Sound advice for first-time sellers

Andrew MilnesBusiness Principal Mortgage Advice Bureau,

Q. We bought our first home just over five years ago and have decided to sell and buy somewhere bigger. However, neither of us have ever sold a property before, so we don't know what to do and we've heard a lot of horror stories about how stressful it is to buy and sell at the same time. What can we do to make the process run more smoothly?

A. While selling a property is a complex undertaking, it will give you some comfort to bear in mind that, on average, around one hundred thousand homes a month are sold across the UK. So, with the right team working on your behalf, there's no reason at all why yours shouldn't be one of them.

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In terms of helping the process to run more smoothly, there are a few things you can do which can help to make a real difference. Firstly, before you even appoint an estate agent to value your home, take professional advice about your next mortgage so that you know how much you can borrow for your onward purchase.

It can take time to gather together crucial paperwork that you'll need for your mortgage application in order to prove your income, particularly if you're looking to increase your level of borrowing. It is best to start the process as soon as you possibly can. You can always liaise with your mortgage adviser as the transaction progresses once you have a market value for the property so that they can adjust the numbers, but this way at least you will know what you can afford and how much you'll need for other expenses such as Stamp Duty, legal fees and removal fees, all of which it's best to know up front so that you have a clear budget.

Next, find yourself a good estate agent. Although many people believe that an agent's main job is to get you a buyer, an estate agents real job starts once a buyer is found, as they will need to nurture the sale through to the point of exchange. And that can be trickier than it sounds. Personal recommendation is a great way to find a good agent, but failing that, you might like to check out reviews online, for example on FeeFo or Trust Pilot.

Also, aim to get three estate agents to value your home, and ask them to provide examples of other, similar properties that they've sold within the last three months to support the asking price they are recommending.

Another top tip is to appoint a solicitor at the same time you appoint your estate agent. Why? Well, the process of compiling the paperwork, or Sales Pack, ready for when a buyer is found can take some time, on average between four to six weeks. What you don't want to do is start having to prepare your Sales Pack the day you receive an offer on your property, as otherwise you will have introduced a minimum of a months' delay before you've even started. Dig out things such as warranties or guarantees for any building work you've had done and a copy of the lease if you're selling a leasehold property, and get all of that across to your solicitor as early as

possible. These are the sorts of things that can hold up the legal process, so the more organised you are early on will pay dividends in terms of reducing time and stress levels at a later date.

Finally, the best advice I can give you is to resist the temptation to go ‘house shopping' and fall in love with a property until such times as you've at least got second viewings booked on the property that you're selling and have got your mortgage approved in principle. Until such times as you have both a buyer and a mortgage, you can't really make an offer to purchase something else. You'll also be the sort buyer sellers want.