How long does it take to buy and sell a house?

Thinking of moving? Here’s how to mark your calendar.

Will @ Nested
Property market insight

Anyone who tells you an exact length of time for how long it takes to buy and sell a house is telling porkies.

From swiping through Rightmove to the champagne corks popping on moving day, there are various moving parts which can either go swimmingly, or leave you in limbo. Our best guesstimate is that from listing a property to finally getting the keys, it should take between 15 and 25 weeks if you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland (Scotland is generally a little speedier).

But plucking a number from thin air doesn’t tell half the story of how long a house move can take. So lean back, set your watch and let’s have a look at some of the likely timelines.

Laying the groundwork

Before you list your property, you’ll have to get a valuation, select an estate agent and negotiate an agency agreement. That’s before you’ve done a spring clean to make your home presentable before professional pictures are taken.

You should use this opportunity to research solicitors so that you can save time once the wheels are really turning. And before you start making bids, you can always contact a broker (or a lender directly) to get a mortgage agreement in principle, which can take minutes, or up to 24 hours if the lender needs to gather more information on your finances. Having a mortgage provisionally agreed can strengthen your hand as you’ll be viewed by agents as a serious buyer. You could accomplish all these early tasks in a matter of days, or take your time over the course of weeks.

After listing your property

Once you’ve listed your property, it will realistically be at least a month until you’ve accepted an offer, but the average length is more like 10 weeks. Of course, it depends on how much you’re willing to haggle, the strength of the property market, and whether you’ve priced realistically.

Some sellers choose to offload their property before they buy in order to reduce the chance of being gazundered, which is when the buyer drops their bid just before the exchange date. If you take this approach and become chain-free, you may have more muscle in the market and it might not take so long to get an offer accepted.

Legal enquiries

Once your offer is accepted, you can now instruct your solicitors, who will prepare the draft contract. How long do solicitors take when buying a house? From here, your solicitors (or ‘conveyancers’ if they specialise in property law) are around for the rest of the journey, but the searches (such as local authority and environmental searches) begin once an offer is accepted, and can take several weeks (usually more than one month). If you’re selling a freehold property, it’s usually a quicker process compared to a leasehold, which sometimes requires the solicitor to track down legal documents.

Getting a mortgage approved

While your solicitors are working their magic on the searches, you’ll simultaneously make your mortgage application — the real deal this time. This can take a month or longer, as you’ll have shared a mountain of paperwork such as your proof of address and bank statements. The lender will also want to have carried out a valuation survey, which could take a week or more in peak times; any major defects may affect how much they allow you to borrow, if at all.

Don’t forget to get your own survey done too, which can usually be arranged with a few days’ notice.

From contract to exchange

This phase, from ‘offer accepted’ to the exchange date, should take around 9 weeks. But it’s a highwire act with lots of spinning plates, and until the moment you exchange contracts, there’s a reasonable risk of delay, or the plates smashing on the floor. One bad survey could lead you (or the person buying your property) to lower a bid, or pull out.

Even with a smooth property transaction, you can expect weeks of email-tennis between you, the solicitors and your lender. It’s very rare that a buyer pulls out after the exchange of contracts; if they do, you may be able to keep the deposit and you can even take legal action.

How long does it take to move house after exchanging?

From the moment you’ve exchanged, the finish line is in sight. It’s possible to exchange and complete on the same day, but it’s more likely that you’ll wait a fortnight or so, allowing time for any final bits and bobs. For example, your solicitors will handle the bank transfer between you, your lender and the other party, as well as registering the property with the Land Registry and obtaining your title deeds.

Planning your moving day

Once you have your date of completion set in stone, it’s time to arrange when to collect the keys from the estate agent. You’ll also want to plan your removals strategy.

Are you hiring a van and doing it all yourself, or getting a removals company? Are you paying extra for packing?

Then, of course, consider the other logistical matters, such as making arrangements for pets and children so you can move without a hitch. You may also have questions for the departing owner, such as the location of the stopcock, thermostat and fuse box, so you can avoid fumbling around in the dark on day one.

So, how long does it take to move house?

Based on our rough, back-of-a-serviette estimates, you can reasonably expect it to take about 6 months to move house, from the moment you list your property to the day you get the keys to the new place. Data from Rightmove and Zoopla indicates that it should take between 50 and 60 days until a property is under offer; after that, it’s all down to conveyancing.

Remember that every sale is different, and while it can take as little as 2 to 3 months if you’re a first-time buyer, being in a chain means there are more variables at play, and sometimes it doesn’t work out despite the best will in the world. But if you plan for the long haul, get your finances ready and try not to rush, the months of waiting will be worth it in the end.

Need to move in a hurry? Read our guide on how to sell quickly.

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Nested puts homeowners in control of their sale. Our agents provide you with smarter insights so you achieve the best price for your home on your timeframe. When you’ve found your new home, you have the power to move chain free, while we take care of your sale. Our buying agent will even negotiate up to 5% saving on your new home, so you get more home for your money.

If you’re interested in selling smarter, get in touch today. Nested.com - The modern way to move.