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Legalities of Selling Your Home

Selling property is a tricky business. And it’s all the more tricky if the property you’re selling happens to be occupied – by you. On top of the stress of moving all of your belongings, lining up a new place of residence, and arranging a mutually suitable time for the exchange to take place, prospective sellers must also consider the raft of legal hoops that they’re expected to jump through.

In this article, we’ll examine these legalities in greater detail, and see just what steps sellers must take in order to satisfy the law while they go through the process.

Energy Performance Certificates

In Britain, sellers are required to demonstrate the energy performance of their property. This allows buyers to gauge how much they’ll have to spend heating the place, have a more accurate idea of how much the total cost will be, and, theoretically, be more confident in their purchase (which encourage spending).

This demonstration comes in the form of an Energy Performance Certificate (or EPC). This document provides information about the property’s running costs, and recommendations about how to reduce that cost. An EPC is valid for ten years, and grades energy efficiency on a scale of A-G. An ‘A-rated’ property is the most efficient, while a ‘G-rated’ property is the least.

EPCs are kept on a public register, allowing potential buyers to judge their purchase against similar properties. After you first put your property on the market, you’ll have a seven day window in which to ensure that your EPC is available to view – and Trading Standards have the power to issue fines for noncompliance.

If you’re in Scotland, you’ll need to display your EPC somewhere in the property – usually next to the meters.

Should I use an Estate Agent?

If you’re going to do any task requiring expertise, then seeking the services of a specialist is worthy of consideration. This is true of selling a house. Firms which specialise in trading property are known as estate agents – they’ll charge a fee, but they’ll also be able to offer you their experience and expertise while the sale is going through. The legal requirements under discussion here are something that a reputable estate agent will be familiar with.

A person who spends all day every day selling property will be able to anticipate the many bumps in the road. They’ll be far more efficient and professional than any layman could be. You’ll also save yourself a lot of time and effort by hiring a professional to take care of all of the intricacies of the deal.

Of course, there’s no reason that you can’t do all of this yourself – perhaps you might feel that the cost of using an estate agent isn’t worthwhile. But if you’re considering this, then you’ll want to take into account the cost of the time you’ll be investing, and of any errors made along the way. For most, the safer option is to use an estate agent.

If you’re going to use an estate agent, then you’ll need to sign a legally-binding contract, which grants the estate agent the right to act on your behalf. You’ll need to stick to the terms agreed upon in the contract, or run the risk of suffering legal action. Estate agents are legally obliged to give sellers prompt, written notice of any offers – until the moment that contracts are exchanged between the buying and selling parties.


The actual transfer of ownership from one party to another is the most legally complex part of the sale. Once you’ve accepted an offer, you (or, more likely, a solicitor or conveyancer acting on your behalf) will need to draw up a legal contract. In this contract, you’ll need to include a whole raft of different pieces of information, including:

  • The price
  • The boundaries of the property
  • The completion date
  • Details of the fixtures and fittings included

Once both seller and buyer are happy with the terms of the contract, they’ll both sign, and send copies to one another. This is known as completion – the point at which the sale becomes legally binding.

Once this is done, the money will be transferred from buyer to seller, and legal documents will be transferred in the opposite direction. The seller can then move out, and hand over the keys to the buyer.

What About Tax?

When you buy a property, you’re require to pay a special tax called stamp duty land tax. Sellers also have a special tax to pay, called Capital Gains Tax. Fortunately, however, most sellers are exempt from this tax. If your grounds are smaller than around an acre, or if you’ve lived in your home for all of the time you’ve owned it, let it out either in part or in whole, or used part of it for business only, then you are likely to be exempt thanks to a tax relief known as ‘Private Residence Relief’. This kicks in automatically, meaning that you aren’t obliged to do anything.

How Can Greenaway Residential Help?

Greenaway residential are an estate and letting agent based in Crawley. We’ve an enormous amount of expertise and experience in the area, having been in the business for more than twenty years. On our payroll are experts in all the legalities we’ve mentioned in this article – as well as many other specialists whose skills will prove invaluable to would-be buyers.

At Greenaway Residential, we spend our working lives navigating the legal landscape of property trade. We’ve the expertise necessary to circumvent all of the pitfalls along the way to completion, and we’re able to anticipate legal peculiarities that go beyond the scope of this article.

As we’ve mentioned, if you’re looking to get something done well – whether it’s plastering a wall, baking a cake, fixing a sink or selling a house – you go to a specialist. And if you’re looking to sell a house in West Sussex, there are few specialists more qualified to lend a hand!



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