by Lea Emery on 27th September 2018
When it comes to intimidating property experiences, first-time buyers get a lot of press. While first-time buyers make headlines and fill endless "How To" guides, there's not as much guidance for a first-time seller. But the truth is, selling your home for the first time can be an equally intimidating process --- and you're often in the middle of looking for your next home as well. Luckily, as with most things in the property market, as soon as you get a handle on the jargon and a few of the basics, the process is more straightforward than it seems. You'll be juggling a lot of balls at once, but here's what you need to keep in mind.
Selling a property is all about timing --- but it's not as simple as what time of year or whether or not you feel ready. In general, there are certain times that you usually want to avoid --- the Christmas period through mid-winter and the summer holidays, for example. But you also need to think about the market. If it looks like it's going down and you need to sell, you might want to get it listed as soon as possible --- even if that means it's right in the middle of August. But if the market is feeling confusing or volatile (like, say, while we wait for the UK to reach a Brexit deal), you may decide you want to hold tight --- or list it, but know that you might be waiting a while. Weigh up the market, the time of year, and your needs when you're choosing your timing.
Are you selling this home to move into a new one? Then it's important to consider how you want to approach this. If you have another place to stay, selling your home before putting in an offer on a new one may be an option. This puts you in a more stable position and makes you more desirable as a buyer. On the other hand, you may need to actively pursue purchasing your next home at the same time, to avoid being stuck with a lot of moving vans and nowhere to go.
You also should talk to your current mortgage provider, if you have one, to understand any penalties you may incur if selling your home means repaying your mortgage early.
As soon as you decide to sell, it time to get your home in tip-top shape. Not just structurally --- although that's obviously important, as your home is likely to be totally scrutinised in a survey --- but also cosmetically. You'd think that a buyer could see past a paint colour that's looking a bit dated or a shower that needs a once-over, but you'd be amazed at what can put a buyer off. Make sure that your flat is looking as good as it possibly can and is ready to be surveyed.
This is also the time you should start looking into your EPC, a legal requirement in England and Wales. This report summarises the energy efficiency of your property --- and you'll need it before you market the home.
Your estate agent is going to be one of the most important people during this time, so you need to choose wisely. Part of choosing an estate agent will be having your home valued, so have it valued by a few different people. You'll want to pick someone who not only seems to agree with you on what the home is worth but also someone who you feel like you can trust and relate to. You're going to be dealing with them a lot, so don't be afraid to ask questions and get a feel for whether you'd want to have a professional relationship with this person.
You'll also start to need to start thinking about the legal end of things. Conveyancing is an intimidating-sounding word for transferring a property, but you'll need a solicitor to help you do this. Even though you won't technically require their services until you've accepted an offer, it's best to shop around and find one to have at the ready beforehand.
You and your estate agent will work out the asking price, which can be a tricky process. You want to choose an amount that you're comfortable with, but keep in mind that many offers will come in under the asking price so you may want to factor in a buffer. What you ask for will depend on the current market, what local properties have been selling for, and how urgent your need to sell is, so there are a lot of variables to take into consideration.
When it comes to viewings, you want to make sure that your home is at its best. A little staging can make a huge difference, so clear out the clutter and leave room for the buyer to imagine their life there.
Once you get an offer --- or offers --- give yourself some time to think about. Yes, you want to get back to them in a timely manner, but it's also a huge decision. Waiting a day or two to think it over is perfectly acceptable --- and you have every right to say no if you don't feel like it's a fair offer.
Selling a home for the first time is intimidating, especially if you're combining it with a property search for your next home. But while jargon like EPC and valuation can sound overwhelming, remember that you're going through well-trodden territory. Once you get a handle on what needs to be done --- it's a straightforward, if at times frustrating, process. Work with people you trust and don't be afraid to ask questions --- there are people to help guide you along the way.
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