There are several stages to go through when buying a property, all of which can vary greatly in length. From finding your dream home to getting the keys, here’s how long you can expect to wait.
Stage 1 - The property search
This stage varies so much that we can’t put a timescale on it. Some people buy the first house they look at, while others search for months. This is the stage to decide on your budget, have your deposit arranged, and work out what you’re looking for. You should also research mortgages and see what your options are.
You should also arrange your decision in principle (DIP) so when the time comes to make an offer, you’re ready.
Stage 2 - Make an offer
So, you’ve found the property you want, and you'd like to make an offer. Once you’ve made the offer, you could get an answer the same day. but you may have to wait for a few days to get a response.
Estimated timescale: one to three days
Stage 3 - Start the conveyancing process
Once you get an offer accepted, you’ll need to find a solicitor to start the conveyancing. If you used an estate agent, they’ll be able to recommend solicitors, or you could ask friends or family for recommendations. A good solicitor can help speed up the process and keep it moving along. The time conveyancing takes until both sides are ready to exchange depends on any problems encountered, but it’s typically around eight weeks.
Estimated timescale to exchange: around 12 weeks (about three months)
Stage 4 - Arrange your financing
Around the same time you instruct a solicitor, you’ll need to make sure your finances are in place and ready to go when needed. Mortgages can take over a month to be approved so start this stage as soon as you can. If you've already got your DIP sorted, this stage might be a little quicker, although it isn’t a guarantee that your mortgage application will be accepted.
Estimated timescale: two to six weeks (about a month and a half)
Stage 5 - Surveys
You don’t have to get the property surveyed but doing so could save you financial headaches in the future. You’re more likely to want to do this if the property is older or in a state of disrepair. If you’re financing the purchase with a mortgage, the lender will want a valuation survey. This may be at their cost but it’s more likely to be at yours so check when you’re arranging the mortgage.
If a survey highlights any problems with the property, you might want to adjust your offer. If problems will be too costly to fix or the seller won’t negotiate you may decide to back out of the purchase at this stage.
Estimated timescale for surveys: two to three weeks
Stage 6 - Exchange of contracts
By this stage, the survey/s and searches will have been carried out satisfactorily, negotiations will be complete, and your funds should be in place. On the day of exchange, if everything goes to plan, the property purchase becomes legally binding, and you won’t be able to back out without penalties. When the contracts have been exchanged, a completion date will be set. Now’s the time to make any last-minute packing decisions. Avoid any delays by sending any deposit funds required to your solicitor several days in advance.
Estimated timescale for exchange: one day
Stage 7 - Completion
Finally – picking up the keys. This stage usually happens two weeks after you exchange contracts. Your lender will send the purchase money to your solicitor who then sends it to the seller’s solicitor. Once the seller’s solicitor confirms receipt of the funds, the sale is complete. It's time to get the keys to your new home.
Estimated timescale to completion: two weeks after exchange
The bottom line...
The main thing to remember is that the above are all estimated timescales. There are lots of variables involved when it comes to buying a house. For some, it can be a smooth process but even minor bumps can delay the whole process.
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