The Candid Guide to Selling


Selling can be a bumpy road and without the proper know-how might very well end in a ditch rather than a smooth sale.

1. When is the best time to sell?
For whatever reason sometimes you may just need to sell your property quickly and won’t be in a position to choose when you sell. However if you have the choice, then there are times of the year when it’s better to sell your property. Traditionally, the market slows right down during the holiday seasons of late July to August and in December. There are fewer buyers around, which means not only will it be harder to find your buyer, they’ll also be under less pressure to pay a higher price while negotiating with you. Conversely, during the first quarter of the New Year and after the summer school holidays in September to October, the market is consistently the strongest with both more buyers and more sellers around leading to higher prices and a quicker sale. There’s also another strong selling period starting a week after Easter running until the schools break up in July, that’s historically seen some lofty prices, especially if your property has a garden or roof terrace and the English sun is out!

2. Should I sell my property myself?
These days it’s possible to sell your property yourself by using an ‘online estate agent’. The main advantage of doing this is that you’ll pay a very low sales fee, sometimes as low as only a few hundred pounds. We strongly recommend not choosing this option. Not only will you miss out on the superior knowledge and expert negotiating skills of an estate agent that has been selling property like yours in your area for years but it will likely end up costing you much more than you saved in the first place. A good estate agent will unquestionably deliver you a higher price than you can achieve by yourself, easily covering the additional cost of their fees and making you considerably more money as a result.

3. Which estate agent should I choose?
This is a potential minefield. After all, all you want to achieve is the highest price, with the minimum amount of fuss and disruption to your life. However, not all estate agents are the same. Some will have vastly more experience under their belts, with a deeper knowledge of the prices and benefits of your property and having a network of buyers on speed-dial who are looking for property just like yours. Others will be new to your area, have little knowledge of the prices or will struggle holding the deal together during the testing conveyancing process. For this reason it is very important for you to know exactly who it is that will be dealing with your sale from start to finish, and not just at the initial valuation/winning your trust stage! Don’t be afraid to ask about their past experience, if they’ve sold property like yours before and in particular if they will be the one who will be doing the viewings and following the sale through to the end. If they’re genuine they’ll have nothing to hide.

4. Why should I pay a higher sales fee if I’m offered a lower alternative?
It seems to make sense that the less you pay your estate agent the more you will make at the end of the transaction, right? Don’t be fooled into this common mistake that can potentially cost you a great deal more than you think. Put simply your property sale will be less valuable and less important to the agent that will be selling it, meaning that your sale will likely be allocated to a far less experienced agent and as a result you’ll get a lower price for it. A good estate agent easily out-earns his/her fee even if it’s 1% more than the ‘other guy’, earning you much more in the end. If you’re agent is offering a cut price fee, ask yourself if they’ll be employing the same sales strategy with your property to get a quick sale!

For example: Let’s say you pay a 1% sales fee. Your sale is allocated to a junior agent who manages to sell your property for £825k. His fee is £8,250 (1% of £825k). Conversely if you paid a 1.5% fee it is highly likely that your experienced agent would get you a better result. Perhaps £850k. You’d pay £4,500 more in fees but would walk away with an extra £20,500 in your pocket. No brainer.

5. Should I sell with Multiple Estate Agents?
No. Although in theory it sounds like a good idea to have more than one agency trying to sell your property, it is never a good idea. Here’s why. When you instruct two or more estate agents to sell your property, you’re effectively pitting them against each other. Each one becomes desperate to get your property ‘under offer’ to secure the sales fee for themselves and cut the other guy’s lunch. Everyone knows the quickest way to sell something is to sell it cheaply, and this is exactly what you want to avoid especially when it involves your property! You’ll also be expected to pay a higher ‘Multiple Agency’ fee and leave yourself open to the likelihood of the losing estate agent(s) magically finding an imaginary buyer willing to pay more at the last minute, just to kill the sale. This is so common it even has a nickname within the industry: ‘torpedoing’. If that’s not enough, going multi-agency also creates multiple listings of your property online, making you look more desperate to sell than competing properties and therefore willing to accept a lower price.

6. How do estate agents value my property?
A good estate agent will be a able to tell you the approximate value of your property off the top of their head even if you just give them the road name you live on. However to get a more accurate valuation they’ll need to see your property, its condition, size and potential for extension. They’ll also factor in the comparable historic sales on your street and property on the market right now in the surrounding area to get a more accurate idea of the maximum price buyers would be prepared to pay. What price you market your property for is one of the more difficult choices you’ll need to make as a seller, as the asking price that you set for your property will ultimately dictate demand and the price you will end up achieving. During this stage be very wary of estate agents suggesting high prices and locking you into long sales contracts, as often this is an unscrupulous tactic to initially win your business only to reduce the price later, soiling your sale in the eyes of buyers. Rather it’s highly advisable to listen to an experienced estate agent here, even if they recommend marketing far below what you think it can achieve, as often this strategy yields the highest prices!

7. How do I get the highest price?
This is often counterintuitive. Your property will be worth a certain amount and the market will determine what that is. That is to say it is worth what a buyer is willing and able to pay for it. However there are ways to increase what a buyer is willing to pay and that, believe it or not, is often by setting an abnormally low asking price. Doing so dramatically increases the number of buyers interested, creating an intense competition that drives up the price (often through a sealed bid process) to levels that it could never have achieved if it were marketed at a higher asking price in the first place. It should be said this is not always the best strategy, but can work wonders if applied properly by an estate agent with experience doing so.

8. How do I prepare my property for sale?
When a potential buyer views your property, either in person or online, they want to be able to visualise how they would live there. This requires considerably more imagination if your property is cluttered, filled with furniture or simply rough around the edges. Re-painting, de-cluttering and shipping off some of your furniture to storage can really pay dividends during the period your house is on the market. It really can allow you to achieve not only a quicker sale but also one at a higher price and is highly recommended. You may even wish to ‘dress’ your property, especially if you have just re-developed it. People find it much easier to fall in love with a home or imagine that ‘that box’ is actually a bedroom if it’s carefully dressed with the relevant pieces of furniture.

9. Who should I sell to if I have more than one offer?
It’s quite likely that you will receive more than one offer at or around the price you are willing to accept. However not all buyers are equal, and although it might seem obvious to choose the highest offer, this can sometimes not be the right course of action at all. The sales process after an offer is accepted is not a smooth ride and there are all sorts of nasties lurking behind mortgage valuations, surveys, searches or just an uncommitted buyer that can derail the process. It’s therefore very wise indeed to investigate your buyer’s finances, find out if they need a mortgage, if they’re in a chain and exactly when they can ‘exchange’ and ‘complete’ before making your choice. It’s during this part of the process that a good estate agent and their advice will really pay dividends.

10. What are the stages of the selling process?
The first step is to get your property ‘valued’, which means getting several estate agents to give you their opinion on what it might be worth. Step two is to choose which agent to market with. A word of warning here, don’t choose your agent based on the (often hyped up) asking price they suggest as this is often a sign of an agent with less experience. After ‘instructing’ your agent, they will have photos, floor plans, and an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) taken before launching your property into the market. Finding a ready and able buyer can be quick, or take much longer than you expected depending on the price you’re happy to agree to. Once an offer is formally agreed you’ll both instruct solicitors and the legal process will begin. Referred to as ‘conveyancing’, this process can be fraught with difficulties. Don’t underestimate the amount of work involved in protecting your agreed sale price and mitigating potential fall-throughs. It’s here that you will really appreciate the value of an experienced agent. Once you’re ready, both parties will ‘exchange’ contracts and the sale will become legally binding with financial consequences should either of you pull out. Finally you legally ‘complete’ the sale when your solicitor receives the remainder of the money and the buyer receives the keys.

11. What are the common things that can go wrong?
During the sales process there are a whole host of potential surprises ready to trip up unsuspecting buyers and sellers alike. Most of these can be avoided on day one, by using an experienced and skillful estate agent who handles the early stages of the process correctly, when expectations are being set. However others, such as issues arising from the dreaded mortgage valuation survey or from a full structural survey, can scupper your sale quicker than you can say ‘estate agent’! For example, the mortgage company lending funds to your buyer may disagree with the price they’ve offered. When this happens either the buyer has to come up with the difference in cash, you have to foot the bill, or the sale falls through. Another common problem can occur if your buyer discovers something horrific after a structural survey, such as a particularly nasty case of rising damp that means they’re no longer willing to pay what they said they were in the beginning. Then it’s back to the negotiating table. There are of course plenty of other weird and wonderful problems that can occur, and when this happens it’s important to have someone who has seen as it all before and knows what they’re doing on your side.