A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying a Home in the UK

buying a home

Deciding on buying a home is an exciting time, but it can be riddled with uncertainties, making the process time-consuming and complex. The UK’s average timeline for purchasing a property is about six months [link to: https://hoa.org.uk/advice/guides-for-homeowners/i-am-buying/how-long-does-it-take-to-buy-or-sell-home/], and based on different factors; this can vary. Still, things like your financial situation, the type of property you’re investing in, and the seller’s circumstances can all impact your timeline. 

We’ve broken the process down into steps to help provide a picture of what you can expect along the way. 

Step 1: 24 hours – Application for a Decision in Principle

A Decision in Principle is your initial step in the home-buying process. It estimates how much you could borrow, giving you a clear idea of the budget for your property search. Most lenders offer the convenience of applying online, with many providing instant decisions, typically within 24 hours. This crucial step ensures that you start clearly understanding your financial boundaries.

Step 2: Varies – Search and make an offer on a home

The time it takes to find your ideal property can vary significantly, ranging from a few weeks to several months. It’s important to take your time during this phase, researching your preferred area thoroughly to make an informed decision. Once you’ve found a property, the following steps may differ between regions.

In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, making an offer is typically done through an estate agent, who should provide information on the response time.

In Scotland, you’ll need to engage a solicitor to help you prepare a bid. Since a successful bid in Scotland can legally commit you to the purchase, it’s crucial to have a Decision in Principle and be ready to proceed with a mortgage application.

Step 3: Up to 2 weeks – formally applying for a mortgage

Once your offer is accepted, you can apply for a formal mortgage offer. We recommend your mortgage application is submitted as soon as possible, although there may be exceptions based on specific circumstances. Processing and receiving a formal mortgage offer can take approximately 4-6 weeks. To expedite this phase, ensure you have all the necessary documents ready for review. The application includes thorough checks of your finances and a mortgage valuation of the property you intend to buy carried out by the lender. 

What is the time between the mortgage offer and completion?

Typically, you can expect the completion process to take around 12 weeks once your mortgage offer has been accepted. However, it’s important to note that each property transaction is unique, and the timeline may vary. Your journey to homeownership may take less or more time than the standard 12 weeks.

Step 4: 6 to 12 weeks – conveyancing

Appointing a solicitor or a licensed conveyancer is essential for handling the legal aspects of your property purchase. The conveyancing process may range from approximately six weeks to a few months, particularly if you become part of a property “chain”. A chain forms when multiple transactions need to happen and involve other buyers and sellers in the process.

Step 5: 2 to 3 weeks – property survey

Conducting a property survey is advisable to identify potential issues with the property. Surveyors provide a report within a couple of weeks of conducting their inspection, which generally takes a few hours. This survey differs from the mortgage valuation, which is typically for the lender’s use.

Sellers in Scotland would provide a Home Report containing an energy performance certificate, a survey and a property questionnaire, which a solicitor would then review.

Step 6: 1 to 4 weeks – contracts exchange to completion

Once you have your mortgage offer and your solicitor or licensed conveyancer is satisfied with the property’s search results, enquiries, and legal title, you’re all set to exchange contracts (the specific process differs in Scotland).

If you’re part of a property chain, all buyers and sellers involved must be prepared, which could cause delays. 

You’ll provide your deposit upon exchanging contracts, and the agreement becomes legally binding. At this point, you’ll need to have buildings insurance in place. The completion date is agreed upon during this phase, often set approximately two weeks after the exchange, but it can be adjusted as needed. You’ll usually receive the keys to your new home on the completion date.

Moving forward with Choice Mortgages

At Choice Mortgages, we provide independent, professional guidance and advice tailored to specific requirements. Feel free to use our no-cost and no-obligation consultation by phone or in person at the office. Our team of experienced and friendly advisors can handle all of your queries. Whether they’re straightforward or more complex, we’re on hand and ready to help. Remember, your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. 

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