How long does it take to buy a house

02/03/2018
Not knowing how long it takes to buy a house can be very frustrating especially when you are trying to plan your move and keep a seller happy. Your solicitor will often give you standard time frames for the process of buying a house of:

  • 6 to 8 weeks for freeholds
  • 8 to 12 weeks for leaseholds
The challenge is that the conveyancing process relies on more than just your solicitor to complete their legal work and there are many factors that can affect the time it takes to get to exchange of contracts. In our article below we break down the different types of property transactions, the average time it takes to get to exchange and what could happen to cause the process to delay, or even speed up. Read this article if you want to know more about how long between exchange and completion

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A long chain can add months to the process

As a rule, the more people there are in a chain the longer the process will take to get to exchange. The main issue with so many people involved is that everyone is working to their own time frame. This is why it is so important to find out how long your chain is. You can do this by clicking here - Find out more about how to manage a long property chain.


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Freehold purchase

Viewed as an easier style of transaction, a freehold can often complete faster than a leasehold as there are fewer questions to ask and fewer people involved. With a freehold property the solicitor can normally be in a position to exchange within 4 to 6 weeks.

What can cause delays with a freehold purchase?


Logistics can add weeks to the conveyancing timeline

The conveyancing process is often viewed as archaic in its methods because it doesn't use current technology. Emails, scanning and digital signatures can be adopted for some of the process, however wet ink signatures and original documents are still required for some of the legal process such as deeds and the contract of sale (although this is under review by the Land Registry).

An example of how logistics can add time to a transaction is how the speed of the regular post can affect the time period required for exchange of contracts. Once a solicitor has completed their title checks and is satisfied with the seller's replies, they then report to you and send out all the documents related to your property including those which need signing and returning. If these are sent on a Monday, received by you on Tuesday evening when you get back from work, it'll take a day to review them and then sign and place back in the post to be received by the solicitor on Friday. This is a 5 working day turnaround at the end of a transaction which can be longer if post is delayed, lost or sent second class.


Leasehold purchase

A leasehold purchase takes longer to get to exchange because of the need to review both the leasehold and freehold title and raise enquiries with the freeholder or managing agent. Freeholders/managing agents are notoriously slow in responding to legal enquiries with 10 to 15 working day turnaround on responses.

What can cause delays with a leasehold purchase?


Help to Buy purchase

All Help to Buy purchases need to exchange within a set period of time, agreed at the outset, normally 28 days. The property is a new build so it could be that you are exchanging before the property has been built. There is a lot of work to do when completing a Help to Buy purchase and it all needs to be completed within a shorter than normal period of time.

What can cause delays with a Help to Buy purchase?

  • Delays with the mortgage offer. It normally takes 3 to 4 weeks from mortgage application to mortgage offer so in a 28 working day pre-agreed time frame any delays with the mortgage could cause you challenges. Delays with the mortgage can also cause issues further down the line as your solicitor can only get 'Authority to Exchange' (ATE) once they have your mortgage offer and valuation
  • Developer's solicitor doesn't issue contracts within the first 2 weeks after instruction

Shared Ownership purchase

All Shared Ownership purchases are leasehold, although not all of them are new build as some are resales. A new build will need to exchange within a set period of time, agreed at the outset, normally 28 days. A resale doesn't and runs to a similar time frame as a leasehold purchase.

What can cause delays with a Shared Ownership purchase?

  • Delays with the mortgage offer. It normally takes 3 to 4 weeks from mortgage application to mortgage offer so in a 28 working day pre-agreed time frame any delays with the mortgage could cause you challenges
  • Developer's solicitor doesn't issue contracts within the first 2 weeks after instruction
  • On a resale, the valuation report can run out after 3 months and the seller will need to update it

Right to Buy purchase

A Right To Buy purchase can be a freehold or a leasehold and the average time to get to exchange is around 8 to 12 weeks.

What can cause delays with a right to buy purchase?

  • The councils are very slow and have a slow turnaround time for communications
  • Right to buy valuations expire after 3 months so these may require extending

Buying without a mortgage

A cash purchase can complete a lot quicker than a mortgage if the buyer is prepared not to ask the same questions a mortgage lender would. The danger with not investigating to the same level as a mortgage lender is that if you miss something and then try and sell the property in the future to a buyer who is getting a mortgage, then you may have to sell the property for less than its current market price. Read more about buying a property without a mortgage

Auction purchase

An auction purchase is normally contracted to complete after the auction has taken place - between 14 to 28 working days. The auction house can offer extensions, however as you are already contractually bound to buy the property after winning at auction, there is very little your solicitor can do by way of obtaining more information from the seller (they can simply wait until you complete).

Repossession purchase

A repossession purchase occurs where the bank have seized legal ownership of the property and are selling the property as quickly as possible for the most amount of money. The mortgage lender will continue to market the property until exchange of contracts which means you could lose out to a higher offer just days before exchange. With this in mind, most repossession purchases get to exchange within a 3 to 4 week period.

What can cause delays with a repossession purchase?

  • As the mortgage lender is selling the property they have very little, if anym knowledge about the property and as such cannot reply to enquiries about the property. There is huge risk that you might buy a property with a legal or other issue which could stop you selling the property on the open market in turn.
  • The mortgage lender will register a bankruptcy restriction over the title which needs to be removed before you buy the property.

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Related News Articles

 
How does a property chain work?
01/11/2017
How Long Between Exchange and Completion
11/09/2018
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