Selling your home is often described as one of life’s more stressful events. It’s not surprising – we understandably get incredibly attached to the place we call home, it’s admin heavy and, with a lot of money at stake, the pressure is on to do it successfully. But moving house is also an exciting opportunity to make changes in life and start a new chapter. And with the right advice and support, it doesn’t have to rank too high on the stress scale.
In the first of our new series of features about how to sell, buy and rent a property, we’ve sat down with Lars Gooch, operations director at Keatons, the east London estate agent that’s been helping buyers and sellers find their next dream home for nearly 25 years. Operating in Hackney, Bow, Shoreditch, Stratford, Royal Docks and Wanstead, Keatons has also branched out to the south-east and north-west of London, to Deptford and to Kentish Town.
With over 25 years’ experience in the London property market, Lars has a fully packed removal van’s worth of advice to share. Here, he reveals the insider expertise all homeowners can benefit from when they’re starting their selling journey.
The Insider: I’m thinking of selling my home, what’s the first thing I should do?
Lars Gooch: Before you even put your existing home on the market, think about your next move – where do you want to live, is it affordable, and how do the properties compare to what you’ve got now? Also consider if you’ll perhaps need to go into rented accommodation temporarily or buy straightaway, and factor in the costs of moving (conveyancing fees, agency fees, a removal company, updating the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
Some properties are offered chain free and often the agent will publicise this as a selling point. But if you know you will be in a chain – as you need to find somewhere else before you can actually move – then my advice is to choose an estate agent that has a specific department dedicated to sales progression. Many agents, especially online ones, don’t have this resource and the sale progression is left to the solicitor, other agents up or down the chain, or indeed the seller. None of those situations are ideal; what you want is your selling agent acting in your best interests at all times, so that means proactively chasing and handling, often complex, sales chains. Having an experienced and dedicated sales coordinator working on your side could make the difference on whether the chain completes or not. We’ve got more information about property chains and how they work here.
With regards to the fees involved, agents’ fees do vary but generally speaking, for a reputable high street agency, fees range from 1-2% plus VAT. The best way to know what a particular agent charges is to invite them round for a valuation, ask what their Terms are and discuss the finer details in person. If the agent really believes they can sell your property and it’s one they would love to have on their books then it’s possible you may be able to negotiate a little off their standard fees.
TI: How do I get my property valued and what should I expect?
LG: We recommend speaking to three local estate agents who have a strong presence in the area – we’ve got more detail on how to have your property valued and choose the right estate agent here [link to post #5]. To get a sense of how much your home is likely to be worth, read here.
TI: I have a mortgage, what do I need to know about it to move?
LG: Speak to your lender and check when your current mortgage deal ends as you might have early repayment penalty fees to factor in. Even if you intend to stick with the same lender, when you move house your existing mortgage deal ends and a new deal starts with your new property.
TI: I’m a leaseholder, what do I need to do?
LG: Most important is to check how many years are left on the lease. It’ll be on the lease document you received as part of the sale so check there first. If you can’t find it, you can ask the solicitor who dealt with the sale but they are more likely to charge you for this information.
You want there to be more than 80 years left on the lease, else it could negatively affect your home’s price and saleability. We’ve got more on the difference between leasehold and freehold here.
TI: I’m certain I want to sell my property, what should I do next?
LG: It’s always worth sprucing up your property. If possible, freshen up the décor but definitely clean all the rooms and get rid of any clutter. Make sure the rooms are furnished well but not over-crowded (it gives potential buyers a sense of space and helps them to envisage themselves living there), against a blank, empty or poorly furnished room. Fix anything broken, such as door handles, cupboard doors, and make sure the lights are working in every room – you want it to be bright and airy. ‘Bright and airy’ is an estate agent cliche for a reason!
If you have the budget, update the kitchen; new worktops go a long way to really giving a kitchen a fresh appeal. The kitchen/diner is probably the most important room when selling a property, so get the presentation as good as it can be.
Lastly, make sure the front of the property and the exterior present themselves as best they can. Check the windows and front door are in good condition – paint them if necessary, and if the property has a garden, cut the lawn and tidy it.
Have a read of our full checklist of everything you need to know about selling your home here.
TI: What paperwork do I need to have in place to sell my property?
LG: You’ll need an EPC if the current one is older than 10 years. An estate agent can check and organise this for you if required. We’ve got more details on this here.
TI: What should I do to prepare for viewings on my property?
LG: When it comes to showing the property you want to make it look and feel inviting, so little things such as the smell of freshly made coffee or bread really help – you don’t want any lingering pet or cigarette smells for sure. If it’s cold and you have one, light your fire, and whatever time of year it is, in the kitchen put some fresh fruit in a bowl and some flowers in a vase.
TI: I’ve had an offer on my property – what happens next?
LG: In most cases, there’s a straightforward process that a sale follows, and we go into it in more detail in this checklist. If you’d like to know more, Get Agent and the HomeOwners Alliance both have good blog posts on the subject.
My top two tips are: make sure you are given a key contact at the estate agency for who is going to be progressing your sale and chain (if applicable). You ideally want one named person or dedicated progression team that you can call and email when required; and instruct a solicitor you already know to be good or comes recommended. Having a proactive and responsive solicitor can be key to getting the sale completed in good time. Like estate agents, not all are as competent as you’d expect them to be!
With both of these in place you should then be kept fully informed throughout the sale and have two professionals ON YOUR SIDE!
TI: I’m not getting any offers, what can I do?
LG: First question to ask yourself is are you getting viewings and if so, what is the feedback? If you’re having lots of viewings but no offers then it’s possible that there is something about the property that buyers aren’t quite liking. Speak to the agent and get some honest feedback as it might be something that you can change.
If you aren’t getting many (or any) viewings, then it’s quite likely the property has been over valued and the asking price is out of synch with the current market. The first few weeks of marketing are crucial, so speak to your agent within that initial two- to four-week period about what they advise. Do your own research on the portals to see what’s selling in your local area and what’s sticking around. Your agent should be able to give you clear and knowledgable advice but if you feel you aren’t getting that then look to get a second/third opinion and change agents if necessary. You will most likely have to give your current agent a notice period to terminate their agreement, so check those Terms first before moving to another agency or you could be liable for two sets of fees.
Link to other blogs in series:
#2 Buying a new home – all you need to know
#3 Landlords – all you need to know about renting your property
#4 Renters – all you need to know about renting your home
#5 All you need to know about how to choose an estate agent