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Step By Step Process Buying A House With Timeline

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Buying a home is a process that can take a while. Here’s what it involves, how long it can take, and what might slow you down.

It can feel like buying a home is a secret process. What do you do after you make an offer? What’s the next step? When do mortgage brokers and conveyancers come in?

As a rule, you should expect the entire buying process to take around 12 weeks from when you find the right home. But, it can be shorter – as quick as six weeks – or longer – up to three months.

Let’s look into what is involved in buying a home and how long each stage should take.

Table of Contents

1. Start your search for your perfect home

Do not rush the search for the perfect property. Take your time to browse homes for sale and look around. 

Your best places to start are Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket.

Remember to save your favourite homes to your shortlist and set up alerts for your search. This will ensure that you are the first to know when a property matching your criteria appears on the market.

This will give you the advantage of viewing the property before anyone else and making an offer.

2. Secure a mortgage

Timeline: 2 to 4 weeks

This can seem a little intimidating, but it’s actually a straightforward part of the process. It’s best to secure a mortgage while you’re looking for your next home, so you can put an offer in once you find that perfect property.

You can get a mortgage from a bank or a building society. Find a mortgage broker that searches the whole of the market.  They’ll ask you about your finances and the amount of your deposit. You may have multiple meetings to discuss your mortgage options.

This includes selecting a fixed rate term, usually three or five years. Once you’ve been approved for a mortgage, you’ll receive an agreement in principle (AIP). An AIP is an official document showing how much a lender would be willing to lend you for a house.

Most estate agents require you to have an AIP when you make an offer. This proves that you are serious about buying the property and can afford the purchase. Don’t forget to have proof of your deposit ready.

You will receive your AIP within a few days of applying, and it will be valid for 90 days. Some lenders may have longer validity periods for new builds in case of delays with completion.

House-buying-process
Most estate agents require you to have an AIP when you make an offer. This proves that you are serious about buying the property and can afford the purchase.

3. Make an offer

Timeline: 1 week

Once you’ve found the right home and have your AIP, it’s time to make an offer.  How exciting! 

Give the seller’s estate agent a call or send them an email. Outline the offer you’re making, and if it’s below the asking price, give your reasons.

You can also mention the advantages of having you as the buyer. For instance, you can mention your deposit and the fact that you have an AIP ready.

If you’re a first-time buyer, you can also point out that you have no chain and can be flexible with the move date.

The estate agent has to relay each offer to the seller. You should get a response within 24 to 48 hours. If the offer is accepted, ask the agent to take the property off the market right away. Prepare for a counteroffer, as the seller may come back to negotiate.

Have an idea of the figure you’d be willing to go up to but don’t rush to answer. Take a day or two to consider it and discuss it with anyone you’re buying with particularly if you are buying a home with friends. It may take a few days to come to an agreement.

4. Instruct a conveyancer

Timeline: 6 weeks to 3 months

Once the seller has accepted your offer, it’s time to find a solicitor to help with the legalities.  Don’t go for online solicitors before checking their reviews.

Agree on a fixed price for providing you with a title report.  You don’t want to pay abortive fees in the event of a bad survey.

Once the survey has come back, then order searches.

Estate agents may be able to recommend solicitors. Be careful; they’d be getting a commission from the solicitor.

Ask your friends or family for recommendations. You can also ask within a Facebook group for your area.

This can be the longest part of the process of buying a home. Your solicitor and the seller’s will be communicating back and forth, along with the estate agent.

You may be curious about how long conveyancing takes, but unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.

In an ideal world, the conveyancing process on a freehold property can take as little as six weeks. This is because the freehold property owner owns the property and the land it sits on, making conveyancing simpler than on a leasehold property.

A leasehold sale usually takes longer, around eight to ten weeks. This is because the land the leasehold property is built on is owned by someone else, the freeholder. The more parties involved in the sale, the longer it will likely take.

5. Get a survey done

Timeline: 1 week

Before buying a property, it’s essential to have it surveyed. An expert conducts this inspection to identify any issues.  First, decide which type of survey you need. There are three types, each varying in their level of detail.

After choosing the survey, look into surveyors. Make sure they’re RICS-certified and consider their credentials and pricing. Usually, property surveys can be completed in a week or so. 

Remember, the surveyor is acting for the bank and not for you.

Exchanging contracts and completing your purchase
On completion day, ownership is transferred from seller to buyer, and you can start moving into your new home.

6. Exchange contracts and complete your purchase

Timeline: 1 day to 2 weeks

It typically takes one to two weeks for contracts to be exchanged and the sale to be completed. However, it is not unheard of for people to exchange and complete on the same day.

On completion day, ownership is transferred from seller to buyer, and you can start moving into your new home.

By this time, you should have found out what time you can pick up the keys and started packing up. It’s all yours!

Remember, upon completion, you will need to pay various fees that are required for new homeowners. These fees include: 

  • Solicitor’s fees,
  • Stamp duty (unless you’re a first-time buyer purchasing a property under £300,000).
 
Your solicitor will take care of these fees and will provide you with a completion statement.

Factors that might slow down your buying timeline

These issues can slow down your purchase:

Conveyancing issues

The most common delays in conveyancing are due to paperwork issues, disagreements between buyers and sellers, or complications with the property.

To avoid these, it’s important to make sure all documents are signed and organised correctly and that information on forms is filled out quickly and accurately.

If any issues or disagreements arise, your solicitor or estate agent should be able to negotiate a solution. 

For example, they can follow up an email with a phone call within 48 hours to check if the draft contract was received.

By providing constant feedback, estate agents can help reduce delays, stress, and confusion.

You can also help to keep things moving by regularly checking in with your solicitor. This will help you feel more at ease during the process and allow them to explain any hiccups and how they plan to resolve them.

What are the stages of buying a house UK
The survey results can delay the buying process if any issues are identified, especially if they are more serious structural problems.

Unwelcome surprises from the survey

The survey results can delay the buying process if any issues are identified, especially if they are more serious structural problems. You can consider the cost of fixing any issues and decide if you are willing to do them yourself.

You can ask the seller to make the repairs or request that the costs be deducted from the purchase price. Usually, sellers are open to this. These negotiations may take a few days or a couple of weeks to be completed.

Disagreement with the seller can result in a sale falling through.

Delays in the chain

Delays may arise from issues elsewhere in the property chain. Property chains can be lengthy and complex, forming when homebuyers and sellers are linked due to their respective sales or purchases being dependent on another property transaction.

Coordinating everyone to finish their transaction on the same day can be hard.

If progress is sluggish, ask your estate agent to speak to the agents of the other properties in the chain to keep things moving at a steady pace.

Do first-time buyers complete more quickly?

Buying a home can be quicker for first-time buyers as they don’t need to wait to find a buyer before proceeding with their purchase.

This can make their offer on a property more appealing to the seller, as they can move quickly and be flexible with exchange, completion, and move dates.

However, it all depends on the length of the chain after them.  If there are a lot of people involved, it may take just as long to buy their first home.

The timeframe of buying a home in the UK varies greatly, and there are many factors that can prolong the process. It can be hard to stay patient, especially when you’re eager to move into your new home, but it’s important to remember that estate agents and conveyancers will do their best to move quickly.

Keep communicating with them, be organised, follow-up and you’ll soon be on your way to your new home.

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