19 Mar 2018
Author: Stephen Breen
With house prices falling and an average time of 169 days to find a buyer*, selling a property in 2018 is proving to be challenging for many. 28% of house sales will fall through according to the website Quick Move Now, leaving sellers to pick up the bill for wasted legal and estate agency fees.
In a tough market, there are a few steps you can take to give your home the best chance of selling, from preparing your property to getting your paperwork in order.
Set the stage
If you want to get prospective buyers through the door, it goes without saying that your home needs to look appealing in the property listing. Before your photographer visits, tidy, declutter and deep clean, then give your home ‘showroom’ appeal. Plumped, coordinating cushions, fresh flowers on the table and furnished rooms will help boost viewings as buyers can visualise themselves living in the property. If any of your rooms are decorated using bright colours, consider painting them in neutrals so that you don’t limit appeal. Finally, arrange for your photos to be taken on a bright sunny day to put your home in the best possible light.
Get your listing right
Research suggests that property listings without spelling mistakes sell three times faster than those with errors: so check your listing carefully once your agent has put it live. Look for any features or benefits of the property that your agent may have missed such as roof or cellar storage space, outbuildings or proximity to local amenities and ensure the listing is updated quickly before buyers dismiss it. Speak to your agent about which day the listing will go onto Rightmove: Friday is the best, as this is the day most house-hunters plan their viewing schedule for the weekend.
Sort your next mortgage
If a prospective buyer wants to move fast and you’re not ready to go, you’ll risk the sale falling through: so get your finances in order and your paperwork ready. Whilst the moneyadviceservice.org.uk is a good place to get an idea of what you can borrow, only a full mortgage application will provide an accurate budget for your next home. Don’t presume that because you already have a mortgage there will be no difficulty getting another: lender criteria has changed substantially over the past few years.
Typically for a full mortgage application you’ll need valid ID, copies of recent utility bills, recent paperwork for any benefits you receive, three months of payslips and a P60 and six months of bank details. If you’re self-employed, you’ll usually need up to three years of audited accounts and details of tax paid on form SA302 which can usually be printed out online through your HMRC account. However, note that some lenders are less stringent – for example, Halifax will accept two years of accounts and in exceptional circumstances, just a year.
You’ll also need to break down your spending with lenders scrutinising gym memberships and restaurant bills on top of ongoing payments such as childcare. Additionally lenders will check your credit file so it’s worth getting a report from each of the major credit reference agencies and ensuring everything is in order before you apply.
Find a solicitor
If you choose a solicitor before you find a buyer, they will be able to take some preliminary steps to ensure the transaction proceeds quickly once the sale is agreed. Although there are hundreds of conveyancing firms to choose from, don’t assume cheapest is best: conveyancing ‘factories’ won’t necessarily provide the speed and attention to detail you’ll need to reduce the risk of your sale falling through.
Once you’ve found a solicitor, you’ll need to pay any upfront costs for disbursements, sign a client care letter and provide ID.
If your property is unregistered, your deeds will likely be with the solicitor that you used when buying your home. Your current solicitor will need to write and request these. If your property is registered, your solicitor will simply obtain copies of the register from HM Land Registry.
For leasehold properties (typically flats), you’ll need to provide a copy of the lease together with details of any ground rent or service charges if applicable.
Both freehold and leasehold property owners need to complete a property information form, with a different version for each. The form is lengthy and prompts you for additional paperwork relating to gas and electricity installations, planning permissions, building regulation paperwork, warranties and so on. Again, if you’ve already found your solicitor you can organise this paperwork well in advance of finding a buyer so that the sale is not delayed.
Fixtures and fittings form
The fixtures and fittings form is another document that your solicitor will provide and it is helpful to complete this early on. It allows you to detail exactly what the sale includes and what you’ll be taking with you when you go. Misunderstandings regarding fixtures and fittings can cause ill feeling between a buyer and seller, putting the sale at risk. Completing this paperwork early on ensures that there are no nasty surprises for the buyer down the line.