1. Home
  2. First Time Buyers
  3. Advice
  4. Timeline for buying a house

Timeline for buying a house

For homebuyers – and first time buyers in particular – the process of purchasing a new home can seem like a long, drawn-out affair. It’s not unusual for it to take around six months from starting to look at properties to actually moving in, and if there are delays at any stage of the process then it can take even longer.

Timeline for buying a house

It can be frustrating at times, but while it sometimes may seem like nothing is happening there may be a lot going on behind the scenes as estate agents, mortgage brokers, lenders, solicitors and surveyors do their bit to help you into your first home. Here we’ll take an overview of the home-buying timeline and give you an idea of what to expect at each stage.

Finding the right property and making an offer

Once you’ve done your sums and have a rough idea of what you can afford, it’s time to start looking for the right property. How long this will take can vary greatly depending on a number of factors such as the state of your local property market, how quickly you want to move, and especially how particular you are about what you're looking for.

If you want to get ahead of things at this stage, you may want to begin speaking to mortgage brokers or lenders to get a better idea of how much you are likely to be able to borrow. It makes sense to get a mortgage agreement in principle, as this will put you in a better position when dealing with estate agents and sellers and negotiating the purchase price. When you’re happy with the price, it’s time to make a formal offer.

It’s typical for homebuyers to take up to three months from first starting to look at properties to making an offer.

Getting a mortgage

At this stage you will need to engage a solicitor to deal with the legal side of the property purchase. Although the lender will arrange for their own property valuation, it’s usually a good idea to also hire a surveyor to do a more comprehensive property survey, as this can help avoid potentially costly problems further down the line.

Compare free quotes from Chartered Surveyors in your local area here


Mortgage applications can be delayed by all sorts of hiccups, even minor ones, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re well prepared to provide any documentation or information the lender might require. Make sure you have the required payslips, bank statements and any other information they might need to verify your income. It’s also a good idea to check your credit records before applying.

Whether you apply for your mortgage directly with a lender or use a mortgage broker as an intermediary, it generally takes around a month from making the application to receiving a formal mortgage offer.

Exchanging contracts

This is the stage where the legal aspects of the process come to the fore. Both you and the seller will sign legally binding contracts committing to the transfer of property ownership, and your solicitor and theirs will exchange the contracts. You'll also decide on the date for completion day.

During this stage your solicitor will also liaise with the Land Registry, the local council and the seller to make “enquiries and searches” pertaining to the status of the property, its ownership, planning permissions, land boundaries and so on. Finalising the searches and the exchange of contracts normally takes around a month.

Completing the purchase

The final stage of buying your new home will involve paying the deposit and any outstanding solicitors’ fees. The mortgage will be finalised (and any arrangement fee paid) and the Direct Debit set up to collect your monthly mortgage payments.

There is usually a four-week deadline from the exchange of contracts to the exchange of keys, although a different timeframe can apply if mutually agreed by both the buyer and seller. On the date of completion your new mortgage will start, and you can move into your new home.

Find out more about what happens on completion day.

How long does it take to buy a house?

It takes about 6 months to buy a house, however this varies from move to move. On average it's 20-90 days to find a house, 15-30 days to receive a mortgage offer, 20-30 days to find a solicitor and exchange contracts then 10-30 days to complete and get the keys.

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or visit our forum. Or if you're looking for more information on buying a house check out our Help and Advice section to learn more.

Updated February 2020

Related articles

Ready to get quotes?

Compare conveyancing fees from up to 4 solicitors

Get conveyancing quotes

We've already helped over 2,882,909 movers

12,942 user reviews

Very good, quick communication.

Tom on 02/02/2024

As featured in