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Moving House Timeline

Martha Lott

Written by Reviewed by Graham Norwood

5th Jul 2021 (Last updated on 6th Dec 2022) 10 minute read

Buying a house can seem daunting, especially for first-time buyers who have not encountered the process before. Familiarising yourself with the steps of buying a house will ensure that you are prepared and confident with the process.

In this guide, we'll be taking you through the moving house timeline. We'll highlight the vital steps that you can expect to encounter during the process.

23 Steps of the Moving House Timeline
  1. 1. Create a Moving Plan
  2. 2. Set a Budget
  3. 3. Save for a House Deposit
  4. 4. Talk to a Mortgage Adviser/Broker
  5. 5. Find Out How Much Mortgage You Can Borrow
  6. 6. Research Locations and Properties
  7. 7. Use an Estate Agent
  8. 8. Apply for a Mortgage in Principle
  9. 9. Talk to a Conveyancing Solicitor
  10. 10. Go to Property Viewings
  11. 11. Make an Offer
  12. 12. Instruct a Licensed Conveyancer
  13. 13. Complete Mortgage Application
  14. 14. Get a Property Survey
  15. 15. Negotiate Completion Date
  16. 16. Book Your Removal Company
  17. 17. Pay Deposit Money
  18. 18. Exchange Contracts
  19. 19. Get Buildings Insurance
  20. 20. Sign Transfer Deed
  21. 21. Completion Day
  22. 22. Pay any Stamp Duty or Land Transaction Tax
  23. 23. Register Ownership & Get Title Deeds
  24. Next Steps of Buying a House

1. Create a Moving Plan

Before you look at houses or mortgages, you’ll first need to create a moving plan. This can be written down or created using house moving apps. Work out all the services you will need to help you buy a house and a basic timescale to follow. By taking the time to create a plan, you’ll know what to expect throughout the buying process.

Find out more: How long does it take to buy a house?

2. Set a Budget

A key part of the buying process is setting a budget to work out what you can realistically afford. Setting a budget will help you factor in conveyancing costs, survey fees, and removal costs.

Find out more: What is the cost of buying a house?

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3. Save for a House Deposit

The biggest challenge involved in the home-buying process is saving for the house deposit. The typical deposit required is 10% of the property’s value, but you can sometimes deposit as low as 5%. Generally, the higher deposit you put down, the lower the monthly mortgage repayments you will pay.

Find out more: Saving for a house deposit

4. Talk to a Mortgage Adviser/Broker

It’s worth talking to a mortgage adviser, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. They will advise you on the best type of mortgage for you and let you know how much you can afford to lend.

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5. Find Out How Much Mortgage You Can Borrow

Before you look at properties, you must first work out if you can afford to pay back a mortgage. Mortgage lenders will carry out an affordability assessment to work out if you’re eligible for a mortgage and how much they can lend you. They'll look at the size of your deposit, income and outgoings as well as your credit score. This will all be done via your mortgage adviser, you’ll just need to have everything in place for them.

6. Research Locations and Properties

Start research early for the type of property and location you desire. Using sites such as Rightmove and Zoopla can help you do this. It can be a daunting task thinking of where is the best area to live, but most people think of the following as important criteria: affordability, transport links, school catchment areas, local healthcare, and crime levels.

    Find out more: How to decide where to live

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    7. Use an Estate Agent

    Once you’ve decided on an area and the type of property you’d like to buy, you should register with the local estate agents.

    It’s free to register with an estate agent and will be a huge help in your house hunt but always remember - agents are paid by sellers, not by buyers. They’ll arrange property viewings and put your offer in on your behalf. As a registered buyer, you will usually get to know about new property listings before they go online.

    8. Apply for a Mortgage in Principle

    You should ideally apply for a mortgage in principle before you view any properties. This will get the ball rolling and by the time you’re ready to make an offer, you should have secured an agreement in principle. They usually last for up to 90 days, so they will come in handy throughout your whole house hunt.

    At this stage, you should research the best type of mortgage for you. You can’t get a mortgage before you buy a house, but you can apply for a mortgage in principle with your bank, building society, or mortgage broker.

    Find out more: What is a mortgage in principle?

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    9. Talk to a Conveyancing Solicitor

    At this point, you should talk to a conveyancer to let them know you’ll be needing them soon. They’ll be able to get your case ready so as soon as your offer is accepted you can instruct them to begin the conveyancing process.

    You should compare conveyancers during your search to get the best deal. Comparing conveyancing quotes with Compare My Move can help you save money on your moving costs and put you in touch with a choice of conveyancers.

    10. Go to Property Viewings

    Make a shortlist of properties you’ve found on the likes of online portals and organise house viewings. If you’ve found the property through an estate agent, they will organise the house viewing for you.

    In-person viewings make it easier to look for any signs of subsidence, damp, or any other issues than on a video that’s designed to give a good impression. Don't forget to take photos during the viewing.

    Find out more: Questions to ask when viewing a house

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    11. Make an Offer

    You’ll need to make your offer via the estate agent, giving them your reasoning and any other information you’d like to pass on to the seller. For example, whether you are chain free and unlikely to cause a delay in the transaction.

    Many sellers will put their house on the market at around 5-10% more than the actual value, as they expect buyers’ to begin with a low offer. This will give you room to negotiate a price through your estate agent.

    Find out more: How to Make an Offer on a House.

    12. Instruct a Licensed Conveyancer

    The next step in the buying process is to hire a licensed conveyancer. Once your offer has been accepted, you’ll need to instruct a conveyancer to help you with the legal side of the buying process.

    Your conveyancer will sort out everything from ordering conveyancing searches to registering you as the new owner. They will also be there to answer any questions you may have about how to buy a house or the process at hand.

    Find out more: What happens after offer is accepted?

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    13. Complete Mortgage Application

    Your mortgage in principle will have helped you to get your offer accepted, now it’s time to complete the full mortgage application. By now you should have all your finances in place and have the necessary documents to speed up the application.

    At this point in the buying process, it’s crucial that you’re prepared. Most mortgage offers are valid for 3-6 months depending on your lender.

    Find out more: How long does a mortgage offer last?

    14. Get a Property Survey

    At this stage of the buying process, you should get a property survey. A chartered surveyor will assess the property’s condition and structure to highlight any hidden issues.

    It’s important to get a property survey before you exchange contracts. If the survey brings back negative results, you can still legally pull out of the sale. You can also use the survey to renegotiate the offer if needed. The most popular types of surveys are the Level 2 HomeBuyer Report and the Level 3 Building Survey.

    In Scotland, the seller must organise and pay for the Home Report. They should provide you with the Home Report within 9 days of requesting it.

    Find out more: What type of survey do I need?

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    15. Negotiate Completion Date

    By now you should have the results of your searches. Most of the time they return good results, but if they flag any issues, your solicitor might order further searches.

    If your search results are good, you can now discuss a completion date and a memorandum of sale may be drawn up. The date should be one that both the buyer and seller can agree on. Completion day is when you receive the keys for your new place and can move into the property. When you have arranged a completion day, you'll be able to think about moving day.

    16. Book Your Removal Company

    You should book your removal company as soon as you know your completion date. You should also start packing up your belongings.

    Giving the removal company enough notice of any updates in your conveyancing process will help ensure a successful move. Make sure you compare removal companies to get the best deal for your move.

      Find out more: How much does a removal company cost?

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      17. Pay Deposit Money

      Now you’ve got a completion date in mind, it’s time to pay the deposit to your solicitor. This is typically 10% of the price of the property and is usually bank transferred to your solicitor.

      18. Exchange Contracts

      The exchange of contracts happens near the end of the moving house timeline. Your conveyancer will exchange contracts on your behalf with the seller’s conveyancer. After this is done, the transaction is legally binding meaning that neither side can withdraw without facing a financial penalty.

      You’ll usually exchange contracts between 7-28 days prior to completion day. Although it’s possible to exchange contracts and complete on the same day if you’re not part of a property chain.

      Find out more: Exchanging of contracts explained

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      19. Get Buildings Insurance

      You will need to arrange your buildings insurance to begin on the date you exchange contracts.

      The house or flat becomes your responsibility from exchange of contracts. If anything happened to the house during this time, then you’re in a difficult position without insurance.

      Your mortgage lender will typically require you to have buildings insurance too.

      20. Sign Transfer Deed

      You’ll receive the transfer deed and need to have it signed in the presence of a witness. This will just confirm you’re going to take ownership of the property. Your conveyancer will forward this to the seller’s solicitor.

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      21. Completion Day

      Congratulations! Completion day will be the final step in the buying process. On completion day, you will become the legal owner of the property. Your purchase will be finalised and registered with the Land Registry.

      Find out more: What happens on completion day?

      22. Pay any Stamp Duty or Land Transaction Tax

      It’s worth noting that you must pay Stamp Duty within 30 days of completion. If you’re a first-time buyer, you won’t have to pay Stamp Duty on properties under £425,000.

      In England and Northern Ireland, Stamp Duty is payable on properties costing upwards of £250,000.

      In Wales, you will have to pay Land Transaction Tax (LTT) on properties over £225,000. Stamp Duty has been replaced by the Land and Building Transaction Tax (LBTT) in Scotland.

      Find out more about updated Stamp Duty costs: Stamp Duty calculator

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      23. Register Ownership & Get Title Deeds

      After you’ve paid stamp duty, your solicitor will officially register you as the owner of your new house with the Land Registry.

      Your conveyancer will receive the title deeds from the Land Registry to show you’re the new owner. They’ll pass this on to your mortgage lender.

      That concludes the final step in the buying a house process! Congratulations, now it’s time to celebrate!

      Next Steps of Buying a House

      This article is part of our home buying guide. In the next article, we break down the costs associated with buying a house, from mortgage deposit to conveyancing fees. Find out more read What is the Cost of Buying a House in 2022?

      Martha Lott

      Written by Martha Lott

      Having guest authored for many property websites, Martha now researches and writes articles for everything moving house related, from remortgages to conveyancing costs.

      Graham Norwood

      Reviewed by Graham Norwood

      Property Journalist and Editor,

      With over 15 years of experience in residential property journalism, Graham is currently the editor for both Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today.