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How long from putting in an offer or reserving your home to moving in?

Looking for your dream home is exciting and once you’ve found it, you’ll want to move in straight away. We tell you how long it might take before you can call it your home.

Looking for your dream home is exciting and once you’ve found it, you’ll want to move in straight away. We tell you how long it might take before you can call it your home.

Buying a home can be an intense experience, especially if you are buying an existing property as opposed to a new build. When an offer on an existing property is finally accepted, it’s the start of a journey that should end up with you gaining the keys to your new home.

However, the wait between putting in an offer and moving in can feel long, and there can be a number of ups and downs during that time. What is it that takes up this time and how long can you expect to wait?

How long to hear back about an offer?

The first big wait of course is to see if the seller will accept your offer or if they will hold out for a higher one. That will typically take no more than a few days, as the vendor considers their options.


The estate agent may report back that they are hoping for a higher price or want to charge more for ‘fixtures and fittings’ – and there could be a negotiation that takes a few days. If you end up in a bidding war then this process can feel quite intense, but it would be unusual for it to take longer than a couple of weeks.

Then what needs to happen?

Once your offer has been accepted, the seller should agree that the estate agent can take the property off the market – a key way to protect you from your offer being ‘gazumped’ and bettered by another bid. Research from Which? Mortgages surveyed 2,000 recent homebuyers in February 2016 and discovered that 28% had made an offer only for the purchase to fall through – with more than a fifth of those being down to gazumping.


There are often more negotiations to happen, including how long to wait between exchange and completion (typically this is around a week after the exchange of contracts but it can be as long as four weeks), whether fixtures and fittings are being included or if there’s an additional price to be paid, and whether you can arrange a discount if the survey shows that there’s work needed.


It can easily take several working days to negotiate this contract. You will need to process your mortgage application (the main legwork should have been done if you already had a mortgage in principle but the formal application can still take some time), instruct a solicitor, and carry out any surveys and checks required.


All this does take time and, while it has sometimes been achieved within less than 3 weeks, it is much more normal for the various admin, arrangements, searches and mortgage application to take around 6-8 weeks. That’s assuming there are no delays or issues – buying and selling property can be a difficult business and sometimes there are delays which are simply beyond your control.

What slows things down?

The time it takes to buy a property will be affected by how smooth the process is. So, if your mortgage application hits a snag or you aren’t speedy with the paperwork then it will all be much more drawn out.


However, a key thing that affects the speed at which you can go from making an offer to picking up the keys is the chain you’re involved in. When you buy a property from a homeowner who is in situ then you can only complete and move in once they have moved out. They are also reliant on the next person getting out of the house they are moving to, and so on and so on.

Someone else’s delay further up the chain could have a direct impact on when you get to move and that can be fairly frustrating when you’re ready for your new home.


Of course, there is one way to speed things up and avoid the delays of a lengthy chain. And that is:

Buy a newly built home


One of the benefits of buying a new home is that the whole process can be a great deal shorter often with specialists to help you along the way. Because there’s no upward chain slowing things down, you can move as quickly as it takes you to complete the paperwork, provided your chosen home is built.


If you’re a first-time buyer then buying a new build means avoiding a chain entirely and these can be some of the quickest sales to negotiate. If it’s not your first purchase and you are moving from your own home, then you will only have to worry about your buyer’s chain, which means you halve the number of potential delays and issues. What’s more, you can even choose the décor and interior design while you wait for the mortgage to go through – which helps it all feel faster.


Buying a new build means there’s no risk the seller will suddenly change their minds or accept a higher offer because as soon as you pay your reservation fee the property will be taken off the market straight away.  . On top of that, with a newly built property there’s no risk that a sudden issue with the house is going to derail your purchase either. The surveys won’t show a long-ignored damp problem in the roof or issues with wiring because everything is brand new and guaranteed.


We use recommended mortgage brokers and conveyancing solicitors who are experts in the process, will do most of the paperwork and chasing for you and often have existing relationships with and are used to working closely with new build developers.


Ultimately, whether you are buying a new build or an existing property, it’s important to be realistic and accept that these sales do take time. However, making use of effective, efficient professionals – from the solicitor to the sales adviser or estate agent – will help speed up the process.






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