How to cut the cost of moving house

·Personal Finance Columnist
·5-min read
moving house Typical Victorian style townhouse architecture in Chelsea London at day
With the right approach you should be able to shave thousands of pounds off the price of moving house. Photo: Getty

If you’ve just welcomed new neighbours to the street, you’re not alone, because Friday 19 August was the most popular day of the year to move house in the UK. But spare a thought for those new neighbours, because they’ll be reeling from some staggering costs.

Runaway house prices have pushed up stamp duty costs, so someone moving up the ladder to an average property now pays £4,300.

Assuming they sold an average house too, they might also pay £4,200 in estate agency fees.

Then there are removal costs, which property site Zoopla puts at an average of £800; a house survey at £600; and legal fees — including searches and the EPC — at around £1,500. That’s an overall cost of £11,400 — even without a mortgage.

While some of these costs are unavoidable, there are ways to bring down the total. With the right approach you should be able to shave thousands of pounds off the price of a move.

Think whether an online estate agency will work for you

Check what they offer, and whether you’re happy with the package.

They should all take the photos, advertise your property online and provide a "For Sale" board.

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Some will also offer viewings and carry out any negotiation for extra fees.

If you’re happy handling things yourself, and are certain the property is going to be easy to sell, then you could spend less than £1,000.

Shop around for an affordable estate agent

If you’d prefer a traditional agent, fees range from 0.75% to 3% of the sale price, so make sure you get quotes from at least three of them.

You’re looking for someone you’re comfortable with, who is affordable, only charges for completed sales, and includes VAT in the price.

If you’re considering a particularly cheap agent, ask around locally about their reputation. If they tend to settle for lower offers, you’ll end up worse off than with someone slightly more expensive who works harder for you.

Haggle for a lower fee

Don’t be embarrassed — they’re expecting it.

Let them know about other agents you have seen who are cheaper, and ask for 1.2% (including VAT). They may come in slightly above this, but if they’re keen for more properties on the books they may go to 1.2%.

Property estate agent sales and letting signs are seen outside an apartment building in Lichfield, Britain, May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Boyers
If you’d prefer a traditional agent, fees range from 0.75% to 3% of the sale price, so make sure you get quotes from at least three of them. Photo: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

Check the conveyancing quotes carefully

Conveyancing is made up of the legal fees and the fixed costs they will need to pay out — which will include things like searches and the energy performance certificate (EPC).

When you get quotes from legal firms make sure they cover everything, and there are no added extras.

Prices vary widely, and you may be able to use an online only firm for less. However, always check the reviews, because a bad solicitor will add weeks and endless stress to the process.

Pick the right type of survey

In addition to any mortgage valuation, you should have the property checked by a surveyor.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors classes surveys at three levels. The first just lists urgent defects, while the second highlights any major problems — and costs around £350 plus VAT. Meanwhile, the third provides analysis in detail and suggests remedies for around £600 plus VAT.

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As a rough rule of thumb, level two is enough for most modern homes, while anything that has had lots of work done, is 150 years old or more, or worries you in any way, are crying out for level three.

Shop around for surveyors

These are approximate prices, and some will be cheaper than others. Again, don’t just go with the cheapest — check the reviews too.

Shop around for removal firms as early as possible

They’ll get booked up quickly, so the earlier you start the process, the more chance there is that the affordable firms will be available.

A sunny living room with many cardboard boxes, filled with possessions, alluding to moving in or moving out of a house. Boxes have potted plants peeking over the top and a guitar sits against the window. Window and boxes provide a space for copy.
If you get hold of your own packing materials and pack yourself, the costs will be lower than if you leave it to the company. Photo: Getty

Don’t move on a Friday

They’re always busiest, because people want the weekend to settle in, so they’re more expensive. Try booking for the start of the week when nobody else wants to move.

Do a declutter before you start

You can easily purge yourself of 10% of your belongings, and if you eBay (EBAY) them, you could make some money too.

Do as much of the removal as you feel competent to do

If you get hold of your own packing materials and pack yourself, the costs will be lower than if you leave it to the company.

Likewise, if you disassemble your furniture it’ll cost less. If you’re particularly strong and careful you could just hire a van and move yourself, although if you’re a bit clumsy it could end up costing you as much in breakages as you save!

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Even with all of these steps in place, moving house isn’t going to be cheap.

It’s particularly miserable that at such an expensive point in your life, the government has its hands in your pocket for stamp duty on top.

So if new neighbours moved in last weekend, why not invite them round for a drink — they’re going to need it.

Watch: Will UK house prices ever fall?