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How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?

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22nd Nov 2019 (Last updated on 6th Apr 2020) 8 minute read

It takes 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 potential factors.

The process of buying a house 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. Every bit of help you get can be vital to a quick buying process. 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. Saving Time and Money When 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 and by when. Don’t forget to take into account the deposit, stamp duty and other costs. Once this is sorted, 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. Once you’ve decided on a property, start negotiating to make a formal offer.

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, giving yourself an idea of how much you can borrow to speed up the process.

On average, it generally takes up to a month from filling out the application form to a formal mortgage offer. Check your credit records and ensure it goes more smoothly by having all the important documents required like payslips, bank statements and any other information they may need. 

3. Find a Conveyancer

The conveyancing process will take between 8 and 12 weeks.

You’ll need to compare and find a conveyancer for the legal aspects of the purchase to ensure the contracts are as per agreement. 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 SRACLCLSS or LSNI.

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 to complete a property survey.

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 huge mistake.

A surveyor will usually take a few hours to inspect your 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 a snagging list rather than a survey. 

The report will then take a further couple of weeks to be finalised and sent to you. After receiving the results of your survey, it’s advised to send it over to your conveyancer for double checking.

5. Exchanging Contracts

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

This can vary depending on how quick your conveyancer is and whether or not you’re in a property chain. The exchange of contracts will happen between 7 and 28 days before the day of completion, but it’s possible to complete the same day as exchanging contracts if you’re a cash buyer and not in a property chain.

If you’re in a property chain, you will have to wait for the first transaction in the chain to exchange contracts. They will inform the next person in the chain that they have confirmation to go ahead and exchange their contracts. If you’re last in the chain, you might not exchange contracts until as late as 5pm that day. 

6. Completing the Sale

Completion day will happen between 7 and 28 days after exchanging contracts.

At last, we’re at the final stage! This should be one of the quicker steps when figuring out how long it takes to buy a house as now is the time to pay the deposit and any outstanding solicitor fees. You must set up a Direct Debit once your mortgage is finalised and wait for a date to receive the keys. You’ll want to start contacting removal companies and think about packing, ready for when you can move into your new home. 

On average it can take up to 4 weeks between the time of the contracts being exchanged and the keys received. On the day of completion, your mortgage will begin and the fun of moving begins!

7. Moving Day

It usually takes 1-2 days to move house.

You will usually move house on the day of completion, unless your circumstances change. Completion day will be 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, otherwise it will cause a delay in the chain which will result in you paying fees.  

You’ll have to factor in packing your belongings as this can be time consuming. This should be done a few days before, making sure you leave out the essential items you’ll need on the day. Unpacking and setting everything up in the new house will take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

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!

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

A ‘property chain’ is the number of property purchases linked together with each one being dependent on the other transactions. For example, a first time buyer will only be purchasing a property, not selling, and so the chain would begin with them.

When a property is referred to as having ‘no chain’ or is ‘chain-free’ the seller does not need to buy a house before selling this one. New build properties are ‘chain-free’ as they have never been occupied.

The steps to buying a ‘no chain’ house are the same as usual, but there is a lower chance of delays as your purchase is not dependant on the seller first buying or organising a separate property. 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 conveyancer or conveyancing solicitor, you must ensure that they're qualified and reliable. If they’re experienced, they will work quickly and efficiently lowering the risk of delays.
  • Survey Report: Delays are likely if the survey highlights serious issues or structural damage. Bad survey results can also lead to the buyer pulling out of the purchase if the property is determined to be a bad investment.
  • 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.
  • Gazumping: If a higher offer is given to the seller before any contracts are signed, it may delay or even terminate your purchase. You’re not the legal owner until contracts are signed and exchanged, so an alternative offer could be considered.

Saving Time and Money When Buying a House

Time is precious when buying a house. Compare My Move can connect you with up to 5 fully regulated conveyancing solicitors and licensed conveyancers to make the process easier and more efficient for you.

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.