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It’s easy to underestimate the costs of selling a home; many factors are involved, such as estate agents’ fees, solicitors’ fees, conveyancing fees, removal fees, legal fees and stamp duty. Selling costs can really mount up, so it pays to calculate them well in advance when planning to sell your home.
At the time of writing, July 2020, there’s a ‘stamp duty holiday’ in place to try to stimulate the housing market after the coronavirus lockdown. We’ll tell you more about that, and also about how much you might expect stamp duty to add to your costs of selling a home in normal times.
What Costs Are There When Selling a Home?
There are two main categories of expense when selling a home. One is the unavoidable legal expenses, which you have to allow for first. The other is the additional expenses which may or may not factor in your sale, but which you will probably have to take into account in the majority of cases – moving costs, for instance. Though they are not actually part of the cost of selling a home, you will almost certainly have to allow for them if you plan to move somewhere else.
One of the unavoidable costs is an EPC, or Energy Performance Certificate. You must order an EPC before your property is put on the market, a must have the EPC produced by an accredited assessor.
The EPC gives the buyer data about the energy efficiency of your property, estimated costs of energy to heat and light the property, and recommendations on how the buyer could save money and reduce energy consumption.
You can organise an EPC assessment yourself from a local service provider, or you can arrange it through your estate agent. TIP – an estate agent’s EPC assessor is likely to give you a quicker result.
The assessor will examine the property’s loft insulation, boiler, hot water tank, radiators, windows, and so on, and will award a certificate rated from A for the most energy-efficient to G for the least.
AN EPC will typically cost you between £75+VAT and £150+VAT, but don’t be tempted to skip it as you can be fined if you sell or rent a property without one. Landlords are not allowed to let a property with an EPC rating below E.
EPCs are stored digitally by the government1 and last for 10 years.
In Scotland sellers are required to provide a Home Report2 to buyers. The Home Report includes three separate reports; a Property Questionnaire; a Single Survey; and an Energy Report.
Estate agent fees
It’s not compulsory to sell your property through an estate agent, but between 95 percent and 97 percent of house sellers do use traditional High Street estate agents. Most of these charge a percentage based commission and have a ‘no sale no fee’ policy, so it doesn’t cost you anything if the property does not sell.
A typical estate agent’s commission for sole agency is 1 to 1.5 percent, plus VAT, though if you use more than one estate agent it’s normal for you to be charged more like 2-3 percent. Fees should always be quoted including VAT at 20 percent.
As a rough guide, on a property which sells £200,000, the agent’s fee at 1 percent would be £2000, plus 20 percent VAT would come to £2,400. Commission rates are often less on more expensive properties.
It’s always worth negotiating an estate agent’s commission, but not necessarily always best to go for the lowest charges; find out exactly what you’re getting for your money, such as preparation of property details, placement on property websites, property photography, For Sale boards and so on.
You are not obliged to use estate agents’ in-house services such as conveyancing or arranging mortgages, but if you consider doing so, make sure to compare rates.
An increasingly popular option (though still only around 5 percent of the market) is the online estate agent.
These services, which may or may not have bricks-and-mortar offices, often charge a fixed sum rather than a percentage commission on sales. Fees are typically around £600-£1500 including VAT.
While this one-off payment might seem like an attractive option, there are two main problems with online or hybrid estate agents. One is that the one-off fee is not refundable if the property is not sold; the other is that the proportional of properties they sell may be as low as 50 percent (though some claim more like 80 percent).
If you fail to sell through an online or hybrid agency, that money may be wasted, and you may then have to pay again to sell through a conventional estate agent.
A third option is to sell by auction. There are normally two charges involved in this route: an auction entry fee of anything from zero to £3,000 plus VAT, pus a commission on the sale of around 2-3 percent plus VAT.
Some property auctioneers claim to sell with no commission charge, but in this case the charge goes to the buyer, so bids are likely to be lower – the result being that the seller still pays, though indirectly.
Conveyancing, the legal charges involved in a property transaction, typically costs between £550 and £1,000. Some solicitors charge a percentage of the value of the property, some a fixed fee.
Conveyancing fees can vary according to whether you are buying or selling (which is generally cheaper), whether the property is freehold or leasehold, and whether or not the property is mortgaged.
If you are selling and buying at the same time, it’s usually more practical and cost effective to use the same solicitor for both.
A solicitor’s quotes should take into account basic fees for their time and work, plus disbursements for search fees, stamp duty calculations and so on.
In Scotland, rules are somewhat different as many solicitors also function as estate agents.
You can do your own conveyancing, if you enjoy pastimes like bankruptcy searches, drainage searches, land registration, stamp duty calculation and the like – but it involves a shocking amount of effort, and is legally risky if you don’t have indemnity insurance in case anything goes wrong.
Mortgage exit fee
If the property you are selling is mortgaged and you wish to pay the mortgage off, you may have to pay a Mortgage Exit Administration Fee (MEAF) of around £50 to £300.
The MEAF is supposed to cover the administrative cost of closing a mortgage. In 2007 a Financial Services Authority investigation3 ruled that increases in some MEAFs were unfair, and some lenders no longer change them.
A MEAF is not the same as an early redemption penalty (the fee lenders can charge when a mortgage debt is repaid before the end of the mortgage term). The amount of any mortgage redemption penalty should be detailed in the terms of your mortgage, and could be anything from 1 percent to 5 percent of the original loan amount. If the early redemption charge seems unreasonably high you should complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service4.
Who Pays The Stamp Duty When Selling a House?
Stamp Duty, or to be strictly accurate Stamp Duty Land Tax5, is paid to HM Revenue & Customs by the buyer of a property. It can be a major factor in buying costs and depends on the location of the property, its sale price and whether it is the buyer’s first property.
Normally the buyer’s solicitor takes care of stamp duty payment as part of the process of purchase.
Scotland and Wales have different rates of stamp duty compared to England and Northern Ireland. In Scotland it is known as Land and Buildings Transaction Tax6 (LBTT), rates are similar but thresholds differ, while in Wales it is known as Land Transaction Tax, and both rates and thresholds vary.
From 8th July 2020 – 31st March 2021, stamp duty relief is in effect on properties costing less than £500,000, unless it is a second or buy-to-let home. For additional properties the stamp duty rate of three percent is levied on properties worth over £500,000.
The current stamp duty thresholds and rates are:
Over £1.5m: 12%
The HMRC website has a stamp duty calculator7 which will work out the SDLT payable for most transactions. You should check the guidance if you are uncertain about how SDLT applies to your purchase or if you believe it may qualify for a relief.
There are different rules for a corporate body purchasing residential property for more than £500,000, and there are some exemptions, such as building companies buying an individual’s home, employers buying an employee’s house, local authorities making compulsory purchases and right to buy properties.
It used to be possible to reduce your stamp duty bill by subtracting the value of removable fittings from the total price of the property, but this practice was widely abused so it’s now subject to much greater scrutiny by HMRC.
Do You Have To Pay Any Tax When Selling A Home?
In some circumstances you will have to pay Capital Gains Tax when selling your home.
The amount you pay is calculated from the gain in value since you bought the home – so for a residential property you may have to pay 18 percent of the gain in value (not the total value) in CGT.
Usually CGT doesn’t apply when you sell your only or main home, or if you sell a property that was occupied by a dependent relative, but it may apply if:
• The home includes a lot of land of 5000 square metres or more, or other buildings
• Part of the home is sub-let
• Part of the home is exclusively business premises
• The property was bought for gain (i.e. you are a property developer)
• It is not your main residence
However, you have an allowance of £12,000 capital gains before any tax is to be paid, and this is per person, so a couple can both claim this allowance.
Calculating your CGT liability can be tricky as it depends partly on your normal tax rate. If you are a higher-rate taxpayer, subtract your CGT allowance from your gain, and your bill will be 28 percent of the remainder.
For basic rate taxpayers, you need to calculate whether your gain, minus allowance, takes you into a higher tax band will lift your income into the higher-rate band. Mounts below the band are taxed at 20 percent, and above it, at 28 percent.
An independent financial advisor will help you to calculate your CGT, and can advise on reduction techniques such as claiming a spouse’s allowance, delaying a sale until the next tax year, or nominating the property as your main residence.
What Other Costs Are Involved With Selling A Home?
While there are certain unavoidable costs of selling a home, such as getting an EPC, other costs are if not unavoidable then highly likely. For instance, you will probably have to spend some money preparing your home for sale, and some moving to a new one.
Preparing for Sale
Though not strictly speaking part of the cost of selling a house, preparation for sale will probably be an additional expense in most cases.
A YouGov survey indicated that the average spend on preparing a home for selling is £3,000, with the most popular renovations including:
• New kitchen – 22%
• New garden – 20%
• New bathroom – 16%
• Extension – 10%
• Loft conversion – 7%
But it’s often argued that it’s a mistake to spend a large amount of money on say, a new bathroom, kitchen or central heating. These are features the buyer would typically rather sort out themselves, and you will probably not recover the amount you spend on them.
Much less expensive measures you can undertake are a deep clean, preferably done by a specialist cleaning company, and minor DIY jobs such as fixing broken windows, sticking doors or cracked paving slabs, clearing untidy gardens and giving woodwork a lick of paint.
Again, not strictly speaking part of the cost of selling a house, but in most cases you will have to budget for the costs of moving to a new property.
Obviously this is something you can do entirely on your own, if you have the time to pack and transport all your property, and take into account the cost of vehicle hire, packaging material, and goods in transit insurance.
If you choose to use a firm of professional movers, charges may vary according to:
• The amount of property to be packed and moved, usually calculated by the number of bedrooms
• Whether you do the packing yourself
• Distance you are moving
• Temporary storage charges
• Accessibility of the old and new properties
So while it’s hard to estimate removal costs, they could be anything from £200 to £2,000 or more.
So, How Much Does It Actually Cost To Sell Your Home?
So, let’s do a quick calculation based on an average property and the most likely costs involve in selling. This doesn’t take into account possible extras such as a remortgage valuation survey or portage fee (£450), or an arrangement charge on a new mortgage (£1,500).
Estate agent fees: £2,500
Obviously this is all highly variable depending on your circumstances, and mainly on the value of your property if you use an estate agent and pay a commission based on property value. But working from these tips you should be able to calculate your likely cost of selling a house, and budget in a way which will avoid you getting any nasty shocks when you sell.
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