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How Long is the House Buying Process in England?

In England the house buying process starts when you make an offer and have it accepted. You don't have to do this in writing - a simple phone call or conversation with the estate agent or owner and an agreed price is enough to start the process off. After that it can seem to be a never-ending process. But how long is the house buying process from start to end?

If you buy a house at an auction, then you will be committed to buying it within 14 or 28 days. The final act of buying the house is called Completion. It is for this reason that people who buy property at auction need to have done their research before even entering the auction room - often even having to have paid for a survey and putting in their mortgage application, as well as having a fast solicitor lined up in order to meet that date.

If you are buying a regular house though then the average time it takes to buy a house is about three months.

There are many things that will affect the speed of the process. There might be other people in the chain - if this is your first house purchase then the people you are buying from might also be using those funds to buy their next house - and so on. The shorter the chain, the easier the process.

If you are buying property that is leasehold, then this can delay things because the leaseholders also need to be contacted and more issues might be raised about ground rents, or service charges.

Time delays come in the form of the time it takes to apply for a mortgage and for a valuation to occur, the time it takes your solicitor to send out letters and questions to the other side and to read/digest any information they receive from them. Local searches can take 3 weeks in some locations, which aren't often started at the beginning of the process either.

It is only once all questions have been answered and a mortgage offer is in the hand of the solicitor that you are finally in a position to be able to sign the contract to agree to buy the house - a stage called Exchange. Once the two signed contracts have been exchanged it's irreversible and you can safely start to book the removals firm as you will know the actual date the keys are yours.

So, if you want to buy a house, then it might be three months before you actually pick up the keys. I made an offer to buy my current house on 2 April of last year and I picked up the keys on 9 July, three months and one week later.


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scheng1 wrote on January 17, 2015, 8:54 AM

That is provided the buyers and sellers have all the documents ready, else it will be longer.

Janey1966 wrote on January 17, 2015, 9:07 AM

Our house is currently up for sale and we want it sold as soon as possible in order to raise money for my husband. However, this is a bad time of year to sell as it's generally the last thing people think about before, during and after Christmas. Anyway, I'm hopeful things may pick up come Springtime although that doesn't help John any.

lucyluuk wrote on January 17, 2015, 9:14 AM

I have never bought a house but we intend to buy our council flat as soon as we can afford it and we are allowed to by the rules (probably in a year or two) but that will not involve any estate agents or any other people, I think when you are in a chain it can take longer

UK_Writer wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:39 PM

Yep, loads of ways for a delay to occur. I think sellers are less prepared than buyers when it comes to the process... they don't expect the questions/paperwork requests they get hit with.

UK_Writer wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:40 PM

There can be a flurry of interest around Christmas/New Year in some areas, but it's such an unsettling time once you've put a house on the market and are waiting for a buyer to materialise.

UK_Writer wrote on January 17, 2015, 6:43 PM

Ah, easy then - you don't have to move either! Buying council flats can prove tricky in the longer term when they want to upgrade the flats and give you a bill for that.

peachpurple wrote on January 18, 2015, 3:12 AM

i don't know about foreign countries but in malaysia, it takes 2-3 weeks to sign a contract, wait 3 months for the bank to transfer funds and another 3 months for the government to approve the name transfer,

UK_Writer wrote on January 18, 2015, 4:22 AM

In the UK there is a lot of work to be done between making an offer and exchanging contracts because it is up to the buyer to make sure the house is worth the money, which involves waiting for a valuation and reports - which might then indicate further reports are required. It can seem endless, with both sides fearing the other will pull out of the deal. I think 1/3rd of sales fall through.

NorthernLight wrote on January 18, 2015, 12:53 PM

From acceptance of offer to completion is usually 6/8 weeks but it can be done with in a week if everyone puts their mind to it. Our move last year took just over 3 months but we were in a chain of four.

seren3 wrote on January 18, 2015, 11:32 PM

Typically it's 60 days in the US, but there can always be factors that make it longer.

UK_Writer wrote on January 19, 2015, 2:45 AM

I heard a story, many years ago, how a woman was determined to do the whole process in one day - and managed it by running all the documents between all the various offices. I think she walked into the Council offices and got the searches done on the spot, for example. But hers was an extreme set of circumstances that enabled it.

UK_Writer wrote on January 19, 2015, 2:46 AM

It always seems so much longer, too, as you're not sure how long it'll take until you've done it.

lucyluuk wrote on January 20, 2015, 12:17 PM

I am quite lucky they are currently installing gas central heating throughout the block so I will be getting that installed before I buy it and I am going to try for a new kitchen as ours is really old and parts are rotten and falling to pieces but I want to get the gas done first!