So, you’ve found your dream home and you’re ready to make an offer. Understandably, you’re a little impatient to get the sale sorted, move in, and start enjoying the place. But what’s the timeline for buying a house? And what does the process look like?
Here, we’ve got a week-by-week breakdown of your homebuying journey. Our timings assume that the process goes smoothly, meaning you could be in your new home in as little as 3 months. But twists and turns in the road could extend the journey to 6 months or so. We’ll talk more about how these delays can happen below.
Now, let’s hit the timeline.
What’s the timeline for buying a house?
Week 1: Make an offer
Your first step is to make an offer to the seller of the property you’ve got your eye on. Usually, this involves using an estate agent as an intermediary – they’ll pass on your offer to the seller and let you know if it’s been accepted. If it isn’t, you can consider making a bigger offer, and then the back and forth phone calls start again.
From making your first offer to having that offer accepted could take a matter of hours, or it might be a few days. If the seller is away or uncontactable for some reason, it could draw this step out.
Once you’ve had your offer accepted, it’s time to leap into action! Your next steps will be:
- Beginning your mortgage application (unless you’re a cash buyer, that is)
- Booking a property survey
- Hiring a conveyancing solicitor or conveyancer to take care of your legal work
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
Weeks 2–5: Apply for a mortgage
You might have already found a mortgage deal that suits you. If not, a mortgage broker can help with this. Once you’ve found the right deal, you can get started with the application process:
- Filling out the paperwork. You’ll need to gather all your documents together and fill in the application form for your mortgage. This could take a day or so – depending on how many dusty corners you need to search to find everything!
- Submission and review. Once it’s submitted, your mortgage lender will review your application. This will include: carrying out an assessment to confirm you can afford a mortgage on the property you want to buy; completing other checks, such as an identity and credit check; and having the property valued to make sure it’s worth what you’ve offered for it.
- Request for more information. Sometimes (but not always), your lender will contact you to ask for more information in support of your application. This can draw the process out a bit longer.
- Approval. Fingers crossed, you’ll receive your official mortgage offer.
The whole mortgage application process usually takes around 3 to 6 weeks.
Weeks 2–4: Get a property survey
While your mortgage application is in progress, it’s a good idea to book a property survey – an in-depth report on the condition of the place you want to buy. A surveyor will look over the house, and tell you if there are any issues you should be aware of.
Getting a survey before you commit to buying the property gives you the opportunity to:
- Pull out of the sale, if you find something wrong with the house,
- Renegotiate the price of the property (if you’re prepared to take care of the repairs yourself), or
- Ask the seller to fix the issues before the sale is completed.
Here are the key types of survey:
Level 2 Survey (used to be called a Homebuyer Report)
This will identify any surface-level problems in the property. Basically, that’s any issues that the surveyor can easily see. They won’t be looking under furniture or under the floorboards.
Time to conduct survey: 2 to 4 hours
Cost: approx. £300 to £400
Level 3 Survey (used to be called a Building Survey or structural survey)
This is a more thorough investigation of the building – no stone (or carpet) left unturned. It’s recommended if you’re buying a particularly large, old, or unusual property.
Time to conduct survey: Up to a day
Cost: Up to £1,000
Although the survey itself only takes a day or less, you might need to book a couple of weeks in advance if the surveyor is busy. That’s why we’ve suggested 2 to 3 weeks for this step on the timeline.
Weeks 2–12: Conveyancing
By the time you’ve submitted your mortgage application, you’ll also have instructed a specialist property solicitor or a licenced conveyancer. Their job is to handle the legal work involved in transferring the property from the old owner to you, the new owner. This legal process is known as “conveyancing”.
While your mortgage application is being reviewed, your solicitor can start carrying out what are known as “property searches”. This is where they contact various authorities for information about the property you want to buy, as well as about the land it’s built on and the local area. What they’re doing is checking for anything that could impact the value of the property or your experience of living there.
Typical searches include:
- Environmental searches for issues with, for example, contamination or flooding.
- Drainage searches to reveal any problems with the water supply or sewage system.
- Local authority searches to uncover issues with roads, planning, or pollution, for example.
Your solicitor also has the job of drawing up contracts for the sale in consultation with the seller’s solicitor. And they’ll help organise a completion date (which is where you pick up your keys and move into your new home).
How long does conveyancing take?
Conveyancing spans almost the entire homebuying timeline, from when you instruct your solicitor to when the sale is complete. It’s normal for the process to take around 8 to 12 weeks, but it could be longer than that if there are any issues with the sale. For example, if the survey reveals structural issues with the property and you’ve arranged for the seller to fix them before you sign the contract for the sale.
Being in a chain can also cause delays. That’s where there’s one (or more) person ahead of you or behind you who needs to sell their current home before they can move. And, of course, that’s multiple people who have to get their mortgages, surveys, and conveyancing sorted out. If one thing goes wrong, there can be a ripple effect along the whole chain, and you could find your sale is delayed.
But let’s assume for now that everything is on track. What happens during the final stages of conveyancing?
Week 10: Exchange contracts
The exchange of contracts is the moment the sale becomes legally binding. Here’s what happens:
- You pay your deposit
- You and the seller both sign a contract for the sale
- Your solicitor and the seller’s solicitor exchange contracts
Exchange typically takes place 14 to 28 days before completion (though it can happen on the same day). So in this timeline, we’ve imagined that you’re exchanging 14 days before you complete (in week 12).
Week 12: Complete
You’ve made it! Whether you’re completing a couple of weeks after exchanging contracts or on the very same day, this is the end of your homebuying journey.
At completion, your solicitor will:
- “Drawdown the funds” from your mortgage (meaning they’ll get the money from your lender and hand it over to the seller’s solicitor)
- Give you the deeds to the property (these are legal documents proving ownership)
- Make sure that you’ve paid any outstanding fees related to the sale
And then all that’s left to do is to pick up your keys and move into your new home!
Get help buying your new home with Habito
If you’re just beginning your homebuying journey, we’re here to give you a hand. Habito Plus will help you navigate every step in this timeline with ease. Not only will we find you the perfect mortgage deal, but we’ll even organise your conveyancing and property survey. No stress, no hassle.
Chat with us today to find out more.