It takes about 18 weeks to complete a house purchase. From finding the property you love through to excitedly picking up the keys, there’s a lot that happens in-between.
Understanding the steps and what to expect from week to week will help the sale progress smoothly and, maybe, even quickly.
So in this guide, we’ll talk you through the process of buying a house and give you all the expert help and advice you need.
What to look for when buying a house
We love everything about property. From modern glass-fronted new builds to classic country piles and flats in the heart of a city. We love bathrooms, box rooms with potential and kitchens with sprawling space for entertaining.
So take it from us when we say it’s easy to get carried away when looking for a house to buy. Especially when there are literally thousands of properties readily available on the internet.
To rein yourself in, make a list of what you want.
Your budget will be the first thing that dictates your search. Set a realistic max amount you’re willing to negotiate. When looking for a property, browse ones that are slightly over-budget because you might find room for negotiating.
After the budget, think about bedrooms. What’s the minimum and the maximum number of bedrooms you need? Do you want a guest room or room for future family plans?
Then think about the area. Consider what’s important to you to have nearby. Think about travel links, essential amenities and then nice-to-haves like a local pub. Places with good local schools will be in popular demand so expect the market to be competitive.
You can start your house hunt.
It’s thought that 1% of all internet traffic is related to property, so this is a great starting point. Estate agent websites, Rightmove, Zoopla and OnTheMarket are all good places to start.
The property market is fast-paced, so you have to be quick on your toes to get what you like. Working closely with an estate agent and telling them what you want is an excellent way to gain access to the properties you want, first.
For websites like Rightmove, you can set up property alerts so as soon as properties are added that meet your criteria, you’ll get a notification letting you know. It’s well worth doing this so you can act quickly and beat the competition.
If you’re selling and buying a property, instruct your solicitor while you’re hunting. This will help them prepare the paperwork to get the process moving as quickly as possible.
Viewing a property
Pre-pandemic, you’d mainly have photos to go off and maybe a video or two on very nice properties. Post-pandemic, many properties have a 3D tour so you can go for a virtual walkabout of a property.
Once you’ve found the one you love, book a viewing.
When it comes to viewings, it’s important to be logical. Rule with your head and go in with a neutral opinion. Research shows that the longer you spend viewing a property, the more likely you will get it below asking price.
So make sure you’re thorough. Make a checklist of things to look through and questions to ask the estate agent.
When viewing, here are some of the things you should look at:
- Is the roof, windows or doors damaged?
- Is the garden well kept, or does it need work?
- Is there any damage to the masonry?
- Is there off-street parking?
- Are the windows double or triple glazed?
- Do light switches work?
- Can you see any signs of mould?
- Are there any cracks that are more than hairline cracks?
- What’s the water pressure like?
The estate agent can also help you get to the bottom of questions. When it comes to buying property, the vendor doesn’t have to disclose absolutely everything, but they have to answer your questions reasonably.
Ask about: nearby developments, how long the property has been on the market, why the owners are selling, how many other viewings there’s been and whether the sellers are part of a chain. This will give you a better understanding of why the property is for sale and any problems you’re not aware of.
For example, if the property has had many viewings or been on the market for a while, this might suggest a problem you don’t know about.
Another good question is to ask how long the owners have lived there and how many times the property has changed hands. This will give you an indication of the local area and also a basic idea of how living there feels over time.
Checklist for buying and selling a house
Realistically, the timeframe between finding a property and having an offer accepted can be anything from a week to several years. It depends on your expectations, the market conditions and how easy it is to find what you want.
So say you’ve found what you want and are ready to make an offer. Here’s the timeline:
Making an offer
Before you make the offer, research the local market to see what similar properties in the area sold for.
Also, think about your position. If you’re a first-time buyer, you’re in a better position to negotiate.
Then remember your max budget and make an offer. The estate agent must pass on every offer to the vendor, so you won’t be ignored.
This is also when you get your documents in order. Get a mortgage in principle which, in some circumstances, can give you a slight edge if you’re up against other buyers. You also need some official ID (passport or drivers licence) and personal details to hand which may be used to quality your affordability.
If your offer is accepted, you’ll likely hear within a couple of days (or hours!) of making it.
More extended negotiations can sometimes take a couple of weeks.
After the offer is accepted
Congratulations! It’s time to pop a mini bottle of champagne (save the full-size number for moving day!) and start the legal side of things.
- 1 week after your offer’s accepted
If you’ve not already found a solicitor or conveyancer (another word for someone who specialises in property sales), now’s the time to do that! Not sure where to start? We’ve got plenty of advice on that too.
After the offer’s accepted, your solicitor will get in touch with the seller’s solicitor. They’ll ask for a pack and check that the basic information about the property is correct, that there’s proof of ownership and they’ll ask what’s included in the sale.
Your solicitor will also request searches.
- 3 - 5 weeks after your offer’s accepted
Searches usually take up to two weeks to come back to your solicitor. Sometimes it can take longer if demand high.
Your solicitor will review the results of the searches against the information they already know about the property.
The search results might prompt more enquiries about the property and potentially back and forth between your and the vendor’s solicitor. How long this takes depends on how quickly the solicitor responds.
Your solicitor might not tell you what they’re querying until they have all the answers. There’s nothing worse than waiting for a reply on a crucial topic!
- 5 - 8 weeks after your offer’s accepted
This period might be a little quiet, but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that it’s ground to a halt.
Your solicitor will be requesting and submitting and requesting relevant paperwork. They’ll get a copy of your mortgage paperwork and will make any changes to the purchase contract.
They’ll also talk you through the results of the searches. This is an important point as it could be when you decide to pull out of the sale if results aren’t great.
- 9 - 10 weeks after your offer’s accepted
This is when your solicitor will give you the Report on Title, which is all the information they’ve found and talk you through it.
Now is when it gets exciting. At this stage you’ll transfer the deposit funds to your solicitor and, if you’re still happy to proceed, you’ll sign the contract.
Both solicitors will agree on an exchange and completion date.
Once these dates are agreed, and your contracts are exchanged, you’re on the home straight.
- 11 -12+ weeks after the offer is accepted
And now it’s time to sort out the life admin and arrange movers, insurance, utilities and start looking for furniture!
On the day of completion, mortgage funds are transferred to the seller’s solicitor, and you’ll be handed the keys.
Now it’s time to open the full-sized bottle of your favourite drink to toast!
If you’ve got any more questions about buying or want to register your interest in a property, get in touch with our team or take a look at our latest properties for sale.