When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Selling process

The process for selling a home is generally the same for all people, whatever the reason for the sale.  Most people will use an agent to market the property and you will have to pay a fee for this.  You can sell your home privately but it can be harder to find buyers this way.

Finding an agent

You can get different levels of service from different agents.  Some will market the property and carry out the viewings, while others may expect you to do the viewings yourself.  Check if local agents will offer a free valuation and try to get 3 of these to give you an idea of a realistic selling price. Shop around to see what kind of deal you can get and ask other people you know for recommendations.

You will usually have to pay a percentage of the sale price as a commission to the agent and may have to pay other fees.  Make sure you are clear about the terms of the agreement before you sign.  Check if there is a cooling off period and if you’ll have to pay any extra fees if you decide to end the agreement.

Offers on your property

You can accept offers from more than one buyer but you’ll have to inform both buyers if you do this.  Expect to negotiate and consider the merits of each offer. Offers are made subject to contract.  This means that either you or the buyer can still change the terms or pull out of the deal right up until the contracts have been signed and exchanged.

If you pull out of a sale the buyer may ask you for compensation to cover any valuation or survey fees.  You’re not legally required to do this unless you signed an agreement to say you would offer compensation if you cancelled the sale.

Valuations and surveys

The buyer’s mortgage lender will send a surveyor to assess your property to check that it is worth the money they are lending. This is just a basic survey and will check that the structure of the property is sound. The surveyor will produce a report saying how much the property is worth and how much the buyer will be able to borrow towards it. The report may say that the property isn’t worth the amount the buyer has offered. 

If the problems are serious the buyer's lender may not provide a mortgage for the property. The lender can hold back part of the loan until repairs have been carried out and inspected. This is known as retention.

The buyer may arrange their own survey which will be a more detailed look at the property.  If this survey finds problems with the property the buyer may want to reduce the offer or ask you to carry out any repairs that need to be done. If there is a problem identified by the seller you should try to negotiate with your buyer.  If they pull out of the sale you'll be back at square one and another survey is likely to pick up the same problem. 

The surveyor has to leave your home in the condition s/he found it. S/he can't disturb fixed items without your permission. You don't have to give permission, but the buyer may be put off if you don't.

The legal part – conveyancing

Conveyancing is the process of transferring the legal ownership of a property from one person to another.  Most people will hire a solicitor to do this work as it’s a complicated legal procedure.

Your solicitor will check the legal documents relating to the sale and provide copies of these to the buyer’s solicitor.  Negotiations are carried out by each party’s solicitor.  If you are including fixtures and fittings or asking for a separate fee for these this needs to be clearly stated in the contracts. 

You’ll be asked if there are any problems with the neighbours and may be asked about property boundaries if these are not clearly marked. The conveyancing process can take quite a while as there is lots of back and forth between the solicitors. 


It’s difficult to state how much your solicitor will charge as the amount will depend on how much work has to be done.  Try to get estimates from a range of solicitors before you decide which one to use.

Exchanging contracts

Once all the details have been agreed you and the buyer will sign and exchange contracts.  The buyer then pays the deposit.  Once this happens you are both locked into the sale.  The buyer’s solicitor will arrange final checks and make sure the balance of money for the sale is transferred.

Completion date

You will be given a completion date which is the buyer becomes the legal owner of the property.  Make sure all of your belongings, except anything which was part of the sale, have been removed from the house by this date.

You will have to pay for any outstanding costs involved in the sale, such as your agent or solicitor fees.  You will also remain responsible for any outstanding debt that you secured against the property.

Arrange for your post to be redirected and make sure you inform your bank and other important contacts that you have moved.

Problems selling your home

Selling your home can be complicated.  Problems can crop up and cause delays.