For anyone who has ever bought a house, you’ll be familiar with how stressful and life-consuming the process can be. This is especially true if you’re selling your existing home at the same time, and need to sell it before you can buy your next property. Estate agents are there to help steer you through the process. Here we take you step-by-step through the entire journey from making the decision to move right through to completion.

steps to buying a house uk

How long does it take to buy a house?

The average time to buy a house from offer to completion is around 10-12 weeks.

Check your finances

This may sound obvious, but it’s important you establish how much you can afford to spend, and what your upper limit is. Talk to a financial advisor and the bank to establish how much you have to play with. You will need a certain amount of money for the buying process itself, such as paying a solicitor and surveyor. It’s important to work out what expenses you will incur throughout the process and set this money aside so that you know exactly how much you can afford to spend on a new home.

Find a mortgage

Unless you can afford to buy your new home in cash, you are going to need a mortgage. Research what mortgage deals are available before you approach mortgage lender, then secure an mortgage offer from a lender before you start to view properties. Not only will you know exactly how much you can borrow and what your budget is, which makes the property viewing process more targeted, but a vendor will be more likely to sell to someone who already has their finances in place.

Find your dream home

Consider your requirements and research the neighbourhood where you are planning to buy. For instance, you may want to be near good schools and public parks, close to amenities such as shops, bars and restaurants or close to transport links for your commute to work. Knowing the area you plan to buy in will help you decide which properties to view.

Be prepared to compromise, make sure your expectations are realistic and bear in mind that no property is absolutely perfect.

Before you view a property, write a list of questions you’d like to ask the vendor about the property. Make sure you look into every corner – don’t be afraid to be thorough when looking round.

Making an offer

Once you have found your dream home, you need to put in an offer. You may need to provide proof that you have the funds to pay the offer price; this is where the mortgage agreement in principle comes in handy.

Offer accepted

If your offer on a property has been accepted, we strongly recommend that you commission a survey before taking any further steps. This is very important, as the inspection might reveal structural problems, which may impact your buying decisions and your offer price.

You must also apply for your mortgage application formally and appoint your conveyancer.

Your lender will send an independent valuer to assess the property to make sure you will be able to sell the property for more than the loan amount.

Watch out for gazumping and gazanging!

You and the seller are not legally bound to complete the purchase until you have reached exchange of contracts. Gazumping is when another buyer offers more money than you and your seller goes back on your deal. You can try to avoid this by asking the seller to take the property off the market as a condition of your offer. Gazanging is when a seller takes the property off the market having already accepted your offer.

Exchange contracts and complete

mortgage offer to completion

You conveyancer will manage the rest of the process of buying a house. They will undertake all the legal and administrative work to transfer the ownership of the property to you.

Your solicitor will carry out searches for you

Searches will include a local authority search to see if the property is affected by the proximity of railways, both over-ground and under-ground. This search also verifies whether there is any planning permission for future developments close to the property, or any other developments that may prove disadvantageous to the property now, or in the future.

Water and drainage searches will reveal if there are any sewers close to the property or any running within the property’s boundaries. They will also ask the local water company to confirm they are responsible for the maintenance of the sewers, drains, and pipes.

An environmental search will reveal if the land the property has been built on has any environmental issues. These will include contamination caused by previous use, risk of subsidence, landslips, or flooding.

Your solicitor will draw up the paperwork and carry out checks

Your conveyancing solicitor will ask your estate agents for the memorandum of sale which contains the solicitor details for each party in the chain. Your solicitor will contact your seller’s solicitor for all the legal documents relating to the sale.

It is the seller’s solicitor’s job to draw up the draft contract, they will send this together with:

  • The Title Deeds of the property from the Land Registry
  • The Sellers Property Information Form, which gives the potential buyer detailed information about the property, covering neighbour disputes to when the boiler was last serviced.
  • The Fittings and Contents Form outlining what will be left and removed from the property as part of the sale
  • The Leasehold Information Form specifying, amongst other things, details of the ground rent payable. This is only applicable if you are buying a leasehold property.

Your conveyancer will then carefully go through these documents and raise any queries they feel need addressing before the sale proceeds.

Once the search results and contract papers have been completed and your solicitor is satisfied with the results, they will send you a summary detailing everything they have received.

This should include everything you need to know about the property. Information about the boundaries, and any restrictions on the deeds that you must comply with.

Sign the paperwork

Your solicitor will send you all the checked documents to sign and return. Some of the documents can be emailed to you, for you to sign, scan and email back. Others, such as the Title Deeds, will be posted as they require an original signature.

Your solicitor will line up all parties for exchange and completion

At this point, your solicitor will ask you for a deposit (normally 10% of the purchase price) and will discuss with you a convenient date to move into your new home (the completion date). That date will then need to be agreed with the seller’s solicitor and those parties further along the chain.

Once a completion date is agreed, your solicitor will work towards a date when you can exchange contracts.

Exchange contracts

On exchange of contract, the deposit is transfer to the seller and the completion date is fixed in the contract. The exchange starts with the seller at the top of the chain, then cascades down. This is the point at which the purchase becomes legally binding.

Sort out your buildings insurance

Now you have exchanged contracts you are legally-bound to purchase the property so it is a good idea to have buildings insurance in place.


house buying process

Your solicitor will request the balance of the mortgage amount from the bank or building society and you will need to pay any other outstanding balances before completion can take place.

On the day of completion, your solicitor sends the balance payable to the seller’s solicitors by same-day CHAPS transfer. Once the cash has arrived with the seller’s solicitor, they will telephone to confirm completion and authorise the estate agent to release the keys.

Your solicitor will register the change of ownership

Once you are in your new property, the conveyancer will pay any stamp duty due to the Inland Revenue and register your ownership with the Land Registry.


Are you looking for property for sale in Wimbledon, Wimbledon Village, Coombe Hill or the surrounding area? We know Wimbledon property, so if you’re a buyer looking in the area, get in touch with us today.

About the author

Nicolas Holmes

Nick joined Robert Holmes to inject fresh ideas and help grow the New Homes department of Robert Holmes as well as helping to inject technology into the business and to grow its client base. Together with one of the Directors Nick is in charge of all Development opportunities that Robert Holmes deals with along with sales. Aged 40, he provides succession together with the two existing directors. Nick has always been focused on building client relationships and sales. He built up his own gallery in Chelsea, where he had a loyal following of customers and artists.

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