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Buying and selling a house at the same time

The process of buying and selling a house at the same time can be complicated. The dreaded property chain can cause chaos, tripping you up at the last minute. Here we take a look at the steps involved and how to make sure things run smoothly.

selling and buying a house

In an ideal world you’d sell your home the minute you put it on the market and then have all the time you need to find your next dream home while your buyers wait patiently until you’re ready to move. But unfortunately, in most cases, it involves buying and selling a house at the same time. And this results in a housing chain. While not uncommon, property chains can cause headaches. So if you’re planning on buying and selling a house at the same time make sure you’re prepared.

Here’s our step-by-step guide to buying and selling a home at the same time.

1. Get your property valued

Before you start making plans for buying and selling a house at the same time you need to get a clear idea of how much your current home is worth. So start online with our free instant valuation tool. Then get at least three local estate agents to give you their valuations. This is a chance for them to apply their local knowledge and take account of any unique features or home improvements which add value to the property so you can get the most accurate figure. Some agents are renowned for giving an overly high valuation in order to gain your business. However by getting three agents round you are hopefully reducing the risk of setting off with an asking price you have to reduce a few weeks down the line.

2. Work out your finances

If you’re asking how to sell and buy a house at the same time, the next step is to get your head around your finances. This means you’ll need to work out how much can you afford to spend on your next house and how much equity you have in your current home.

Then there is the chain to consider. When you exchange contracts on the property you want to buy, you’ll need to pay a deposit. You should exchange on the same day as your buyer exchanges, and therefore you’re able to use the deposit they pay you to pay your deposit on the property you’re buying.

However, if your new house is more expensive than your current house it’s likely that the deposit required will be more than the deposit you receive. If this is the case, it may be that your solicitor can agree with your seller’s solicitor that the smaller deposit will be enough. But if this isn’t possible, you’ll need to find the extra cash. It’s worth checking to see if you’re financially able to do this before you start the process.

Other costs when buying and selling a house at the same time

You need to factor in additional costs such as stamp duty. You should be able to absorb this into your mortgage borrowing unless you’re a cash buyer. It can be a substantial cost so you need to be aware of it. Our stamp duty calculator is free, quick and easy to use.

There will also be estate agent fees for selling and a range of conveyancing fees to process the legal transaction of buying and selling. If you’re looking at buying and selling a house at the same time and want more information about the costs read our guides What is the cost of selling your home? and the costs of buying a house

It’s also a sensible move to factor in some extra cash into your budget to allow for any hiccups along the way rather that pushing your budget to the maximum limit.

3. Speak to a mortgage broker

A mortgage broker can help guide you to finding the right solution if you’re planning on buying and selling a house at the same time. That may involve remortgaging or porting your mortgage. The latter involves transferring your existing mortgage to your new property.

However even if you can port your mortgage, you may be able to find a better deal with a new mortgage and lender. So it’s a good idea to speak to a mortgage broker. Just bear in mind that if you take out a new mortgage before your current one ends you may need to pay an early repayment charge.

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4. Get your EPC

Next you’ll need to make sure you have an EPC or Energy Performance Certificate. EPCs rank properties depending on how energy efficient they are with the most efficient homes rated A and the least efficient rated G.

An EPC must be commissioned before the property is put on the market and it must be available to be shown to prospective buyers if requested.

Your property may already have a valid EPC as they last for 10 years. If not, you’ll need to get one. While many people get an EPC through their estate agent for ease this is usually the costlier option. So don’t forget to negotiate or alternatively save yourself the hassle by arranging your own EPC independently. You can do this by finding local Energy Assessors in your area.

Instantly find and compare quotes from accredited energy assessors in your area

5. Dig out these key documents

When buying and selling a house at the same time you’ll want to be able to supply any required documents as soon as they’re requested to avoid delays. So make sure you dig these out early.

For example, in order to secure a mortgage you’ll need proof of ID as well as documents like proof of address. And if you’re selling you’ll need to provide guarantees of any new appliances, electrical certificates for any rewiring and records of servicing the boiler.

For a full list read our guide Essential house purchase documents and Documents you need to sell your home.

6. Prepare your home for sale

It goes without saying that you’ll want to sell your house for the highest price possible. So it’s vital that you get it sale-ready to try to achieve the best price.

This might include:

  • Decluttering your home and considering removing any bulky furniture;
  • Giving your house a fresh lick of neutral paint to make rooms seem lighter and bigger;
  • Maximising your kerb appeal. Our survey of more than 2,000 UK adults conducted by YouGov, revealed the most important features for kerb appeal were well-maintained windows and a roof that appeared in good condition.

For more tips read our guide Tips to make your home more valuable and sell faster

7. Find an estate agent & market the property

Next you’ll want to get your current property on the market and find the right estate agent to sell your home. See our advice on finding the best estate agent and a tool to compare the performance of local estate agents based on how quickly they sell and how often they achieve the asking price. Alternatively using an online estate agent may be something you would like to consider.

8. Choose a conveyancing solicitor

Now is also the time to start shopping around for your conveyancing solicitor. Being prepared means they’ll be able to set to work as soon as you accept an offer. Here’s what to expect in terms of the conveyancing fees. But get quotes from and speak to a few and read reviews before instructing them.

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9. Agree a sale

How long it takes between listing your property and getting an offer varies according to where you are in the UK, the type of property and price. It usually takes around 10 weeks from when a home is listed on the market to an offer being accepted. However, as of May 2022, most of the UK housing market is experiencing a lack of supply, which means demand for properties, particularly detached homes, is very high. Which will work in your advantage as a seller. If you find yourself in the position of having more than one offer you’ll need to consider them carefully. Naturally you’ll want to take into account the price offered but you’ll also want to think about the potential buyers’ circumstances too. So are they reliable, motivated and unlikely to walk away? See our guide to the different types of house buyers and dealing with offers.

10. Start your house hunt

However if you’ve enjoyed the advantages of selling in a seller’s market be prepared for the disadvantages of buying in one. You’ll need to act quickly and be ready to go to sealed bids if you are in a property hotspot. So if you’re selling, don’t delay looking for your next home.

You’ll probably have alerts from all the major portals: Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket. But check them first thing in the morning, especially in the current seller’s market. If you’re struggling, then a Buying Agent might be able to help. They can find a property to your preferences and help you negotiate the price.

11. Check your finances & make an offer

Once you’ve found a property, you’ll need to revisit your finances. Is it within your original budget? You might want to consider if you’d need to do any work to the property and the associated costs. Look at our guide on home renovation costs. Once you’ve done your calculations, if you’re happy it works out, make an offer.

If you’re under offer you will be in a stronger position to negotiate a good price than if you’re still looking for a buyer for your current home.

Now is also a good time to think about Home Buyers Protection Insurance. Most of the home moving costs fall on buyers, with conveyancing, mortgage arrangement fees and a building survey forming the main chunk. According to Quick Move Now, 32% of property sales fell through in first quarter of 2022. So it’s worth being prepared and protecting your hard earned cash.

12. Formalise your mortgage

So your offer has been accepted? Great news but don’t crack open the bubbly just yet, there’s still a long way to go. Start by going back to your mortgage broker and ask them to proceed with your full mortgage application.

13. Contact your conveyancing solicitor

You’ll also want to contact your conveyancing solicitor without delay. This is a critical part of the process when you’re buying and selling a house at the same time and can be long and drawn out. When you’re buying a house your conveyancing solicitor will need to conduct local searches before any contracts can be exchanged.

The process should move smoothly but if you aren’t happy with the level of communication or speed of the process, get in touch and consider asking for a new case handler if things don’t improve.

There will be lots of areas you’ll want to check such as:

  • Whether there are any boundary issues;
  • If the property you’re buying has undergone building works the seller should have building control certificates.
  • Any certificates relating to the installation of any windows, bi-fold doors or Dorma windows.

14. Get a survey

Your mortgage lender will require a valuation by a surveyor to make sure the property is good enough to lend against. However this is a superficial survey for your lender and you are unlikely to see it. If you want to reassure yourself about the condition of the property then you need to arrange a survey.

A survey will evaluate the condition of the property and alert you to any potential problems you will face once you move in. There are different types of surveys and they each offer different levels of thoroughness and come at different levels of cost. Unless you are very experienced with property, we would recommend getting a survey done.

If the survey uncovers something bad you can decide whether to renegotiate the price, ask the seller to fix the issue before you complete or pull out of the purchase.

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15. Take charge of communication

The key to efficiently selling and buying a house is communication. Read, sign and return any paperwork sent to you quickly. Increasingly, conveyancing solicitors scan documents and share them on an online system you can login into. Make the most of this – but don’t hesitate to speak to your solicitor on areas where you want clarification in the house selling and buying process.

Communication is particularly important when you are part of a chain. Your conveyancing solicitor may not agree with this tip but there’s a lot to be said for managing communication of all parties in the chain when you’re buying and selling a house at the same time. To do this ask the owner of the property you’re buying and the person you’re selling your home to for their contact details and maintain contact via email. They can also add people to the email if there are more links in the chain. This is a good way of ensuring everyone knows what’s happening and unplugging any blockages when you’re selling a house and buying another.

16. Get your estate agent involved

If you’re not comfortable and don’t have the time to get involved with nudging everyone along then here’s where your estate agent can help if you’re when you are buying and selling a house at the same time. They will want to get you swiftly from accepting an offer to exchange of contracts. According to the Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for estate agents, their obligations to you at this time include monitoring progress, assisting you where they can and reporting information deemed helpful to bringing the transaction to fruition. In most cases this role will be carried out well but if you don’t hear anything from your agent when you’re selling a house and buying another– or indeed you hear too much and think they may be adding stress to the system – then discuss the level of their involvement with them.

17. Set a completion date

Once everything is tied up, surveys and local searches are returned and any issues ironed out, you’re ready to set a completion date and contracts can be exchanged. It’s important that all parties co-ordinate a completion date that works for everyone. This will take some correspondence via your solicitor and those of the other members of the chain and you’ll need to be prepared to compromise as part of the house selling and buying process.

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18. Organise your move

When you’re selling a house and buying another you’ll need to make arrangements for the supply of electricity, gas, water and telephone service. Use our moving house check-list to help you plan your move. You may wish to hire a removals company to pack up your current home and help with the move to your new one.  See our guide on how to find the right removals company and compare removals quotes.

19. Completion day

This is the big day when you’re selling a house and buying a new one. On completion day, money is moved between solicitors and they confirm the keys can be released to the new owners. The conveyancers will also register the transfers of ownership with the Land Registry.

You’re in!

Frequently asked questions

Q: Can I use the proceeds of my sale for the deposit on the home I’m buying?

Yes. You should exchange on the same day as your buyer exchanges, and therefore you’ll be able to use the deposit they pay you to pay your deposit on the property you’re buying.

However, if your new house is more expensive than your current house it’s likely that the deposit required will be more than the deposit you receive. If this is the case, it may be that your solicitor can agree with your seller’s solicitor that the smaller deposit will be enough. But if this isn’t possible, you’ll need to find the extra cash. It’s worth checking to see if you’re financially able to do this before you start the process.

Q: I’m selling a leasehold property – should I pay to extend my lease before I sell?

When it comes to how to buy and sell a house there’s more to consider if one or both of the properties are leasehold. So if you’re selling a leasehold property your buyer will want to know how long is left on your lease as the remaining term of your lease could affect their ability to get a mortgage. Most lenders won’t offer mortgages on properties with less than 70 years left on the lease and some will want over 80 years. You can find out more with our guide to getting a mortgage on a leasehold property.

Broadly speaking properties with shorter leases are less valuable than ones with long leases (this is particularly true if leases are below 80 years). And the shorter your lease the more it will cost to extend it. So if your property has a short lease you may prefer to extend it in order to sell your home more easily and hopefully achieve a higher price. For more information read our guide on Leasehold conveyancing

Q: What are the most common problems when buying and selling a house at the same time?

If you’re planning on buying and selling a house at the same time you may be wondering what could cause issues. Common problems include:

  • Your buyer or seller backing out: The most common problem is people changing their mind. It’s a fairly common occurrence.
  • Mortgage problems: If there is a delay in your mortgage application or if it’s rejected this can cause delays or even jeopardise the process completely. It’s important to get mortgage advice early in the process and apply for your mortgage without delay.
  • Being gazumped: This is when the seller of the property you’re planning to buy accepts a higher offer from another buyer leaving you back at square one looking for a house. Read our guide What is gazumping and how to avoid it.
  • Delays or breakdown of the chain: Delays in one part of the chain can ripple all the way along the chain. It’s frustrating but a common problem if you’re buying and selling a house at the same time and relying on other transactions. See our guide on how to break the housing chain
  • Survey problems: Have problems been uncovered in a survey of any of the houses in the house chain including the one you’re selling or buying? Then this can cause long delays and could even cause the chain to collapse.

Q: Should I sell my house before buying a new one?

While most people prefer buying and selling a house at the same time, some choose to sell first before buying. And when it comes to the house selling and buying process there are a number of advantages to this. One of the main advantages is breaking a housing chain. And if you’ve already sold your house, it’s likely to make you more attractive as a buyer when you’re purchasing your next home.

But there are some downsides to consider too. Not only will you need to find somewhere to live until you buy your next place, if prices are rising fast you may find your new home is less affordable. For more information read our guide Should I sell my home before I buy another?

Q: Can I let out my property to buy a new one?

When it comes to buying and selling a house, what if you want to buy a new house but don’t want to or can’t sell your current one? This is where Let To Buy may be an option. It’s also another way to break a house chain.

Let to Buy is when you switch the mortgage on your current home onto a Let to Buy mortgage and rent it out. You can also release equity when you do this that you can use as a deposit on your new home. You’ll then take out a standard residential mortgage on your new property. So you’ll have two mortgages.

However, there’s a lot to consider with Let to Buy including the fact you’ll need to pay an additional 3% stamp duty surcharge on your new purchase. To find out more read our guide Let to buy mortgages explained.

Q: Buying a house without selling first – could a bridging loan be the answer?

And if you want to buy without selling your current house first, another option may be taking out a bridging loan to enable you to do this. But these can be a risky option – find out more in our guide Bridging loans explained

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