Selling your home is always a big moment and we know you'll have a whole host of questions that need answers.
Buying and selling property are two of life's most stressful events, so knowing what to expect beforehand and having answers to those pressing questions can really help.
In this guide, we answer some of the most common questions from sellers and provide some great advice that will help you sell your home quickly.
1. What do I do first when selling a house?
The first thing to do when selling your home is to decide if selling is right for you.
You should carefully consider your reasons for wanting to sell, alongside all the costs involved, before looking at your finances and budget for your next step.
Once you’re set on selling, you should get your property valued by an estate agent.
“Try some online valuations to set your expectations and take these to your agent,” suggests CJ Hole Managing Director Rob Smith.
“They may have reasons why the suggested prices can’t be met which is a great way of finding quick jobs to improve the value like fixtures and fittings.”
“If you ask all the right questions, you can work together to get your house sold without any nasty surprises down the line or unmet expectations.”
2. How long do I need to own a house before selling?
Although you can legally sell your property at any time during your ownership, your buyer may not be able to get a mortgage on a property that’s been owned for less than six months by the seller.
That will limit you to cash buyers only, greatly reducing your chance of a quick sale.
You should also consider all the costs you faced when buying the property, such as stamp duty, which you are unlikely to recoup through capital growth if you sell so soon after purchasing.
Finally, potential buyers will almost certainly want to know why you are selling so soon and the very fact you are doing so may be a red flag and put them off.
3. How much does it cost to sell my house?
There are many potential costs you’ll face when selling a property, including:
- Estate agent fees
- Solicitor fees
- New Energy Performance Certificate
- Mortgage redemption penalty
- Removals costs
Typical estate agent fees
Your estate agent will either charge you a percentage commission of your final sale price or a fixed fee to market and sell your property.
Most commissions will be on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis, while fixed fees are usually payable whether your property is sold by the agent or not.
You should expect to pay between £500 and £1,500 for a solicitor or conveyancer to complete the legal work on your property sale.
Some solicitors charge a percentage of your property’s value, while others will quote a fixed fee.
If your property has a mortgage secured on it, your legal fees will usually be higher than if you own 100% of your home.
Whether your property is freehold, or leasehold can also impact the cost of conveyancing, with leasehold sales often more complicated than freehold sales.
New Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
To legally market your home for sale, you must have a valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
EPCs last for 10 years and if yours is still within that timeframe, you don’t need to get a new one.
But if your existing EPC has expired, you will need to have a new energy assessment carried out before you sell.
EPC costs vary depending on the size of your property, but you should expect to pay between £35 and £150 for a new certificate.
Mortgage redemption penalty
Your existing mortgage deal may come with redemption penalties or early repayment charges (ERCs).
ERCs are usually a percentage of your mortgage loan, and these fees usually depreciate over the term of your mortgage deal.
For example, if you’re on a five-year fixed rate mortgage, your ERC may be 5% in year one, 4% in year two, 3% in year three and so on.
If you pay off your mortgage early through selling your home, you may have to pay an ERC.
Although hiring a removals firm is optional, there will be costs involved even if you chose to move your things out of your home yourself.
Using a professional company is usually the most stress-free option and you can expect to pay between £500 and several thousands of pounds depending on:
- The number of possessions you need to move with
- How easy access to your property is
- The distance between your existing home and your new one
- Whether you require storage
If you decide to move your belongings yourself, you’ll need to consider the cost of:
- Hiring a van
- Taking our insurance to protect your things while in transit
- Packing materials
4. What documents do you need to sell a house?
When you sell your home, you’ll need several key documents, including:
- A valid Energy Performance Certificate (EPC)
- The title deeds for your property
- Proof of identity
- A management information pack if your property is leasehold
- Any relevant mortgage documentation
- Boiler service record
- Electrical certificates
Once you’ve found a buyer, you’ll also need to provide:
- A property information form (TA6)
- Any building regulation certificates or FENSA certificates for work carried out
- A fixtures and fittings form (TA10) confirming items included with the sale
5. How do I sell a house with a mortgage?
If you’re selling your home and have an outstanding mortgage, you can either:
- Pay off the mortgage with the proceeds of your sale
- Port your existing mortgage to a new property
As long as your sale price covers the amount outstanding on your mortgage, your solicitor will redeem this once the sale is complete.
If your property is worth less than your mortgage, you are in negative equity and may not be able to sell.
Porting your mortgage means you can stay on your current interest rate when borrowing for a new property, with any additional borrowing on top of that amount likely subjected to a different interest rate.
There are pros and cons to both porting and mortgage redemption and you should consider these and seek more advice before deciding what works for you.
6. Is it better to sell a house empty?
Selling a property you’ve already moved out of is known as ‘vacant possession’.
Vacant possession properties can be hugely appealing to many buyers, while others prefer to view a home in a ‘lived-in’ condition and there are other pros and cons you’ll need to consider:
Pros of vacant possession
Cons of vacant possession
Pros of ‘lived-in’
Cons of ‘lived-in’
7. Do I need a solicitor to sell a house?
Legally, it is possible to sell a house without a solicitor, but it’s also extremely rare.
When mortgages are involved, lenders will insist that a licensed conveyancer or solicitor handles a property sale, so they can protect their own interests.
Solicitors deal with a whole host of complicated undertakings during property sales, so using one really is crucial.
Among other tasks, a solicitor will:
- Support the seller with documentation
- Prepare a contract of sale
- Deal with mortgage redemption
- Liaise with your buyer to arrange a completion date
- Deal with money, including the buyer's deposit
- Organise the final settlement of accounts
- Approve the deed of transfer
- Pay off your mortgage with sale funds
- Hand over any balance of monies to you
8. What tax do you pay when selling a house?
If the property you’re selling is your main home, you won’t have to pay capital gains tax, while any stamp duty will be paid by your buyer.
But if you’re selling a buy-to-let property or second home, you may have to pay capital gains tax on any ‘gain’ you make.
The gain would be the difference between what you originally paid for the property and what you sell it for if the sale price is higher than the original purchase price.
Costs like estate agent fees, solicitor fees and any improvement work you’ve had done can all be deducted from your ‘gain’, alongside your personal capital gains tax allowance.
9. What are you expected to leave when selling a house?
There’s no law that states what must be left behind when a property is sold.
But it’s considered good practice to include certain things with your home when you sell it, including fixtures like:
- Mains-wired lights
- Sinks, baths, showers, toilets
- Plug sockets
- Kitchen units, worktops, and drawers
- Built-in units or wardrobes
- Integrated appliances like fridge-freezers or dishwashers
Your property’s fittings, however, are more likely to follow you to your new home and these could include:
- Paintings and other wall art
- Furniture, such as sofas, chairs, tables, and beds
- Free-standing appliances
- Lamps and shades
- TVs and other electronic equipment
Things like carpets and curtain poles are also considered fittings, as they can be removed, but most buyers would expect these to be left behind with your property.
Questions to ask estate agents when selling
When selling your home, it’s important you take the time to ask your estate agent plenty of questions.
Our guide on the questions to ask your agent can help.