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How to sell a home – GOV.UK

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Updated 6 September 2019

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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-sell-a-home/how-to-sell-a-home
Selling a home can be a big undertaking, and the process is often unfamiliar as, on average, we only move every 15 to 20 years. It is really important you are able to get advice from the right people at the right time.
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. You will find a glossary at the end of this guide for many of the technical terms it uses, including those highlighted in bold.
This guide is for people who are thinking of selling a home. First-time sellers may find it particularly useful, but even more experienced sellers need to know what processes or requirements have changed since their last sale.
It is focused on freehold properties.
It is intended for people purchasing a home in England or Wales. More information on buying property in Scotland or Northern Ireland is available through the links.
It is intended as a helpful overview of the process; it is not a definitive statement of the law and not all of the steps are mandatory for all cases. If you are thinking of buying a property, you should seek independent financial and legal advice.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
You should be prepared to tell your estate agent all the relevant material facts about your property. Your estate agent will provide more guidance, but broadly material facts are things which may have a major impact on whether a buyer decides to purchase your home; for example if it regularly floods. Estate agents are legally required to share this information with potential buyers.
While you want to present your home in the best possible light, you should not mislead potential buyers by covering up any defects; for example by painting over damp patches. Any problems are likely to come up in the buyer’s survey, which could then lead to avoidable price negotiations.
If you are particularly concerned about an aspect of your property, you may wish to have the problem assessed by a suitable professional in order to determine the likely cost of remedial works, which you can then present to potential buyers before an offer is made.
If you know there is a significant issue with your that can be addressed with appropriate work, such as damp, it may be worth having the work done to rectify it in advance of putting your home on the market.
If you decide against remedial works you should factor that into the price of the property, and let your estate agent know you have already accounted for the existing issue. This means potential buyers will have better information up-front and will be less likely to ask for a price reduction at a later date.
You should also consider whether there are any fixtures or fittings, or even pieces of furniture, that you do not want to take with you to your next home and which you will include in the sale or offer to the buyer for a fee.
If your property is leasehold, there are a number of key pieces of information your buyer will need to understand and your agent will have to provide. These might include:
You should discuss with your legal representative when and how to gather this information, as your freeholder or managing agent are likely to charge you for providing it. You should contact the freeholder as early as possible to obtain information for the leasehold information pack to avoid delaying the transaction process.
More information on leasehold properties can be found in the government’s How to lease guide and from the Leasehold Advisory Service.
When it comes to putting your property on the market, the price at which you list it should be informed by your own research and the opinion of local estate agents, but remember that the final decision is yours.
A property’s valuation is not necessarily the same as the price it will eventually sell for – this will ultimately be decided by how much your buyer is willing to pay. This can be either more or less than the initial valuation and will be influenced by market conditions.
Your first step is to do some research on property websites and/or by looking in estate agent windows to give you a feel for the asking and sold prices for similar properties in the area. You can also find the agreed purchase price for properties from HM Land Registry, all of which can be helpful when deciding your property’s value.
You should ask 3 different estate agents to value your property. This is not a formal valuation – a qualified valuer or surveyor will charge you for this service – but it will give you a better idea of what your property is worth.
Ask the estate agent for evidence to support their valuation; for example, similar properties they have recently sold. A high valuation does not necessarily mean you will secure this price. If you decide to put your property on the market for a price which is much higher than the estate agent’s valuation it may take a long time to sell or you may not get any offers at all.
Selling a property you currently let to tenants is complex and beyond the scope of this guide. You should consider seeking expert advice, as there are a number of factors to consider including tax (more information available from the government’s website.
Selling your rented property to a buyer who intends to live in it themselves involves many of the same steps as selling a home you live in yourself. You must ensure you are mindful of your tenant’s rights and consider the timing of the property sale to coincide with the appropriate point in the tenancy agreement.
More information on ending tenancy agreements is available in the How to let guide. You will also need to consider the tax implications of selling a property that is not your primary residence.
Probate is the process through which someone is given permission to deal with the estate (belongings and debts) of someone who has died. This can include selling a home. There are some things to bear in mind during this process:
More advice on selling a property through probate can be found through the Gazette website (the official public record).
When selling a specialist retirement property, there are some things to consider:
Make sure you and your legal advisor check the small print carefully. Advice about leasehold retirement properties is available from the Leasehold Advisory Service.
A power of attorney gives an individual the power to make or help make decisions about someone else’s property, including selling their home. Lasting powers of attorney can be used before and after the donor loses capacity; according to their wishes.
Selling property under power of attorney is complex and will depend upon what type of power of attorney is in place; whether it is a lasting power of attorney or an enduring power of attorney. You should consult a legal adviser if you are considering selling a property on behalf of someone else in this way.
An estate agent acts on your behalf to negotiate the sale of the property between you and the buyer, and is able to list your property on property portal websites.
You may be tempted to select the agent who valued your property the highest but you should remember that a valuation is not a guarantee of sale price; they may advise that you drop the price at a later date.
There are a range of factors you should consider when choosing an estate agent:
You can also use online comparison tools to search for and compare estate agents. More advice on how to choose an estate agent can be found on the Which? website.
It is also possible to sell your home without employing an estate agent, such as through an auction or private sale.
The estate agent can be a useful source of recommendations for a legal representative, mortgage broker, energy assessor or surveyor. They may refer you to a company because they recommend the service, and may also receive a payment (known as a referral fee) from the business they have referred you to.
This is an established way of working, but both the estate agent and the business they refer you to should give you clear, up-front information on any referral fees, including how much they amount to, allowing you to make an informed decision about which business to select.
You should not feel obliged to take up any referral the estate agent makes – it is entirely your choice.
Shop around for the best deals for you; although be aware that if you are looking for a mortgage for another home, in some cases multiple lender inquiries may have an impact on your credit score. If you’re in doubt, ask your mortgage provider for more detail about how they carry out credit checks.
A conveyancer is a legal professional whose role is to do the legal work of transferring the ownership of the home from you to the buyer. You should choose your legal representative shortly before you put your home on the market or as soon as possible once your property is up for sale, as it will reduce delays.
There are various legal professionals who are qualified to carry out conveyancing work:
These are all qualified and regulated professionals, who can undertake this work for you. The Legal Choices webpages for each conveyancing professional (linked above) contain information on how to check that your legal professional is regulated by the appropriate body.
You should get quotes from more than one legal representative before you choose which one to use. When choosing, you should consider:
the price – are there any hidden extras, and will they be paid a referral fee for your custom? Do they have a no-move, no-fee service?
the quality – do they have online reviews? If your property is more complex than normal (leasehold, listed-building etc.) do they have the specialist skills needed?
the service – will you have a named contact? How will they communicate with you (phone, email etc.) and how often? Do their opening hours suit you? Do they have experience conveyancing properties in your local area?
If you have taken out a Green Deal loan on your property which you have yet to repay, you must inform your legal representative. This is because the obligation to repay the loan remains with the property, so the new owner will have to continue to repay the investment. It is likely that they will want you to pay it off prior to the sale.
Selling a home involves the transfer of large sums of money and can attract the attention of criminals. Though the risk of fraud is low, you should be vigilant about common scams.
Misdirection fraud is when you receive an email or phone-call which seems to come from your legal representatives informing you of a change to their bank account details.
It is extremely rare for legal representative to change their bank account. If you are in any doubt, do not transfer any money.
Call your legal representative on a known number (i.e. not the number listed on the potentially fraudulent email) to check.
Sometimes fraudsters try to transfer the property into their own name, often using false documents, allowing them to take out a mortgage against it. This is most likely to happen to homes which do not already have a mortgage taken out against them.
You can sign up for HM Land Registry’s free Property Alert Service to be notified of any searches or changes to the title of your property; so if anything unexpected happens you can take action.
Think carefully about how you use social media – it is not uncommon for criminals to find the information they need to commit fraud from your social media profile. For example:
Regardless of whether you or your agent is showing your property, it is important that it looks and smells clean, tidy and welcoming.
Make sure you tidy away any clutter and clean up before any viewings. It can be helpful to have a bed in the smallest bedroom in order to reassure viewers that a bed will fit.
Bear in mind that potential buyers may also wish to see the garden or inside the loft or garage, so make sure your agent has access to these spaces.
You should also ask your estate agent to collect feedback from viewings – this way you can rectify problems or adjust the asking price accordingly.
Open house viewings can be an alternative to the traditional model of separate viewings over the course of a few weeks.
Estate agents are legally required to inform you of all offers made, regardless of whether they are below the asking price or if you have already accepted another offer.
Don’t feel rushed into accepting an offer. You should take some time to consider the following:
If you bought your home using the support of a Help to Buy: Equity Loan, then there will be additional requirements when you sell your home. More information can be found on the Help to Buy website.
You should also contact the mortgage administrator early to ensure the selling process runs smoothly. More information on this is available on the My First Home website.
One option to sell your home may be to consider a company offering an instant cash purchase, but make sure you understand the trade-off involved; these firms may offer a quick sale, but they may pay well below the market price for your home.
You should use a firm that is a member of the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB), as they are signed up to The Property Ombudsman’s Code of Practice.
At this stage, while you and the buyer have agreed to a sale, the specifics of the agreement have yet to be decided.
Remember that at this point, neither party is under any legal obligation to the sale. Only when you exchange the signed contracts with your buyer is it legally binding.
During the process the buyer’s legal representative will raise enquiries. These are questions about the information which they have asked for or received e.g. the title, searches, the mortgage offer or general questions about the property or transaction.
Enquiries are therefore raised at different points through the process, sometimes at the very last minute, and will normally be answered by your legal representative but may need your input. These questions are important as the buyer’s legal representative has to satisfy the lender’s requirements.
You are not required to answer questions on condition; questions which are outside your knowledge; or questions which the buyer can find out the answers to themselves. Your legal representative will advise you on answering these enquiries.
Once you have accepted an offer, the buyer will instruct their legal representative to commission searches and review the title of the property.
They may also get in touch to ask questions about your home, or ask for a mortgage valuer, surveyor or builder to have access to carry out property assessments. These are all good signs that they are committed to purchasing the property.
Remember that your property is not legally sold until you have exchanged written contracts with the buyer. If you have accepted an offer but not yet exchanged contracts, your property is said to be ‘sold subject to contract’, which means that the paperwork has not been finalised.
Although neither you nor the buyer is legally committed to the sale at this stage, you should bear in mind that pulling out after you have accepted an offer is likely to increase delays, costs and frustration for both yourself and the potential buyer, and may jeopardise any property purchase you intend to make.
A few days after you have accepted the offer, check with your legal representative to make sure the buyer has appointed their own legal representative. If the buyer does not seem to be making any preparations for purchase, ask your estate agent and legal representative to check what is causing the delay.
Your estate agent may charge more for sales progression if it is not part of the service you commissioned at the start. In order to signal your commitment to the sale, you should remove the property from the market once the offer has been accepted.
It can be disheartening when you are struggling to get viewings, or when the viewings are not generating offers.
You should speak to your estate agent and discuss the feedback they have collected from previous viewings. Ask a friend to do a mock viewing and be honest about the areas for improvement.
price – the asking price should be similar to comparable properties in the same area. What you paid for it originally and how much money you want to make are not relevant to the value of the property now. Remember that a property is only worth what people are willing to pay for it. You may need to consider lowering the asking price.
condition – are there any problems with the property? You might find that investing now to fix issues such as damp problems or unfinished DIY projects will result in more and higher offers from buyers.
marketing – do your photographs do the property justice? They should make the property look as bright, spacious and welcoming as possible. Buyers can find it hard to visualise the potential in empty rooms, so consider putting a single bed in the second bedroom or a table in the dining room.
You may also want to reconsider your estate agent – could a different agent offer a better marketing package? Has a different agent sold a lot of properties similar to yours in your area recently?
If you are thinking of changing estate agents, make sure you understand the terms of your contract with your existing agent as you may end up paying fees to two separate agents when you sell.
A property chain contains multiple people buying and selling homes at the same time. Chains can be tricky because if one transaction is delayed or fails the whole chain can be affected.
However it is important not to panic. Try to find out more details about your buyer – are they in a chain? If so, how long is it? Does everyone have a buyer, or are some people still waiting to sell their home?
If they offer sales progression services, your estate agent and legal representative should help you answer these questions, and liaise with the other estate agents and legal representatives in the chain on your behalf to keep everyone updated on progress.
You should also make sure you don’t become the ‘weak link’ in the chain. Have your documents in order, sign and return paperwork promptly, and respond to queries from your estate agent or legal representative in a timely manner.
Exchange is when you and the buyer exchange signed contracts and are legally bound to the sale. Neither party can withdraw from this legal commitment without consequences.
If the buyer withdraws from the agreement after exchange they may lose their deposit. If you withdraw you may be liable for breach of contract, the buyer’s costs and even compensation.
Now that you have legally committed to the sale the buyer may wish to visit the property again in order to measure rooms for furniture, curtains etc, and it is helpful if you can agree for them to do so.
You need to consider how you are going to move your belongings out of your home. You may be able to move yourself, or you might consider using a professional removals company.
You can opt to pack yourself or have the removal firm do it for you. This service will cost extra, but can remove stress from the moving process.
While being part of a chain may limit your ability to choose your own moving day, you may get better rates and availability if you try to avoid busy times such as Fridays and the first and last days of the month.
When selecting a removals firm you should consider price, quality of service and availability. They will be responsible for all of your possessions, so choose them carefully.
Between exchange and completion you should:
If you have a mortgage or loans secured against the property, your legal representative will request your redemption figure. A redemption figure is the amount it will cost to pay back your mortgage early, which consists of the remaining unpaid mortgage, any early payback charges and a certain amount of interest.
Your legal representative will pay off this sum upon completion, and you should be aware it may be slightly different to the initial redemption figure due to mortgage interest.
Completion is when your legal representative receives the remaining funds from the buyer’s legal representative, and you hand over ownership of the property.
Before you leave you should ensure you have taken all of your belongings and any rubbish, and left behind anything that was agreed in the Property Fixtures and Fittings form.
You should leave your property in the condition you would wish to find your next home. Make a record of the meter readings and call your energy providers to close your account.
Completion often happens and the keys are handed over to the buyer at lunchtime, so you need to have moved out by this point. However, you should be aware that delays can happen due to many people in the chain completing on the same day.
Complex money transfers take place on completion day, and you should be aware that there may be delays. The purchase money will be transferred from the buyer (or their mortgage provider) to their legal representative, who will pass it on to your legal representative.
Your legal representative will pay off the mortgage and any secured debts (if you have them), stamp duty (if you are buying another property), outstanding estate agent fees, service charges (if relevant), settle their own fees and send the balance due to you to your account.
You should regularly check in with your legal representative on the day for progress updates and to tackle any issues which may emerge.
Once you have moved out of your home, you should update the following with your new address:
The first step with any complaint is to raise it via that company’s complaints procedure.
If you are not happy with the final response from the company, you may be able to escalate the complaint to an ombudsman.
Ombudsmen provide a free and independent advice service for consumers who want to complain about a company. Once the ombudsman has received your complaint, they will investigate the claim on your behalf.
Other professionals may be members of trade associations who can investigate complaints. You can also pursue complaints in court.
If you are buying as well as selling a property, check our guide on How to buy.
Citizen’s Advice – free, independent, confidential and impartial advice on a wide range of areas including housing and consumer issues
Money Advice Service – free and impartial money advice, including on mortgages
Which? – free and impartial consumer advice
Home Owners Alliance – provides free expert advice and services for homeowners and aspiring homeowners
Age UK – free advice on retirement properties
PropertyChecklists.co.uk – free checklists on all aspects of buying and selling
Money Saving Expert – free advice on mortgages and homes
Historic England – free advice on the implications of living in a listed building or conservation area, and how to look after a listed home
Leasehold Advisory Service – free information and advice about residential leasehold and park homes law
Move IQ – tips for buying, renting, selling and moving home
Conveyancing Association – more information on the legal aspects of the home buying and selling process
HM Land Registry – searchable property information (e.g. flood risk) and advice for joint property owners and for boundary questions
(Length varies – if there is little interest in your property, ask your estate agent what you can do)
Get your home sale ready
Get your property on the market
Property goes on sale
Offer(s) received
Property sold subject to contract
(Approximately 12 weeks – although precise timing varies)
Arrange mortgage
Property searches & survey
Exchange contracts
Plan to move
Completion and moving in
Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.
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