Selling your home to buy a new home (UK)
November 11, 2019 8:00 AM   Subscribe

We are considering selling our London flat in order to buy one that will better suit our needs. We've never done this before. (We were first-time buyers when we bought our current flat.) I have questions about the timing of selling and buying, as well as choosing an estate agent. I'd also love any general advice from people who have been through this process in the UK. (UK-centered answers only, please)

TIMING: We haven't yet found the flat we want to purchase. It feels weird to put our current flat on the market before we know what we're moving to-- but we can't buy the next flat until we sell this one. How do we square the circle in terms of timing?

ESTATE AGENTS: If we market our flat through one estate agent, the commission will be lower -- but we'll presumably reach fewer buyers. How do we decide whether to go with one sole agent or multiple?

GENERAL: Is there any other advice you'd offer for somebody selling their first home to buy their second? (We are buying in London as well as selling here, by the way.)
posted by yankeefog to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Firstly: the very best of luck. I last moved 13 years ago and still get sweaty palms if I think about it too much.

Timing: there are things called "bridging loans" if you end up with a gap between buying one property and selling the other. They're not ideal but are available as a last resort.

Agents: even in 2006 when I last moved, most people looked at Rightmove first, and I imagine that is even more the case now, so the most important thing is that your agent gets you onto the right sites promptly. A nicely situated shop window can also be handy to pick up local potential buyers. I wouldn't appoint multiple agents unless the flat remains unsold for a long time.

General: hang in there and try to look after yourselves. It may all go completely smoothly for you but it can be quite stressful.
posted by altolinguistic at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2019

Estate agents - I wouldn't worry. Having bought a new house this year I exclusively looked through Zoopla and Rightmove. Their search is so good that an agency was never really a factor.
posted by teststrip at 8:14 AM on November 11, 2019

I've never known anyone to use more than one agent -- I'd just stick with one as it's all about online anyway. You can do it a bit more DIY and get a bigger commission (i.e., Purple Bricks) but that has pros and cons.

Some people get an offer on their flat first; some don't. It really depends on how quickly you think your place might sell -- it is slow at the minute. I'd call a few local agents (look for ones that market properties like yours well) and have them come round for a free quote. They will have a good idea of whether you should put your place on the market first or not.

Good luck!
posted by heavenknows at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2019

"TIMING" - Its totally finr to both try to sell and buy at the same time. In fact some vendors won't take you seriously as a potential buyer if they know you need to sell your property but you haven't got it on the market, as they know you'll be a source of delays. Once you agree a sale or purchase you will be under some pressure to complete the chain by sorting the other transaction, so you need to stay strong. Don't feel forced into settling for a lower offer or overpaying if you're buying. It can be tricky. Its totally normal for people to be waiting around for "weeks" after they agree a purchase/sale so the other person can get their purchase/sale arranged. This is one of the reasons a "chain" with a few transactions all reliant on each other can end up taking months to get sorted.

"ESTATE AGENTS" online online online. They need to be listing your house on rightmove, and possibly other sites too but that's the big one. They should do everything for free until you have sold, don't pay for listings or photos. They will usually have a clause in their contract saying their percentage fee is due even if they didn't introduce your buyer, so if you list with 2 estate agents you might end up paying them both. And if you change agents you might still be liable to pay the 1st if the 2nd sells it within some period (eg 90 days). So read the small print. As many of the estate agent services have lessened in an online age make sure you shop around for a low fee, unless you really value a local presence and need help preparing the flat for sale.

GENERAL: Declutter and clean. Seriously. People that view properties can be staggeringly unimaginative and won't be able to visualise the underlying property itself. So empty everything you can't possibly live without and present an extremely clean and extremely blank canvas. Consider painting walls with a "near white" neutral colour and fitting higher wattage led bulbs. Both are extremely cheap ways to make the flat feel bigger, cleaner and lighter. A flat that presents well for sale isn't necessarily one thats pleasant to live in, it can be a bit show-roomy. But we raise the "valuation" of our house by £15k when we more or less emptied it and paid someone £750 to paint all the walls and woodwork. As we only lived in the "compromise" for about 8 weeks that was a lot of money "earned" for not much loss in the big scheme of things.

Good luck! Buying/Selling in the UK can be a massive pain as nothing is fixed for so much of the process, people can walk away without consequence, and the "chain" aspect means it can take months from start to finish. But... it can be done! ;)
posted by samworm at 8:23 AM on November 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Timing. I would consider it normal/optimal to put your flat on the market, accept an offer, get a mortgage approved in principle and then start looking for a new place, putting an offer in on the one that you like. Some people will start looking before they have accepted an offer on their place, but then their offer on their new place is less likely to be accepted. If you start looking before you've even put your flat on the market then you're not likely to be taken seriously as a buyer.

My experience of buying and selling is that you're looking at 3 months and upwards to get through the whole thing so any timing mismatch at the beginning doesn't matter all that much in the long run.

Estate agent. Any estate agent that offers a reasonable valuation and markets online (Rightmove) is fine. Nowadays I don't think there's any advantage to having more than one, unless you're in the multi-million pound market. Have a look yourself at the recent sales in your area, and what's currently on offer, and sold subject to contract so you can take a decent view of what they suggest on valuing. Avoid Foxtons. I used Purplebricks on the recommendation of a local friend and found them to be as good as advertised.

General. Agree with advice to declutter, sell a lifestyle (so in your case either young professionals), have great photos taken and then make it look like the photos before every viewing. Take as much as possible off the kitchen worktops and bathroom surfaces. It really works, or at least if you don't do this someone will assume that the place is a 'bargain' and offer a low price.

samworm mentioned about chains. You'll be in a chain of at least 3 people - the people buying your flat (your buyer), you, and the people you are buying from (your vendor). The chain may well end up longer unless you are buying a probate sale and you have a first-time buyer. Longer chains are more problematic in that there are more people to coordinate, but the usual way it works is that everyone in the chain exchanges contracts on the same day, at which point you are all financially committed , and then complete on another day together. Unless you make other arrangements your completion date is your moving house date, certainly you'll need to be out of your existing flat on that date. Traditionally completion is two weeks after exchange, but this is subject to negotiation across the chain.

About one in three chains falls apart or encounters other problems, but this does not mean one in three people cannot sell their property and buy another. My first buyer for my house dropped out after the survey, but I found another one very quickly. There will always be another buyer, and another property to buy.

Ask local friends if they can recommend a solicitor. Otherwise I used one of the big box conveyancing firms and it was straightforward and easy to manage online. You will need to be on top of everything and chase people thoroughly. I swear it never feels as though anyone else in the chain, or who you are all paying large sums of money to help you, is as committed to getting it finished quickly as they should be.

Best of luck!
posted by plonkee at 11:46 AM on November 11, 2019

1. wait until after christmas, because the market will be dead right now - by Feb/March, things should be picking up - you can spend the time now thinking & planning & looking at your target areas etc - get 100% clear about what you want to buy, how much it will cost & where it is - make sure you know how you're raising the money for the deposit as well as the mortgage itself

2. when you're ready to go, get cracking on & do it like you mean it - if you're looking at a shortlist of say 10-15 properties in mid-March that fit your criteria, and you have your lender already on board in principle, you should be moving in around June - get the rest of your life straight so that you're free to move & don't have other distractions

3. don't dick anyone about - buying & selling brings out the absolute worst in some people - don't be one of them
posted by rd45 at 4:43 AM on November 12, 2019

Thank you, everybody -- that's a tremendous amount of helpful advice. I've reread this whole thread multiple times and I know I'm going to return to it as we work our way through this process.
posted by yankeefog at 7:58 AM on November 15, 2019

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