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Buying a home is one of the most stressful processes you can go through, and it has been made even more trying thanks to the pandemic. Knowing a rough outline of how the process works can often make it a bit smoother. Our estate agents have put through this timeline guide, so you have a better idea of what to expect.

Buying a Home - The Timeline

The Timeline

Timescales vary hugely depending on the buyers and sellers circumstances, but as a round guide.

6 – 8 months: find a property, research the area, scour estate agents and search websites. Once you’ve found somewhere you are ready to put in an offer.

4 -12 weeks: you and your estate agent negotiate offers and then one is accepted, so it is time to check the properties condition. The solicitor can check legal issues. You pay your deposit, after this is paid you can’t back out without facing major costs.

Instantly – 4 weeks: you hand over the rest of the cash in exchange for the keys and deeds. The property is not legally yours.

The Steps

1. Can you afford the property you want?

There is no point getting excited about the property if you have no idea of whether or not you can afford it. Avoid unnecessary disappointment and get a good idea of how much you can afford before you start hunting.

2. Find your dream home

This may be the most obvious step, but usually it’s the hardest one. This step will involve speaking to a lot of estate agents, and conducting a lot of viewings.

3. Make the right offer

It can be tempting to offer over the asking price if you are desperate to secure the home, but remember not to spend more than you can afford, converse with your estate agent to settle on a reasonable price. Also ensure you get fixtures and fittings in writing. You don’t want to end up receiving the keys to find the house has been stripped from all its basic fittings.

4. Offer accepted

Time for a mini celebration, but don’t get your hopes up too much, there is still lots to secure and no one is contractually obliged yet.

5. Watch out for gazumping and gazanging

The seller is not legally bound to sell the property to you until you have reached an exchange of contracts. Until you have reached this milestone, there is always a risk of being gazumped or gazangled. These are estate agent terms.

Gazumping: This is when another buyer offers more money than you, and your seller reneges on the deal.

Gazanging: This is when your seller decides to cancel the sale and stay, usually because house prices have gone up and they can make more if they stay longer.

Sadly, there is not much you can do to avoid these, you will just have to hope and wait and ensure your estate agent keeps you updated.

6. Find your best mortgage

Don’t opt for the first one you find, and don’t just go directly to your existing bank. Make sure you shop around for a range of options. Once you’ve found the mortgage you want, and you have applied, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month to get it offered, so be prepared to be patient.

7. Choose your conveyancing firm

Conveyancing is the legal process that transfers a property from one person to another. Licensed conveyancers are specialist property lawyers who do all the legal paperwork,  Land Registry and local council searches, draft the contract and handle the exchange of money.

8. The lender will check the property

Once the agreement in principle is done, the next step is to convert it to a full application. This is where the lender makes sure they are happy to lend you the money, and that they are happy to lend it on that specific property you have chosen.

9. Solicitor searches

Whilst your mortgage application is being looked at by the lender, the solicitor will carry out certain searches including local authority searches, drainage searches and environmental searches.

10. Property survey

Once you are sure you can borrow what you need it is time to make sure the property is in good condition too. You should always make sure this is done before the exchange. Your estate agents should be able to recommend a surveyor.

11. The mortgage offer is secured

If you have made it through all the steps so far, then you have reached another celebration point. You now have a formal offer that says the lender is willing to lend you the money to buy the property.

12. Sort out building insurance

Once you have exchanged contracts you are legally obliged to purchase it, so it is better to be safe than sorry and sort out building insurance.

13. Negotiate a completion date

This is the next step, your estate agent will negotiate between yourself and the seller’s estate agent. Try to be flexible here as it is often difficult to find a date that suits both parties.

14. Give your solicitor your deposit money

Once you are almost ready to exchange on contracts, you need to get your deposit money ready. The solicitor will also get you to sign the contract at this point, so this is when you commit to buying the vendor’s house.

15. Exchange contracts

This is a huge milestone, there is now a legally binding contract between you and the seller, once this has happened you can’t pull out.

16. Get a completion statement from your solicitor

Your solicitor will give you a completion statement with a clear breakdown of the money you need to give to the solicitor. This will include any outstanding depository, stamp duty, land tax and solicitors fees. You will usually have to pay these on or before the completion date.

17. More solicitor searches

Before completion the solicitor has to check that the seller still owns the property, and that you haven’t  been declared bankrupt since your mortgage offer.

18. Sign the transfer deed

Your solicitor will prepare the transfer deed. You need to sign it and it needs to be witnessed. This confirms you are willing to take ownership of the property.

19. The solicitor draws the funds from your lender

The solicitor now requests the mortgage money from your lender so that the payment has time to clear. This is the point you/ your solicitor actually gets the money from the mortgage lender.

20. Pay for the house

The solicitor will send the full payment to the seller’s solicitors and receive the title and deeds as proof.


The keys are finally yours, not you have the joy of moving.

22. Pay stamp duty

You have 14 days for your solicitor to send the Stamp Office your transfer deed and for you to pay stamp duty and land tax.

23. Register ownership

Your solicioty will register your details with the Land Registry, you’ll need to send them a fee to cover this.

24. Get the title deeds

Your solicitor will get the new title deeds from the Land Registry and forward them to your mortgage lender.


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