How long does it take to buy a house once offer accepted?

Buying a house in the UK is a multi-step process that begins with having an offer accepted. The timeline from this point to completion can vary, but it typically takes between 8 to 12 weeks. This comprehensive guide will break down each stage of the process, discussing the factors that can influence the timeline and providing detailed insights into what buyers can expect at each step.

1. Offer Accepted: What Happens Next?

1.1. Notify Your Solicitor or Conveyancer Once your offer is accepted, the first step is to notify your solicitor or conveyancer. They will handle the legal aspects of the transaction, including:

  • Conducting property searches
  • Drafting contracts
  • Liaising with the seller’s solicitor

1.2. Obtain a Mortgage in Principle (if not already done) If you haven’t already secured a mortgage in principle, now is the time to do so. This involves:

  • Applying to a lender for a mortgage
  • Providing financial documents (income, expenditures, credit history)
  • Awaiting the lender’s decision

Having a mortgage in principle can speed up the process as it shows you are a serious buyer.

2. Conveyancing: The Legal Process

2.1. Instructing Your Solicitor Your solicitor will begin by:

  • Opening a file for your purchase
  • Sending you a letter outlining their fees and the process
  • Asking you to sign terms of engagement and provide proof of identity

2.2. Property Searches Your solicitor will conduct several searches to ensure there are no hidden issues with the property. These include:

  • Local Authority Searches: Checking for planning permissions, road schemes, and local developments.
  • Environmental Searches: Assessing flood risk, ground stability, and contamination.
  • Water and Drainage Searches: Ensuring proper connection to mains water and drainage.
  • Chancel Repair Search: Checking for liability to contribute to church repairs.

Timeline: Property searches typically take between 2 to 3 weeks, depending on the local authority’s efficiency.

2.3. Drafting and Reviewing Contracts The seller’s solicitor will draft a contract of sale and send it to your solicitor, who will review it and raise any queries or concerns. This stage involves:

  • Reviewing the draft contract
  • Raising pre-contract enquiries (questions about the property and sale conditions)
  • Reviewing the seller’s responses and documentation (such as the title deeds and property information forms)

Timeline: This stage usually takes 1 to 2 weeks, depending on how quickly the seller’s solicitor responds.

3. Survey and Valuation

3.1. Lender’s Valuation Your mortgage lender will arrange a valuation survey to ensure the property is worth the amount they are lending. This involves:

  • A surveyor visiting the property
  • Assessing its value and condition

Timeline: The valuation process typically takes about 1 week.

3.2. Homebuyer’s Survey or Building Survey In addition to the lender’s valuation, you may choose to have a more detailed survey done to assess the property’s condition. Options include:

  • Homebuyer’s Report: Suitable for standard properties in reasonable condition. It covers major issues like structural problems.
  • Building Survey: A comprehensive survey recommended for older or non-standard properties, providing a detailed analysis of the property’s condition.

Timeline: Arranging and receiving a survey report can take 1 to 2 weeks.

4. Mortgage Offer

4.1. Full Mortgage Application Once the valuation is complete, the lender will proceed with your full mortgage application. This involves:

  • Detailed assessment of your financial situation
  • Underwriting process to confirm your ability to repay the mortgage
  • Issuing a formal mortgage offer

Timeline: The full mortgage application process can take 2 to 4 weeks.

4.2. Accepting the Mortgage Offer Once you receive the mortgage offer, review it carefully with your solicitor to ensure all terms and conditions are acceptable. Sign and return the offer to the lender.

5. Exchanging Contracts

5.1. Final Contract Review Before exchanging contracts, your solicitor will ensure all queries have been resolved and all necessary searches and surveys are satisfactory. This stage includes:

  • Reviewing final contract terms
  • Ensuring finance is in place
  • Agreeing on a completion date with the seller

5.2. Signing the Contract You and the seller will sign identical contracts. The buyer’s solicitor will hold your signed contract until the exchange date.

5.3. Exchange of Contracts This is a critical step where the transaction becomes legally binding. It involves:

  • The buyer’s and seller’s solicitors exchanging signed contracts
  • Paying the deposit (typically 10% of the purchase price)

Timeline: The exchange of contracts usually occurs 6 to 8 weeks after the offer is accepted.

6. Completion

6.1. Preparing for Completion In the period between exchange and completion, several activities take place:

  • Arranging for the transfer of the remaining funds to your solicitor
  • Organizing the move (hiring movers, transferring utilities)

6.2. Completion Day On completion day:

  • The buyer’s solicitor transfers the remaining funds to the seller’s solicitor
  • The keys are handed over to the buyer
  • The seller vacates the property

Timeline: Completion usually occurs 1 to 2 weeks after the exchange of contracts.

7. Post-Completion

7.1. Registering Ownership Your solicitor will register your ownership with the Land Registry, including:

  • Paying Stamp Duty Land Tax (if applicable)
  • Submitting the necessary documentation to the Land Registry

7.2. Final Steps

  • Ensuring all utility bills and council tax are transferred to your name
  • Moving into your new home and settling in

Timeline: Registering ownership can take a few weeks, but this step does not delay moving into the property.

8. Potential Delays and How to Mitigate Them

8.1. Common Causes of Delays Several factors can cause delays in the house-buying process, including:

  • Delays in mortgage approval due to financial discrepancies or issues with the property valuation.
  • Slow responses from solicitors or local authorities during the search and enquiry process.
  • Complications uncovered during the survey, such as structural issues or legal problems with the property title.

8.2. Tips to Speed Up the Process To help ensure a smoother and faster transaction:

  • Choose a proactive and communicative solicitor.
  • Stay on top of paperwork and respond promptly to any requests for information.
  • Maintain regular communication with your mortgage broker and lender.
  • Be prepared for potential issues and have contingency plans in place.


The journey from having an offer accepted to completing the purchase of a house in the UK typically takes between 8 to 12 weeks, depending on various factors. The key stages include instructing a solicitor, conducting property searches, securing a mortgage, arranging surveys, exchanging contracts, and completing the purchase. Understanding each step and being proactive can help ensure a smoother and more efficient process, allowing you to move into your new home with minimal delays. While there are potential obstacles, thorough preparation and effective communication can significantly mitigate these challenges and streamline your path to homeownership.

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