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How to sell your home—budgeting, contracts and conveyancing

Last updated on January 18th, 2024 at 02:34 pm

Latest posts by Caroline Murray (see all)

    Click on a link below to jump to the relevant section:

    1. Understand your financial situation
    2. Decide who will sell the house—you or an estate agent
    3. Set the asking price
    4. Advertise the property and hold viewings
    5. Hire an experienced conveyancer
    6. Negotiate offers and accept one
    7. Instruct your conveyancer (if you haven’t already) and complete all of the sale paperwork
    8. The legal process
    9. Between exchange and completion
    10. Completion
    11. Move out

    1. Understand your financial situation

    First off, let your mortgage lender know that you intend to sell your home. They will tell you:

    • how much you owe on your existing mortgage
    • whether you’ll be charged fees for paying it off early

    From there, you can:

    • investigate what your home’s worth on the current market—although this will only be a guide, and the final price may be different
    • work out how much money you’ll have left once you’ve paid off your mortgage

    Are you selling before you buy?

    If you’re buying a new home after selling your old one, consider:

    • what you’ll need to borrow for that purchase
    • how much mortgage lenders will be prepared to lend you

    2. Decide who will sell the house—you or an estate agent

    You can either:

    • find a buyer yourself
    • appoint an estate agent

    Obviously, handling the sale yourself will save you money, but takes a lot of time and effort and is generally not recommended unless you have some experience of selling property.

    If you go the estate agent route, here’s what you’ll need to think about.

    Choosing an agent

    • Research local estate agents. You’re looking for one which:
      • has a good reputation
      • will be able to sell quickly, at or close to your asking price
      • charges fees you’re happy with—most ask for a percentage (usually 1%–3.5%) of the proceeds of the sale, and may charge extra for advertising, putting up ‘For Sale’ signs and so on
    • Decide:
      • whether to appoint a sole agent, joint agents or multiple agents
      • how long you want them to act for you
    Appointing a sole agent, joint agents or multiple agent
    Sole agent Either:
      Sole agency Sole selling rights

    Using one agent to sell your home

    However, if you find a buyer yourself, you don’t have to pay the agent commission

    Giving one agent exclusive rights to sell your home, but with the obligation to pay them even if you find a buyer yourself (within the stipulated period)
    Joint agents Joint agency/joint sole agency

    Hiring two estate agents to act together in selling your home

    The agents share commission no matter which one of them ultimately sells the property

    Multiple agents Multiple agency

    Appointing several estate agents to sell the property

    You only pay commission to the agent responsible for the sale

    3. Set the asking price

    If you’re selling the house yourself:

    • use local newspapers, estate agents’ windows and websites such as Zoopla to get an idea of property prices in the area
    • arrange for a few estate agents to give their valuations (many will do this free of charge)
    • decide what fittings you’re including in the sale (e.g. curtains and carpets)—although you and the buyer might negotiate this later
    • account for the fact that most buyers’ opening offers will be less than your asking price

    If you’ve hired an estate agent, they will come and value your home and suggest an appropriate asking price.

    4. Advertise the property and hold viewings

    Estate agents will take care of advertising the property and arranging viewings, but most will expect you to show potential buyers around. Selling the home without an agent means doing all this yourself.

    Local newspapers and shop windows (such as the post office) will display your advertisement for a fee. You can also advertise online, but try presenting the information in a format similar to that which estate agents and property websites such as Rightmove provide—for example, with details of:

    • room sizes
    • nearby facilities
    • transport links

    To give yourself the best chance of selling, stage your home to make it look as appealing as possible—including:

    • tidying away clutter
    • making any minor repairs
    • touching up paintwork

    5. Hire an experienced conveyancer

    Transferring property between owners involves some legal matters that must be dealt with by a conveyancer (another name for a property lawyer or property solicitor). It’s recommended that you appoint a conveyancer before you accept an offer on your home.

    If you’re buying and selling at the same time, it’s usually easier and cheaper to use the same conveyancer for both sale and purchase.

    Read more on conveyancing in our conveyancing FAQs.

    6. Negotiate offers and accept one

    It’s likely you’ll receive a number of offers for your home, and it’s entirely up to you which one you accept. Most people go with the buyer who offers the most money, but if you’d rather sell to someone else, you can.

    Don’t feel that you have to accept the first offer, and never let anyone rush you into making a decision. Before you accept an offer, you might want to consider whether the buyer is:

    • part of a chain—i.e. selling their own property at the same time, and perhaps also waiting for their buyers to sell too, and so on
    • buying a home for the first time
    • paying cash or getting a mortgage
    • happy to exchange contracts and move house at the same time as you

    Remember that buyers can withdraw later, for various reasons (e.g. being refused a mortgage). With this in mind, keep the names and contact details of everyone who makes an offer, in case the one you accept falls through.

    Once you accept an offer, the legal work begins to make sure the sale can proceed.

    7. Instruct your conveyancer (if you haven’t already) and complete all of the sale paperwork

    Your conveyancer will have you fill out a series of questionnaires—which go to make up part of the buyer’s contract package—and send this to the buyer’s conveyancer. The questions tend to be around information only you—as the seller—can provide and concern things like:

    • property boundaries
    • access rights
    • parking arrangements
    • proposed developments nearby
    • fixtures and fittings
    • details relating to utilities (gas, water and so on)

    8. The legal process

    The buyer’s conveyancer will:

    • review all of the papers your conveyancer sends to them, as well as their own search reports
    • raise any queries with your conveyancer

    Once your conveyancer has satisfactorily answered all of your buyer’s conveyancer’s questions, it will be time to agree a completion date and move to exchanging contracts. This is when the sale becomes a legal commitment.

    If you pull out after this point, you’ll have to repay the buyer’s deposit. Equally, if the buyer pulls out, they will lose their deposit. Because the house is still your legal responsibility until the sale completes, make sure you keep it in proper condition and have buildings and contents insurance cover in place.

    9. Between exchange and completion

    At some point, you and the buyer will have agreed how much time to allow for this period between exchange and completion.

    During this time, you need to:

    • arrange any removals
    • make sure you have somewhere to move to on the completion date (if you’re not buying or haven’t already bought another house)

    10. Completion

    This is when your home officially changes hands and becomes the new owner’s property.

    The buyer’s conveyancer will transfer the money to your conveyancer, who will:

    • pay off your mortgage—the lender will have already given your conveyancer an exact redemption figure (the full amount you owe on your mortgage), and your conveyancer will make sure that this is fully paid off on the completion date
    • pay your estate agent’s fees on your behalf
    • deduct their own fees from the proceeds of the sale
    • send the remaining balance to you, unless you’re in the process of buying another house at the same time, in which case they will transfer the funds to your purchase file for that property

    11. Move out

    If you’ve already moved out, your only job now is to hand over the keys. If you’re still there, you’ll need to move out by the time specified in the contract—this is usually 1pm or 2pm.


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