A step-by-step guide to the house buying process


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A step-by-step guide to the house buying process

If you’re a first time buyer, we know the house buying process can seem intimidating and often confusing. So, to help you know what to expect, we’ve put together a handy four-point timeline of the entire process, including some of our top tips for speeding it all along.

Finding a new place to live

The first part of the process is finding a house you actually want to buy. The amount of time you take researching homes online and viewing houses in person is largely up to you, but can also depend on the number of properties on the market, prices in your chosen area, and the time of year.

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Offer to exchange (up to six weeks)

After you’ve put in an offer on a house, the time it takes to reach exchange is largely dependent on your mortgage and any surveys you need. Although you’ll likely have a ‘mortgage in principle’ already, it can still take a while to have a mortgage approved by your lender, so make sure you factor this time in.

All homes need surveys, with new homes they only requiring a simple ‘snagging survey’. Older houses will need a more thorough condition report by a qualified surveyor, which can take longer. In general, offer to exchange usually takes between two and six weeks, but make sure you ask your conveyancing solicitor to provide you with a bespoke, realistic timeline, with regular progress updates.

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Exchange to completion (up to four weeks)

Once you’ve exchanged contracts, the focus shifts to completion, which is when you get the keys and move house. This can happen very quickly after exchange, or take up to four weeks, and largely depends on the circumstances of your move. If you’re a first time buyer moving into a new build house, the process will likely be quite speedy as there’s no chain involved.

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What can hold up the process?

A number of factors can stall the house buying process, and it’s good to prepare for them in advance. In many cases, you can take steps to make sure your move is as quick as possible. Here are some problems you could encounter:

  • If you have to sell your existing house, the process can take longer as you wait for a buyer. This isn’t a problem for first-time buyers, as you’ll be moving from rented accommodation or from your parent’s home, and won’t need to sell-up first.
  • If there’s an onward chain, where the existing owner needs to find their own property to buy, this can also stall the house buying process. Again, this is not an issue with new homes as it will be unoccupied.
  • The mortgage offer can take a while, especially as the lender will have to value the property first. In general, property valuations are much more straightforward with new builds compared with older homes, which may have structural problems.
  • If you’re buying an old house, the survey could identify problems that will hold up the process. If you’re buying a brand new home, you’ll be able to avoid this.

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In summary

When buying a house, it’s important to remember that some parts of the house buying process are within your control, and some aren’t. Get as much information as you can from your solicitor and developer so you have a realistic timeline to work towards, and accept that some stages will take longer than others. In most cases, the process takes between eight and ten weeks.