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Blog
Preparing to sell your home: A comprehensive guide
Add value to your home
13 May 2021

Preparing to sell your home: A comprehensive guide

Daniel Strieff
Writer & Editor

When it comes to preparing your house for sale, sometimes the little things add up to make a big difference.

In this article, we’ll offer some top tips about how to get the timing, presentation, and administrative details right so that when you’re ready to put your home for sale you’ll be ideally situated to get maximum value for your property.

Getting the timing right

Before you begin, it’s helpful to have a general sense of how long it will take to sell your house.

Although no situations are identical, the length of time it takes to prepare and sell your home generally depends on the type of house and area in which it’s located.

Most timelines suggest it takes on average 15 and 25 weeks to sell a house:

  • Marketing and viewing: Between four and 14 weeks
  • From accepting an offer to exchange of contracts: Around nine weeks
  • From exchange to completion: Around two weeks

Getting to know the market

Once you’ve established a rough time frame for your sale, it’s time to look more closely at important factors that influence property prices, including demand, season and government policy.

  • Demand

Do you live in a highly sought-after area or neighbourhood? Or is your particular property -- perhaps a flat conversion or a single-family house -- all the rage right now? To figure this out, start with basic online searches. Local estate agents can also be excellent resources because they often have current and specific information not widely available.

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  • Season

The time of year you’re planning to sell your home is a crucial but often overlooked factor. Spring tends to be the best season to put up your house for sale because the weather is good -- all the better for showcasing your large garden or terrace, for instance -- and it lacks major holidays. Autumn is similarly a good time to sell. On the other hand, summer isn’t ideal because many people go on holiday. While winter, with Christmas, New Year and the wetter weather, tends to be less appealing for buyers.

  • Policy

Government decisions can have a significant effect on property prices, so it’s worth tuning into the latest budget to understand what proposals have been put forward. For instance, the government has launched schemes, such as the mortgage guarantee scheme, to encourage first-time house buyers and others to get on the property ladder. It’s also sought to reduce debt by restricting prospective home-buyers to repayment mortgages and introducing affordability tests. Other policies have been focused on preventing an unsustainable rise in property prices. To that end, the government has used taxes, like Stamp Duty, as well as additional legislation centred on licensing, energy efficiency, and safety. Any of these policies could affect your ability to sell your house.

Curious about how much your home might be worth? Our valuation tool combines data about recently sold properties in your area with information you input about the condition and unique features of the property to provide you with an estimate of how much you might expect your home to be worth. Try it now.

Getting the paperwork together

You’ll also need to gather all of your paperwork in one place as you embark on the sale.

Key documents include:

  • Title deeds
  • Gas safety inspection certificate and electrical safety inspection certificates
  • Planning permission, plans, and building regulation approvals
  • Details of council tax, buildings and content insurance bills
  • Mortgage papers

Read more on GetAgent’s blog: Can I use two estate agents to sell my house?

Preparing for home sale fees

Unfortunately, you also need to spend money in order to sell your home.

How much will it cost you? One estimate suggests that selling a home for the UK average of £234,853 will cost the buyer somewhere between £5,000 and £8,000.

When you're preparing your home for sale, make sure you've budgeted for the following common costs:

  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) Your EPC is a standardised document that details your home’s energy performance. All properties must have an EPC before they’re sold. While your estate agent can sort this out for you, it may be easier (and cheaper) to handle it yourself. You can use GetAgent’s EPC tool, to find out whether you have a valid EPC, and to get a quote for a new one.

Does my house already have an EPC?

EPCs are valid for 10 years, and you can use the one purchased by the previous owner.
So, you may have an EPC and not know it!

  • Estate agent fees

You can usually expect to pay your estate agent a percentage fee on the final sale of your property. This is typically between 1% and 2%, though the current average in England and Wales is reportedly 1.18%+ VAT. The specifics will depend on your contract and area.

  • Solicitor or conveyancer fees

You’ll rely on solicitors and conveyancers to sort all the legal aspects of selling your home. Their prices will vary depending on the value of the property and what you’ve asked them to do. Be sure to ask for a quote upfront, as well as a comprehensive list of services, fees and potential extras.

  • Current mortgage lender’s fees

Go through your paperwork or get in touch with your lender to check whether you’ll have to pay early repayment charges for switching your mortgage to a different lender or property. Allow plenty of time to get your finances and to discuss with your provider what fees you can expect.

  • Removal costs

It will cost you to move your possessions to your new property, so do your research early. Important factors to consider include location, timing and budget. Moving is very expensive so many people turn to friends and family to help, perhaps including hiring a van and doing it on their own.

Read more on Getagent’s blog: How much does it cost to sell a house in 2021?

Preparing your home for sale: staging

But before you can sell your house, you’ve got to get it noticed. That’s why you should consider your presentation -- or ‘staging’ -- for prospective buyers.

'Staging' simply means preparing your home in a way that will give the best first impression. This could involve: cleaning, rearranging, and minor DIY. Think of it like set design: you want to create the perfect backdrop for a potential buyer.

With this in mind, when you prepare your home, you’re trying to make it look clean, appealing and neutral -- without appearing boring.

Here are some staging tips to help you prepare your house for viewings:

  • Declutter your rooms

Decluttering your home is one of the most essential things sellers can do to boost their house’s selling potential. By keeping your home free from your own clutter, you’ll be better able to present it as a blank canvas upon which potential buyers can let their imaginations run wild. Plus, removing your odds and ends -- that pile of paperwork on your table, the kids' toys in the living room, or even any oversized furniture items -- allows viewers to concentrate on the space, not your belongings. You may want to consider renting a temporary storage unit where you can stash larger items while you prepare your house for sale.

  • Depersonalise your space

Similarly, sellers should depersonalise their house to give prospective buyers a clean, impersonal and neutral space in which they can imagine themselves living. That means packing away your family photos, the heirlooms your grandparents left you, and that quirky piece of art you picked up on your last holiday. You can always put these things back up once you’re unpacked in your new home, so don’t despair. But putting them away helps reduce a potential source of distraction for viewers. They shouldn’t be left wondering about your taste in furnishings but rather should spend their time and energy visualising how their own belongings would fit into the house.

  • Make minor repairs

This may seem obvious but it’s sometimes overlooked amid all the bustle of getting a house ready for sale. Replace any burnt-out light bulbs. Fix that leaky kitchen tap and make sure the toilet doesn’t run on. Paint over any areas that may be peeling. These are relatively quick fixes but it’s impossible to underestimate how impactful a small thing like that could be on a buyer who is otherwise on the fence. Especially in a competitive market, fixing your chipped tile could be the difference between receiving zero offers for your house and securing a good price. This is partly because, subconsciously, a buyer may feel that a person who hasn’t addressed small issues likely won't have addressed bigger things, either.

  • Make your house shine

Don’t forget to keep your place tidy. That means cleaning the tricky spaces in the bathroom and kitchen; polishing mirrors, windows and chrome surfaces; and keeping clean, well-folded towels on the rack. You should also stay on top of regularly hoovering, sweeping and gardening to minimise any possible distractions when someone new comes to view your house. Try to avoid cooking with especially odiferous foods and generally prevent allowing any unpleasant smells to linger. If you have a pet, clean up the litter trays, dog leads and any hair they may have left on furniture and carpets. Some of these tasks may seem minor because individually they only take a few minutes to handle, but the cumulative effect can influence how much money is offered.

  • Boost its kerb appeal

It’s a gauzy notion, but kerb appeal refers to the first impressions a prospective buyers gets when they look up at your house from the pavement. It’s pivotal because it can set the tone for their entire viewing experience. For some quick wins: freshen up the paint on your front door -- or even your entire exterior if it needs it. Fix your house numbers. Replace your old, frayed doormat with a new one. Add some flower pots outside your front door. Get a gardener to clean up your front garden and trim any overgrown shrubs (or do it yourself) and repair any cracks in your front walk. As the old saying goes, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression,’ so make it count.

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