How long does it take to buy a house in the UK? It’s a common question we hear from both first-time buyers and those wishing to move on to pastures new from their current home, so we’re going to break it down for you in this week’s post.

First of all, let’s answer the question before we go through the timeline: it can take anywhere between three to six months to buy a house in the UK at present, and even this can vary despite the broadness of the estimate.

Many variables come into play when trying to equate how long it takes to buy a UK property, but we’ve broken the process down into stages below so that you can get a rough idea of the property purchasing timeline you’ll be looking at should you decide to move.

Let’s dive in!

Finding the perfect property

Step one, finding the perfect property, is likely to be the stage that affects your timeline the most, so we’re going to remove it from the process altogether. Although it’s obviously an extremely vital step (without it, you couldn’t move!), to even give you a ballpark figure on this stage would be foolhardy.

Why? Well, some people will be lucky enough to stumble across their ideal home on their very first visit to the local estate agent or property portal (Rightmove / Zoopla / OnTheMarket) search, while others will have to wait a whole lot longer for their perfect property. 

A lot will depend upon where you’re looking to move to. It stands to reason that an area with a greater number of properties for sale will offer buyers richer pickings than somewhere more rural that has fewer homes going to market at any one time.

Obtaining a mortgage

On to the timeline proper, then. First up, getting a mortgage.

Agreeing a mortgage in principle will take next to no time and can usually be arranged within 24 hours. Obtaining the full mortgage once everything gets serious, however, will take far longer.

Having your own, ahem, house in order will help here. Make sure you have all of the necessary paperwork ready and to hand as your lender may throw you a curveball and ask for further documentation after you’ve applied. Our guide to applying for a mortgage is a valuable resource worth consulting before putting in your application.

Timescale for obtaining a mortgage: three to six weeks

Sorting out conveyancing

When buying a home, it’s important to have a reputable solicitor on your side who’ll handle the conveyancing process for you. While this can be done by the purchaser, it’s more prudent to leave such a complex task to the professionals.

There are a number of ways to find the right firm to deal with your conveyancing and, thanks to the Internet, it has never been easier to check out what other people are saying about those who make your shortlist. 

Don’t be scared to ask your local estate agent for recommendations here either, as they will be dealing with different solicitors daily and are, therefore, well placed to offer guidance when making your selection.

Timescale for conveyancing: two to three months

Conducting a survey

While it is technically possible to buy a property without a survey in some instances, to do so would be reckless to say the least. Employing a surveyor may seem like just another expense, but the financial implications of making a mistake are so great it would be foolish to ignore this step. 

The timeline can vary depending on the surveyor you use and the type of survey you opt for. Once you have received the final report it’s wise to pass it over to your conveyancing solicitor for further inspection.

Our guides will help you decide what kind of survey you need and show you how to choose a surveyor.

Timescale for property survey: two to three weeks

Exchanging contracts

Now we’re moving towards the business end of the “how long does it take to buy a house?” question.

All of the relevant searches have been conducted, your mortgage is in place, and the survey has given your prospective property purchase a clean bill of health...the ducks are all sitting neatly in a row! Now it’s over to the two parties’ solicitors to swap documentation to signify an agreement has been reached.

This part of the house buying process usually occurs occurs a couple of weeks before completion of the sale, but can be as long as four weeks or as short as the very same day. This will depend upon the circumstances of the parties involved and the agreement they come to during the conveyancing process.

See our step by step guide to exchanging contracts for a deeper dive into this stage.

Timescale for exchanging contracts: usually around 14 days before completion, but can be conducted on the same day or up to 28 days from that date, depending on the buyer and seller

Completion and moving day

The day when dreams become reality - you’re about to become a homeowner! Whether you are a first-time buyer or are simply moving up or down the property ladder, this day is always welcome.

Your mortgage, if you have one, will be finalised and fees will be paid to all of the relevant parties. It’s time to go and get those keys and move in!

Check out our post on a stress-free moving day for tips and advice on a smooth move.

Timescale for completion and moving day: 24 hours (although moving can take longer if you have the time and circumstances allow)

Final thoughts on how long does it take to buy a house

As we’ve mentioned several times throughout this article, there are a number of variables that can affect the amount of time it takes to buy a property in the UK. One thing all sellers should bear in mind, however, is the impact their choice of estate agent can have on the process.

While calculations for the estimated timescale for buyers rightly concentrate on things such as conveyancing and surveys, as a seller having someone on your side to help push things along can make a significant difference. This is the job of the Sales Progressor.

Unfortunately, not all agents will have a designated sales progressor, and we’d advise you to think twice about those who don’t. Here at Petty’s, we take great pride in making things happen as quickly as possible for those who employ our services, and our sales progressors are an essential part of that.

To find out more about why sales progressors matter and exactly how they can help you move home fast, check out What Is A Sales Progressor before you instruct an estate agent to sell your property.


So, that’s it for this post. Buying a property in the UK takes anywhere between three to six months to complete, with a few outliers either side for good measure. As there are so many variables to contend with, this ballpark figure is about the best estimate we can give.

One constant remains, however: the importance of choosing the right professionals for the tasks required to make your purchase as simple and hassle-free as possible. Selecting the right solicitors and surveyors is vital, and not being afraid to chase them up yourself if needed won’t hurt either!

If you are looking to buy or sell in Wanstead or any of E11’s surrounding postcodes, give us a call. As you can see from our weekly blog posts (which you can subscribe to by clicking here, by the way!), we love helping people move and would be delighted to assist you however we can.


How Long Does It Take To Buy A House UK Timeline And Steps