Home buying timeline
Last updated: 18/04/2023
Buying your first home can feel like a long and confusing process. Breaking things down into sensible steps will help you understand what’s next.
Buying a home is a big financial commitment. You’ll need to save a sizeable sum for your deposit, commit to monthly mortgage repayments, and cover various added costs that come with homeownership. Visit our savings hub for first time buyers to find out about all the hidden costs, work out how much you’ll need to save, and find out the best ways to save.
There are lots of different types of mortgages, and it’s important you choose a deal that suits your needs and circumstances. When you take out a mortgage, it’s really important that you can afford the monthly repayments; if you can’t, your home may be repossessed. A mortgage adviser or broker can help you decide what type of mortgage is right for you. But before you start, it’s a good idea to learn about things like interest rates, and the different types of mortgages you can choose from. Our mortgages hub for first time buyers is a good place to start.
When searching for your first home, it’s really important not to rush the decision. You have some big decisions to make; where do you want to live? Do you want a house or a flat? Will you buy in a city or somewhere more rural? Do you fancy a new build or a fixer upper? Our house hunting hub for first time buyers can help you figure out what’s important to you – and what questions to ask the seller before you make an offer. There’s a lot to think about; so it’s best to take your time and find a place that’s right for you.
Once you’ve found a place and made an offer, it usually takes between 1 - 3 months until you’re able to move into your new home.
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. It’s a good idea to get this moving as soon as possible.
If you already have a Mortgage in Principle, you might find this part of the process runs a little more smoothly and quickly. Also known as a ‘Decision in Principle’ or an ‘Agreement in Principle’ this document is a conditional mortgage offer from a lender based off some quick financial checks. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll be accepted for a mortgage with that lender but an agreement that you could be accepted. A Mortgage in Principle helps show the seller and estate agent that you’re a serious buyer.
Conveyancing is ‘the legal transfer of home ownership from the seller to the buyer.’ Your property solicitor or conveyancer is a specialist professional who takes care of all the legal paperwork involved in transferring a property from one person to another. This is usually the longest part of the home-buying process and can take as long as 8 to 12 weeks.
Your property solicitor or conveyancer will complete a series of tasks for you, including dealing with the Land Registry (or the Land Register of Scotland) and exchanging funds. They’ll also carry out searches to check things like whether the property is connected to sewers, who owns any access roads, whether the land its built on is contaminated, and whether there’s anything you need to know about like nearby new road schemes or enforcement actions the local council are taking.
Once you sign a contract, your deal becomes legally binding (so you can no longer pull out without the risk of losing your deposit). You and the seller will both sign the contracts, 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 now need to pay the deposit and any outstanding solicitor fees.
Once the solicitors have completed the purchase and the money for your house been transferred, you’ll agree a date to pick up the keys to your new home. Once you’re moved, it’s finally time to relax with a cup of tea or a glass of fizz.
On average it takes six months to buy a home – but don’t panic if your home-buying journey takes more (or less) time. Everyone's circumstances are different. Understanding the process will help you feel in control every step of the way.