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How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

22nd Nov 2019 (Last updated on 15th Aug 2022) 10 minute read

It can take between 12 weeks and 6 months to buy a house. However, every buyer will experience a different timescale. There are a variety of factors that could delay the process, such as survey results and the length of the property chain. Your personal experience may vary as there is no definitive answer due to these variable factors.

The buying a house process can often seem like a long and difficult affair. From searching for the right home to receiving the keys, the time each step takes can vary greatly. It’s important to compare conveyancers who can professionally aid with any legal issues.

In this guide, Compare My Move will take you through a brief timeline of buying a house and answer the all-important question, "How long does it take to buy a house?"

The Process of Buying a House
  1. 1. Finding the Right Property
  2. 2. Getting a Mortgage
  3. 3. Find a Conveyancer
  4. 4. Property Survey
  5. 5. Exchanging Contracts
  6. 6. Completing the Sale
  7. 7. Moving Day
  8. How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?
  9. How Long Does it Take to Buy a House with No Chain?
  10. Factors that Could Delay the Process
  11. Next Steps of Buying a House

1. Finding the Right Property

It can take 10-12 weeks to find the right property.

There are many different ways to buy a house, so the first step is first finding the perfect property. Set yourself a budget when researching properties. Do the necessary sums to determine what you can afford.If you need a mortgage, it would be a good idea to obtain an ‘agreement in principle’ from a lender so you know precisely how much you can borrow.

Don’t forget to take into account the deposit, stamp duty, conveyancing fees, surveyors costs and removal charges . Once your finances are in place, you can start house-hunting! The amount of time dedicated to this step can vary depending on location, budget, your local property market, personal preferences and many other factors.

Take your time to find a house that suits your needs and make sure you get the most out of your property viewings. You’ll have to be realistic as not everyone will find their ideal home in their prime location. Some people are more willing to compromise meaning they might find a property more quickly than others, but it all depends on personal preference. First of all, decide where you'd like to live and look at homes in the area. Once you’ve decided on a property, start negotiating to make a formal offer.

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2. Getting a Mortgage

It takes between 18 and 40 days to apply and get accepted for a mortgage.

You should have chosen a mortgage provider by now to begin the process. It may be worth contacting a mortgage broker and getting an agreement in principle with a mortgage lender.

On average, it generally takes up to a month from filling out the initial paperwork and formally applying for a mortgage on a property for the mortgage offer to be issued. Check your credit records and ensure it goes smoothly by having all the important documents required like payslips, bank statements and any other information they may need.

Once you have secured a mortgage, you will have have a limited amount of time for which the mortgage offer is valid to complete the purchase. This is usually 3-6 months depending on your lender.

3. Find a Conveyancer

The conveyancing process can take between 8 and 12 weeks from the point the sale is agreed.

You’ll need to compare and find a conveyancer to undertake the solicitor process for buying. Again, do your research and compare conveyancers to ensure they are professional and dependable. By using Compare My Move, you can cut that time down instantly by using our quick and easy service. We only work with conveyancers that are regulated by SRA, CLC, LSS, LSNI or CILEx.

Take your time to find a verified licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor and they will take care of the buying process for you. The conveyancing process will take longer if you're in a chain than if you're not in a chain. The conveyancing process starts once an offer has been agreed on and will end on completion day when you have received the keys to the new house.

4. Property Survey

It takes between 2 and 3 weeks for a property survey to be carried out and the survey results received.

Once the conveyancing process has begun, you can then book your property survey. A homebuyer report or building survey will be able to give you vital information on the property you plan to buy, potentially saving you from making a costly mistake.

A surveyor will usually take a few hours to inspect the property, depending on which survey you opt for. A building survey is more comprehensive than a homebuyers report so will take slightly longer. If you're purchasing a new build property, however, you will need to ask your surveyor to undertake a snagging list rather than a survey after the property is built, especially if you're buying a new build off-plan.

It usually takes a couple of weeks for the survey report to be produced and sent to you. After receiving the results of your survey, it’s advised to send it over to your conveyancer who will check over the ‘legal’ or ‘matters for your conveyancer’ section.

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5. Exchanging Contracts

Exchanging contracts usually happens during week 8 of the conveyancing process.

The timeframe can vary greatly depending upon a number of factors, such as the type of property, the length of the property chain, adverse survey results, adverse property search results or legal issues to resolve. The exchange of contracts will happen only once all conveyancers in the chain are ready and hold a signed contract.

Once exchange of contracts has been achieved, then a completion date will be set. You’ll want to start contacting removal companies and think about packing, ready for when you can move into your new home.

6. Completing the Sale

Completion day is usually between 7 and 28 days after the date of exchange of contracts.

At last, we’re at the final stage! When exchange of contracts is achieved, a legal completion date will have been agreed on and set.

On the completion date your conveyancer will transfer the final funds to the seller’s conveyancer and the property will be yours once the funds have been received.

On the day of completion, your mortgage will begin and the fun of moving begins! You’ll want to start contacting removal companies and think about packing, ready for when you can move into your new home.

7. Moving Day

It can take 1-2 days to move house.

You will usually move in on the day of completion, unless your circumstances allow for you to move in at a later date. The completion day will have been agreed on beforehand, so you can book your removal company in advance. The seller must move out on this day, to allow the buyer to move in.

You’ll need to factor in packing your belongings, which can be time consuming. Ideally it should be done a few days before the completion date, making sure you leave out the essential items you’ll need on the day. Unpacking and setting everything up in your new house can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to a few years!

How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?

It takes about 6 months to buy a house, from start to finish. An average buyer needs 10-12 weeks to find the right property, and between 18 and 40 days to apply and get accepted for a mortgage. The conveyancing process takes between 8 and 12 weeks, with completion day happening between 7 and 28 days after exchanging contracts. Moving your belongings to your new home takes 1-2 days.

With 12 weeks being spent on finding the right property, 1 month acquiring a mortgage, 1 month to exchange contracts and finalise the legal aspects, the final 4 weeks will then be spent completing the sale until you receive the keys.

No chain properties may have a quicker process but after each step is complete, the fun begins and you can move in, making your new house a home!

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How Long Does it Take to Buy a House with No Chain?

A ‘property chain’ is the number of property transactions linked together with each one being dependent on the other. For example, a first-time buyer will only be purchasing a property, not selling, and so the chain would begin with them. The majority of people in a property chain will likely be selling and buying at the same time.

When a property is referred to as having ‘no chain’ or is ‘chain-free’ the seller will not need to buy another house after selling this one. New build properties are ‘chain-free’ as they have not previously been occupied.

The conveyancing process for buying a property that has no chain is still the same, but as there are less people involved the timeframe is usually quicker. Every transaction is different, but a chain free property purchase can be more straightforward.

The process can be sped up greatly with no chain, which is often why it's recommended to sell your home before buying, so you shorten the chain. Every move is different, but a no chain property can considerably increase the speed of the buying process and allow it to proceed more efficiently.

Factors that Could Delay the Process

From the lack of preparation to a large property chain, there are a variety of factors that can delay the process of buying a house. These are just a few to consider:

  • Preparation: Always ensure you have a budget before making an offer to ensure that you’re able to pay the deposit and any related fees when the time comes.
  • The Legal Team: Whether you’re hiring a licensed conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor, you must ensure that they're qualified and reliable. If they’re experienced, they should be able to follow the process correctly, thus lowering the risk of delays. You do have the option of changing solicitors, but this may lengthen the process.
  • Survey Report: Your property survey could return adverse results which can bring things to a halt. It’ll take extra time to see if you can negotiate your offer, get further expert advice or pull out of the purchase altogether.
  • Property Chain: A large property chain can lead to a range of disruptions. The larger the chain, the more likely there will be delays. If one of the transactions in the link is delayed, often yours will be too.
  • Mortgage offer delay: If everything else is in place and you’re still waiting for your mortgage offer to be issued, this can delay the conveyancing process. The same will apply if your mortgage offer has expired too. Mortgage offers will usually last between 3 and 6 months
  • Delay in conveyancing search results: Your Conveyancer will have to order property searches from the relevant authorities. Depending on how well-staffed and busy the local authority is, the searches could take anywhere between a few days and a few weeks to be completed.
  • Gazumping: If a higher offer is given to the seller before any contracts are signed, it may delay or even terminate your purchase. This is called gazumping. You’re not the legal owner until contracts are signed and exchanged, so an alternative offer could be considered and accepted

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Next Steps of Buying a House

This article is part of our house buying guide. We work hard to inform you of the latest moving house advice and news through our series of articles.

Our next article we look at the process of buying a home in Scotland and how it differs to the rest of the UK. To find out more read our Guide to Buying a House in Scotland.

Zenyx Griffiths

Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

Gareth Brooks

Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

Solicitor and Partner, RMNJ Solicitors

With 19 years of experience in the residential conveyancing industry, Gareth Brooks is a partner and head of management for the conveyancing department at RMNJ Solicitors.