How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or downsizing in preparation for retirement years, this is one of the questions that pretty much all home buyers have.
Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all estimate, as there are quite a few things that could slow things down or speed them up.
Once you better understand the process, then you’ll be able to make sure you get a better estimate of the overall completion time to buy a house. It may also help you not to set unrealistic expectations.
So, let’s take a look at the process and how it influences how long a property purchase takes.
The 12 Steps You Will Need To Go Through
Our advice to all types of buyers is to make sure they fully understand the process involved in buying a new home. To help you better understand it, we’ve put together these 12 steps to consider.
Not all of them may apply to you.
1 – Create A List Of Preferred Locations
One of the very first things you want to do when you’re looking to buy a house is to identify where you would most like to live.
Of course, this should be within reason, as there are plenty of areas where prices will just be completely off-limits.
There are several things that you may want to consider when looking at different property locations. Here are some of the things that might influence your decision:
- Access to public transport and commuter links
- Availability of good primary and secondary schools
- Local recreational amenities and parks
- Distance to friends and family
- Nightlife and convenient shops
- The overall style of available housing, e.g., Georgian, Victorian, or modern highrises
When you’re buying to live in the area, then taking everything above into account may help you to pick the most suitable location.
Expected Time: 2 to 4 weeks
2 – Identify How Much Space And What Style You Want
Are you buying a house to downsize for your retirement years? Or do you have an expanding family with more kids planned? These are important details to consider before you just blindly start searching for properties.
A family with 2 kids and another one on the way will likely need to look for a property with 4 or more bedrooms, whereas a retired couple may be quite happy with a small 2-bed bungalow or apartment.
As for the style, this is very much a personal choice every buyer has to decide on. What I would recommend, though, is rather than choose a style you absolutely must have, pick some styles you’d prefer not to buy.
This will take fewer potential property options out of your search, giving you a broader range of options.
Expected Time: 1 to 2 weeks
3 – Work Out Your Budget
This is an absolute must-complete step. To make sure you don’t overstretch your mortgage payments, it’s a good idea to use one of the many online mortgage repayment calculators .
You will need to look at what your current rent and mortgage lender repayments are and see whether you can afford to pay more. But also keep in mind that when you move to your new house, some of your costs may go up or down.
Maybe your commute will cost more, or your childcare costs could go up. This needs to be a very careful process, and when you’re comfortable with a monthly mortgage repayment amount, then it’s easier to work out how much you could borrow from a lender.
Expected Time: 1 to 2 weeks
4 – View As Many Properties As Possible
So, you’ve figured out your preferred locations, styles of property, size, and what your budget is.
Now the search begins, and it’s where quite a few people underestimate the delays that may happen. While online searches may give you a good list of houses to investigate, the actual viewing might be more time-consuming.
You’ll need to make appointments at certain times that suit you, the seller, and the estate agent. But this should not put you off taking the time over several weeks and even months to view as many houses as possible.
That way, you’ll increase your chances of finding the property with the most potential to satisfy your wishes.
Expected Time: 10 to 12 weeks
5 – Get A Mortgage
For the majority of people, buying a house is going to involve getting a loan from a mortgage lender. Unless you’re downsizing and have a lot of equity, you’ll likely need at least a part of the buying price financed.
Before you start to actually make an offer on a property, it’s important to complete this step first.
One way to approach this is to get advice through a mortgage broker. This may also save you a lot of time having to contact all the different lenders individually. Your final choice in lender is likely going to depend on how much money they are willing to lend and at what interest rate.
Once you’ve picked the one that suits your needs, you should also get mortgage approval in principle from the bank. This should confirm the amount you could borrow so that you can start on the next steps.
Expected Time: 3 to 6 weeks
6 – Make An Offer On Your Preferred Homes
At this stage, you should have gone through several house viewings and have the initial paperwork completed with the bank to receive a loan offer. Depending on the bank, this could take a few weeks, but it’s important not to start making offers until everything is lined up.
Normally, you would make your offer directly through the property seller’s estate agent. Unless you want to remain anonymous, then you would have your solicitor or a buyers’ agent do the bidding for you.
Now, it’s also important to note that just because your offer is accepted, doesn’t mean the sale will definitely go through. This catches many people out where they end up with their heart set on a specific property.
Countless things could go wrong, or the seller may receive a better offer.
Expected Time: 1 to 4 weeks
7 – Hire a Conveyancing Solicitor
You cannot buy a house without hiring a conveyancing solicitor. This is one of the more important details, and it’s a good idea to shop around. Some solicitors charge a fixed fee, while others will base it on the purchase price of the property .
There is a lot of legal work that needs to happen to ensure the seller isn’t bankrupt, verify they actually own the property, and that all the contracts, paperwork, and documents are above board.
Properties are very expensive. So when you buy one, it’s vital to be sure of exactly what you are buying, and that you really do own it in the eyes of the law. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a bitter dispute over something as trivial as where you park your car – or something as calamitous as discovering the land on which your house is built is on a lease that’s about to expire.
Expected Time: 8 to 10 weeks
8 – Find a Surveyor
Just as important as getting all the legal stuff checked out is the surveying of the property. This involves hiring an engineer to physically investigate the property to check for any serious issues .
You don’t want to move into a new home to find out that the roof structure needs significant repairs or that there is dry rot in walls and cavities. These kinds of things could end up costing you serious amounts of money.
If you know these things before closing, then you could either back out of the offer or amend it to factor in the cost of rectifying the issues
Make sure you get advice from a surveyor on the level of details recommended in the report. The older a house is, the more information you’ll want to gather.
Expected Time: 1 to 3 weeks
9 – Contract A Removals Firm
If you’ve ever moved house before, then you know how stressful and physically tiring the process is. After weeks of preparing and packing everything in boxes, the real tough job is getting it all from your old home to the new one.
The good news is that you can save yourself a lot of effort by hiring a removals company. The main difficulty is finding the right company with availability on your expected moving date.
It’s a good idea to find such a company as soon as the legal conveyancing process has started. Just make sure that you keep them updated with information about any possible delays.
Expected Time: 1 to 2 weeks
10 – Exchanging Contracts
Once the seller’s solicitor has prepared the contract of sale, they will send on the documents to your solicitor. However, exchanging contracts doesn’t mean that you just arrange a meeting and get everything signed.
The contracts will need to be further analysed to ensure that everything aligns with Land Registry information and many other aspects.
How long it takes to get to completion day is all dependent on whether your solicitor finds any significant issues with the contract. The exchanging contracts process will usually start about 8 weeks into the conveyancing.
Expected Time: Usually 8 to 10 weeks after starting conveyancing
11 – Completing the Sale
The final step in the legal process of buying a new home is the sale completion. This is usually referred to as completion day, and is in effect the day that buyers and sellers exchange keys and money.
As a buyer, your solicitor will authorise the transfer of funds to the seller’s solicitor, and the seller will receive confirmation that the money has arrived and that they can hand over the keys to the property.
While all this kicks off first thing in the morning, it may take several hours for it all to be confirmed, so it’s best not to plan the move for completion day.
It’s certainly one of the more exciting days of the process.
Expected Time: 1 to 4 weeks after exchange of contracts
12 – Planning The Move
As you progress through the buying phases and once your offer has been accepted, you’ll want to start planning your move. This is definitely not something you want to leave until the last minute.
The best point in time to start planning the move is when your solicitor has started the property conveyancing process. At that stage, you’ll probably be at least 8 weeks from moving, which is about the same time you’ll need to plan the move.
You should also check out our moving house checklist, which has detailed information that may help you avoid some of the most common mistakes.
Expected Time: 6 to 8 weeks
How long does it take to buy a house?
It takes about six months to buy a house. This includes finding a suitable property, arranging a mortgage, having a survey report done, and getting through the conveyancing process.
How long do solicitors take to exchange contracts?
It usually takes 8 to 10 weeks for solicitors to exchange contracts in a property sale. It may be longer depending on the time of year, as well as if there are any complications in the Land Registry or when a property is sold through an executor of an estate.
What happens on exchange day?
On exchange day, the buyer’s solicitor will release the funds and transfer them to the seller’s solicitor. In turn, the seller’s solicitor will inform the seller that it’s OK to hand over the keys.
Do I need a solicitor to buy a house?
Yes, you need a solicitor to buy a house. The conveyancing process can only be completed by solicitors, and there are numerous documents that need to be notarised as well.
Plan Each Step Of The Way For The Best Outcome
When you’re buying a new home, speed shouldn’t be your top priority. For most people, this is likely to be the biggest amount of money they will ever spend. And if you make mistakes along the way, then you can’t just undo them.
So, how long does it take to buy a house? Give yourself at least six months and take your time with each step of the way. It happens too often that people get pressured into rushed decisions. Don’t let that happen to you and allow things to move at a pace that you’re comfortable with.
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