10 things you should know before your house goes on the market

Holly Thomas / 17 January 2014 ( 11 March 2019 )

If you're thinking of selling your home, here are a few tricks of the trade you need to know before putting your house on the market to ensure all runs smoothly.

The latest official figures from the Office of National Statistics show average house prices in the UK have increased by 2.5% in the year to December 2018.

But while prices were still rising, the annual growth rate has slowed – in fact this was the lowest annual rate since July 2013 when it was 2.3%.The ONS says this has been driven by a slowdown in the south and east of England. In London prices fell by 0.6% over and the year, and in the north east prices fells by 1% in the same period. 

When the housing market is sluggish, it makes sense to look at the ways you can maximise your chances of selling. Here are 10 things you should do before your house goes on the market:

1. Check its kerb appeal

Stand outside your home and see how it looks. Would it look appealing in a photograph? If you need to, paint or clean the front door and tidy the garden – especially the front. Get gutters cleared if they're full of leaves or moss, and if your gate or fence is broken, get it fixed.  

5 ways to add kerb appeal

If there are any communal areas make sure they are kept clean and clutter free.

2. Declutter inside

Improve lighting in your home where possible and ensure the windows are clean. Keep personal knick-knacks to a minimum and put clutter away – in the attic if necessary - or if you have bigger pieces of furniture you're hanging on to, put them into storage until the house is sold. 

How to declutter your home

3. Make your home sparkle

Give the whole house a deep clean. Dust everything, including light fittings and skirting boards, vacuum every nook and cranny and air all rooms.

Spring cleaning tips

4. Fix the little things

When you have lived in a property for a long time it is easy to overlook the small things which somehow you never got around to fixing. Even if it’s just a leaky tap - first impressions count. 

Avoid a DIY disaster

5. Be honest

If the property is unmodernised then market it as such. There are plenty of people looking for a fixer upper and this will be your target buyer.

Emphasise the potential where you can. For example, take up rugs hiding original features like wooden floors or tiles. The most important rooms are the kitchen and bathrooms: even if they're very outdated, make sure they are spotless and odour free.

Revamp your kitchen on a budget

6. Choose an agent wisely

Agents don't charge for valuations, so try to get three as a minimum.

Read our tips on choosing an estate agent.

Look up which agents have sold the most properties in your area by searching on the likes of Rightmove and Zoopla. Successful agents will know the buyers looking in that area and what they are prepared to pay. Also see if one agent specialises in houses like yours. 

7. Negotiate on fees

When it comes to the agents’ fee it is important to compare agents’ rates. You could get an agreed fixed fee rather than commission. A contract period of no more than eight weeks should keep them on their toes.

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8. Price it right

Getting the asking price is crucial, of course. Don’t pick the agent just because it offers the highest valuation. Sometimes a lower price will attract more interest. Some agents hold an open house, so all potential buyers visit on the same day, creating a buzz about the property and encouraging them to put in an offer.  

Avoid the six sneaky tricks estate agents might try.

9. It’s all in the presentation

Once an agent has been instructed, make sure they produce a quality brochure touching on all the key points.

Kate Faulkner at Propertychecklists.co.uk says you need a minimum of 20 good quality photographs. Most people view online first so cater for them with lots of great pictures.

What is Japanese Knotweed and how could it affect the sale of a house?

10. Cherish your buyer

Around a third of sales fall through, so once you have found a buyer don’t hang around. Instruct a conveyancing solicitor so a deal moves as quickly as possible and arrange your new mortgage if you need one for your next purchase.

Don't let a good buyer go and be prepared to compromise for a cash buyer. Be ready to rent for a while if need be.

Your consumer questions answered 

The pavement outside our house has been damaged by the builders replacing our roof. The council wants us to pay for the paving repairs. Should we foot the bill or is it the builders’ responsibility?

Councils have strict obligations to maintain pavements and, if the damage is causing a danger to the public, they are obliged to repair it. The council can either claim this cost from you, as the owner of the ‘neighbouring property’ that has caused the damage, or from the builder, under the Highways Act 1980.

‘You could inform the council that your builders caused the damage and supply the relevant contact details,’ advises Helen Brown, partner at law firm Slater Heelis. ‘But I expect you will be the “easier” target and the council will continue to claim the cost from you. The builders should be insured for this, so ask them to make a claim on their insurance and reimburse you, or to pay the council direct.’ If the builders prove difficult, you could consult your insurers. They’ll either pay the council or, if you have legal expenses cover, pay for a solicitor to pursue the building firm to cover the cost. If this is less than £10,000, you could go through the small claims court.

By Hannah Jolliffe, consumer rights journalist

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.