In this brief blog, we are going to answer the question “how long does it take to buy a house”.

How long does it take to buy a house?n

It can take about 6 months to buy a house but this will differ from one transaction to another. The delays in buying a house are usually caused by third parties. On average it can take 3 months to find a house, another 1 month to receive a firm mortgage offer, another 1 month for conveyancing and then a couple of weeks for the exchange of contracts and completion.

How long does it take to buy a house from start to finish?

On average it can take about 24 weeks from start to finish to buy a house. It can take 12 weeks to find a house, another 4 weeks to get a mortgage offer, another 4 weeks to complete the conveyancing process and a couple of weeks for the exchange of contracts and completion phase.

How quickly can I buy a house?

You can buy a house very quickly by going to an auction but this comes with some risks. If you want to buy a house without having to go to the auction then you may be able to buy a house in as little as 4 weeks but this will depend on most of the steps required to buy a house happening at the same time.  You may also need to use third parties who are quite quick, when possible.

Who gives you the keys when you buy a house?

When you complete on a house purchase, the keys will usually be handed over to you by the real estate agent who was in charge of selling the property you bought. In some cases, the seller will hand over the keys to the house themselves. This is usually the case when the seller didn’t use a real estate agent.

How long does it take to buy a house

What are the steps to buying a house?

Check your credit score

Fix your credit history

Find a house

Get a mortgage in principle

Get a mortgage offer

Conveyancing

Exchange contracts and completion

Check your credit score

The first step on your house buying journey should be to check your credit score and be sure that you will be able to afford a mortgage if you intend on buying your house with a mortgage.

You can check your credit score by going on any of the four credit bureaus, these are Crediva, Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Not all of these credit bureaus may provide you with a free credit score but you can also request your statutory credit report from each of the credit bureaus. This is a credit report which each credit bureau must provide to you once a year for free.

You can also use other third party services such as Checkmyfile, Credit Kharma UK or Clearscore to check your credit score.

This is an essential step to take before you start the house buying process.

This should take you about 30 minutes.

How long does it take to buy a house

Fix your credit history

If there are any issues with your credit history then you can report these issues to the relevant credit bureaus. They will place a “notice of correction” on the errors. and investigate it by contacting the entity which provided the data and asking them to validate their data entry. The credit bureau should get back to you within 28 days.

You can also fix your credit history by doing the below:

Get a credit builder card

Get a credit builder loan

Avoid missing any credit repayments

Avoid being late on any credit repayments

Avid payday loans

Get a secured credit card

Keep your credit utilization below 30%

Get on the electoral roll

Fixing your credit score is a key parry of the house buying process and can take you as much as 4 weeks if you have to do this before you start shopping for a house.

Find a house

The next step in the house buying process is to look for a house. This means contacting estate agents. Spending countless hours on Zoopla etc. Getting your mortgage in principle before this stage will give you more credibility amongst real estate agents and house sellers.

This part of the house buying process can take up to 12 weeks.

How long does it take to buy a house

Get a mortgage in principle

You can then look to get a mortgage in principle.

A mortgage in principle is an indication of how much a mortgage lender is willing to lend to you. To get a mortgage in principle the mortgage lender will request some information from you and then perform a soft credit check. Note: not all mortgage lender perform soft credit checks. If you have a mortgage broker then your mortgage broker will help you with this part of the mortgage application process. This can take from a few hours to 1 week.

Get a mortgage offer

Once you have found a house and you have a mortgage in principle then you can go on to make a full mortgage application in order to get a mortgage offer. For a mortgage offer the mortgage lender will perform a full, hard credit check on you and will require you to fill in the mortgage fact find as well as provide any supporting document the mortgage lender may need to approve your mortgage.

If the mortgage lender provides you a mortgage offer they will then go on to conduct a mortgage valuation on the property. This can take as much as 4 weeks to complete.

To  make it much easier to get a mortgage offer you may want to consider using a few of the government schemes which exist:

How long does it take to buy a house

Government schemes to buy a house

If you are looking to buy a house then you should also consider the numerous government schemes for first-time buyers and home movers which may be able to help you get on the property ladder.

  • Lifetime ISA– gives you a government bonus of £1,000 if you save the maximum £4,000 a year.
  • Help to buy ISA– gives a maximum bonus us £3,000 if you save the maximum allowed of £12,000. Before you get either you should consider which is better. Lifetime ISA vs Help to buy ISA.
  • Help to buy equity loan- gives you up to 40% as a 5-year interest-free equity loan. You begin to pay interest at 1.75 % after the fifth year and 1% plus RPI for every year thereafter.
  • Shared ownership– You can buy between 25% to 75% of the property initially with a shared ownership mortgage and then buy more using a staircasing mortgage.
  • Armed forces help to buy– similar to the help to buy equity loan but specific for the armed forces personnel giving them an increased chance of acceptance.
  • Rent to buy– This is the right to buy scheme on which this guide is currently discussing. A different marketing name is just used. Watch out for this when shopping to avoid missing out on eligible properties due to confusion.
  • Right to buy– allows you to buy your home at a discount price.
  • Preserved right to buy- same as above.
  • Right to acquire- same as above.

Depending on where you live, you may also be able to take advantage of home buying schemes provided by your local council. Example: In Norwich, the local councils provide the Norwich home options scheme.

Using a mortgage broker

You may want to consider using an independent mortgage broker to help you buy a house.

Mortgage brokers are important as they can access mortgage products from across the whole of the market in some cases. This could be over 11,000 mortgage products. This may have some advantages than going directly to a mortgage lender.

A mortgage broker will look to understand your financial circumstances and then provide recommendations on which mortgage products may be suitable for you.

After giving you these mortgage recommendations, most mortgage brokers will seek your consent to apply for a mortgage in principle. This will allow you to shop for your home easier as more estate agents and sellers may take you seriously or it will give you confidence that your remortgage is indeed a possibility before you make a full mortgage application. Once you have found a home you want to buy or are satisfied with the mortgage offer for your remortgage then the mortgage broker will then look to get you a mortgage offer.

This will come with a key facts illustration document which details out the features of your mortgage including how much you will pay per month if there are any limits such as early repayment fees, or annual overpayment limits.

If you are happy with everything you can then go on to secure your  mortgage with the help of a conveyancer. Your conveyancer will manage the legal searches on the property to ensure there aren’t any issues with it, they will oversee the sales agreement to ensure it is in your best interest, they will manage the transfer of mortgage funds, exchange contracts with the seller or their conveyancer and set a completion date with the seller or their conveyancer.

Conveyancing

The conveyancing process is the legal process when buying a house. It involves your conveyancer, as well as the seller and the banks conveyancer all coordinating to discuss any searches which you conveyancer carried out on the property and the sales contract.

This can take up to 3 weeks.

Exchange contracts and completion

The exchange of contracts is the stage of the house buying process where you and the seller exchange contracts through your conveyancers. A move in date is set and any funds are transferred.

Property Chains

Property chains can create a big variation in how long it takes to buy a house. Usually as a first-time buyer you will be buying your house from the home builder as you may have used a government scheme which only works with new buildings. If this is the case, you wont face a property chain. If you are buying from the open market then you are more likely to come in contact with a property chain which will affect how long it will take you to buy a house.

Conclusion on “how long does it take to buy a house”

This part of the house buying process can take up to 2 weeks.

In this blog, we provided an answer to “ How long does it take to buy a house “. If you want to ensure this process does not take too long then you can make the process faster by getting all third parties involved mobilised as soon as possible and starting most steps of the journey at the same time. 

This includes steps such as getting a mortgage in principle immediately you start shopping for a house, hiring a conveyancer before you find a house or as soon as you find a house you want to buy.

John Bate

John has 22 years of experience in financial services. This spans across financial research, financial services (As a qualified mortgage broker and underwriter), financial trading and sales at global investment banks. While working as a publishing research analyst, he covered European bank credit and advised institutional clients on investment strategies at both JP Morgan and Societe Generale. John has passed all three levels of the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) programme.