Buying a House: A Timeline

How long does it take to buy a house? Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to this question. Every transaction is different and there are plenty of factors that affect how long it can take, from the conveyancer you choose to which local authority carries out your property searches.

It can take anywhere from six weeks to four months to complete a home purchase. The average across the UK is 12 weeks but your timeline depends on a number of factors.

Each stage of the process will add time onto the overall timeline for buying a house.

Get your mortgage agreement in principle

24 hours

Once you’ve decided on the right mortgage and applied for an agreement in principle, receiving it is usually a relatively quick process. Your lender will usually have yours back to you in 24 hours, letting you get on with house hunting.

Find your home

Up to a few months

Once you know what you can afford, you can start looking for the house you want to call home. This will take as long as it takes for you to work out which is the property for you. But it’s important to remember that most mortgage agreements in principle expire after a certain period – typically 30 or 90 days. If you haven’t found the right place by this time, you’ll have to apply for a new agreement.

Choose your conveyancers

Up to a few weeks

Your mortgage broker or lender may recommend a conveyancing solicitor but, in most cases, you won’t have to work with them. You are usually free to choose your own conveyancer so it’s important to pick the right one for you.

Have the home valued

Up to a few weeks

Your mortgage provider will need to make sure they won’t lose money when turning your agreement in principle into a full mortgage offer. They will have to make sure the property you want is worth what they’ll lend you – so they’ll arrange for an independent valuation of the house.

Conveyancer does the searches

Up to two months

The amount of time it takes for your searches to be finished will depend on your conveyancer and your local authority. Most local authorities will get the necessary searches done in a few weeks, but some have been known to need up to two months to complete them. An efficient conveyancer will help keep this stage as short as possible.

Get your house survey done

Up to a few weeks

This isn’t the same as the valuation arranged by your lender. If you have any concerns about the condition of the property, the survey results will either reassure you or give you something to go back to the seller with to renegotiate the price – or call off the purchase altogether.

Agree a completion date

Up to a few weeks – depending on the chain

You may be a link in a long chain of buyers and sellers – and this can complicate things. Although you may have an ideal completion date in mind, it might not be feasible for the other links in the chain. So how long you’ll be waiting to complete will depend on the other people involved.

Send your deposit


Once an exchange date has been agreed, you’ll have to send your deposit to your solicitor. It has to clear in their account before they can exchange contracts with your home’s seller. Your solicitor will talk you through the process, but when dealing with such a large amount of money, it pays to be extra careful. Make sure you’re sending the funds to the right account. Consider sending a small amount through first and asking them to confirm receipt before sending the full amount through.

Exchange contracts

One day

Once your conveyancer has your deposit, they can exchange contracts with the seller’s solicitor. This typically involves them reading the contracts to each other on the phone, making sure they are the same. At this point, you won’t be able to pull out of your purchase so it’s important to ensure you definitely want to go ahead before doing so.

Move in

Up to a few days

Once you have a completion date, you should organise your move – whether that’s professionals or a van to do it yourself. If you have a lot of belongings to transport, you may need a few days to get everything moved in.

There will usually be some final admin tasks to complete at this point – such as paying Stamp Duty, if applicable, and sending your solicitor the fee for registering you as the new owner at the Land Registry – but you’re finally in your new home and you can start celebrating.


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