Five tips when selling your home

Published by Zoe Dare Hall on 09 January 2014.
Last updated on 12 July 2016

House and magnifying glass

If there is one way to ensure the gloomy winter days sprint towards spring, it's embarking on a mission to sell your home and buy a new one. By the time you've tackled all those DIY jobs you've been putting off for years, scrutinised your finances and started de-cluttering, those first daffodils should just be starting to make an appearance.

There's a lot to do before then, though, so here are 10 top tips to get you on the move. First of all, the buying bit.

1. UNDERSTAND YOUR LOCAL MARKET

While media headlines and statistics may give you the gist of national trends, the UK is made up of so many wildly varying micro-markets these generic averages are of little relevance to your property search. An easy way to work out what's happening in your local market is to count 'for sale' and 'sold' boards, which will tell you if your chosen area has a fast- moving, static or falling market.

"Find a road in your neighbourhood that has around 10 boards up," explains Kate Faulkner, property expert and director of Propertychecklists.co.uk. "For example, if more than four say the property's actually already sold, this suggests you have a rising market. Whereas only two sold would tell you your market is likely to be falling."

She adds if the properties sell within two to four weeks that suggests a fast-moving market, whereas if it takes six to eight weeks that's a more stable market.

Next, understanding the difference between the advertised property price and what properties are actually selling for on websites such as mouseprice.co.uk or nethouseprices.com can help to identify over-priced - or good-value properties - to buy. All this can help you find agents you can trust more easily.

2. CHECK YOUR FINANCES

Be realistic about what you can afford. Work out exactly what money you have for a deposit, not forgetting to factor in the buying costs (around 1.5 to 2% for a property under £125,000 and 2.5 to 3% for a property above that).

Once you have worked out how much you will have to pay in costs, visit a mortgage broker to get an idea of how much you can borrow. Be aware rates are pretty low at the moment, so try not to overstretch yourself too much now as long-term rates are likely to rise over time to 5 to 7%.

At point of exchange, you will need to ensure you have the deposit monies ready to transfer to the solicitor's bank account. This could be anything from 5 to 10% or more of the property's value.

Always keep some money back for furnishings and unexpected immediate repairs. If buying an old property, a gas and electrical safety certificate will help identify expensive works such as a new boiler or re-wiring prior to exchange.

3. LOOK AT DIFFERENT WAYS TO BUY

Don't despair if your finances fail at the first hurdle. There is the government-backed Help to Buy scheme, for which you only need a 5% deposit (plus your buying and moving costs). It is valid for properties costing up to £600,000. The scheme allows buyers to borrow 20% of a new-build property's value from the government through an interest-free loan for five years, which with your 5% deposit means you just need a 75% mortgage. However, you will have to repay the interest after five years – either in addition to your mortgage or handing the money back if you sell up.

If you want to buy an existing property under the Help to Buy Scheme, you can secure a 95% mortgage via lenders offering Help to Buy backed mortgages, such as RBS and Halifax.

There is also the government-backed New Buy scheme (newbuy.org.uk) for new-builds in England, which is aimed at first-time or existing homeowners who have only a 5 to 10% deposit.

And if these schemes still leave you struggling to finance a property purchase, consider local shared ownership schemes – even if you earn up to £60,000.

You buy a share of a property – usually 25 to 75% of the home's value – and pay rent on the remaining property's value, but it's 100% yours to live in (see gov.uk/affordable-home-ownership-schemes for more information).

4. CONSIDER DIFFERENT TYPES OF PROPERTY

You may have a preference for a new-build or period property. However, not all new-builds are 'boxes' these days and not all period homes have 'character'.

Old properties require more maintenance and heating – and if the building is listed, the costs and hassle of doing work is high. Freehold properties are highly desirable, but you have to pay for 100% of the costs while a flat that is leasehold may mean you can spread the costs of repairs – depending on the lease and service charges.

So make sure you are open-minded about different property types and always compare the pros and cons.

5. THINK LONG TERM

You need to think about your financial situation and how you would pay the mortgage if your circumstances change – whether that's having a child, losing your job or separating from your partner. Could your property be easily rented out and will the monthly rent cover your outgoings? Perhaps renting out a spare bedroom will be enough to tide you over during financial difficulties.

Selling up can be stressful. It might be the first person to walk through the door who makes you an offer – or the twentieth. Here are a few things you can do to maximise your chances of success.

6. CALCULATE COSTS

Work out what you think your property is worth before you call an agent. Websites such as Rightmove or Mouseprice will help you see exactly what properties similar to yours have sold for previously. Then do a search for similar properties online as if you are buying your own property. Ticking the 'sold subject to contract' or 'under offer' boxes when searching allows you to find out which agents have sold properties like yours and help you to identify which agents to approach for a valuation.

Then calculate moving costs. For example, agents tend to charge between 1 and 2% of the sale price, while some charge extra for photos and floorplans. You'll also need to pay for legal and removal fees and you may end up having to pay to redeem your mortgage unless you can take your mortgage to the next property.

7. SELL UP AND RENT

Trying to combine a house sale and purchase – where one depends on the other – makes for a tense juggling act, especially as a buyer can pull out at any time prior to exchange. A willingness to move into rented property may make it easier to sell your home and puts you in a stronger position when you come to buy.

Alternatively, with new-builds, a developer may sell you its property and part-exchange yours. Typically, this is offered on a selection of plots and you have to be trading up by 30%, but some companies have schemes that will work even if you are trading down.

8. DE-CLUTTER BEFORE YOU SELL

To make your home easier to sell, be ruthless about throwing stuff away or putting it into storage. Once clutter-free, make sure every room is dressed to suit its intended purpose. A spare bedroom should be styled as such – not just left as the junk room.

9. CHOOSE YOUR ESTATE AGENT CAREFULLY

Now that almost every property appears on online search sites, you may think choosing between one agent and another is immaterial. And it's true, house-hunters will most likely see your property online first – whichever agent is marketing it. But will they take and upload the 20-plus photos needed to secure click-throughs?

Will they give you feedback after every viewing or tell you how many people have viewed your property online? And will they help you solve problems and keep chains together?

Check out not just what they charge but what they will do for their money. Avoid long tie-ins and find out if you will be charged if your property doesn't sell.

10. SORT OUT THE LEGAL SIDE EARLY

The legal side to selling and buying a home can take several weeks. So choose a solicitor as soon as you put your property on the market. Not all legal companies explain all of their fees upfront, so make sure you compare quotes that are like for like.

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