This simple guide takes the mystery out of buying and selling property in England. It is also appropriate for people in Wales, but those in Scotland and Northern Ireland should be aware that the law is different.
Why is buying and/or selling property in England stressful? Well, the answer is simple, you are not in control: there are many parties involved and many things to go wrong.
The secret to reducing the stress is minimising the things that can go wrong, the number of people involved and making sure that you are kept informed of the status of your sale and purchase. Tips on reducing stress will be given as the process is explained.
Step 1: Setting Expectation
You need to understand what you can afford to buy and that means knowing:
- How much can the property you expect to sell realistically fetch
- How much cash can you put into the property?
- What will the transaction cost be? e.g. legal, removal, commissions ….
- How much can you borrow?
The easiest way to get answers to most of this information is to talk to a friendly Estate Agent ,who can give you a good idea. Good Estate Agents have contacts with Brokers who can help you through the real estate maze.
Step 2: What Can You Afford to buy?
People normally know what property they would like, but that does not mean that they can afford to buy it yet. Property is expensive in England. To get to the property you want, it will probably be a process of steps: starting with a flat, then a semi and then perhaps their dream house, this is known as the Property Ladder. Knowing what you can afford will really focus your mind on what to look for.
The property portals are a great place to get an idea of the market. Our preference is for www.zoopla.co.uk, but www.rightmove.co.uk is seen as the market leader today. Google maps also offers a reasonable view of the market.
Remember to consider what the future may hold. Will your family grow or shrink? What will happen to your income? Do you need to be in a specific area for schools?
Step 3: Is now the time to move?
Now you know what you can afford to buy, it is decision time. Is now the time for you to sell your home?
At this stage most people look at market activity and wait for a booming market – this is not so smart. Clearly it is true that in a booming market there are more buyers around and this is great for mass viewing, but you are not the average seller now – you know what you are doing. If your property is priced correctly and you can buy what you are looking for, RESULT!
In a booming market purchasing is very competitive and decisions have to be made quickly. In a slow market, property needs to be priced sensitively – too high and there are no takers, too low and you lose out. In a slow market you have the time to make the right decision and, if shrewd, can skip a “stepping stone” property on the journey to your dream house.
If you are looking to liquidate an investment property, the decision process is more involved and you should seek professional advice as necessary.
Step 4: Putting your house up for sale?
Contact the Estate Agent(s) you trust and discuss the best method to sell your house. Make sure the Estate Agent knows what you want to achieve from the sale e.g. best price, quick sale, a move up the housing ladder …
Now you need to start thinking about how to reduce the stress process. If you are looking for best price in a slow market, your property must be in “show house” condition. Your property is priced to appeal to a small part of the target market, so every viewing must be crafted as if this will be the only viewing.
Don’t expect a lot of viewings and make the most of each viewing. If you are looking for a quick sale, make sure potential purchasers are aware that you are open to offers.
As many as a 1/3rd of offers do not complete i.e. the deal falls through. To reduce the chances of this happening, your realtor should include the conveyancing for the property to sell in their fees, but maintain very competitive fees at the same time.
They can assign a solicitor to you and they get the paperwork together, so that as soon as you accept an offer the legal papers can be sent to the buyers solicitor. The paperwork contains:
- Seller information forms
- Fixtures and fittings
- Replies to standard enquiries
- Draft contracts.
Having all the legal paperwork ready saves 3-4 weeks in the process and reduces the chances of the deal falling through.
Step 5: Viewings
Top Tip: Treat each viewing like it will be the last.
It cannot be stressed enough, the property must be ready to be viewed. It must be clean, no pungent smells or anything else that can put someone off!
The goal of the viewing is to get an offer, if not then to generate some interest so the person comes back for another viewing. Viewings in our opinion are best conducted by the Agent. Owners are too close to the property to allow the viewing to flow smoothly and to allow the people viewing to get comfortable, they need to express themselves so a conversation can start and the true value of the property brought to their attention.
Feedback from viewing is important but must be taken in context. Here you are looking to understand if a reasonable modification will generate interest. Some people will just not like your home, take it on the chin and move on.
Step 6: Offers
It is often said that “a property is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it”, but let’s not forget it is also worth something to the person who owns it. A purchaser, normally, is looking to pay as little as possible, however if they want the property they must be careful not to let someone else beat them to having an offer accepted. So this negotiation can be tricky. The more the demand for your property the tougher the stance you can afford to take.
The bottom line is you need to get enough from the property to allow you to achieve your move goal. Squeeze enough out of the purchaser to make the deal worthwhile to you but remember the deal must be of value to the purchaser or it will not go through. Aim for a win – win deal and the chances of the deal completing are maximised.
Ensure the purchaser is capable of buying the property before you take the property off the market, or you could be wasting your time.
Step 7: Buying a Property
Most moves involve making a purchase as well. Remember that this is part of the transaction. You can only move if you can pay for the property you are planning to buy, be it cash, loan bor a combination. If you cannot get enough for your property, look to pay less for the property you are purchasing.
Once your offer is accepted you want to see the property removed from the market or another purchaser may come and offer a better price.
Step 8: Exchanging Contracts
Once the Solicitors have agreed the contracts and have proof that the money from each purchaser in the chain is in place, they go through the formal exchange process. In general this means that all purchases are agreed and it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to get out of the purchase.
It is always a bit vague as to who is the true owner of the property should something catastrophic like a fire happen to the property, so consult your solicitor if you need to insure the property from the point of exchanging contracts. If in doubt insure.
If you have not already started the process of transferring the Utilities, now is the time to get started.
Step 9: Completion
Completion is the point at which money is transferred between Solicitors and keys are exchanged. Typically there are 2 weeks between Exchange and completing. On Completion, you can actually move into your new property.
Step 10: Your in!
Welcome to your new home! Unpack and put your feet up.