Home buying timeline

Home buying timeline

The time has come to buy your first home

Last updated: 10/12/2021

And amongst all of the excitement and nerves you’re probably asking yourself: how long is the whole process going to take?

There are lots of steps to consider when buying a home and it can sometimes feel like a long process. It typically takes around six months from start to finish, but you could buy far quicker than this, or it could take longer.

Understanding which steps you will need to take, and what each stage entails will make the process feel more manageable. Here we break it down into six steps.

What can I do before I get started?

Getting informed about mortgages

When you get a mortgage, you’ll need to make sure you can afford the repayments each month, if you can’t keep up with the repayments, your home may be repossessed.

A mortgage adviser will be able to help you make your choice, to find a mortgage that suits your needs and, crucially, one you can afford.

The home buying process doesn’t just start with the six key stages, there are lots of preparations to do long before you start shopping for your dream home. The most important thing you need to do before buying a home is getting your finances in order, this should be your top priority.

Before you can think about buying a house, you need to save a sum of money to place a deposit. There are many ways you can save, but our guide to saving for a deposit explains the most efficient methods.

How quickly you can save for a deposit depends on a lot of factors, such as the size of the deposit, your income, or whether you have any existing savings. Check out our savings calculator to find out how long you’ll need to save for a deposit.

If you’re looking to get ahead and speed up your home buying process, it’s a good idea to look into your credit score as soon as possible to give yourself plenty of room to improve it. Examining your affordability and working out how much you can afford to pay for your property will also leave you in a good position to begin applying for a mortgage quickly.

House hunting

When shopping around for your dream house, it’s important not to rush into any decisions. On average home buyers tend to spend between one and three months in this stage, but it’s best to take your time and find the right house for you. Have a look at our guide on the questions to ask when viewing houses to make this stage as seamless as possible. 

Making an offer

There is usually around one to three months between making an offer and the contracts finally being exchanged. This stage can feel particularly long if you’ve found your dream home and want to get moving with the process. Getting a mortgage in principle beforehand may help to speed things up when you’re ready to put an offer in. This document will prove to the seller and estate agent that you’re a serious buyer. 

Getting a mortgage

This stage can be particularly time consuming. From the moment you apply for a mortgage, it can take between 18-40 days to complete your application and get a formal mortgage offer from your lender, so it’s a good idea to get this moving as soon as possible. If you’re unsure where to get started, our guide on applying for a mortgage gives detail on the first steps. Using a mortgage adviser will also help to simplify everything.

An affordability assessment and a valuation survey will need to be carried out by your lender before they offer you a mortgage. The valuation survey is to check that the home you’re looking to buy is worth the money you’re asking to borrow.

Instructing a conveyancer or solicitor

This is usually the longest part of the home buying process. The conveyancing stage can take from 8 to 12 weeks from the moment you instruct to when you move into your new home. This can vary by a significant amount depending on your individual circumstances. Factors such as the mortgage or whether the property is freehold or leasehold, as well as how many people are in the conveyancing chain can have an effect. 

Your property solicitor or conveyancer will have lots of tasks to complete in this stage in order to secure your home, including dealing with the land registry and exchanging the funds. 

Completing the purchase

All that’s left to do before you can start completing your purchase is to sign the contracts. At this point, your deal becomes legally binding, so it’s too late to pull out without the risk of losing your deposit. You and the seller will both sign the contracts and then your solicitor will exchange the contracts with the seller's solicitor. 

If you’re at the completion stage it means your solicitor’s searches on your house are cleared. You’ll need to pay the deposit and any outstanding solicitor fees.

Getting the keys

The final step! Once the solicitors have completed the purchase and the money for your house been transferred, you’ll need to agree to a date with the estate agent to pick up the keys (usually the same day), then it’s all yours. The only thing left to do is relax with a cup of tea, or a glass of prosecco in your new property, and start thinking about how you can make your house a home. 

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And remember

Although the average time scale for buying a home is six months, don’t be alarmed if you complete the process in half that time, or longer. Everyone's circumstances are different when buying a property. Understanding the process and each stage will help to speed things up and keep the process running as smoothly as possible. Have a look through our home buying hub, to make sure you’re clued up on every part of the buying process.

Click on the sections below to explore what you need to know at each stage of your home buying journey:

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Finding >

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Moving >

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Buying >

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