to release from selling your property, you can budget for your next move. It is important to do this early on so that the final exchange of contracts is not delayed. A helpful checklist of costs to think about is available from the Money Advice Service.
While it is currently a rare problem, you may find that you are in negative equity. This means your home is worth less than the amount you owe your mortgage provider, and so you may not want to sell your home as you will still be liable for the outstanding balance. If you still want to move, lenders may consider allowing you to transfer the debt to a new property, but you must speak to them as soon as possible and tell your legal representative what has been agreed.
More advice on negative equity can be found from the Money Advice Service https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.
Before you market your home – getting ‘sale ready’
Before you begin to think about putting your property on the market, you should spend some time getting your paperwork together and making your home ‘sale ready’.
Your estate agent and legal representative will ask for various pieces of information throughout the selling process. You are likely to have received some of it when you purchased your property. If you gather together the relevant documents at this stage, you can avoid future delays and provide your estate agent with key information to share with prospective buyers from the outset.
If you bought your home recently it will have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which you might be able to reuse as they are valid for 10 years (provided you have not done anything to affect the rating – if you have, you will need a new EPC). You can look up your property’s latest EPC through the online EPC register. If your property does not have an up-to-date EPC, in most cases you will need to commission one; however if your home is listed or in a conservation area you may not need an EPC. More information about EPCs, including how to find an accredited assessor, can be found on the Government’s website.
Other paperwork you may already have includes:
- HM Land Registry title documents
- gas checks completed by a Gas Safe registered engineer (or Corgi-registered engineer prior to 2009)
- electrical checks – an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) or a NAPIT or NICEIC certificate/report from a registered electrical competent person
- FENSA or CERTAS certificates for windows
- planning permission for any major work carried out
- building regulation completion certificates and builder’s guarantee certificates for alterations or additions
- subsidence guarantees/warranties
- damp guarantees/warranties
- party wall agreements (if relevant)
- if a listed building, listed building consent for interior and exterior works
- if your home is in a conservation area, conservation area consent for works
- Japanese knotweed management plans (if relevant)
- specialist asbestos surveys (if relevant)
- any title insurance policies you may have taken out to solve title defects
When you come to sell, your legal representative will ask you to complete a Property Information Form, also known as a TA6 form, and a TA7 form if you are selling a leasehold property. Take a look at a draft version on the Law Society’s website and start to gather any information you have access to now. You can instruct a legal representative to check your property title and information as soon as you decide to sell. It can save a lot of time as they can resolve any issues before you even find a buyer.
Whilst it is possible to do some of this work yourself, you need to be fully aware that any mistakes you make could be very costly and you could find yourself sued by a buyer if the information is inaccurate.
In most cases, when you bought your first home you will have had a cash deposit, but if you are selling and buying at the same time you may not have the entire deposit to hand. You will be able to transfer the equity from your current property to the next. If your new home is going to be more expensive, you must always check with the seller that they are happy to accept a reduced deposit.
Estate agents, legal representatives and mortgage lenders are required by law to check your identity in order to protect against money laundering. You will need to provide them with proof of identity (including photographic ID) and proof of address.
Get the documentation that you will need together now to speed up your purchase:
- proof of identity document – e.g. passport or driving licence. A full list of official identification documents is available on the Government’s website.
- proof of address – e.g. driving licence, bank statement, or utility bill (not more than 3 months old). A full list of proof of address documents is available on the Government’s website.
Making your home ‘sale ready’
Before you instruct an estate agent and begin viewings, make sure your home is looking its best. Investing a little time and money now could improve your chances of selling at a better price. Consider the following:
- kerb appeal – when potential buyers arrive at your property, what will they think? Does the property need a lick of paint, or the front garden need tidying up?
- snags – you might not notice an unfinished DIY project, but it might put off a potential buyer. Try to fix any snags.
- tidy, de-clutter and clean – you should aim to make your home look inviting.
- review your Energy Performance Certificate – particularly if the EPC was done some time ago, consider whether it reflects your property now.
For example, have you had a new boiler or insulation fitted since the certificate was awarded? Also consider whether there are any recommendations you could implement to improve the energy efficiency of your property.