In by Christmas? How long does it take to buy a new home?

Posted 29 September 2015 by Keith Osborne

We’ve been urging house-hunters hoping to buy their new homes by Christmas to waste no time in starting the buying process – searching our website for houses in their area, arranging to visit the marketing suite or show home and taking the first steps towards securing their dream new build home.

It’s still not too late – but how long will it take to complete the purchase, from those initial steps to crossing the threshold, keys in hand, for the first time?

Mike Carter, head of conveyancing at Paul Crowley and Co Solicitors, says: “A house could be bought in as little as six weeks but this happens very rarely. If you’re looking to move in to a new home before a specific date it’s worth bearing in mind that the longest sales can go on for up to eight months [possibly longer if you’re buying off-plan] – so it’s far better to start the process earlier rather than later and to make sure that you’re organised in advance.”

Here, Mike guides you through the steps and the time you’ll need to allow for each one to take...


1. Evaluate your situation (time dependent on you)

How much do you have to spend? How much can you borrow? Avoid unnecessary disappointment by doing your homework and knowing your limits before you begin.

2. Find a solicitor (one week)

If you find a good solicitor it can speed up the buying process later on. You want someone who knows what they are doing, is a good communicator, reliable and is on the panel of the major lenders so time spent looking for the right one is never time wasted.

3. Look for a mortgage (three weeks)

Do not automatically get your mortgage from your current bank. If your credit score is good then another bank is likely to attempt to lure you with better deals offered to you by your own. Choosing your mortgage is one of the most important decisions of your life and getting the wrong mortgage is a mistake with repercussions that last for years, so it is worth the extra effort to take your time looking for the right one.

4. Find/Make an offer on your perfect home (time dependent on you)

If you have looked around and found a perfect house, prior to starting official proceedings, which you find is within your conceivable price bracket this step can occur speedily. Everyone takes different amounts of time to make a decision on a house but once the place is found everyone will need to make an offer for it. You’ll almost certainly have to pay a reservation fee to secure the home you want from a housebuilder but at this point you and the housebuilder are not legally bound to complete the purchase until you have exchanged contracts, so the longer the steps between this and the contracts being exchanged the larger the risk of the sale not going through.

5. Check for the best mortgage (time dependent on you)

You will have made an agreement in principle (AIP) with the mortgage provider that you have spoken to previously. They are usually only valid for 30 or 90 days, depending on the lender, so it might have expired if you took your time searching for your property. You should not immediately go back to the first lender as the range of mortgage products on offer can change on a daily basis. It is worth a quick check to see if you can find a better deal. You could just get a mortgage at this point and not do it earlier. However, making an offer with an agreement in principle in place means the offer you make is more likely to be accepted and everything is going to go through smoothly.

6. Instruct your solicitor (time dependent on you)

Yet again, you could simply search for and get your solicitor at this point but if you line one up early, you won't feel pressured into signing up the first one you find once your offer is accepted on the property. The only real reason to wait is that using a conveyancer who your lender won't also use as this will add unnecessary delay, so you could be better off waiting until you know what lender your mortgage is with first. You want to make sure that your solicitor is on the panel of the major lenders in a bid to prevent any issues occurring.

7. Secure that mortgage (time dependent on you)

The lender will make sure that it is happy to lend to you and lend on the property that you want to buy.

8. Wait for local searches (two weeks)/Sort out buildings insurance (time dependent on you)

While your mortgage application is being looked at by the lender, your solicitor will start to carry out the necessary searches, including local authority, drainage and environmental. Whilst these occur and your mortgage offer gets confirmed and checked, you should make sure to insure you property pre-purchase as a precaution.

9. Select completion date/pay deposit/sign contract

Your solicitor will update you on the results of the searches. If the results of all the searches are good, the next step is for you, and your solicitor, to come to an agreement on a completion date with the seller. Then you can get your deposit to your solicitor, who (at this point) will also get you to sign the contract – this is the point where you commit to buying the vendor's house.

10. Exchange of contracts

Once your solicitor has exchanged contracts with the sellers they will give you a completion statement with a clear breakdown of the money you need to give them. Your solicitor will prepare the transfer deed that you need to sign, witnessed, as it confirms that you are willing to take ownership of the property. Finally, your solicitor has to check that the seller still owns the property and that you haven't been made bankrupt since your mortgage offer. Then they will send the full payment to the seller's solicitor and receive the title deeds. When all of the above is completed, the property is yours. 


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