How Long Does It Take to Buy a House? The Home-Buying Timeline

Prepare for your purchase by understanding the timeline. 

Before beginning the moving process, many people are keen to learn how long it takes to move house – and with good reason. Moving home is one of the more stressful experiences in life, taking up time and money, so it pays to go into the endeavour well-prepared for how long everything will take. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The best way to prepare is to understand the average time frames for each part of the process.  

How long does it take to move house in the UK? 

It can take anywhere between 3 and 6 months to buy a house in the UK at present, and even this can vary despite the broadness of the estimate.  

Many variables come into play when trying to determine how long it takes to buy a house in the UK, from financial factors to finding the right home to all the legal stuff that eats up a lot of time.  

How long does it take to buy a house? 

Let’s walk you through each step in the home-buying process to evaluate timescales.  

  • Finding the perfect property 

Step one is to find the right property that you want to buy. It’s likely to be a stage that impacts your timeline the most, depending on your budget, needs and availability on the market. This can range from days to years, so it’s impossible to say how long this step takes.  

Some people are lucky enough to stumble across their ideal home on their very first visit to the local estate agent or property portal. They may even drive past their perfect house and then request a viewing – eliminating any need to look online. For many others, this process takes a whole lot longer.  

  • Obtaining a mortgage
    3-6 weeks 

Agreeing on a mortgage in principle will take next to no time and can be arranged within 24 hours. Obtaining the full mortgage once everything gets serious, however, will take far longer.  

A good way to speed this up is to ensure you have all the necessary paperwork ready and to hand.  

  • Organise conveyancing
    2-3 months 

When buying a home, you’ll need a conveyancing solicitor to handle the conveyancing side of things. While this can be done by the buyer, it’s far more prudent to leave such a complex task in the hands of a professional.  

Ahead of time, look for a conveyancer suitable for you. You may also ask your local estate agent for recommendations as they will be dealing with different solicitors on a daily basis.  

  • Arrange a survey
    2-3 weeks 

While it’s possible to buy a property without a survey in some instances, to do so wouldn’t be wise. Employing a surveyor may seem like another expense, but surveys often make or break a purchase. The financial implications of buying a property which could be a money pit can be immense.  

The timeline for surveys will vary on the availability of the surveyor and the type of survey you opt for. Once you receive the final report, it’s wise to pass it over to your conveyancing solicitor for further inspection.  

  • Exchange contracts
    Typically around 14 days before completion, but can be conducted on the same day or up to 28 days from that date, depending on the buyer and seller 

Once all the relevant searches have been conducted, your mortgage is in place and the survey is complete, it’s time for the two parties’ solicitors to swap documentation to signify an agreement has been reached.  

This part of the buying process usually occurs a couple of weeks before completion of the sale, but it can be as long as 4 weeks or as short as the very same day (sometimes the latter incurs an additional fee).  

  • Completion and moving day
    24 hours (although moving can take longer) 

This is the day when things finally feel real. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or are simply moving up or down the property latter, this day is always welcome.  

On this day, your mortgage will be finalised and fees will be paid to all relevant parties. It’s time to pick up the keys and move in! 

Final thoughts 

As we’ve mentioned, there are a number of variables that can impact the amount of time it takes to buy a house in the UK. One thing buyers can do to speed up the process is to have their financial documents ready and to have chosen a conveyancer. For sellers, choosing the right estate agent will impact how long it takes to sell a house.  

Buying a property in the UK takes anywhere between 3 and 6 months to complete, though the actual timeline can vary depending on specific circumstances. Now you know how long it could take and how to find out your budget, you’re well-prepared to buy your next (or first!) property.