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How long does it take to buy a house?

So, you're considering buying a house – a flat, a cosy bungalow, or even an enchanting barn conversion in the countryside. The big question on your mind is, "How long will it take?"

Jun 2024 | Essentials, Moving Home

So, you’re considering buying a house – a flat, a cosy bungalow, or even an enchanting barn conversion in the countryside. The big question on your mind is, “How long will it take?” For most homebuyers in the UK, the process typically takes around 3 to 6 months to buy a house. However, a myriad of factors can influence this timeline. Some may find the process quicker than expected, while others might encounter a few unexpected hurdles.

In this article, I’ll break down the homebuying process into seven critical steps, with estimated timings for each. It’s important to note that the process can vary slightly if you buy in Scotland. By understanding the timeline, you can better prepare and manage your expectations.

 

Step 1: The Property Search

Time it takes: Extremely variable

This is the most unpredictable part of the process. Finding your dream home could take days or stretch into months. Several factors can affect the length of your search, including:

  • Availability of properties in your desired area.
  • Your budget and finding a home that fits within it.
  • Willingness to undertake renovations on the property.
  • The urgency of your need to move.

 

Step 2: Making an Offer

Time: A few hours to a few days

Making an offer is a pivotal step in the home buying process. It’s the point where you officially express your interest in purchasing the property. The process is relatively quick, usually taking a few hours to a few days. The duration depends on your estate agent’s communication with the seller and how long the seller takes to consider your offer. You might also spend extra time negotiating if your first offer isn’t accepted.

Once you agree on a price, it’s time to crack on with your mortgage application.

 

Step 3: The Mortgage

Time: 3 to 6 weeks+

Securing a mortgage is your next step unless you’re a cash buyer. Here’s a breakdown of the mortgage application process:

  • Filling in the application: This might take a day or so. A mortgage broker can help streamline this process and ensure all your documents are in order.
  • Submission and review: Your lender could take up to 6 weeks to review your application, conduct a credit check, assess affordability, and value the property.
  • Request for more information: The lender might ask for additional details, causing a slight delay.
  • Approval: You’ll receive your official mortgage offer if all goes well!

While waiting for mortgage approval, you can proceed with steps 4 and 5.

Step 4: The Property Survey

Time: 2 to 3 weeks

A property survey is essential to assess the condition of the property. This can save you from costly surprises later on. If the surveyor is busy, booking a study might take a couple of weeks. The main types of surveys are:

  • Homebuyer’s report: Takes 2 to 4 hours and costs £400 to £500. It identifies surface-level issues.
  • Structural survey: A thorough investigation that could take up to a day and costs between £600 – £1,500, depending on the property’s value. This is worthwhile if there are concerns about the building’s structure.

Identifying issues early allows you to renegotiate the price or ask the seller to fix problems before completion.

Step 5: Conveyancing

Time: 8 to 12 weeks

Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership. By now, you should have instructed a specialist property solicitor. Your solicitor will conduct “property searches,” contacting various authorities to gather information about the property, the land, and the local area. These searches usually include:

  • Local authority searches: Check for planning, roads, and pollution issues.
  • Drainage searches: Check for water supply and sewage issues.
  • Environmental searches: Check for flooding, landslides, and contamination issues.

Your solicitor will also liaise with the seller’s solicitor to draw up the sale contracts and arrange a completion date.

A Note About Chains

Being part of a chain can significantly affect the timeline. If you’re in a chain, delays can occur due to others needing to sell their properties. The more people in the chain, the higher the potential for delays. Conversely, being chain-free can speed up the process, though it doesn’t guarantee a smooth journey.

Step 6: Exchanging Contracts

Time: Typically takes place 14 to 28 days before completion (but can happen on the same day)

Now it’s time to pay your deposit and sign the sale contract. Ensure the deposit money is easily accessible. Your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor will exchange contracts, making the purchase legally binding. This is a significant milestone – you’re nearly there!

Step 7: Completion

Time: 24 hours or less

This is the final step of your homebuying journey. Completion usually occurs a couple of weeks after exchanging contracts, though it can happen on the same day. Your solicitor will:

  • Draw down the funds: Transfer the mortgage money to the seller’s solicitor.
  • Provide you with the deeds to the property.
  • Ensure all remaining fees related to the sale are paid.

Then, you can pick up your keys and move in. Congratulations, you’ve just bought your new home!

Get Help on Your Homebuying Journey

Buying a home can be full of twists and turns. The Mortgage Blog is here for you if you want support along the journey. We’ll find the best mortgage deal for you, liaising with all the relevant parties and smoothing out bumps in the road. We’re with you every step of the way, providing the support and guidance you need to navigate the homebuying process confidently.

Reach out to our experienced advisers, and we’ll give an overview of available options while delving into the best-suited solution for you. Call us on 0333 335 6595 or message us to get started!

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