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How long does it take to buy a house

07/03/2022
(Last Updated: 18/12/2023)
2,592
7 min read
Key Takeaways
  • The process of buying a house will be different, based on what type of property you're purchasing. You will be able to complete faster for auction or newbuild transactions (HTB or Shared Ownership), whereas freehold or leasehold properties can take up to 14 weeks.
  • You can speed up the conveyancing process by making sure you properly manage your chain (if applicable) and ordering your conveyancing searches and surveys early on.

How long does buying a house take on average?

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:

  • 28 to 36 days for auction or newbuilds (Help to Buy/Share Ownership)
  • 8 to 10 weeks for freeholds
  • 12 to 14 weeks for leaseholds

The challenge is that the conveyancing process relies on more than just your solicitor to complete their side of the legal work and there are many factors that can effect the time it takes to get to exchange of contracts.


Are you feeling stressed about buying a house?

How To Buy A House Without Killing Anyone could be the difference between every mover’s dream, buying and moving into your new home stress free, or, stress, missed deadlines, legal disasters, building defects, and possibly the collapse of the whole transaction. (Costing you a small fortune, a head full of grey hairs, and, driving you to threaten the life of your solicitor, lender, co-owners, family, partner, or some combination of all five).

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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. We discuss the timeframe between exchange and completion in further detail in our article - How long between exchange and completion?

What type of property transaction applies to you?


How can I speed up my house purchase?

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. We discuss how to best manage your property chain in our article - Buying a house in a chain.

    1
    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?


    2
    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?


    3
    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

    4
    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

    5
    Cash Purchase
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.

    6
    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).

    7
    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 any, 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.


Eager to collect your keys and move in?

Use our free, online conveyancing process to keep track of your homeownership journey. We give useful tips along the way, so you can learn how to buy a house (without killing anyone).

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Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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