Sell your home

07 December 2010

If you want to obtain the best possible price when selling your home, then these ideas should help.

Increase the appeal of your property

Tidy up!
This may sound obvious, but clearing the clutter can make a big difference.

So, if you've got stacks of knick-knacks lying around the house – including that higgledy-piggledy pottery bowl your nine-year old daughter made you – remove them! Whatever sentimental value they have, clutter makes your home look smaller and can make it harder for potential buyers to imagine living there, with their own stuff.

Pack it all away in boxes and store it – after all, you'll have to do this when you move, so you may as well get a headstart.

It's also a good idea to remove unnecessary furniture to make your home look more spacious. And give your cupboards a clear-out in case a nosy visitor decides to have a peek at what's inside!

Be polite
People are likely to be put off by a rude seller or estate agent.

Stamp out smells
People are put off by strong household smells, such as those made by pets or cigarettes.

Deal with DIY disasters

Poor building work or DIY is a big switch-off. If you've got a few odd-jobs around the house that you've never got around to sorting out, this is the time to do it.

Potential buyers don't want to see a cupboard door hanging off its hinges, cracked kitchen tiles, or dripping taps. After all, these are things buyers will have to fix themselves if they move in – things they will have to spend time and money on, and this could affect their offer price.

Getting a new bathroom or kitchen put in can easily boost the value of your home. But if you can't afford that, you can replace your kitchen cupboard doors and handles fairly cheaply. 

Fix faulty fence panels
Mnay people won't want a garden that lacks privacy.

Add a lick of paint
It really is amazing how a fresh lick of paint can transform a room. Repaint the walls in a cheap but neutral colour such as magnolia to give it a brighter feel. If you want to add a splash of colour, you could use a bolder colour, such as red, for one wall, or use colourful accessories and cushions.

Make sure the kitchen in particular looks good. When making a buying decision, the kitchen is often the most influential room.

It's what's on the outside that counts
In some ways, how the outside of your property looks can be more important than what's inside. If a prospective buyer is welcomed by an over-run garden and paint peeling off the front door, chances are he/she won't want to come inside.

So give your front door a fresh lick of paint, clean the windows, mow the grass, trim the hedge, sweep the path, add some colourful plants round the door, and repair the gutters.

Choose your time to sell carefully
Some periods are 'hotter' than others; for instance, there is normally a summer 'drought' for selling houses, because people take off on holiday.

Santa stops sales
Another 'dead zone' for sellers is November and December, when potential buyers are usually too busy preparing for Christmas to think seriously about moving home. Conversely, sales pick up in January, thanks to the 'New Year' effect.

Ask around
If your house isn't selling, then perhaps you can't see the wood for the trees. To get an honest opinion on the pros and cons of your property, ask your neighbours for their advice – and be prepared for some plain speaking!

Throw in some items with the sale price
It can be a good idea to include items such as white goods or furniture in the sale price – providing they're likely to be wanted. These can be particularly enticing to first-time buyers.

It's worth telling potential buyers immediately what will be included in the sale and what you will be taking with you. So if you plan to remove all the carpets and curtains, tell them!

To make your job easier, HouseWeb has created a very nifty inventory list for you to print off and fill in! This way buyers will know exactly what's included in the sale.

Be prepared to lower the price
If your property doesn't attract buyers through the door, it doesn't matter how appealing it is once they're inside. So if you find no one is interested once you put the property on the market, be prepared to lower your asking price.

That way, you're likely to attract more interest and more viewings – and who knows, if you do attract enough interest, the price may bounce up again as potential buyers outbid each other in an attempt to get a bargain. 

Get help from other readers
Why not ask other readers what they've done to increase the appeal of their home to buyers? Use our Q&A tool to find out.

Got any tips of your own?
Please add them using the Comments box below!

Compare mortgages at

Avoid the worst selling mistakes

Here's a quick guide to the stuff you shouldn't do when selling your home:

Mistake one: Being inflexible about viewings
As intrusive as viewings can be, try to be flexible about timings. If someone wants to pop by at 8am on a Saturday morning or 7pm on a Friday night, agree to it. If you really want to sell your home, you need to be flexible.

If you're too busy to make the time, simply give your estate agent a door key, or he or she can easily access your home for viewings, even when you're not there.

Mistake two: Putting buyers off
There's a lot that puts buyers off. Make sure your property doesn't by avoiding cooking foods such as fish or curry before buyers come round, and if you're a smoker, start smoking outside. Clean up any cat litter and empty the bin. Get rid of any weeds in the garden, and hide your gnomes.

Finally, beware the classic advice to bake some bread or have some coffee brewing as viewers pop by. If you try to mask smells too much, prospective buyers may think you have something to hide. So just get rid of any odours and use a tiny bit of air freshener instead.

Mistake three: Picking a bad estate agent
Is your estate agent marketing your house properly? How much experience does he/she have with selling properties in the area? What does the property brochure look like? What are the photos like on the estate agent's website?

All of these questions are ones you should be asking yourself. If your home isn't being marketed properly, it won't sell.

When advertising your home, don't simply use a photo of the exterior. Potential buyers want to see what the interior looks like so take photos of as many rooms as possible (and make sure you've tidied them up first – remove bins and close the toilet seat).

Ask your estate agent if it's possible to include a 'virtual tour' of your home on the estate agent's website. These are always popular with buyers!

Mistake four: Making costly improvements which don't add value
Popular home improvements, such as an extension or conservatory, could cost you thousands more than they add to the value of your property.

If you think home improvements could still add value, then do your research before you spend anything. Ask a local estate agent if they think it's worth your while and find out what buyers in your area are really looking for. 

On top of that, you may be able to cut the cost of home improvements by shopping around for cheaper materials and labour. And you can make sure you don't waste money needlessly by taking out a loan or a mortgage with a high interest rate.

Still, it always makes sense to keep a close rein on how much you spend on home improvements. If your bathroom or kitchen is in urgent need of an update, try to do the work as inexpensively as you can. So before you rip out your old kitchen and renovate it in the hope of enticing buyers, think about replacing the cupboard doors and handles for a modernised look that won’t cost a small fortune.

Similarly, a tidy garden will help to make the right impression on prospective buyers, but you may want to think twice before shelling out thousands on a landscaping bill!

Got any tips of your own?
Please add them using the comments box below!

Compare mortgages at

Set the right asking price

If you set the wrong price, and then have to lower it later, buyers may catch a whiff of desperation about your sale. Then they'll haggle hard for a bargain, especially if your property appears on sites like, which lists properties with reduced asking prices. They could also start to view your property with suspicion and ask themselves – "Why hasn't it sold? Why have the owners lowered the price? What's wrong with it?" 

Plus, of course, setting the wrong price can cost you months of heartache and put your plans for a new life in a new home on hold.

To avoid this fate, you need to set the right asking price for your property from the start.

Carry out your own research
By using property search engines such as rightmove, Zoopla and particularly propertysnake, you can obtain details of houses in your area which haven't sold due to unrealistic pricing.

You can also check how much similar properties in your area have sold for using (it uses Land Registry data, but unlike the Land Registry, allows you to access it for free). Once you know the price paid for a property in a specific quarter of a specific year, you can use Nationwide's quarterly house price index to figure out what it would be worth today. Simply type the price and date into this house price calculator.

Get an online valuation
You can get a free online valuation from Zoopla or, if you can spare £20, an in-depth online valuation from Hometrack.

Get valuations from several estate agents
Make appointments with at least three estate agents for their own take on how much your home is worth. Valuations are free, and a good estate agent will also be able to advise you on any minor work you could think about doing to increase the value of your home.

Don't just plump for the estate agent that gives you the highest valuation, however. Instead, choose the one who has the most experience and has sold the most homes – the one who you think will do the best job of selling your property. And find out exactly how he/she plans to market your home.

Remember, you don't just to go with a traditional high street estate agent. There are many property-selling websites around nowadays which allow you to sell your home cheaply online. We like Tepilo, a 0% commission site set up by property show presenter Sarah Beeny. There's also and

Choosing this method could save you thousands, as estate agents typically charge 1% to 3% of the property price (plus VAT), while property-selling sites typically charge around £200 for listing the property and another £200 when you sell.

If you do go with estate agent, be sure to haggle over the commission fee. You don't simply have to accept what's in the contract. Ask them to lower their commission if it doesn't sell within a set period.

Get help from other readers
Why not ask other readers what they've done to ensure they set the right asking price for their home? Use our Q&A tool to find out.

Got any tips of your own?
Please add them using the Comments box below!

Sell your home online

Most of us still use an estate agent when it comes to selling our property. Well, we don't really have a choice, do we?

Clicks and mortar
Actually we do have a choice, and in the age of the internet it is possible, in fact easy, to ditch the high street estate agent and go online.

Or you can save even more money by simply selling your home yourself.

Agents of fortune
If you want to get a cheaper deal than with a traditional agent but you don't feel ready to take on the whole task of selling your home yourself, an online estate agent is a great middle ground.

Online agents typically operate out of one call centre and don't have to maintain a branch network, so can afford to charge much less.

They are a lot cheaper than typical agents who will usually charge you between 1% and 3% of the sale price.

Which sites at the best?
Here at, our favourite is Tepilo, a website set up by property presenter Sarah Beeny. The site is entirely free for sellers and buyers to use (it makes money through internet advertising instead). So there's no fee and no commission to pay.

Alternatively, there's (the clue's in the name), which charges 0.5% of the property's sale price (with a £199 fee for marketing the property).

There's also, which charges from £495 plus VAT to sell your home. You pay upfront and it is non-refundable.

For this you get a standard service of full descriptions and floorplans, photography, and advertising across a wide range of websites including the agent's own site. Importantly, this can also include major property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla.

This is a huge benefit since private sellers are not able to list their home on Rightmove, which is the UK's largest property site.

If you want extras they can be purchased from as add-ons, such as a 3D video for £50.

Any drawbacks?
You will usually have to arrange viewings and show potential buyers around your property yourself – but many people actually prefer to do this, and some buyers like it too. After all, they get to ask what the neighbours are like!

If you really don't like the idea of doing the viewings yourself online agents often allow you to add-on 'accompanied viewings' for an extra charge, but some only offer this in London.

Of course, you do miss out of the local knowledge of high street estate agents (especially outside the capital), but you could always get valuations done by local agents first, before opting for the online agent.

DIY selling
Selling your home privately can save you even more money, as you can cut out the middleman completely, meaning you won't have to pay any fees at all. But be aware that this option will require more effort on your part.

Thankfully there are online companies set up especially to help you do this - 'property sales websites' rather than online estate agents.

They usually work like this: you take the pictures yourself and write a description of the property, do a floorplan or produce a virtual tour. Remember to make this accurate in order to comply with the Property Misdescriptions Act, or you could be sued for misrepresentation.

You then handle enquiries, arrange viewings and negotiate with potential buyers. But for a one-off fee you can use a property sales website to help you reach a much wider audience. for example offers ad space on its website for less than £50, or you can upgrade to a more expensive package at £129 and get yourself listed on other property websites too, including and (but not Rightmove or Zoopla which are only open to estate agents).

Always make sure you know exactly where your home ad will appear and double check that it is on there.

Top tips for online selling
Understand what's involved in selling your home on your own before you jump in. Are you willing to give up the time and are you going to be comfortable negotiating with potential buyers? If not, an online estate agent that offers these services could be a better option than completely going it alone.

Remember that you can negotiate with high street estate agents on fees and some also offer flat fees. So shop around first. If your property is relatively low value the cost saving of going online will not be as great as high value homes. 

If a potential buyer comes round, call a day or so later for feedback, and if they show interest be sure to arrange a follow up visit as soon as possible. Be flexible and try to accommodate the times they can do.

Be prepared to have your home criticised by strangers!

Remember one in three accepted offers falls through so be prepared for this to happen.

Opt for an estate agent that belongs to the Ombudsman for Estate Agents (OEA). If anything goes wrong or you are not happy you can complain and perhaps receive compensation.

If you're thinking of selling your home online, why not ask other readers for tips on what to do and which websites to use via our new Q&A tool? Or add a tip of your own to the comments box below!

Compare mortgages at

Sell your property at auction

One option that surprisingly few sellers in the UK consider is selling via a property auction.

Perhaps you see it as a last resort, full of properties going cheap either because they are repossessed homes or because they damp and poorly-built or in a terrible state of repair.

But if you’ve ever set foot in an auction, you’ll know that’s far from the reality. While repossessed properties and doer-uppers do account for a significant portion of auction sales, there are a growing number of people choosing to sell their property via an auctioneer rather than an estate agent.


Speed and security
Speed and security are the two major benefits of selling at auction, particularly in the current market. There is no ‘subject to contract’ period, because you exchange legally binding contracts when the auctioneer’s gavel falls. A 10% deposit is paid on the day of auction and completion is usually 28 days from the auction.

This means that there is no risk of a buyer gazundering you. Plus, if the buyer pulls out later, you get to keep their 10% deposit! So there is a much reduced risk of the sale falling through.

The process can take as little as six to eight weeks from calling the auction house to completing on the sale. Such predictable timescales allow you to plan ahead in a way you could not if you put your home on the market in the traditional manner.

Target the right buyers
By selling at auction, you also have access to a wide range of actively interested investors. The auctioneers will market your property and this can be more effective than an estate agent. For example, Savills has a sale every six weeks and sends out its brochure to 15,000 subscribers. All of these are active investors who pay to receive the brochure, and other auctioneers produce similar literature for keen buyers. So you get your property details in front of specifically targeted and interested buyers.

Greater chance of selling
According to some reports up to 70% of auctioned property sells, a very high percentage considering the timescales. Auctioned properties can also fetch a good price, although the quick disposal of your property should be your main reason for using an auction, not because you think you will get a better price.

For example, an auction might suit those who are moving abroad, perhaps because they need a quick and uncomplicated sale. Those in arrears may also want to sell quickly.

What are the drawbacks?
There is a chance that your property will fail to sell and you waste the entry fee (typically £300 to £500) into the auction and any legal costs incurred (you may have to pay your solicitor to attend the auction for example).

You have no idea how much your property will sell for as auctions are completely dependent on the demand that day. You could sell your property for below market value, or you might get more than you expected.

You can, however, set a reserve price at whatever level you want to – but be aware that the auction house will suggest a price to you, and may not agree to take you on if you refuse and set your own price too high above that suggestion.

Finally, bear in mind that, like an estate agent, the auctioneer will usually take a percentage of the sale price as commission – usually up to 2.5%, although this is negotiable and it is worth shopping around.

What properties suit being sold at auction?
In terms of the type of property, anything goes, from terraced to water towers, flats to factories.

But it is true that properties that are unmodernised or run down are particularly well placed for auction sales. This is because a large proportion of the typical buyers at auctions are property developers who want to buy something that they can add value to by renovating. This includes commercial as well as residential properties.

Other properties that suit auctions are unusual or unconventional properties that do not fit the mould, or standard properties that may have covenants or other issues that prevent it from being sold easily via the normal route.

Of course, repossessed homes are extremely suitable as the property can be sold extremely quickly.

Meanwhile, properties that may not be suitable are those that are fully modernised where there isn’t a huge discount from the market value.

Choosing your auctioneer
Shop around. Commission is usually around 2.5% but it is definitely worth negotiating and you will also have to pay for the advertising and brochure costs. Check what you are getting for this money as brochures range from cheap and cheerful to extremely plush and professional looking.

Also find out how many people receive the pack and where else your property will be advertised. Some auctioneers have a paid for subscription list and these people are obviously better targets than people who receive a brochure they have not paid for, or perhaps even asked for. You want your property to be seen by as many people as possible, particularly in your target buyer audience.

Look at the other properties the auction house is dealing with and choose one that sells similar properties to yours. They will be experienced in this market and attract the right sort of buyers.

So, as always, it pays to do your research and shop around. But if you can pull it off, choose the right auctioneer and are lucky with demand on the day, then selling at auction could be a great way to beat the current market conditions.

In other words, your home could be going, going, gone before you know it!

(You knew that was coming, didn’t you?)

Get tips from other readers
Before you put your property up for sale, it could pay dividends to head over to Q&A and ask other readers if they've ever sold a property at auction, and get their tips on what it was like.

Alternatively, if you've sold at auction yourself, please add your own tips using the Comments box below!

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Stop buyers from gazundering you

If you want to stop buyers from gazundering you – where the buyer reduces his or her original offer before exchange of contracts – then you've come to the right place.

Unfortunately, gazundering is legal in England and Wales (Scotland operates an entirely different system). Many of us think it's unethical, but the fact remains, a buyer can go into a purchase planning to gazunder a seller once he or she has taken the property off the market and is in a weaker position.

It is up to individuals to decide whether their honour is worth more than the price they pay for the property.

Here's how to protect yourself from unscrupulous buyers:

Set a realistic asking price
The less time it takes you to get an offer, the less desperate you will be to sell at any price. Be aware that some buyers will check how long the property has been on the market and whether it has been reduced in price, and will use this information to try to negotiate a further discount. 

Figure out your absolute lowest price
Ask yourself what your property is worth to you: i.e. your absolute lowest price. If this is all you can get from a buyer, make it clear from the start that you will not drop the price in the future no matter what happens.

Be prepared
Make sure your solicitor has all the legal documents the potential buyer will need before you even get an offer. Dig out any relevant certificates, eg for damp-proofing or double-glazing. Copy keys for the estate agent and surveyor. Consider renting if that frees you from a chain.

Opt for a chained buyer if you can
A buyer who is in the middle of a property chain is less likely to mess you around, knowing that he or she has to be out of their own home by a set date, or they will lose the sale of their own property. Ideally, you want a chained buyer who already has a mortgage offer in place and so can move relatively fast. Always ask your estate agent to find out these vital facts before they put an offer to you.

Remember, you're not safe...
...until exchange. So incentivise the buyer to speed up the housebuying process. For example, you could accept the offer only on the condition that the buyer gets a survey done within 10 working days, and refuse to stop showing the property until the survey has been completed. Or, if you're particularly ruthless, you could warn the buyer you're going to keep it on the open market until the contracts have been exchanged. That will ensure you haven't lost any time if the buyer does decide to gazunder at a later date.

Be friendly, but not too friendly
If you can develop some sort of personal relationship with the buyer, it will be harder for them, emotionally, to go back on their word. But don't reveal any facts which might make them think you are desperate to move. For example, if you are pregnant, an unscrupulous buyer is likely to guess you want to be out of the property before you give birth, and could take advantage of that fact.

Help for gazundered sellers
If you do get gazundered, despite following these tips, don't despair. There are ways you can fight back.

Don't panic
If you panic, you may make statements which you do not mean or are incorrect. State that you want evidence of their reasons for reducing the offer (eg a similar property has fallen in price, or the survey revealed a hidden problem) and wait for them to prove it to you.

Research the market
Do the same research that the buyers would have done. Check prices in the area and ask builders for a free quote, so that you can assess your position fully.

Get the buyer's documentation
Wait until after you have received the buyer's documentation and your own, and are ready to exchange contracts, before you make a final decision on whether or not to accept the offer. If you can see the buyer's side of the story, try and be reasonable. Maybe you could make a counter-offer which you think is fair. There are two sides to negotiating!

Consider your costs
If your conclusion is that the buyers' expectations are completely unrealistic and unreasonable, consider the chances that the same thing might happen again with another buyer and the costs you would lose on this sale.

Ask yourself: Which is more important to you, the sale or the money? With the facts on your side, you should find you are able to live with whatever decision you make.

Get advice from other readers
If you've been gazundered, why not ask for tips and advice from other readers using our Q&A tool? Or add a tip of your own to the comments box below!

Compare mortgages at

Spot a dodgy estate agent

Don't let a rogue estate agent waste your time, effort and money. Use this guide to the truth behind some typical estate agent lies:

"We give preferential treatment to sellers who use our legal and mortgage services."
It is illegal for any estate agent to make it a condition of the sale that you use their services and an estate agent who discriminates against you because you decline their services is breaking the law. And any estate agent worth his/her salt should be able to work quickly and efficiently with any lender, solicitor or broker.

"I can recommend a broker who has access to the best mortgage rates and a solicitor who knows the local market."
Don't listen to this twaddle: the estate agent has no idea about what the best mortgage rate for you will be. And solicitors do not need to know the local market to do a good job. The reason estate agents say this is because they get a cut for referring you on. You'd be much better off asking friends and family for objective recommendations.

"Trust me, a similar property on this road sold for £10,000 more last year."
You don't need to trust the estate agent, you can find out the facts yourself from the Land Registry. All you need is the postcode of the property and you can look up the actual prices paid on that road recently yourself here, for free. Never forget that it is in the estate agent's interests to push the price up as high as possible, because their fee is usually a percentage of the price paid. This might seem like good news if you are selling a property, but it's you who are inconvenienced if your property takes months to sell because they valued it too highly.

If you have a complaint where you believe the estate agent has acted contrary to their duties under legislation, you should contact your local trading standards department or the Office of Fair Trading.

If you want a recommendation for a good chain, why not ask for tips from other readers using our Q&A tool? Or add a tip of your own to the Comments box below!

Compare mortgages at 

Save on legal fees

When buying a home, you can save money and time by using an e-conveyancer. This web-based service will generate a list of competitive, exact quotes from a panel of over 150 conveyancing solicitor firms. Once you have selected your conveyancer, they can be instructed at the click of a button and your conveyancing will start immediately.

Don't be put off by the fact that you've never met – and are never likely to meet – a cheap lawyer. They only exist in cyberspace.


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