Selling a home

You are thinking of selling your home - but however fine it may be inside, if you haven't got that special kerbside appeal then you'll probably never get anybody over the threshold to see exactly what they are missing.

The majority of home-buyers always take a cursory look at a property for sale and if they don't like what they see on the outside they simply drive on by.

So put yourself into their shoes - take a critical walk around your property and make a detailed list of what requires attention.

Windows, doors, soffits and fascias are obvious focal points to consider. If they look tired and dowdy then give them a coat of paint. Replace any rotten timber or, better still, install uPVC alternatives.

Obviously it will not be cheap but an investment of this nature can increase the value of a property and possibly add hundreds of pounds to the asking price.

However, if you are replacing windows and doors, make sure they are in keeping with the style of the house.

Ensure any cracked or leaking gutters and downpipes are replaced. If they have caused blemishes or stains on the brickwork or rendering then you'll need to use a stiff brush or a lick of masonry paint, whichever is appropriate.

Check that garden gates are fully functional and can be positively shut so that they don't swing open a few seconds later. And ensure that fences are totally secure without panels or palings missing.

Keep lawns neatly cut and carefully edged, and free from leaves and other debris. Also pay special attention to paths and patios, making sure they are clean and tidy and free from weeds.

All sheds should look well maintained - no flapping roofing felt or missing barge boards. Make sure they are well organised inside and that tools and garden equipment are neatly stacked and stored.

Finally, get rid of all rubbish and garden refuse. If necessary hire a skip and do the job properly.

Remember, first impressions last. So a few hours spent in preparation can pay major dividends in the long run.

Consumer Focus advice

Consumer Focus Scotland, the statutory organisation campaigning for a fair deal for consumers, offers the following advice on selling property:

You can advertise and market your home yourself or use a selling agent, such as an estate agent or solicitor. Most solicitors who do residential conveyancing also provide a full estate agency service.

If you own your home jointly with one or more other people, you must get their consent before you can sell.

Before you put your home on the market, you must possess a Home Report. You should contact your solicitor or estate agent to arrange for a Home Report to be prepared. You should shop around for the best Home Report deal, or ask your solicitor or estate agent to do so, taking into account factors such as the price, payment arrangements and which lenders will accept a survey report prepared by the Home Report surveyor (rather than insisting on an independent survey).

As soon as you decide to sell your home and commission a Home Report, you should discuss your plans with your solicitor. The solicitor can then inspect your title deeds and have them available for the buyer's solicitor to view, and carry out local authority searches to make sure there are no outstanding notices, orders or proposals affecting theproperty. You should make sure that all necessary documents, such as guarantees and warranties, are available.

If you have a mortgage, you should also check with your lender how much money is needed to pay off your loan on the property.

Before you put your home on the market, you should also:

  • Consider whether it is worth doing any repairs, maintenance or redecorating
  • Make sure that everything is in working order

If you have had any changes done that required planning permission or building control consent, check that you have the necessary documents and make your solicitor aware of these.

If you have had any remedial treatment done that is covered by a guarantee or insurance, check that the certificates or policies are available and valid.

When you put your home on the market, you or your agent must provide, on request, a copy of your Home Report to a prospective buyer within nine calendar days. You may make a reasonable charge to cover the costs of copying and postage. To ensure that your Home Report includes current information, it must be no more than 12 weeks old when you put your home on the market. It would be sensible to include in your Home Report the surveyor's standard mortgage valuation report, as this will be useful to potential buyers.

You may take your home off the market for up to four weeks any number of times and put it back on the market without having to obtain a new Home Report. In a slow market, you may need to "refresh" the report as buyers may be less willing to rely on a report that is more than 12 weeks old.

You can use an estate agent or a solicitor as a selling agent. An estate agent will prepare the property description for your home, advertise and market it for sale, deal with enquiries, advise you on offers and pass any formal offers to your solicitor. It is a good idea to find an agent who is a member of the National Association of Estate Agents.

You should shop around and ask for a written estimate of the total charges, including commission, advertising and VAT. A solicitor will either advertise and market your property or register it with a local solicitors' property centre. Some solicitors may charge a lower commission or offer a package to cover selling and conveyancing for your sale and also your purchase, so you should shop around and ask for estimates. If you engage a solicitor, they must write to you at the earliest opportunity with an estimate of the total fee, including VAT and outlays, or the basis on which the fee will be charged.

If you do not use a selling agent and instead market your own house, you will need to compile a Home Report by instructing a chartered surveyor registered with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to prepare a single survey with an energy report, and you must complete a property questionnaire. If you do your own advertising and marketing, it is not usually sensible to do the legal work yourself without employing a solicitor, as your lender is unlikely to accept this.

If enough people formally notify your solicitor or estate agent that they are interested in your property, you can fix a closing date, which is the time and date by which formal written offers must be given to your solicitor. If you use an estate agent, the offers will usually be sent to your solicitor. If there is little interest, or the market is very quiet, you will have to decide how long to wait for expressions of interest to gather or whether to let it be known that you will consider an individual offer.

You do not have to accept the highest offer, or indeed any offer at all.

Usually, the offer will include conditions to suit the person making the offer. These would include the date of entry, any items to be included in the price and technical conditions based on, for example, the information in your property questionnaire and any associated planning permission, building control consent, guarantees and warranties. If the highest offer comes with conditions you don't want to accept then your solicitor will find out whether there is any room for negotiation. If there is not, you will have to decide whether to accept one of the lower offers or re-advertise.

When you have decided, your solicitor will issue a letter known as a qualified acceptance, which states that you will accept the offer as long as certain conditions are changed. Usually, there will then be an exchange of letters (missives) in which your solicitor will try to vary any unacceptable conditions. When both sides agree, the exchange ends with a concluding missive making a binding agreement between you.

Once the missives are concluded, your solicitor will:

  • Do the conveyancing, which is the legal transfer of the title (ownership) from you to the buyer.
  • Agree the disposition (the document that transfers the title of the property from you to the buyer), which is drafted by the buyer's solicitor.
  • If you have a mortgage, arrange for the repayment and discharge of your loan over the property.

Just before the settlement, you should sign the disposition and arrange to hand over the keys.

The costs of selling your home include your estate agent's or solicitor's commission and marketing outlays and your solicitor's conveyancing fees and outlays. If you are buying another home, some solicitors may charge a lower commission or offer a package to cover selling and conveyancing for your sale and also your purchase.

For more information about buying and selling, visit the Scottish Govt website.