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12 mistakes to avoid when selling your home

Sell your home quicker and for the best price using our tips

Sellers that put their home on the market for more than it’s worth may have to wait an extra two months to sell, according to new research from Zoopla – and that’s not the only mistake that could hinder a quick sale.

It’s important to put your home on the market with a realistic price attached. Overpriced homes might not appear in buyers’ searches and could end up having to be reduced later on to secure a sale.

We take a look at Zoopla’s findings and other house-selling mistakes that could impact your sale this year.


1. Overpricing your home

Zoopla, a property listing website, analysed property listings in England and Wales over 2018 and compared this with the final prices the properties sold for listed on the Land Registry.

It found that homes marketed at a higher price than their eventual sales price took around two months longer to sell than ‘accurately priced’ listings.

Blackburn had the worst track record. On overpriced properties, it took 64 days longer (a total of 91 days) to receive an offer than the town-average of 70 days. Homes that were ‘accurately priced’ in the area went under offer in 27 days.

The table below shows the 20 towns where overpriced property made the biggest difference in the time it took to sell, according to Zoopla’s analysis.

Postal town Average price achieved Time to sell (accurately priced) Time to sell (overpriced) Median time to sell
Blackburn £   117,500 27 91 70
Oxford £   375,000 28 90 77
St Helens £   103,000 24 85 69
Blackpool £   105,000 26 86 77
Lancaster £   150,000 17 77 64
Rotherham £   125,000 15 74 48
Wirral £   182,000 14 73 55
Pontefract £   130,000 25 83 59
Hemel Hempstead £   330,000 18 75 67
Newcastle Upon Tyne £   145,000 20 76 58
Chesterfield £   150,000 14 70 44
Swansea £   142,000 16 70 56
Burnley £   100,000 28 81 61
Huddersfield £   142,500 17 70 49
Wakefield £   154,000 14 67 48
Carlisle £   127,750 12 65 50
Wigan £   128,000 19 72 49
Kings Lynn £   199,999 17 69 55
Preston £   152,500 17 69 57
Barrow-in-Furness £   120,000 22 73 62

Source: Zoopla

To ensure you set the right price for your home, seek valuations from different estate agents and do your research about what homes like yours have sold for in the past few months.

Find out more: use our guide on how much your house is worth to research prices in your area.

2. Choosing the first agent you meet

To set the right price for your home, you should avoid just sticking with the first agent that visits.

Instead, pick three different agents to come to your home and provide a valuation. Grill each one on why they think your home is worth the amount they’ve suggested, and ask for examples of how much similar local properties have sold for in the past few months.

You can use our estate agent comparison tool, provided by GetAgent, to explore agents in your area and how successful they have been in selling properties like yours.

Find out more: use our guide on how to find the best estate agent to check what research you need to do.

3. Forgetting online estate agents

The cost of selling your home can quickly mount up, especially if you need to buy somewhere at the same time. It’s worth looking for savings where you can.

Online estate agents could save you money on the cost of marketing and selling your home.

An online agent will often be cheaper, but you may have to pay a flat fee, regardless of whether you sell or not, and take a more hands-on approach to marketing.

Depending on the brand you choose, an online agent may offer a more basic service compared with a high street agency, so make sure you fully understand what is and isn’t included.

Find out more: use our guide on online estate agents to compare costs and weigh up the pros and cons of using one.

4. Putting off hiring a solicitor/conveyancer

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring a property from the existing owners to the new ones.

The conveyancer’s job involves drawing up contracts and transferring cash, so you might not think you need one from the start.

However, it’s a good idea to sort out a solicitor or conveyancer as soon as you put your home on the market, to avoid any delays.

Deciding which firm you want to go with and getting the appropriate paperwork in order will mean you are ready to move as soon as you get an offer.

Find out more: use our conveyancing guide to understand the process and the costs involved.

5. Picking a bad time to sell

Choosing the right time to put your home on the market will increase the chances of it selling sooner.

Research suggests March is the best time of year to list a property for a quick sale.

However, there are plenty of other factors in play, such as what’s going on in your local area or the wider economy. Brexit, for example, could make buyers more cautious about making offers.

A good indicator of how the market is performing in your area is to check if many properties have sold in the past three months and the price they fetched.

To see whether prices have recently gone up, down or stayed the same in your area, check out our interactive house prices map.

6. Delaying your mortgage application

Before you put your home on the market, you should make sure you can genuinely afford to buy a new one.

If the new property is more expensive, you should check how much you can borrow and which lender could offer the best deal.

Alternatively, if the new property you are buying costs the same or less, you should also investigate whether you can transfer your mortgage via a process called porting.

7. Failing to spruce up your property

Your property should look its best for pictures as well as for later valuations and viewings.

At the very least, make sure your home is clean, tidy and free of unnecessary clutter. This will ensure the property is a blank canvas for whoever comes to view it.

You may also want to consider minor home improvements, like painting your front door or tidying your garden, to give buyers a better first impression.

8. Using drab photos

The photos of your home play a huge part in attracting would-be buyers.

Take your time when selecting the images that will be used to advertise your home online and in marketing brochures.

If you don’t think the photos that have been taken are good enough, don’t be afraid to ask the estate agent for alternative options or to take some new ones.

9. Not emphasising key features

You should double-check that any marketing material emphasises the key features of your home, especially the online ad.

Words such as ‘garden’, ‘garage’, ‘parking’, ‘freehold’ and ‘detached’ are highly popular search terms, so make sure they’re included if applicable.

Moreover, play up the potential your property has. For example, let people know if you have planning permission for an extension.

10. Hiding major property flaws

If you think your property has major issues that could put buyers off, like a short lease or a structural defect, there’s no point trying to hide it.

Instead, try to face the problem head-on. When a buyer is viewing your home, answer their questions honestly.

You could pre-empt a structural defect, like subsidence, by doing a house survey to get independent confirmation of the extent of the problem and the potential repair costs.

Make sure your solicitor or conveyancer is also aware of any issues that could crop up.

If a buyer only finds out about problems later on, it could scupper your house sale late in the process.

11. Selecting the highest bidder

It may sound counter-intuitive, but if you receive multiple offers, you shouldn’t automatically go for the highest bidder.

While the sales price is important, you may also want to consider how likely the buyer is to delay or pull out, especially if you need to sell quickly.

First-time buyers, for example, aren’t reliant on other sales going through but may encounter problems getting a mortgage.

The safest buyers tend to be chain-free cash buyers, such as buy-to-let investors and home movers who’ve already sold their property and completed on their sale.

  • Find out more: use our step-by-step guide on how to sell your home to get a detailed overview of how to handle every stage of the process.

12. Letting your guard down when sending money

When selling your home, you might use email to communicate with the parties involved in the process – so you should be extra wary of conveyancing fraud.

Conveyancing fraud is where criminals hack into email chains between buyers, sellers and their solicitors or estate agents.

They then pose as the trusted professional and encourage the buyer or seller to transfer funds, such as the deposit or fee, into their account. If you’re asked for payment over email, it’s worth calling your solicitor or estate agent to confirm the details.

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