No matter whether you’re buying or selling a property, the process can be long, complicated and difficult to understand. From arranging mortgages to exchanging contracts or managing surveys, there’s a lot to keep on top of. If you’re wondering ‘how long is the process of buying a house?’ or how quickly you can sell your property, take a look at our guide to sales and purchase timelines below.


What’s involved in buying or selling a property?

Whether you’re buying or selling a property, there are four main stages you’ll have to go through. These are:

  • Property on the market – you will put your property up for sale, or have viewings of available properties.
  • Offer – an offer is made, negotiated and accepted.
  • Legal Due Diligence- this work will be carried out by your solicitor.
  • Exchange – contracts are exchanged between the seller and buyer.
  • Completion – legal ownership for the property is passed to the buyer.

If you’re buying a residential property, you will need to undertake additional steps, such as surveys and getting a mortgage. If you’re selling your property, you must make sure you have another property ready for you to move into. Read on to find out more about the specific processes of buying or selling a residential property.


1. Selling a residential property

If you’re selling a residential property, these are the steps you’ll need to take. The timeline below assumes there is not a chain on the property.

Putting your property on the market – Week 0

The first step to selling your property is putting it on the market. Normally, this is done via an estate agent who will advertise your property, arrange viewings and put up a ‘For Sale’ sign outside your house. During this stage, people will come to your property for viewings, to see if it may be suitable for them.


Receiving and accepting an offer – Week 8-12

The next stage in selling your property is receiving and accepting an offer. Normally, this takes around 12 weeks from first putting your property on the market. You are under no obligation to accept any offers you receive and can negotiate with any interested parties until you reach a decision.


Legal Due Diligence and exchanging contracts – Week 12-20

Contracts that have been drawn up and reviewed by your solicitor are exchanged with the buyer once they have arranged their mortgage and carried out necessary surveys, legal work and inspections on the property. This can take anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks from accepting the offer, but may take longer if any issues arise during the survey or legal process. Once contracts have been exchanged, you are legally bound to sell the property.

If you are selling your property and need the help of a solicitor, get in touch with our conveyancing solicitors in Manchester.


Completion – Week 20-24

Following the exchange of contracts, and once payment has been made in full, the sale completes. This marks the legal change in ownership of the property. If the sale does not involve a chain (i.e. you are not waiting for a sale to complete to be able to move out of your property), the total time to sell your property should be around 3 to 6 months.


2. Buying a residential property

If you’re buying a residential property, whether you’re a first-time buyer or not, read on to find out more about the buying a house timeline below.


Finding a property – Week 0

When you’re purchasing property, you’ll likely want to view multiple properties to make sure you find the perfect house or flat. If you do, take a look at our property search guide. In the UK, this process generally takes 8-12 weeks, at the end of which you’ll make an offer on a property.


Making an offer – Week 8-12

Once you’ve made an offer on a property and it has been accepted, it’s time to sort out the legal and financial aspects of your purchase. You will need to make sure your mortgage has been approved, and appoint a solicitor to take care of contracts and other legal issues. During this time, you’ll also need to instruct a surveyor to carry out the necessary reports and surveys on the property.

Deciding what to offer can be tricky. Read our top tips on negotiating a house price.

Legal Due Diligence and exchanging contracts – Week 12-20

Your solicitor will review the contract received from the seller’s solicitor and carry out any necessary legal due diligence. They will also carry out searches which they will report to you on before exchange of contracts.  After the legal work is completed, the next stage in the purchase is exchanging contracts. At this point, you’ll be required to pay the property deposit. Once contracts are signed, you are legally bound to follow through with the purchase.


Completion – Week 20-24

Completion happens shortly after the exchange of contracts and is the stage at which legal ownership of the property transfers to you. You’ll need to pay the remainder of the sale price to the sellers, and you must make sure you have appropriate property insurance from the date of completion, even if you haven’t moved in yet.

For any assistance with buying a house in the UK for the first time (or second, third time!), take a look at our buying a property guide.

Selling and buying a house at the same time

The timelines above assume that there isn’t a chain on either property. If you are selling and buying a house at the same time, your timeline may be significantly longer, as you must wait for your property purchase to complete before you can leave your current property. This chain can add complications to the selling process and may put off potential buyers who are looking for a quick purchase.

If you’re buying or selling a property, it’s important to make sure that you use an experienced solicitor who can support you throughout the process. At ET Law, our expert property solicitors can advise you at every step of the sales or purchasing process.

Get in touch today to see how we can help you.

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