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A beginner's guide to selling your first property

You'll almost certainly have heard the phrase 'first-time buyer' when talking about property. But what about first-time sellers?

It’s easy to forget that selling a property for the first time can spark the same kind of uncertain emotions you have felt when buying one.

In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about the process of selling a house and provide some guidance if you’re doing it for the first time…

The process of selling a house and tips for making it easier

Although every sales process can vary, generally most property transactions go through the same process.

Selling can be stressful, but there’s also plenty you can do to make things easier and keep your sale firmly on track…

1. The first step to selling your home: Work out your finances

So, you've decided to sell for the first time.

Once that decision is made, you'll need to take a look at your finances.

If you’re selling a house with a mortgage, look at your agreement and balance to see how much remains on your loan and if there are any early repayment penalties.

Then work out how much you could be able to borrow for your next property, if you are buying.

Doing so will enable you to get an idea of the price you need to sell for to cover your liabilities and move on to your next property.

2. Consider the fees for selling a house

When budgeting to sell your house for the first time, you'll need to consider several other costs and fees.

When selling, additional costs could include:

• Estate agent fees

• Solicitor / conveyancer fees

• Removals

• Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) renewal

All of these add up and can eat into your deposit or equity from your property sale, so make sure you are on top of them before you start.

Top tip: Consider renting

Sometimes, it can be beneficial to take stock of the market before buying your next property.

And it's certainly less stressful to not be in a long chain of buyers and sellers! Consider renting a property for a short period of time after you sell your home, which will give you more time to find your next property and could make your sale easier and less stressful.

You'll also be a chain-free buyer when you do come to purchase your next property, which will make you attractive to sellers and could give you room for negotiation on any asking price.

3. Choose an estate agent

This is one of the most important decisions you'll make when selling your home for the first time.

A good estate agent can be the difference between a quick sale or a long, drawn out and frustrating process.

It can even be the difference between selling your property or not.

Speak to family and friends for recommendations and get online to digest reviews of all the major agents in your area.

Top tip: Smart questions to ask your estate agent when selling your property

Before deciding on an agent to help sell your property, you should consider asking some key questions about their history and their service.

A proactive and passionate estate agent is vital if you are looking for a quick sale, so it's important to do your due diligence before committing to an estate agency contract. Ask each agent you speak to (and you should speak to several) the following:

1. What kind of contract will you offer?

2. What are your fees?

3. Are there any other costs, such as boards, photos, floor plans?

4. How long will I be tied into a sole agency contract?

5. How will you market my property?

6. How long do you generally take to sell a property like mine?

7. Which redress scheme are you a member of?

8. Will you accompany viewings?

9. Do you offer a sales progression service?

4. Decide on your asking price

If you choose the right agent, their valuation of your property should work for you and your finances but also be achievable from a market perspective.

While it's always tempting to go with the highest valuation, that may not be the best course of action. Ultimately, the decision on your property's asking price lies with you and your agent is there to guide you.

Make sure you consider that buyers will often make an offer below your asking price - whatever that is. Your asking price should always be realistic for the market at the time, so think through your core aims from your sale and whether moving quickly is your primary goal.

If you need to achieve a certain price to take your next step on the property ladder and are happy to sit through a potentially longer marketing process, then consider a top valuation.

Top tip: Consider selling at auction

If you need to sell your home quickly, selling at auction can be a great way to achieve this.

Auction sales can be quicker because cash purchases are more common and there are set timeframes for completion.

Our guide to selling at auction tells you everything you need to know about the process.

5. Get your property ready for the market

'Staging' your property is key when selling. But to do so effectively, you need to put yourselves in the shoes of your potential buyers.

Are you likely to sell to a family, or perhaps a professional couple?

Or is your home likely to attract a single professional?

Stage your home in a way that will be attractive to whoever you think you buyer is likely to be.

Keep it tidy and free of clutter and repair anything that needs fixing. Also consider your property's appearance from the outside.

Buyers make up their minds quickly and first impressions really do count.

6. Choose a solicitor

Like an estate agent, choosing the right solicitor can be the difference between a quick sale and a painful, slow process.

Again, seek recommendations from family and friends and take a look at reviews online.

Solicitors are often managing a number of cases at the same time, while local authority searches can take time, often due to backlogs.

So, speak to several firms and try to find out how much capacity they have to take on your transaction.

Also, check their credentials and ensure you fully understand their fee structure.

Top tip: Be organised with paperwork

When selling your home, you'll need to have access to a whole host of paperwork so make sure you have everything in order and to hand as soon as your property hits the market. Offers can come when you least expect them so being prepared is key.

And this will help once the sale process is under way, as providing documentation when needed goes a long way towards helping the process run smoothly.

7. Offers on your property

Receiving an offer is a big moment for any seller. And you should consider any offer - no matter how unreasonable it might seem!

Think again about your next steps and what you need from selling your home before rejecting any offer outright.

If you are certain an offer won't work for you, politely decline it through your estate agent.

But if you are happy with an offer, let your agent know and they will tell the buyer it has been formally accepted.

8. Draft contracts

Once you have accepted an offer, solicitors for you and your buyer will draw up draft contracts and undertake searches and enquiries.

You should think about the things you want to include in the sale, like any white goods or fixtures and fittings, as this detail will all be included in your contract of sale.

9. Exchange of contracts

This is the point your sale becomes legally binding, so it's a big moment for both buyer and seller.

However, it also means there's no going back - at least, not without legal action and significant costs. Remember, you are responsible for your property until the sale completes, so keep things like buildings insurance policies running until your completion date.

10. Completion day

Completion day is hugely exciting albeit a day where there’s lots to do. This can be stressful if you’re moving out of your current property and into a new one on the same day – and even more so if your buyers are doing the same.

Consider moving out a few days before your completion date if possible. If you are moving into a rented property, this is more likely to be possible, but even a couple of nights in a hotel, or with family or friends, with your belongings in storage can mean a less hectic move into your new property.

Make sure your property is left in the condition stipulated in the contract with all agreed fixtures and fittings left behind.

Once all monies have been transferred and your mortgage redeemed, your estate agent will hand over the keys to your buyer.

Congratulations! You've just sold your first house!

Further reading…

If you’re pondering selling your home, take a look at these great tips to secure a quick sale.

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