Things You Need To Know Before Selling A Property
For most of us, the main reason for selling is to finance a move to a new home – one that better suits our lifestyle.
So the sale needs to be seen as part of the bigger picture, a key stepping-stone to achieving the main goal.
It’s actually very helpful to put things in perspective as you prepare for the battle ahead. Because, when push comes to shove, it often becomes strategically necessary to lose a few minor skirmishes along the way in order to win the prize you really want – the successful completion of your sale and, ultimately, getting the new lifestyle you desire.
Before you sell
Before opening up your wallet to estate agents and solicitors, and inviting hordes of strangers to tramp through your home, some key questions need to be answered:
* Is it a buyers’ or sellers’ market?
In a booming market, properties sell themselves. Buyers shove each other aside competing to buy your highly desirable residence. Conversely, in a slow market serious buyers are in short supply, so sellers have to work harder.
But supply and demand are rarely perfectly balanced – the market normally tends to favour one side or the other.
At this stage it’s important to get a feel for the way the wind is blowing, as this will determine your negotiating strength as a seller. The media have a major influence here; screaming headlines have a tendency to distort or sensationalise things, but this can ultimately feed back into the real world affecting attitudes and behaviour.
The best months to sell are traditionally from March through to June. Or, failing that, early Autumn. But even in the gloomiest markets there are always some buyers about.
* Are you tied in?
Before selling, check whether you’re likely to suffer a penalty with your existing mortgage if you have to redeem it early.
This typically applies to fixed or discounted rates, which commonly run for 2, 3 or 5 year terms. If it does turn out that there’s a penalty, all may not be lost. Your mortgage may be ‘portable’ allowing you to take it with you and secure it on the new house.
* Selling a flat
Flats are a lot more complex from a legal perspective because of the lease. So as a seller, the sooner you start digging out information the better, so all the key documents are at hand when needed. If possible fish out the service charge accounts over the past few years together with the estimated charge for the current year, and make copies ready for the purchaser’s solicitor.
Often the questions asked by solicitors require a response from the freeholder/landlord or their management company. This is a common cause of delay. Each request for information can incur charges, so they may be discouraged from submitting some questions early in the process for fear of incurring multiple fees.
Where you’re on good terms with your freeholder/landlord (perhaps where you own a share of the freehold of the block) a spot of gentle chasing is often beneficial at this stage.
- Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)
Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) provide buyers with an energy rating for the building. By law you will need to get one from a certificated Domestic Energy Assessor before marketing your property. Based on basic information such as the thickness of the walls and type of heating system, the software will churn out an approximate rating, labelling it somewhere between A (good) down to G (could do better). They also suggest ways that the building’s energy consumption can be improved.
As a general rule, older properties are likely to fare less well in the energy stakes. But the fact is, for the vast majority of buyers, a property’s environmental impact comes somewhere near the bottom of the list, perhaps because energy efficiency is something that you can improve at a later date. Although there is no evidence that these have any great influence on people’s buying decisions, if your buyer is planning to let the property then an EPC (with a minimum ‘E’ rating) is essential before a residential property can be rented out.
Your estate agent will normally offer to arrange the EPC with no up-front fees, adding the cost to the final bill upon completion of the sale (or when the property is withdrawn from the market). There’s nothing to stop you checking prices in advance and arranging your own EPC – as doing it via estate agents tends to be relatively expensive.
Prospective sellers also sometimes arrange a basic survey known as a Home Condition Report which can later be used to speed things up by reassuring nervous buyers that the property is essentially sound.
Our next blog – coming soon …….
The art of answering legal questions
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