How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House

How long is a piece of string?

That was a useful answer, and one that doesn’t want you to throw a microwave at my face, right?

So, obviously we can only work with averages here, because each case will have different moving parts and varying levels of complications, which can all make for a speedy or brutally lengthy buying process.

With that said, the process of buying a house in the UK can take anywhere between 6 – 16 weeks on average. That’s on the basis that you have already found the property you want to buy. That process on it’s own really is a how long is a piece of string scenario.

But to give you a better idea of the house buying process in the UK, let’s walk through the steps…

Most of the steps are self-explanatory. In some cases, I’ll jump in and add my thoughts and additional comments to provide further clarity.

Please note, the order of the steps may vary and overlap in practice.

Step 1: Find the right property

Step 2: Make an offer

Once you’ve found the property you want to buy, you need to make an offer on it. On the basis that the seller accepts, you can progress to the next step.

Step 3: Apply for a mortgage

There are literally hundreds of mortgage products available at any one time, and they change on a daily basis. It’s a minefield.

To get the best deal, use comparison websites like Habito so you can compare the widest range of products.

Once you find a suitable mortgage product you will need to apply for it and then wait for the lender to process your application to see if they approve the loan.

Step 4: Property valuation and survey

First, your mortgage lender will carry out a valuation of the property to determine whether they’re happy to lend on it (if they’re not, they won’t approve the loan).

Once your mortgage application gets approved, you should get a structural survey done on the property to determine that it’s in good condition and there aren’t any structural concerns. If any issues get flagged, you may want to reconsider progressing with the purchase, or negotiate with the seller (depending on what was discovered in the survey).

There are three types of surveys, each being more comprehensive than the other. Here is a guide on property surveys and valuations.

Step 5: Get a Conveyancing solicitor

You’ll need a good conveyancing solicitor to manage all the legal paperwork, Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of money.

It’s essential to find a reputable licensed conveyancer that works efficiently and doesn’t charge extortionate fees. The industry is notoriously filled with expensive conveyancers that provide terrible service, which often results in very slow progress and even responsible for complete failure.

Here’s a guide on Conveyance Solicitors & finding the right one for you.

Step 6: Get building insurance

Even if you don’t officially own the house yet, it’s best to arrange insurance at this point. It’s important to note that once you’ve exchanged contracts you’re legally-bound to purchase it, so it’s your responsibility if anything happens to the property. Get insurance.

Step 7: Pay Deposit

Shortly before exchanging contracts, your conveyancing solicitor will ask you to transfer your deposit to them.

Step 8: Checks & Searches

Your solicitor will carry out necessary searches to ensure there aren’t any issues with the property. For example, they should check the following:

  • Local authority searches- check to see if there is anything you need to be aware of, such as any building control issues, enforcement actions and nearby road schemes.
  • Drainage searches – check it is connected to sewers
  • Environmental search – checks land isn’t contaminated

Some searches will be optional depending on the requirements of your lender, but you really should get them all done to be safe.

Step 9: Exchange contracts

This when your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor have each got a copy of the signed contracts (which facilitate the transfer of ownership).

After contracts are exchanged there is a legally-binding contract between the buyer and the seller, which means neither can pull out of the deal without facing penalties.

After contracts are exchanged there will be more paperwork for your solicitor to complete, but it should be relatively quick and easy from this point on.

Step 10: Completion statement

Shortly before completion, your solicitor will give you a completion statement with a breakdown of the money you need to give the solicitor. This can include any outstanding deposit and stamp duty fees.

Step 11: Completion

You’re done! Congrats.

Factors that affect how long it takes to buy a house

  • Preparation– like with the success of most tasks, preparation is key. It’s important to get all finances, insurance policies and solicitors all in place at the early stages to minimize any hold-ups. It becomes extremely transparent when someone is ill-prepared.
  • Good legal team– I’ve made the mistake of using an extremely poor legal team in the past and it resulted in major delays. Good conveyancing firms will work quickly, be organised and know exactly what they’re doing.
  • Property Chain– Obviously, the bigger the property chain, the greater the risk of delays occurring. If there are several parties in a chain the knock on effects are generally rippled through from top to bottom./li>
  • Leasehold/freehold– freehold properties are generally completed quicker than leasehold properties, because they involve less paperwork than leasehold properties.
  • Survey report– the result of the structural survey can often delay the buying process if any serious issues are highlighted. In this case, delays are likely, if not complete abandonment.

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