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 of buying. Here we take you step-by-step through the entire journey from deciding to move right through to completion.

house buying process

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 deposit of at least 5% of the property’s value, but a bigger deposit will give you access to more preferential mortgage application deals.

You will need a certain amount of money for the buying process itself, such as paying a solicitor and surveyor. It’s essential 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.

Get a mortgage agreed in principle

Unless you can afford to buy your new home in cash, you will need a mortgage. Research what mortgage deals are available before you approach lenders, then secure an offer from a lender before starting 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 around.

Put in an offer

Once you have found your dream home, you need to put in an offer. When deciding how much to offer, you can check Zoopla and the Land Registry to find out how much similar properties in the area have recently sold for. If you are still not sure, a good rule of thumb is to offer 5%-10% less than the asking price.

When you have decided on the offer amount, tell the estate agent (either in person or by telephone). The estate agent will tell you if there are any higher offers on the table, allowing you to increase your bid. It is a good idea to also put your offer in writing; an email is acceptable.

You may also 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.

You should mention any points in your favour, such as being chain-free. You should also state that your offer is subject to a survey and the property being taken off the market. This helps protect you against gazumping.

make an offer

What is gazumping?

You and the seller are not legally bound to complete the purchase until you have exchanged contracts. Gazumping is when another buyer offers more money than you, and your seller goes back on your deal.

Get your mortgage offer

You now need to turn the mortgage agreed in principle into a concrete offer. 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.

Get a property survey

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, impacting your buying home decisions and your offer price.

Read our blog article on the different types of surveys available.

Find a conveyancer

Conveyancing is the legal process to transfer ownership of property from one owner to another.

Whilst you can do your own conveyancing, most people decide to use a qualified conveyancer to ensure that the correct steps are taken and the purchase is legally binding. When choosing a solicitor, it is essential to look at more than cost alone. The Law Society advises checking the solicitor is part of its Conveyancing Quality Scheme – the recognised quality mark for legal experts in buying or selling property.

Your conveyancer will carry our searches to find out more information about the property you plan to purchase, including checking for flood risks and planning permission. They will carefully check all the documents received from the seller’s solicitor and raise any issues that should be addressed before the sale proceeds.

Sort out buildings insurance

When buying a house with a mortgage, buildings insurance should be in place from the exchange of contracts.

Once contracts have been exchanged, you are legally bound to purchase the property. If the house were to burn down between exchange and completion, the insurance policy would ensure that the property could be re-built.

buildings insurance

Exchange contracts

As a buyer, you must make sure that all the following legal and financial documentation is in place before you can exchange contracts:

  • A mortgage offer in writing
  • Your deposit funds cleared with your legal company
  • You have signed the contract of sale
  • You have buildings insurance in place
  • You have agreed on a completion date

The actual exchange of contracts happens in a telephone conversation between the two solicitors acting on behalf of the buyer and seller. The deposit is transferred to the seller’s solicitor.

Exchange of contracts is a significant milestone in the home buying process as the purchase is now legally binding, and there is very little chance that it will fall through.

Find a removals company

Unless you have a minimal amount of furniture, you will need to hire a removals company to help you move. Get at least three quotes from local firms that will come to your property to access the size of the job.

Don’t forget to check parking at both ends. You may need to contact the council to arrange a parking suspension.

Complete and move in

The gap between exchange and completion is generally between one and two weeks. On completion day, the buyer’s solicitor sends the seller’s solicitor the purchase price balance. The buyer can then pick up the keys from the estate agents and move into their new home.


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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