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How Long Does it Take to Buy a House?

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Buying a house can seem like a massive milestone, with multiple obstacles preventing the successful purchase. For first-time buyers, this can get incredibly overwhelming. The timeline from the initial property search to finally moving in typically spans around six months. However, this can stretch longer if delays crop up at any stage. Throughout those six months, there’ll be moments when things will move fast, while at other times, you’ll be waiting patiently (hopefully) while other individuals like estate agents, lenders, and solicitors carry out their duties. All to ensure a smooth transaction for you. 

Every property purchase is unique, and if this isn’t your first purchase, then there may be other delays. Dealing with a chain during a transaction usually takes 15 weeks once an offer has been accepted. Meanwhile, for first-time buyers, it may take less time. 

Understanding what to expect at each stage will ensure a smoother process. 

A general guideline is that the sale process might take about 12 weeks from identifying the right home, but this isn’t set in stone. It could be as quick as six weeks or stretch up to three months. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the process of buying a home and provide a breakdown of how long each stage typically takes. 

Getting a mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP)

Obtaining a Mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP) is easier than it might initially appear. This may be the most challenging task for those who hate paperwork and dealing with banks. Although relatively straightforward, it’s an essential part of the home-buying process. We advise you to secure an AIP while you’re house hunting. Having this in place means you’re ready to make an offer when you find your ideal property.

How long does it take to get an AIP? 

2-4 weeks but only 24 hours once you approach a lender. 

Approaching lenders

You can apply for a mortgage directly through banks or building societies, or you can engage the services of a mortgage broker or financial adviser. Regardless of your route, you’ll be asked to provide details about your financial status and deposit size. This might involve one or more meetings to discuss various mortgage options.

Choosing a mortgage type

An important decision during this stage is selecting the type of mortgage. For many, a fixed-rate term is a popular choice—typically three to five years, locks in your mortgage rate, offering repayment stability. Most will choose to opt for this when mortgage rates are better. At the time of writing, mortgage rates have been reduced compared to the previous year. 

Receiving the AIP

Once your mortgage application is approved, you’ll receive the AIP. This document is a lender’s statement that issues the amount they are willing to lend you to purchase a house. It’s a significant step in house-buying, as most estate agents look for an AIP to verify your severe intent and financial capability to follow through on an offer. You would be surprised how many deals fall through because a buyer must approve a mortgage. 

Validity

Generally, an AIP is issued quickly these days, often within 24 hours of application, and usually remains valid for 90 days. This three-month window gives you plenty of time to make an offer on a house under the terms of that AIP. However, it’s worth noting that some lenders offer extended validity periods for new-build homes, recognising that such purchases may encounter delays.

Finding your dream house

Finding your dream home can sometimes be challenging, but it’s all part and parcel of the home-buying process. The duration of this stage will ultimately depend on factors such as market conditions, availability, your specific needs, and sometimes, a bit of luck.

How long should you expect to find a house? It depends; it could take days, weeks or months. Let’s say 90 days or three months to stay on the safe side. 

Here are some tips to ensure you find your dream house faster. 

  • Get Organised

Begin by listing your priorities, like location, size, type of property, and any specific amenities you desire. Utilise online property portals, register with estate agents, and consider attending viewings. Remember, the more specific your criteria, the more streamlined your search can be. At the same time, be realistic with what’s actually available in your local area. 

  • Staying Informed and Flexible

Remain up-to-date with new listings and be prepared to book viewings as soon as possible. Flexibility offers a distinct advantage in a competitive market. However, balance this with patience; it’s essential not to rush into a decision because the market feels pressured.

Making comparisons

Keep notes or a checklist for each property you view. As you view more properties, details might blend, so having a record helps jog your memory when comparing similar properties. 

Patience

While some find their ideal home quickly, it may take several months for others. It’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed. Because you’ll be making a significant financial decision, not to mention the personal impact your home can have, is reason enough to leave plenty of time for this process stage. 

Making the offer

Once you’ve found your ideal property, you can make an offer. This part of the process will be packed with nerves and excitement. Though it may seem intimidating, the process is straightforward and swift.

How long does it take for an offer to be made and accepted? Typically, around a week.

Here are some tips to help with this part of the process:

Initiating the offer

This can be done simply by contacting the seller’s estate agent through phone or email. State your offer clearly, and if you’re proposing a price below the asking amount, include your reasons, as this will help with negotiations.

Beyond the Price Tag

Remember, your offer isn’t just about the amount. Point out the size of your deposit and the fact that you have an AIP. If you’re a first-time buyer, emphasise the absence of a chain and your flexibility regarding the move date. The idea is to make your offer appealing to sellers.

Communication with the Estate Agent

The estate agent is obliged to pass every offer to the seller. You can typically expect feedback within 24 to 48 hours. If your offer is accepted, it’s essential to request that the property be taken off the market immediately to avoid further offers from competing buyers.

Handling Counteroffers

Not all offers will be accepted immediately, especially if they’re below the asking price. So be prepared for the possibility of a counteroffer. Sellers might want to negotiate on the price or terms. A maximum figure in mind that you’re willing to offer is wise. However, feel free to respond immediately. Take some time, perhaps a day or two, to contemplate and discuss with anyone involved in the purchase.

Reaching an Agreement

The negotiation may take a few days as both parties work towards an agreement. Patience and clear communication will help get you through this phase. The goal is to arrive at a satisfactory deal that brings you one step closer to owning your dream home.

Pre-contract stage

After your offer is accepted, the journey towards owning your home enters the next step, the pre-contract stage. 

How long should the pre-contract stage be? Typically, it is around four to twelve weeks. This is because there are various stakeholders involved at this point, each one having an impact on the overall duration. 

Finalising Your Mortgage

With an accepted offer, the focus shifts to converting your Agreement in Principle into a formal mortgage offer. You’ll provide your lender with information about the chosen property. The lender will then perform their valuation checks to ensure the property is worth the agreed price and suitable for a mortgage. This process can take a few weeks, as it involves thorough assessments by the lender.

Contract Drafting

Simultaneously, your conveyancer or solicitor will start drafting the purchase contract. This task again requires a few stakeholders: your seller, their legal representative, and sometimes the Land Registry. The agreement needs to be comprehensive and clear, covering all aspects of the property and sale. Depending on the complexity and the responsiveness of all parties involved, drafting the contract can take anywhere from a week to several weeks.

Searches and Surveys

Another essential part of this stage is carrying out searches and surveys. Your conveyancer will oversee these processes. Searches are crucial for uncovering legal details about the property, such as the legitimacy of the seller’s right to sell, property boundaries, environmental risks, and any local plans that might affect the property.

On the other hand, surveys focus on the physical condition of the building. They help identify any potential issues, from structural problems to minor repairs, providing you with a clear understanding of what you’re buying.

Importance of Thoroughness

This stage is essential for ensuring that everything about the property is as expected and legally sound. It’s the due diligence stage, so everything hinges on the success of this phase. While it might seem time-consuming, the thoroughness of this phase protects you from future complications, which you’ll definitely be thankful for. 

Exchange to completion

The phase from contract exchange to completion is the next part of the process. Here, you’ll exchange contracts and get a clear picture of when everything will be finalised. 

How long should you expect the exchange to complete? Roughly 12 weeks. 

Here’s what you can expect:

Contract Exchange

The exchange of contracts, typically taking about 20-30 days, is where everything becomes official. Here, the conveyancers exchange signed copies of the contract, and you transfer your deposit to your solicitor. From this point, the agreement to purchase the property is legally enforceable. 

Setting the Completion Date

During the exchange, the buyer and seller agree upon a completion date. This could be a matter of days or several weeks from the exchange date. The completion date is when the remaining funds are transferred, and the keys to your new home are handed over.

Completion & beyond

The completion process involves the successful transfer of funds and the much-anticipated moment of receiving the keys to your new property. However, the process continues. 

How long should completion take? All in all, around two weeks. 

The final parts of this process typically involve the following three stages:

  • Paying stamp duty

Stamp duty, a tax levied on property purchases, is essential at this stage. Your conveyancer will inform you if you’re liable for stamp duty and the amount due. There’s a specific timeframe within which this tax must be paid post-purchase. Your conveyancer will handle the payment to ensure it’s on time and within legal requirements. 

  • Registering your ownership

Post-completion, it’s necessary to inform the Land Registry of your formal ownership of the property. Your conveyancer will manage this process, though depending on your arrangement, a fee might be involved.

  • Obtaining the Title Deeds

Once the registration with the Land Registry is complete, your conveyancer will secure copies of the property’s new title deeds. These are essential documents that legally certify your ownership. Copies of these deeds will be shared with you and your mortgage lender.

The entire duration of buying a home is affected by the speed at which everyone involved can work. If the seller is looking to sell a house fast, and the buyer is raring to go, the process will be much smoother. Additionally, all the other stakeholders, like the conveyance and lenders involved, must also work at the same speed. 

Here at sold.co.uk, we help sellers get their property sold quickly and easily. So, for those who find themselves facing delays due to being in a chain and needing to find a buyer soon, we can help. Get in touch to find out more. 


FAQs

How long does it take from start to finish when buying a house?

On average, buying a house can take about six months from start to finish. However, this timeframe is heavily affected by factors such as obtaining a mortgage and whether you’re in a property chain.

What is the average wait time to buy a house?

The average wait time to buy a house is typically around six months. This includes time spent searching for the property, securing a mortgage, the conveyancing process, and reaching completion. 

How long does it take to buy a house after an offer is accepted?

After an offer is accepted, it typically takes between 4 to 12 weeks to reach the completion stage. This period involves finalising the mortgage offer, conducting property surveys and searches, drafting and exchanging contracts, and setting a completion date.

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