Seller’s guide to selling a house in England

Knowing how to sell your house in the best way possible is really important when it comes to reducing the time, costs and stress involved. There is so much to consider in a property sale and so much to prepare to get ready for the sale that it can be bewildering to even the most seasoned of homeowners. In this guide we will give some great tips for selling your home, walk you through the process and the costs associated with the sale and we will also answer some questions like: What should I do to my house before I sell it? What makes a house harder to sell? and what is the first thing I should do when selling a house? In short, we take you through every facet of how to sell your house, so that, when it comes to it, you are as prepared as you can be and hopefully get your sale through as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Once you have made the decision to sell, the first thing to do is find yourself an estate agent to help you with the sale, but how do you go about choosing the right agent?

Questions to ask estate agents when selling

There are a few questions to ask potential estate agents when selling your property to help you make the decision as to which agent is best suited for you and your circumstances. The most important questions are:

  • What are your fees and what do these fees include? Depending on what package you choose the fees can differ greatly. Typically, the selling fees are from 0.75% to 3.5% of the sale price depending on the contract, but there could be extra expenses like photos, for sale boards or floorplans. Make sure you understand the cost structure fully and that there are no surprises.
  • How much is my property worth? Typically, valuations between agents won’t vary massively, but you will want to ensure that the agent gives you a valuation that reflects the local market and your property. Ask them to explain the rationale behind their valuation.
  • How and where will you market my property? How your property is marketed is key. Will it just be in the high street offices? Does the agent have a website? Will they use property websites like Rightmove and Zoopla that have a much wider reach? How professional will the photos be? Will they use an interactive video? Obviously the more high tech the marketing the more expensive, but also the more likely it will be to encourage interest.
  • What is a rough time estimate for the sale of a property like mine? This is an important question to gauge current market timescales and to help manage your own expectations. Be wary of agents who give very short times and ones who try to deflect the question. We will touch upon the timeframes for property sales later.
  • Can you give me examples of other similar properties you have sold recently? This is to understand how experienced the agent is at selling your type of property. If they seem to only sell 2 or 3 bedroom first time buyer properties and yours is a 5 bedroom family home, then they might not be the one for you.
  • What type of contract do you use? There are different types of contract from Sole selling to multi-agency, sole agency and ready, willing and able purchaser. Sole selling rights and sole agency are roughly the same, but with the latter, you are able to find your own purchaser and not pay the agent a fee. With sole selling rights, only the agent can find a buyer within the contract period. Multi-agency is where you can use multiple agencies to sell your property. Be aware, though, this will increase the fees you need to pay. Ready, willing and able purchaser is one to avoid as it means you need to pay the agent if they find someone who is able to purchase your property, even if they don’t actually buy it.
  • Is there a tie in period? To give themselves some measure of protection agents will often put in a tie-in clause meaning you cannot go elsewhere during this period. The maximum you really want, including notice period, is 12 weeks.
  • What is the process if I disagree with something in the process or your ways of working? Not all relationships run smoothly and this can also be the case with an estate agent. You will need to know what the complaints process is and, if you are really unhappy with the service, how you can terminate the agreement within the tie-in period.

You will need to look at all these factors and make a decision as to which agent to use depending on your circumstances.

Once you have chosen your agent, they will ask you to sign the sales contract and start to market your property. This is where you need to get prepared and have everything ready for the sale. Not only do you need a good estate agent you’ll also need a good legal professional on your side too.

How to choose a Conveyancer

Before we get into the details you might be wondering what the difference is between a conveyancing solicitor and a conveyancer. Apart from being regulated by different professional bodies, the biggest difference is training. A conveyancer is only trained in that aspect of the law which deals with property transactions A conveyancing solicitor is a fully trained solicitor who happens to specialise in property transactions. For most transactions either is a perfectly good option, but you might find that the conveyancing solicitors are slightly more expensive due to their more extensive legal training. If you believe that the transaction is likely to be difficult then it might be better to choose a conveyancing solicitor. What you’ll be looking for, though, is a professional who will be proactive and able to give your case the time it needs. It would pay to ask friends or family for recommendations.

Talking about the legal side of selling a property, in the next sections we will take a look at the information that will need to be provided as part of the sale.

What do you legally have to disclose when selling a house UK

It is sometimes hard to know what information to give, but what do you legally have to disclose when selling a house in the UK? At its most basic you have to disclose all known and relevant information on the property both good and bad. Typically, this is all given on the Property information Form (TA6). This form will cover the following aspects:

  • Information on property boundaries, including boundary features and any disputes
  • Shared areas with neighbours (both informal and formal agreements)
  • Changes made to the property, including extensions and other alterations. This includes planning permission details and building control completion certificates
  • Guarantees and warranties which affect the property
  • Disputes or complaints made by the seller towards neighbours, or from neighbours about the seller. This includes disputes with neighbours who are not adjacent to the property and also any issues with neighbours or neighbours known to have ASBOs
  • Details of the occupiers of the property
  • Environmental matters including flooding issues
  • Building insurance details
  • Any known structural issues concerning the property, including things like issues with Japanese knotweed or pest problems
  • Proposals for nearby development and construction (if applicable), including current and future flight paths and current or future busy roads or motorways
  • Any known burglaries in the neighbourhood and other known crime rates, including known violent deaths nearby
  • Council tax bands
  • Issues with previous sales falling through and the reasons for this
  • Connection to utilities and other services
  • Services, including electricity, central heating, drainage and sewage
  • Cladding issues

One question that is asked a lot is “do you have to declare problems with neighbours when selling a house in the UK“ and the answer is yes you do have to declare them. Although you might feel that this will put off a buyer, if you don’t declare known issues, you could be liable for legal action after the sale. This comes on to another important point around the questions of are you liable for anything after selling a house in the UK and what happens if you lie when selling a house? The answer to this is that, yes you are liable if you have not been truthful in the information you give during the sale. In this case, the buyer has up to 6 years to file a legal complaint against you. If you have lied or deliberately withheld information, then the buyer is within their rights to take this legal action against you.

What certificates do I need to sell my house

As well as filling out the TA6 form, you will need to provide proof of some of the information given and we often get asked “what certificates do I need to sell my house?”. We always recommend fully understanding this, as having everything to hand will speed up the selling process. You will need the following, where applicable:

  • Proof of identity as part of anti-money laundering rules
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showing how energy efficient your property is
  • Title deeds, if you have them. If not your solicitor or conveyancer can apply to get a copy
  • Leasehold information if the property is a leasehold
  • Gas safety certificate
  • Electrical safety certificate and any Part P certification for electrical improvements to the property
  • Building regulation certification for any extensions or significant building works
  • FENSA certificates for any replacement windows
  • Listed buildings consent or status
  • Conservation area consent for any works

Collating all this information can be a pain, but it will pay dividends to have it all to hand ready for the sale as it will save a lot of time.

Can you sell a house without the deeds?

Often one area of confusion is can you sell a house without the deeds? Before we go into that let’s just explore what is the difference between the title and the deed of a house. The title is the legal way of saying that you own the property. So, you own the title to the property meaning it is yours. The deeds are the physical documents which transfer the property ownership to you. Often the deeds will be referred to as the title deeds. You might now be asking “what happens if you can’t find the deeds to your house?” or even “how do I get the deeds to my house?” if you can’t find them.

In a lot of respects, the answer is the same to both questions. Typically, unless you have paid outright for your home, you won’t have the deeds. Since 1990 it has been a legal requirement to register a property so for any properties bought since 1990 the Land Registry will have copies of the deeds which your solicitor can get hold of. If the property was last bought before then, it is possible that the original mortgage company or the solicitor used at the time will have copies of the deeds. If the property has never been properly registered then you will need to ask your solicitor to help register the property. So, can you sell a house without the deeds? Yes, you can, but it will be a little more complex.

How much does it cost to sell a house – taxes and fees?

Perhaps one of the most critical questions i:s how much does it cost to sell a house? There is no one answer for this, but we will look at some average costs and what fees and taxes need to be paid. One big question is do you pay stamp duty when you sell a house and the answer is no you don’t. Stamp duty is paid, under certain circumstances, by the purchaser. What about capital gains tax when selling a house? If the property you are selling is your only and main residence, then no there is no capital gains tax (CGT) to be paid. If, however, you are selling a second property, then it is likely that CGT will need to be paid. This will be taxed at either 18% or 28% depending on whether you are a standard rate tax payer or a higher rate tax payer. CGT must be paid within 60 days of the sale completing. Capital gains tax is a very complex area, though, so we would always recommend consulting a tax professional if you believe CGT needs to be paid. These two taxes are likely to be the biggest charges in any property transaction, but what about the other fees and costs associated with selling a property?

There will be estate agent selling fees as part of the process. This is the fee paid by you, the seller, to the agent for their services in selling your property. These costs vary considerably depending on the agent and the contract being entered into. Typically, though, they are between 0.75% and 3.0% of the agreed selling price. On average the commission for a high street agent is around 1.5 – 2% for a sole agency agreement.

There will also be legal fees for selling a house and again, these fees depend on the conveyancer or solicitor used. There are two types of legal fee: the legal fees themselves which is the money you pay to the solicitor for their time and disbursements, which are fees that your legal professional pays to others for services that are required as part of the sales process, these will mainly be the transfer of ownership fees and the copy of the deeds. Typically, though these costs will run at between £850 and £1,500. Many solicitors offer a fixed fee package.

There are potentially other costs as well. If you have a fixed term mortgage and are selling during that term, it is likely that you will have to pay early redemption penalties, which is a payment to the mortgage lender to offset the loss in interest payments. Talk to your lender about this as you might be able to port the mortgage across to any new property to avoid these charges.
Other costs will be moving costs, either the hire of a van and packing materials or the payment for a removal firm to do the move for you and then any costs associated with preparing your home for sale.

Do you have to pay off a mortgage before selling

We briefly touched upon potential early redemption penalties if you are selling a property within the fixed term of a mortgage, but do you have to pay off the mortgage before selling? Typically, no you don’t but what happens if you sell your house with a mortgage? There are two main options here: You can pay off your mortgage when the sale completes. In most sales, the price the property is being sold for is more than the residual mortgage, so the balance of the mortgage can be paid off; the second options when selling a house with a mortgage is to talk to your lender and port your mortgage over to a new property, if you are buying a property as well as selling. Whether it is possible to port your mortgage will depend entirely on your history with the lender and their lending criteria. One thing that some people are uncertain of is whether you have to pay your mortgage when your house is for sale. The answer is an unequivocal YES you do. While the property is for sale, you are still responsible for paying the mortgage, just because it is for sale does not mean you can stop paying the mortgage. Any default on your mortgage will make it hard to get any credit in the future.

How long does it take to sell a house?

A very common consideration to consider is how long does it take to sell a house? There is no one single answer to this as it depends on many things but the average time to sell a house from initial marketing to completion is around 4.2 months. That’s around 16-17 weeks. This does vary, though depending on how buoyant the market is and it can be as low as 3.7 months (15 weeks) on average in a buoyant market to 5.8 months (23 weeks) in a slow market.

Often the length of time taken to sell is caused by the transaction being part of a large chain which adds a lot of additional complexity and delays, so how long does it take to sell a house with no chain? Surprisingly this can be as low as 6 weeks on average. If we look at a typical chain, though and look at the individual phases, it typically takes around 1.6 months to get an offer made and accepted or around 6-7 weeks. Exchange of contracts is the next big stage in the process so, how long does it take to draw up contracts for a house after this? Around 2.1 months or around 10 weeks. This is because your solicitor is pulling all the information together that they need to create the contract and they will be liaising with your purchaser’s solicitor at the same time. From exchange to completion can be immediate to typically around 2 weeks.

How to sell your house quickly

Some of the timings mentioned there are averages and can take longer so you’ll want to know how to sell your house quickly. There are several things to look at here. When selling your property, try to keep the chain as short as possible. If you possibly can, move out into alternative accommodation so you don’t have a chain above you and choose your purchaser wisely to ensure that their chain is short and that they have the finances to purchase your property.

Choose an experienced and competent solicitor. It is often tempting to go for cheaper online conveyancers, but they are likely to have a large caseload so won’t be able to commit lots of time to your sale.
Price your property appropriately. Quite often the wrong pricing strategy will put off buyers. If you price too high, then it might exclude certain buyers as the price takes them into a new stamp duty category or it might simply be too expensive for their budget or just not competitive in the market. It is ironic, though, that under pricing can also put people off as they worry about what is wrong with the property.

Make sure that you have all your documents ready to give to your solicitor when they need them and be responsive to any requests from your solicitor. It is amazing how much time can be lost on basic administrative tasks and waiting for answers to queries.

The market isn’t always buoyant as we all know and there are some tricks on how to sell a house fast in a slow market. We’ve already discussed moving out to give a smaller chain and vacant possession and pricing your home properly, but a big aspect is to do whatever you can to make your property stand out from the crowd. People love unique properties or something that requires very little work. Making your property stand out will help it to sell when the market is slow. Sort out that kerb appeal and do those maintenance jobs you’ve been putting off. A lick of paint won’t hurt at all. This is all well and good, but where do you draw the line?

What to fix and not to fix when selling a house in the UK

You’ll want your home to be attractive to buyers, so it is important to know what to fix and what not to fix when selling a house. The last thing you want to do is consume any potential profit by spending thousands on property improvements which will add little or no value.

So what improvements are worth doing before selling a house? Clearly any structural issues or any serious issues with any electrical, gas or plumbing systems will need addressing before the sale, unless you are willing to drop the price significantly. Make sure that your property is in a decent state of repair, broken windows, holes in walls, peeling paint and terrible appliances will all conspire to put a buyer off. Don’t go overboard, though, you don’t need a new kitchen just because the tap leaks and you don’t need to repaint the entire house just because the window frames need painting.

If you are replacing appliances, opt for good quality second hand ones. Don’t be tempted to go for the big-ticket items like window replacements or heating system upgrades, they never repay what you paid for them.

Often people will ask can you sell your house if it needs repairs? Well, the answer is yes you can, but you will likely have to drop the price to compensate the purchaser for the money they will have to spend carrying out those repairs and you will have to be upfront about what repairs are needed.

If you are not yet considering selling but are looking at home improvements to boost your property’s value for the future, you’ll want to know what adds the most value to a house. Things like knocking through internal walls to create an open plan kitchen/diner is a real winner with there being a big trend towards open plan living. Garden rooms or office space are important to many people these days and are a real price booster and a loft conversion to give extra living room certainly adds a lot to the value of your property. If you are looking outside and you have the space, a sure-fire value adder is to create off-street parking.

Best time to sell a house

It isn’t only the improvement you make that will help sell your home more quickly; there is a best time to sell a house believe it or not. March is typically the best month to sell a house, but in all honesty any time in spring or early summer is great for selling. The reason for this is that the weather is turning, Christmas is a distant memory, gardens are in bloom and people just tend to have a much more upbeat view on life.
The worst time to sell a house is split between August and December and January. August is slow as it tends to be the summer holiday season and the pool of people looking is depleted and December and January are typically expensive months where people’s focus is on other expenditures. So, to get the fastest sale, March is the best time to sell a house.

Selling and buying a house at the same time UK

Selling and buying a house at the same time might seem like a real hassle, but it is very common so when we are asked “can I buy and sell a house at the same time” it is very easy for us to put your mind at rest. Yes, you can indeed. It is very common as most people sell their homes to move to another one so they need to buy at the same time and it is rarely the case that you can sell your property and then leave the buyer waiting while you buy your new one. It does. However, add a level of complexity to the process, which your solicitor will help you with. It will be important to understand your finances as there are additional costs associated with the purchase such as stamp duty and extra legal disbursements for searches, surveys and also needing to pay for the deposit on your new property. It makes sense to talk to an independent financial advisor to help you with your financial review.

How to sell my share of a property

How to sell my share of a property is something we hear all the time. This can happen if couples split and need to move on or for people who are in shared ownership properties and the answer is different depending on where you fall.

Selling a Share in a Shared Ownership property

If you have a shared ownership property, which is where you own a certain percentage of the property and a 3rd party such as a housing association owns the remainder, you might be thinking “is it easy to sell a shared ownership property?”. Well, yes, it is. There are more administrative hurdles to go through, but it isn’t hard to sell a shared ownership property. If you don’t own 100% of the property, you must first give the 3rd party owner the right to either buy your share or find a buyer themselves. The property also has to have been valued by a RICS accredited surveyor. If the 3rd party does not manage to find a buyer, then you can sell the property on the market, but it must be sold as a shared ownership property to people who are eligible for shared ownership and who can buy a share equal to or higher than your share.

Selling your share in a mortgage

If you have a joint mortgage with someone and, for whatever reason, need to sell your share, then this is also possible, but it isn’t straightforward unless both of you agree to the sale and the other party on your mortgage can afford to buy you out. In this case you simply agree to sell your share of the equity to the person with whom you hold the mortgage. If this is not possible then the only other realistic options are to either: agree to sell the property and both of you move out; apply to the courts to force the sale of the property. You would need to take specialist legal advice in this situation.

Can I sell my house to my son?

The question “can I sell my house to my son” might seem a little odd in the context of this guide, but it does pose some important considerations around selling properties to family members and future inheritance tax or care cost implications. Extensions of this question include things like “can I sell my house to my son for £1” or “can I sell my house to my son for less than market value”. Now clearly this isn’t really just about selling property to your son, but more about selling it at less than market value to a family member with the aim of minimising future inheritance tax or minimising your need to pay for care costs. Inheritance tax and care cost liabilities are an extraordinarily complex legal area and we advise that expert legal advice is sought in any matter to do with inheritance tax or payment of care costs.

In short, though, the answer to the question(s) is that there is nothing legally to stop anyone selling their property to any family member even at a knocked down price. This should not be entered into lightly, however, as there are other potential issues which could arise from the sale. The matter is too complex to go into detail on in this guide, but here are some considerations:

  • If you continue to live in the property and do not pay a full market rent for the property to the new owner, it could be classed as a gift with reservation of benefit, meaning that you still benefit from the gift. In this case, should you pass away the whole house still remains as part of your estate and is subject to inheritance tax.
  • If you do not continue to live in the property, the difference between the sales price and the actual real market price would be deemed to have been gifted and as such would, if you were to pass within 7 years of the gift, be deemed to fall under inheritance tax rules.
  • Unless, after the sale, your family member actually takes ownership of the property and moves in and you move out, it is likely to be seen as a second property as far as capital gains tax is concerned. Any sale of the property after this could be subject to up to a 25% CGT bill.
  • Often a property is, should the owner need to go into care, considered as part of their assets. If a council is aware of the under market value sale of the property, they could see it as a deliberate deprivation of assets to avoid paying for care costs and ask for the sale to be overturned.
  • If you are planning on staying in the property, what if you fall out with your family member, they go bankrupt, divorce from their partner or die intestate? All these situations leave you at risk of having your home sold from under you.

As we have mentioned this matter is extremely complex and the answer to the question “can I sell my house to my son”, albeit a microcosm of a larger question, is yes, but with some serious caveats which will need to be considered.

Selling a home in the UK is a complex matter, especially if you are a first time seller. We hope to have answered a large number of queries you might have in this guide. However, if you are still unclear then please do contact your local Estate Agent Office, our highly experienced team will be delighted to help you.

Pop in and see us!

The best thing about Belvoir is we’re easily found. Each of our 170+ offices around the UK is in a prominent position on the high street. We’re always happy for you to pop by the office for a coffee and a chat.

To find out more about selling your home, take a look at our expert guides. Whether you’re a first time seller or a seasoned professional, our tips and tricks will help you get the maximum from your sale.

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If you’re looking to sell or you’re just interested in how much your property might be worth, the best way to get an accurate and detailed understanding is through a free one-to-one appraisal with one of our experienced local agents. Request an appraisal with us using the form below.

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