Advice for Sellers
Selling your home may seem a daunting task, especially if you are also looking to buy another property as well. There will be lots of important decisions to be made, some of which could either cost you lots of money or save you thousands. Having the help of a good agent will make the process run a lot more smoothly. Have a look at our guide below for selling your home.
When to sell?
The traditional times to launch a property for sale are late January, just after Easter, or September after the schools go back. But good property sells throughout the year, and each property is different. If you have a sunny or flower-filled garden, it will look at its best in spring or summer. If you have a reason for wanting to sell in the winter then do consider speaking to us in the summer before about having photography done while the weather is good. Meanwhile, the international market is always busy in central London.
Contacting the relevant parties
You will need to find out from your lender how much is outstanding on your current mortgage. Some lenders charge an early redemption fee so you will need to ask if there is one. The next step is to have your home valued. Once you know how much your property is worth you can work out your available funds after paying off your mortgage. Before you start looking at properties for sale you should find out how much you will be able to borrow.
Inform your solicitor in advance that you plan on selling your property and make sure you have all of your paperwork in order as this can really speed things up.
Instruct your solicitor to apply for your title deeds, and be aware that this can take up to two weeks (the deeds to your property are usually kept by your mortgage lender). Likewise, obtain any planning or building consents well in advance – these can help clinch a sale. Your estate agent and solicitor will be able to advise you on the type of paperwork you need to gather.
Before you start the process of selling your property, discuss transaction protocol with your solicitor (this ensures buyers have comprehensive information about your property from the outset, and complete any standard forms required.
If applicable, talk to your managing agent, asking for relevant service charge and insurance details regarding the property you will be selling.
If the property is leasehold, obtain written confirmation of when the lease for the property was granted and how long it is, locate documents confirming annual ground rent and make copies of freehold certificates. Collect service charge documents including details of annual amount, percentage share you pay and any accounts from recent years.
Find long-term warranties covering your property’s timber, damp-proofing, and roof, and check shorter-term guarantees covering ongoing repairs to your property. If you have had any new appliances such as boilers, central heating put in recently, have receipts or any guarantees to hand and file ongoing service agreements for boiler repairs, central heating etc.
Look for recent council tax, water rates, electricity and gas bills and have them to hand. Buyers may ask about this.
Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
By law, you will need to commission an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) for your property. Your estate agent can help you to organise this as you won't be able to market the property without one.
Preparing the property
Outside the property
Start by looking at the outside of your home and the property’s kerb appeal. First impressions are very important and the exterior of your home will give an indication to prospective purchasers of what the inside is like
- Front door: if necessary, paint the front door and polish letter boxes and brass numbers.
- Garden: mow the lawn, sweep the paths and drives, and trim hedges. It’ll make the garden look larger.
- Garden furniture: show how particular areas can be used for al fresco dining with strategically placed garden furniture. Unfold your parasol and get the cushions out of hibernation.
- Flower baskets: in summer placing hanging baskets near the front door or placing some flower tubs at the front of the property always add colour and charm to your garden, and you can take them with you when you go.
- Fences: ensure boundary fencing is tidy and in good repair where possible.
- Rubbish: clear any rubbish or untidy bins from the front. Remove any rubbish, bricks, timber and other unwanted items from the garden, and take them to the tip.
- Garage: many garages are so cluttered it is hard to get in, if yours is like this see if you can tidy it and perhaps get rid of unwanted items. If you have a car on your drive ensure it is clean.
- Doors and windows: modern timber-framed windows are usually made of soft wood and are prone to rot at the bottom of the frame and sills. If necessary, paint the windows and ensure that the sills are regularly wiped down to remove any standing water.
Outside loose gutters or drains, cracked paving, or damaged fencing should be repaired where possible and any areas of chipped and flaking paint should be touched up. Peeling paint on a window, or a garden gate hanging off its hinges suggests that work needs to be done on the property. This could be used to re-negotiate the price, so make sure everything is in order.
Gain as much information as you can concerning the amenities in your area. Access to shops, schools, leisure facilities, bus and train services and other attractions will be important to most viewers.
Inside the property
In vacant properties, consider property styling or leave some furniture behind such as hall stand or outdoor setting, to give the place a lived-in feeling. Limit the amount of furniture in the property for an uncluttered look. Surprisingly, furniture can make rooms feel bigger and also helps show how the property can be lived in.
The buyer may want to be presented with a blank canvas. While family photos and sentimental objects may mean the world to you, remove them as potential buyers prefer to imagine themselves living in your home.
- Painting: touch up white gloss paintwork which may be chipped and consider repainting rooms where the paint is tired, discoloured by smoke, cooking or age.
- Repairs: there's no avoiding those little DIY jobs which have been waiting to be done for years when you are looking to sell. Take some time to fix those loose floorboards, finish paint jobs, nail down the squeaking floorboard and fit the last skirting board. These details matter. To a nervous first-time buyer, a damp stain caused by a minor past leakage suggests an impending flood; get it fixed and painted over.
- Declutter: start by removing any clutter from your home. Get rid of any clutter and thin out your personal items, like bulky ornaments, family photographs, paperwork and toys. This will not only make it more presentable and the rooms look bigger, but can make your eventual moving process less stressful too. Consider storing these in the loft or garage, after all you will be moving house anyway.
- Cleaning: make sure your home is sparkling clean from top to bottom, especially the kitchen and bathroom. Professionally cleaned carpets can make a difference, especially if you have pets, and you should dust, polish and vacuum throughout.
- Kitchen: the kitchen is often said to be the heart of a home, so put yours on display. Clear away clutter and food, and give the impression of a healthy, happy space. Wipe down and clear the counter tops of kitchen gadgets. Pop tea towels and cleaning products out of view and make sure the washing up is dried and placed in the cupboard. If possible, tidy away cereal boxes and soft drink bottles - wine can stay in view though.
- Bathroom: close the toilet seat and wipe down the sink, bath and shower. Tidy away towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, and bottles of shampoo and shower gel. Display some fresh, neatly folded towels, making sure the room looks and smells hygienic.
- Bedroom: put away laundry, try to clear the top of wardrobes free of boxes and suitcases and tuck bits and pieces under the bed. A good shake and smooth down of the duvet will also go long way to making a bedroom look inviting.
- Ligtning: emphasise natural light where possible by opening curtains and blinds to allow maximum light to enter, keeping windows clean and window-sills uncluttered, and removing old net curtains. Ensure all light bulbs are working. Fitting brighter light bulbs can help a room appear brighter, and using side lights gives a softer, warmer effect
- Fresh smell: the right smell on entering a property is essential. Try to omit odours e.g. pets, smoking, cooking oil. The smell of freshly brewed coffee, bread, or lemon can all be helpful.
- Flowers: place plants or flowers throughout your house. It will help make your home look more inviting, fresh and can make it smell beautiful.
- Temperature: you can increase your property’s appeal and sell it faster by keeping it warm in winter and cool in summer. Light a fire if you have one and if your property is empty, set the heating so it comes on at regular intervals during cold weather. In winter, if you have a fireplace, have a fire blazing. Hearths can move hearts.
- Smoking: smoking can significantly reduce the price you get for your house. Try to smoke outside if possible, empty all ashtrays and preferably remove them for viewings and try to eliminate odours
- Pets: pets can also significantly reduce the price you get for your house, so consider carefully where they are free to roam in the house and try to clean up after them as far as possible. Remember your buyer might not love your pets as much as you.
- Rubbish: take out rubbish and remove rubbish bins from sight.
- Ventilation: try to keep rooms throughout the property well-ventilated while avoiding air-fresheners. Fresh air in, damp smells out; open windows and doors for a short while before viewings, or light some scented candles if necessary. It’s particularly important in bathrooms, basement flats and vacant properties.
- Condensation: this is caused by poor ventilation and is often found in houses with double-glazing. A common characteristic is mould or spotty black furry stains on wall surfaces. Improving the ventilation usually cures this problem.
- Storage: having books overflowing on the bookcases, and too many coats and shoes in the hallway may suggest to buyers that there is a lack of storage. Likewise, clearing kitchen worktops of gadgets will give a better indication of the space there is available. Storing items into built in wardrobes and cupboards is not the ideal solution, as the buyer may want to assess these spaces for their own storage.
- Space: if your three piece sofa is squashed into your living room, consider putting one of the sofas into storage to better present the space. Try and leave internal doors open; it also creates a feeling of space.
- Purpose: if you have a spare room you use both as a study and gym, consider putting the exercise equipment into storage so the room has a clearer purpose.
- Practical: make sure all doors can be fully opened and remove any extension leads that run across the floor as these can give the impression that there are insufficient or poorly located power points.
- Seating: if a buyer sits down in a property, it's likely they feel at home, and are possibly even thinking of offering. For this reason, make sure there’s space around sofas and armchairs so viewers don’t have to step over coffee tables and magazines to get to them.
- Communal space: these areas can be troublesome, so make sure you keep them tidy when trying to sell the property. Clear away junk mail and store letters or magazines neatly. Keep communal areas clean as they are the first and last areas any buyer sees.
It's a tricky one, but try and work around viewings. It really helps matters if buyers are able to view your home at a time that suits them. If not, there's the risk they'll see another property and forget yours.
If you have tenants in the property, give them plenty of notice about your plans and keep things friendly. That way, they're more likely to keep the place looking tidy and accommodate viewings.
It is usually best to let your estate agent show the buyers around while you go out - they will feel more comfortable if you're not there. This means they can have an open discussion about your house without fear of causing offence. They'll also be able to take their time imagining how your house could become their home.
If at all possible, pack your pets off for a day trip to the neighbours or in-laws. Another nice touch is to leave any parking space you may have free for the buyer. Something as simple as an easy park will help ensure they enter your home in a good frame of mind.
Avoid strong cooking smells and don't smoke in the house in the run up to viewings. Open windows and place a few bunches of fresh flowers around the house to freshen things up and demonstrate that you care about what the buyer thinks.
Viewings vary in length, depending on a number of factors. Your agent can advise you on whether you should be in the property or not for the viewing. It is sometimes better for you and other residents to not be present. Open days can take a couple of hours so you might need extra provisions for pet and childcare.
If you are remaining present, greet the party at the door, tell them that you are happy to answer any questions, then leave them while the estate agent shows them around. If you are not going to be present for the viewing, ensure that your estate agent can contact you if any questions arise that cannot be answered.
If your estate agent has recommended that you are present for the viewing, allow prospective buyers to walk into each room ahead of you to give them a better feel for the space. Point out the features that attracted you to the property and emphasise the positive features. Economic running costs will be important to a first time buyer, but large gardens and spacious accommodation would be important to a family. Always allow prospective purchasers to enter your home through the main door and at the end of their visit, return to what you consider to be the best room, whether this be the lounge, or breakfast kitchen. First impressions and last impressions are vital.
Establish a rapport with all prospective purchasers. It is true that people do buy from people and therefore, without being too overbearing, be as friendly as possible and as helpful as you can. Always be honest whenever answering prospective buyers’ questions, as any misleading information given is likely to be exposed at a later date if an offer is made. Have your Energy Performance Certificate to hand, along with any other information you feel may be relevant.
Always keep dogs under control. You may want to introduce the family dog to a friendly visitor, but it is safer to presume that a potential buyer may have an allergy to animals. Put them in the dog kennel, or ask a family member to take them for a walk. And don’t apologise. Never point out any negative features, such as small bathroom or bedroom. Always be positive.
Once the viewing party has left, make a few notes to remind yourself at a later date which prospective buyer was which. Later that day, speak to the estate agent who may have been able to gauge their level of interest, and may also be able to provide feedback which will help improve any future viewings. Take feedback on board: if all the feedback from viewings points towards a particular issue, it should be addressed quickly.