The process of buying a house in the UK from start to finish

A couple hugging inside their new home

Buying a house, whether it’s as first-time buyers, or it’s your fifth time taking part in the buying a house process, is always an incredibly stressful, albeit very exciting thing.

There are so many steps and stages that make up the house-buying process in the UK and in our guide below, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about buying a house with cash, buying a house with no chain, how long it takes for a mortgage to be approved, what happens after the mortgage offer, plus how to deal with mortgage lenders and how to make an offer on a house.

How long does it take to buy a house from start to finish?

Below, we’ve put together a brief list of all the stages of buying a house from start to finish. The list is not fully comprehensive as each person's situation is different and there may be more steps involved, but it should give you a rough indication and estimation as to how long it takes to buy a house.

The length of time that it takes to buy a house is dependent on so many factors that it’s pretty much impossible to give a straight answer as to how long it takes overall. You could be incredibly lucky and have your purchase complete within a matter of weeks or a few months, or it could take much longer and you could be waiting between 6 and 2 months, or sometimes even longer!

The process of buying a house can be split down into the following (very brief!) sections:

  1. Think about your budget and what you can afford and how much money you’re able to borrow in order to get a mortgage for the house you want.
  2. Get house hunting! Use websites such as Rightmove to find your dream home, or go and visit physical estate agents to find the property that you want.
  3. Make an offer on the house - consider whether you’re willing to offer the asking price or if you’d prefer to offer lower.
  4. Your offer will (hopefully!) be accepted.
  5. Find the best mortgage for you (more information and details on mortgages below) - you might want to use a financial advisor or mortgage broker to find you the best deal on the market and one that's right for you and your budget. You might be granted an agreement in principle (AIP) which means you’ll be provisionally accepted for your mortgage.
  6. Choose your conveyancing firm that will handle the process of transferring the property from one person to another.
  7. The mortgage lender will then check whether you and the property are worth lending to and the AIP will turn into a full application process.
  8. During the time that your mortgage application is being looked into, your solicitor will carry out the necessary checks such as environmental searches, drainage searches and local authority searches.
  9. You might also want to pay to have a property search carried out on the house you’re buying to ensure that everything is safe and in order.
  10. You will (hopefully!) receive your mortgage offer.
  11. Sort out home insurance (buildings insurance and contents insurance or a combined policy). Even if you have not officially exchanged contracts yet, you will still need these things once you have exchanged them so it’s worth organising as soon as possible.
  12. Agree on a completion date in which contracts will be exchanged between the buyer and seller.
  13. Sign the contract and pay the deposit money to your solicitor.
  14. Exchange contracts.
  15. Receive a completion statement from your solicitor - this will include a breakdown of all the money you need to give to the solicitor including any outstanding deposit, stamp duty, solicitor’s fees etc.
  16. Your solicitor will likely carry out a few more searches to ensure that everything is above board and that the buyer (you) hasn’t declared bankruptcy since your mortgage offer and that the seller does in fact legally own the property that they're selling.
  17. You will need to sign the transfer deed - this is confirmation that you’re willing to take ownership of the property.
  18. Your solicitor will need to request the money from your mortgage lender so that the payment has time to clear.
  19. Your solicitor will then send the full payment to the seller’s solicitor.
  20. The house is now officially yours and you have completed the purchase of your home!
  21. You will need to pay stamp duty through your solicitor.
  22. Then, your solicitor will register your new ownership at the land registry and they will obtain the new title deeds from the land registry which means the whole process is officially complete and you can enjoy your new home.

How long does a mortgage application take?

The mortgage application process usually takes between two to six weeks, depending on the mortgage provider that you choose and whether any potential issues arise with your application. 

What credit score do I need when applying for a mortgage?

The credit score that you need for a mortgage depends on numerous factors, so there’s not one exact score that you need to aim for. However, it goes without saying that the better your credit score is, the more likely you are to be accepted for a mortgage.

Read more: What credit score do you need for a mortgage?

Is now a good time to buy a house in the UK?

What’s considered to be a good time to buy a house in the UK changes all the time. For example, the Coronavirus pandemic meant that fewer houses were being bought and sold, but there were also reliefs in the form of mortgage breaks and stamp duty holidays.

How much money do you need to buy a house?

The amount of money that you need to buy a house isn’t just the amount that the house actually costs. While putting down a deposit and ensuring that you can make your monthly mortgage repayments is arguably the most important monetary element of buying a house, you’ll also need to think of other costs associated with a house purchase such as solicitor and conveyancing fees, legal and valuation fees, property survey costs, land registry fees and more.

Therefore, you need to think about whether you can afford all the associated costs of buying a house, not just the actual purchase itself. 

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