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How long does it typically take to buy a house in the UK?


Buying a house in 2022 can seem daunting – the exorbitant prices of today’s housing market and the lengthy and confusing process are enough to discourage any first time buyer, and cause for weighing the benefits of renting vs buying. While there’s little to be done about market prices, we can at least try to lift some of the confusion around the process so you know what to expect from start to finish!

Once you’ve finally saved up enough in your stock and share ISA or investment account, and you’re able to make a sizable deposit on a flat, how do you start the process and how long does it take to buy a flat? Depending on the market, and assuming that everything goes as smoothly as possible, it takes around 5 months to find a house, make an offer and close the deal in the UK. The most time-consuming part of the process is undoubtedly finding the right property that fits what you’re looking for and your budget. This can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. Applying for a mortgage, though not a fast process by any means, is typically much faster, especially if you have your finances and documents in order when applying. This can take from 2 to 4 weeks, if you’ve prepared everything well beforehand. Making an offer and negotiating the price of the property can take up to 16 weeks, and 2 to 4 weeks to finalise the sale. 

When you break the process down into phases, it becomes much more manageable. So, let’s take a look at some of the specifics of each phase, so you’re better prepared to take on this new adventure!

How long does it typically take to buy a house in the UK?: Summary table

🏠 How long is the process to buy a house?Depending on the market, and assuming that everything goes as smoothly as possible, it takes around 5 months to find a house, make an offer and close the deal in the UK.
💰 How much should I save before I’m ready to buy?Usually, you can expect to pay forward anywhere between 5-20% of the value of the property, so the size of the deposit you will need to put down will depend on the buying value.
💵 How do I make an offer on a property?You will need to reach out to the estate agent representing the seller in order to express your interest and describe the details of your position.

Mortgage feasibility

Before you start searching for your property, it might be a good idea to check in with your bank in order to understand your eligibility to apply for a mortgage. In order to figure out if you are a higher-risk borrower, and how much they are willing to lend you, the bank will take a look into your financial situation, looking at credit scores, income, how long you’ve been working, etc. Based on what they find, you can get a basic understanding of what your budget will be when looking for a property. 

Finding a property

This phase is undoubtedly the most time-consuming and daunting of all. In order to find the right property for you, you need to define your search criteria so that you can refine your search and speed up the process. 

Some important criteria you should decide to help you limit your search:

  • What area are you looking to buy in?
  • What kind of property are you looking to buy?
  • How much are you willing to dedicate yourself to making renovations?
  • How much are you willing to compromise on these criteria if faced with budget constrictions?

When looking to buy property, it’s important that you keep an open mind and are willing to make compromises, otherwise you may never move forward in the process. You may find a property that doesn’t fit the image of the property you had in mind for yourself, but remember, you can always find ways to make it yours!

Making an offer

Once you’ve found a property that meets your criteria, and you know you’re eligible for a mortgage, you’re ready to take the next big step in the process – making an offer!

The specifics of how you go about making your offer may vary, but you will need to reach out to the estate agent representing the seller in order to express your interest and describe the details of your position. The agent will want to know things like what the size of your deposit will be (you’re responsible for providing the deposit, so make sure you learn how to save money for a house), if you’re buying a property for the first time or if you are selling another property.  

If the estate agent is interested in what you propose, you’ll receive feedback anywhere between a few hours or a few days after you express your interest.

Once you’ve made initial contact, the fun begins! The agent will most likely try to work up from your original proposal, and you will try to negotiate the selling point down until you reach an agreement. 

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Getting a Mortgage

When looking around for mortgage options, you’ll find that there are several different types of mortgages available to invest in, and as a result, the process for applying and being approved for a mortgage has become easier for the applicant.

That said, you can still try to speed things up and de-stress the process by making sure you are well prepared before you step foot in the bank – figure out how much you can afford to pay in mortgage payments each month, have all your documents available and make sure you leave with an Agreement in Principle before you make an offer.

Signing the contract and completing the sale

In this final phase, you have the chance to iron out all the more specific details of the purchase, and depending on what details need to be ironed out, your direct involvement may vary. In the review and fine-tuning of the contracts, both of the parties in the transaction will rely on their solicitors to make sure everything is in order. 

During this phase, you will have to lay down a deposit on the house while the contracts are signed and you are waiting for the money to come through from the mortgage lender. The size of the deposit you will need to put down will depend, but can range from anywhere between 5-10% of the value of the property.

Once the contracts have been signed and exchanged, there are still some last things you need to look after before you are ready to settle into your new home. Make sure that your mortgage has been sent by your lender and that the previous occupants have removed all of their things and the house. This can often take longer than you might like, as the previous occupants may not always be quick about leaving the property.

Though the process can seem long and confusing for first-time buyers, luckily there are plenty of resources available to help you understand what needs to be done and why.

What timings to expect for each step

The time it takes to buy a house in the UK, will vary depending on the housing market, but you can expect the process to last for up to half a year, if everything goes as planned! Of course, this will vary according to the specific circumstances in the sale, either your own or those of the seller. 

  1. Depending on how arduously you search, you can expect to find a property that fits your criteria and begin talks with the seller in the first six to twelve weeks
  2. In two to four weeks, you can expect to have figured out the details around your mortgage.
  3. Making an offer on the property and negotiating the terms of sale will likely be the most time consuming phase of the process, taking up to sixteen weeks.
  4. Finally, once you’ve come to an agreement on the terms of sale, signing and exchanging contracts in order to finalise the sale can take between two weeks and one month to complete.

FAQ

How do I apply for a mortgage?

Set up an appointment with your bank to discuss your eligibility for a mortgage. When evaluating your eligibility for a mortgage, the bank will consider a look into your financial situation, looking at credit scores and income.

How many properties should I visit before making an offer?

While there is no right answer, most estate agents suggest seeing at least ten properties that meet your search criteria before you make an offer.

What if I change my mind about buying the property?

Though it’s always possible to back out of the deal, you may end up having to pay a forfeit of around 1-2% of the property’s value, which is why it is important to evaluate well before deciding.

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