The process of selling a house

Check out this step by step guide to selling your home.

Before you put your home up for sale, you’ll need to know:

  • roughly how much it’s worth

  • how much you owe on your mortgage

  • how much selling your home will cost

You’ll also need to decide where you’ll live once your home is sold. 

For example, you might buy another property or decide to rent.

You need an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to legally put your home up for sale. An accredited person can arrange this.

If your home is in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can find an assessor on the EPC register.¹ 

If your property is in Scotland, you can search the Scottish EPC register

There are 3 ways you can go about selling your home. You can:

  • sell it yourself

  • use a local estate agent

  • use an online estate agent

Most people use a local estate agent to sell their home.

You’ll need to work out a fee with the estate agent. 

Most charge a percentage of the sale price, often 1% or 1.5%, plus VAT.

Your asking price should take into account:

  • the estate agent’s valuation

  • what similar properties in the same area have sold for

  • your personal circumstances

After you’ve signed up with an estate agent and decided an asking price, the agent can market your property.

Once your home is on the market, your estate agent will arrange viewings. 

Anyone who wants to buy your property can put in an offer via the estate agent or directly with you.

You’ll need to formally accept the offer. However, you’re not legally bound to the sale at this point.

Offers are normally ‘subject to contract’. The price can still be negotiated up until contracts are signed and exchanged.

A conveyancing solicitor, or conveyancer, does the legal work involved in selling a property.

You can research conveyancers before you accept an offer on your property. But you can only instruct one once you have a buyer.

The seller’s solicitor arranges the legal contract to transfer ownership of the property to the buyer. 

Your buyer will have their own solicitor to look through and negotiate the contract.

Your solicitor will tell you if you need any other information. For example, which fixtures and fittings are included in the sale, or a copy of the lease of a leasehold property.

When you and the buyer have signed the contracts, your solicitors will then send them to one another. They'll then agree a completion date. This is called “exchange”.

Once contracts are exchanged, both sides are legally bound to the transaction. 

If one side pulls out after this point they’ll likely have to pay a fee.

Completion is when the money is paid and the deeds for the property are transferred between the solicitors.

Once your solicitor gets the money from the buyer, they will:

  • pay off your outstanding mortgage

  • take their fee

  • pay the estate agent their fee

  • send you the rest of the money

  • register the transfer of ownership with the Land Registry

You’ll then hand over the keys and move out and into your next home.

How much are solicitors’ fees for selling a house?

According to Which? the average costs of selling a house are:³

  • Estate agent: £3,593

  • Conveyancer: £400 to £1,870

  • Energy performance certificate: £50 to £120

  • Removals: £45 to £1,140

Solicitors usually charge between £400 and £1,870 to complete the legal work of selling a house.

Most solicitors charge a fixed fee. Some charge an hourly rate or a percentage of the property price.

It’s best to get quotes from at least 3 different solicitors so you can decide what’s best for you. 

The quotes should include the fees for:

  • basic legal work and advice

  • any extra costs for a leasehold property

  • disbursements. These are costs your solicitor pays to other parties such as registering the change of ownership with the Land Registry)

  • bank transfers

  • VAT

If you’re buying a property and selling, you'll often use the same solicitor for both transactions. This means you’ll pay more for their services.

There’s normally no tax to pay if you’re selling the home you live in, known as your main residence.

But if you’re selling a second property, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax.

Buyers pay stamp duty land tax when they buy a home.

How long does it take to sell a house?

Buying or selling a home normally takes 2 to 3 months.⁴

It can take longer if you’re part of a chain of buyers and sellers.

Should I sell my house?

Selling might not be right for everyone. Here are some things you should think about before you put your home on the market.

Is there enough equity in the property to pay off the mortgage? 

Equity is the difference between the market value of your home and the amount you owe on your mortgage. 

Selling my house for more space

It might be cheaper to build an extension or convert your attic, than selling.

Our home improvement guide has more information about work you can do to your home.

Should I rent out my home instead? 

Being a landlord can make sense in some situations. For example, if you move abroad for work, keeping your house in the UK can be sensible.

How to sell your house quickly?

You can sell your house fast by:

  • pricing it realistically

  • researching solicitors before you receive an offer

  • being chain free

  • dealing with any issues likely to show up in a survey

Some companies offer to buy your house within 24 hours for cash. These quick sale companies can move fast, but are unlikely to pay the market value of your home.

The best time to sell a house

According to the Homeowners’ Alliance, spring is the best time to sell your home.⁵

This is because people are not away for summer holidays or focusing on Christmas. 

It also gives families enough time to complete a purchase before the new school year starts in September.

The worst times to sell a house include during a recession or in times of political instability. 

Selling at these times is likely to result in a lower sale price.

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¹ Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government: Find a Domestic Energy Assessor

² Energy Saving Trust: Search for and Assessor or Advisor

³ Which?: The Cost of Selling a House

⁴ Gov.UK: Buying or Selling Your Home

⁵ HomeOwners Alliance: When is the Best Time to Sell My Home?