The Complete Home Buying Timeline

When it comes to home buying timelines, the lengthy process involved in buying a property can look overwhelming at first glance. But getting your ideal home is an exciting process, and the beginning of a new chapter in your life. At Finance Rate, we’re here to give you all of the information you need to feel confident and empowered throughout your journey to home ownership.

To this end, we’re going to provide you with a clear, methodical guide that outlines each step of buying your home – from getting a mortgage, through to the exchange of keys.

We’ll also offer approximate timeframes for every phase of the process, allowing you to adequately prepare for each next step. We hope this will assist you in devising appropriate plans for your move, especially if you have specific time limits to consider.

Please bear in mind that the timeframes mentioned here are generalised to give you a rough outline – each home buying journey is different and can vary based on factors such as your circumstances, the seller’s circumstances, the property itself, the housing market and unforeseen events that could all cause delays.

Home buying timelines at a glance:

In this guide, we’ll be exploring the home buyer timeline in detail, from the beginning right to the end. But for your convenience, here is your homebuyer timeline laid out in a more concise format:

Step 1: Calculating affordability – up to a week

Set aside a few days to determine what kind of home you can comfortably afford. Calculate your income and any outgoings. By doing so, you can establish a practical budget for finding the right property for you.

Use an affordability calculator to help put your finances into perspective. This stage is essential and helps give you confidence for the next steps.

Step 2: Finding a property – 4 weeks to 8 months

An exciting part of the process. Once you know what budget you have to play with, you can start looking for your dream home. Whether you’re browsing online property portals or working with an estate agent, take the time to view different properties that meet your criteria.

Step 3: Putting in the offer and getting it accepted – 1 day to 2 weeks

When you’ve found a property you like, the next step is to make an offer. Figure out a fair offer that matches the property’s value by doing some research on recent house sales and market trends in the area.

Get in touch with an estate agent to notify the seller of your offer. If your offer gets accepted, follow up by commissioning a property surveyor to undertake any relevant checks on the property. At this point, you might want to retain the services of a solicitor to handle the legal aspects of buying a property.

Step 4: Getting your mortgage set up – 2 to 8 weeks

Now comes the mortgage set-up process. Begin by obtaining an agreement in principle from a mortgage lender. This will give you a solid idea of exactly how much you can borrow. You’ll then need to complete a formal mortgage application, at which point a mortgage valuation and survey of the property may be required to proceed.

Step 5: Conveyancing – 4 to 12 weeks

While waiting for your mortgage to be approved, enlist the services of a conveyancing solicitor if you haven’t already. They will handle the legal aspects of the transaction, including property searches and reviewing the contract. Once satisfied with the results, your solicitor will exchange contracts with the seller’s solicitor, legally committing both parties to the sale.

Step 6: Exchanging of contracts – 2 to 3 weeks

Exchanging contracts – usually a 2 to 3-week process – legally binds you and the seller. Your solicitor ensures fairness in the contract, and then you both exchange signed copies and provide the deposit (typically between 5-10% of the purchase price).

Withdrawing after both sides have committed can have legal and financial consequences.

Step 7: Completion – 2 weeks

The final step in buying a home – the completion date is agreed upon and the mortgage funds are transferred to the buyer’s solicitor. On the assigned date, keys are collected, signifying official ownership transfer, and a written statement details payments.

Your solicitor should handle registering ownership with the Land Registry to safeguard your rights as a buyer and provide title deed copies for proof of ownership and future reference. This stage assures confident homeownership.

The complete home buying timeline – a deeper look

Finance Rate is here to be your guide for all things home buying, and support you every step of the way, from determining affordability right through to conveyancing, we’ll help guide you on your way towards a satisfying resolution.

Let’s start with your budget…

Step 1: Calculating affordability – up to a week

Assuming you’ve already taken the important step in managing your finances with a suitable current account, consider the following:

  • Sources of Income: include primary and secondary sources of income, investments and state or private pensions (if applicable)
  • Outgoings: credit card debts, loan repayments and student finance repayments, car and life insurance premiums, childcare or dependents

Calculating affordability in the beginning stages of the home buying process allows you to determine the price range of properties that you can comfortably afford and provides confidence that you aren’t overextending yourself financially.

To calculate affordability you need to evaluate your income, expenses, as well as any existing debts.

This will give you a clear understanding of your financial health and help you set a realistic budget for your property search.

Consider the amount you can borrow from mortgage lenders. Obtain an agreement in principle to get a clearer idea of how much you can borrow. Use online affordability calculators provided by mortgage lenders to estimate your potential monthly mortgage repayment so that you have an idea of what to expect it to cost.

There are other costs to consider when buying a home, including;

So remember to budget for these expenses to avoid any surprises down the line.

It’s important to take into account potential changes in your income, such as job changes or future plans. Having forethought about what your future income might be can give you peace of mind in your decision to purchase a property.

Additionally, be aware that interest rates may fluctuate over time, affecting your mortgage repayments. It is advisable to leave some room in your budget to accommodate these changes. If you leave no leeway with your budget, you may find yourself priced out unexpectedly.

By calculating your affordability, you can find a property that fits your financial profile and remain confident in your decisions during the journey.

Remember to consult with accredited financial advisors and mortgage lenders to get a better understanding of your borrowing capacity and projected monthly repayments.

Step 2: Finding a property – 4 weeks to 8 months

After assessing your affordability, the next step on the home buying timeline is finding a suitable property.

The length of this stage can vary a great deal, depending on how thorough your screening process is, how particular you are and the availability of the chosen property.It’s difficult to give an exact time frame, but this can range from a few weeks to eight months, and beyond. The duration can also depend on the availability of the housing stock in your desired location.

It’s important to do plenty of research and explore various options, even if you’re tempted to jump at the first house that appeals to you. By not putting all of your hope in one option, and properly analysing how appropriate the property is, you can spare yourself a lot of potential disappointment later.

Use a mixture of estate agents and online property search websites to look for listings that jump out to you. Have conversations with estate agents and ask plenty of questions.

This provides detailed information about the properties, including photos, energy savings, floor plans, and descriptions.

Additionally, visiting the area where you are interested in buying a home can give you a better understanding of the neighbourhood and its amenities. This firsthand experience can help in narrowing down your choices and making an informed decision.

Keep in mind that the availability of properties can vary depending on several factors, such as the type of property you are looking for and the competitiveness of the local housing market. It is essential to be patient and persistent, as finding the perfect property that meets your needs may take some time.

Consider the following:

  • Will you be expanding the family?
  • What’s the local area like (consider schools, local parks, public transport, planned developments)?
  • Are there any ground or service charges?
  • What does the EPC rating estimate your bills are going to be?
  • What is the mobile signal and internet speed like? (especially important in this new age of working from home!)
  • Is there a property chain involved?
  • Why are the current owners moving out?
  • What is the storage like? Are there plenty of built-in cupboards and wardrobes? And if not, is there enough space for storage furniture?
  • Does the kitchen work for your family’s needs or will you have to renovate?
  • What is the parking like? Will you need a permit to park on the street?
  • What are the local amenities like? Places to do the food shop, gyms or pools for fitness, schools, clubs, parks and libraries, if having children is a priority.
  • Security and location – do the surrounding areas feel safe and offer a deterrent for antisocial or criminal behaviour? Is the vicinity of the property well-lit? Is the house in a high-footfall location? Or is it off the beaten track? Is there CCTV from nearby businesses? What about a neighbourhood watch?
  • What type of property do you want? A two up two down? Or is an apartment more you?
  • Would you want neighbours?
  • What are the transport links like? Where do you want to be based for your professional future? Do you want to live close to your workplace or will you commute?

This list is non-exhaustive – feel free to make note of other things which jump to mind which will make a difference to your choice of home. 

Once you’ve found the property that fits your wants and needs, it’s time to put in an offer.

Step 3: Putting in the offer and getting it accepted – 1 day to 2 weeks

Once you have found a property that you are interested in, the next step is to put in an offer.

Before making an offer, it is crucial to research recent house sales and market activity in the area. This will help you determine an appropriate offer that reflects the value of the property. It’s important not to overpay or undercut the market rate, so conducting thorough research here as well is essential.

To communicate your offer to the seller, it might be a good idea to enlist an estate agent as an intermediary. They will act as a professional liaison and present your offer to the seller on your behalf. 

Once your offer is accepted, follow-up steps to take may include booking a property survey to identify any potential issues or concerns with the structure of the property and hiring a conveyancing solicitor to handle the legal aspects of the purchase.

Step 4: Getting your mortgage set up – 2 to 8 weeks

So you’ve found a property and your offer has been accepted, now it’s time to start the mortgage application process.

This typically takes between 2 to 8 weeks to complete, but – as with the other timescales provided here – this timeline can vary depending on a variety of factors such as how complex the application is, and the specific requirements of the mortgage lender.

You’ll need to research and compare mortgage deals from various lenders to find the best option based on your circumstances, considering factors such as interest rates, repayment terms, as well as any additional fees or charges. If you’d prefer to get more information about mortgages before making comparisons directly with mortgage lenders, Finance Rate has a helpful guide on the subject.

When you actually begin applying for a mortgage, you will need to provide documents to the mortgage lender. These typically include:

  • Proof of income, such as payslips or tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Identification documents such as a passport and birth certificate
  • Information about your credit history

The lender will also conduct a credit check to assess your reliability when paying back credit.

To make the mortgage application process smoother and more efficient, many homebuyers choose to work with a mortgage broker. A mortgage broker is a professional who can help you navigate the complexities of getting a mortgage, by assisting with the application process and finding the best mortgage deal for your specific needs. They have access to a wide range of lenders and can help you submit a strong application to give you the best chance possible at being successful.

Step 5: Conveyancing – 4 to 12 weeks

Once your mortgage application has been approved, the next step along the home buying timeline is conveyancing. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership.

Whether you’re in the process of purchasing or selling, a solicitor or conveyancer will undertake several tasks, including:

  • Managing contracts
  • Providing legal counsel
  • Conducting searches with the local council
  • Interacting with the Land Registry
  • Facilitating the monetary transfer required for your property transaction.

The first task in conveyancing is to conduct various searches to gather important information about the property.

These searches can include local authority searches, environmental searches, and water and drainage searches. The duration of these searches can vary depending on factors such as the workload of the solicitor and the time taken for third-party companies to provide the necessary information.

Once the searches are complete and your solicitor is satisfied with the outcome of them, the buyer’s solicitor will draft the contracts and send them to the seller’s solicitor.

This process typically takes around one month for finalisation. During this time, the buyer’s solicitor will also apply for the property to be registered with the Land Registry.

Delays in the conveyancing process can occur if you are part of a property chain.

A property chain is a sequence of interdependent buyers and sellers who are linked because each is either buying or selling a property. Delays can arise if one party involved in the chain experiences issues or complications, such as difficulties with their conveyancing process or funding.

While we can give a rough idea of the conveyancing process time frame generally being between 4 to 12 weeks, the factors outside of the buyer’s control are numerous. So, keep in mind that delays can (and probably will) happen.

The duration can be influenced by factors such as the workload of the solicitor, the time taken for searches, and any delays that may arise from someone else if the property is one of many interlinked properties in the process of being sold or bought.

Exercise patience and maintain open communication with your solicitor throughout the process to reduce stress and stay informed.

Step 6: Exchanging of contracts – 2 to 3 weeks

Coming to the end of the home buyer timeline, the exchanging of contracts is when the agreement between the buyer and the seller becomes legally binding. This generally has a 2 to 3-week timeline

During this time, the buyer’s solicitor will review the contract and make any necessary amendments or additions to protect the buyer’s interests.

Once both parties are satisfied with the terms, the buyer’s solicitor will arrange a time for the contracts to be exchanged with the seller’s solicitor.

During the exchange, signed copies of the contract are swapped between the solicitors, making the agreement legally binding. At this point, the buyer will also need to provide the deposit for the property, usually around 5-10% of the purchase price.

The buyer should arrange for buildings insurance to start from the completion date to protect their investment.

After exchanging the contracts, both parties are obligated to proceed with the transaction – there may be legal consequences should either party back out.

The timeline for exchanging contracts is just a very general average and can vary, but less so than other steps in the timeline. Delays at this point tend to occur due to factors such as issues with financing or the completion of necessary paperwork. Feel free to consult with your solicitor and ask them to provide a more accurate estimate based on your specific case.

Step 7: Completion – 2 weeks

The completion stage marks the final step in the home buying process, typically taking about 2 weeks to complete. During this time, the completion date will be agreed upon by both the buyer and seller. The necessary funds are transferred from the mortgage lender to the buyer’s solicitor in preparation for completion.

On the completion date, the buyer can finally collect the keys to their new home, signifying the official ownership transfer. Along with the keys, the buyer will also receive a completion statement from their solicitor. This statement outlines the total amount of money that has been paid, including the purchase price and any additional costs.

Once the funds have been transferred, the buyer’s solicitor will register the ownership of the property with the Land Registry. This process ensures that the buyer’s legal rights to the property are protected and recognised.

Additionally, the buyer should obtain copies of the property’s title deeds. These documents serve as proof of ownership and are essential for future reference. The buyer can review these deeds to ensure that all necessary details are correct.

Your financial problems, made simple

At Finance Rate, we’re here to provide you with the information you need to make the daunting task of purchasing a property less intimidating.

If you’re looking for answers to other finance-related questions, we can help you there too. We have a wealth of unbiased information on financial topics that may be daunting if you’re confronted with them without a financial background.

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