How long does it take to buy a house?
Buying a house – and particularly if you are a first-time buyer – can seem like a long, drawn-out affair, even if everything goes smoothly. This can feel frustrating at times, and while it can also feel as if nothing is happening, there is usually a lot going on behind the scenes between the agents, solicitors, local authorities, lenders etc.
There are particular stages in the process, and delays can happen in any one of them. Each of these delays could not only add extra time in themselves, but possibly have a knock-on effect in the process.
If you look it up online, you are likely to find widely varying estimates as to the time buying a house takes. In reality, it depends very much on the circumstances. So what are the various stages of the process, and what kind of time should you expect each to take?
Finding the right house
The time it takes to find the house you want to buy can vary immensely, depending on how specific your needs are and how common it is for the kind of property you want to come on the market.
The primary questions, of course, are what kind of house you are looking for, where you want to live and how much you can afford. Besides this, you will need to decide how much work you are prepared to put into the property and how quickly you need to move. And, perhaps most crucially, how far you are willing to compromise on your ideal wish-list.
If you are adamant that you want a specific type of house in a specific area, you could be waiting for months, or even years, for the right property to come up. If, on the other hand, your requirements are flexible, your search could only be weeks — perhaps even days.
Getting a mortgage
If you are in the fortunate position of being able to buy for cash, this stage will not apply to you. Most home buyers, though, will need to arrange a mortgage, at least in principle, before they can proceed to the conveyancing stage.
The time taken for this can be quite short if you make preparations. Choosing a mortgage provider in advance of your search and obtaining an agreement in principle will put you in a good position when it comes to negotiating on price.
It may take a few weeks before the lender confirms they are willing to make the offer for this particular purchase, but this can run alongside the conveyancing.
Whether you apply for your mortgage directly with a lender or use an independent mortgage broker, it can generally take around a month from making the application to receiving a formal mortgage offer.
Conveyancing is the name given to the various processes that your solicitor will undertake between your offer being accepted and the moment when you are handed the keys to your new home. Two crucial stages here are the exchange of contracts and completion, but there many steps to be taken during conveyancing.
- requesting the contract from the seller’s solicitor
- applying for searches
- reviewing the various results and negotiating with the seller’s solicitor
- exchanging contracts
- finalising the mortgage
- final searches
- applying for the property deeds
On average, the process could take around twelve to sixteen weeks, but this is dependent on a number of factors. In particular, it depends on how quickly both solicitors involved perform their tasks. If either the solicitor you have chosen or the seller’s solicitor is overloaded with work, each step could take a good deal longer.
However, even if both solicitors are working efficiently, delays could come from elsewhere. The seller is required to produce a number of documents, and these could be more difficult to find in some situations than in others. For instance, if the seller has lived in the property for a long time, crucial documents may have been mislaid — or the seller could simply be unorganised.
Another potential source of delay comes with the requests for searches. These include local authority searches, to identify any plans that might affect the property, Land Registry searches, to establish the seller’s right to the property, and environmental searches to check for potential hazards in the immediate area. Any or all of the agencies involved could take longer than normal to respond.
The results from the searches will also affect the amount of time required. If serious issues are raised (e.g. risk of flooding or planning permission for a project affecting the property) this is likely to require further negotiations, both between the solicitors and perhaps also involving the mortgage lender.
The effect of a chain
The other factor that could seriously affect the time it takes to finalise the purchase is a notorious one — whether either you or the seller are involved in a chain. The probability is that both are buying and selling simultaneously, as are the people you are selling to and they are buying from. And so on.
If delays can occur in a single transaction, the likelihood is far greater that it will happen somewhere in a chain. There are ways out of this. For instance, if your purchase property is not yet ready, you could look to move into temporary rented accommodation to ‘break’ the chain, helping to move the process along.
Nevertheless, being caught in a chain has the potential to significantly lengthen the time that it will take to buy a house.
Choosing the right solicitor
As we have seen, serious delays can affect buying a house that have nothing to do with your solicitor’s performance, although your solicitor can apply pressure on the other parties, if required. However, what can be said with certainty is that a poor choice of solicitor is highly likely to add time to the process.
You should be looking for a firm with a dedicated Conveyancing team. Your initial enquiries may give you an idea of whether they are going to have enough time to devote to your Conveyancing. If, for instance, they seem to be having a problem fitting you in for an initial appointment, that may suggest they are overwhelmed.
The members of Osborne Morris & Morgan’s specialist Conveyancing team are renowned for being excellent communicators and have many years of experience in making the process of buying a house go as smoothly as possible. They offer fixed-fee Conveyancing, meaning there’ll be no hidden cost surprises, as well as flexible appointment times.
Please get in touch with us for your free Conveyancing quotation today.