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How long to move house once offer accepted uk

How long will it take for me to move house after an offer has been accepted?

If you’re trying to find out how long it’ll usually take to complete on a house sale, we have the information right here for you, and the answer might surprise you.

Moving house can be a daunting experience. It can sometimes feel like you’re spinning lots of plates trying to get everything organised and running simultaneously.

But just how long does it take to move house?

Let’s first think about all the stages that are involved.

There’s time needed to prepare and then list the property, host viewings, negotiate and accept an offer, making the offer legally binding, waiting on surveys; the list goes on.

According to ViewMyChain – a data driven chain management tool – it can take on average, six months and 24 days to purchase a home. That’s right; very nearly seven months!

Looking at the key milestones between sold subject to contract (SSTC) to completion, they found it takes an average of 23 days for searches to be ordered after a property has been sold subject to contract. It then takes around 10.2 days for the Local Authority to return searches. This timeframe can vary across the UK, with some areas taking up to 50 days.

After searches have been returned, an average of 31 days is needed for enquiries to be satisfied and a further seven days to get the sale ready for exchange.

Funding equates to around a third of the time taken in the completion process. Once sold subject to contract, it can take on average 17 days for the mortgage application to be submitted, and then an additional 21 days for a mortgage to be offered.

All that assumes that the chain doesn’t fall through. If it does, you’ve potentially wasted time up to that point and will need to start all over again. It should be noted that things are different in Scotland because when an offer has been made, it’s legally binding to prevent the frustration caused by offers being made then withdrawn (and sales falling through).

Chains are one of the main reasons for a sale to be held up. If just one person in the chain walks away from their sale, the whole chain can collapse. And if you do complete as part of a long chain, have to agree to a completion date that works with everyone else in the chain. This isn’t going to be easy and it’ll potentially mean a longer wait than you wanted before you can move. Not being in a chain will ensure you have a faster house sale.

Now it’s time to go into detail on how long it takes to complete on a house if you’re a seller.

What’s the average time taken to move house?

Every house move potentially comes with its own set of challenges to conquer. Some of these will take more time to overcome than others, especially if there are issues highlighted in the surveys.

And let’s not forget the time it will take for you to find a buyer. This can be weeks, and in some instances, it could take a year to find a buyer; even when the market is strong.

What are the factors that can extend the timescale for moving house?

All of the following are the things that can all potentially slow down your house sale. Understanding them means understanding how to speed-up your sale so that it goes through without delay.

Your buyer

Although you might think that there’s not much you can do about the buyer, you’d be wrong.

Your buyer needs to be just as motivated as you are to push the sale along. This will mean you’ll need to rely on them to choose a good conveyancer that won’t drag their feet.

What you can do is choose your buyer; especially if you’re lucky enough to receive offers from different people. The thing that slows down a house sale is a chain. Waiting for someone in the chain to make a step forwards can have a knock-on effect for everyone.

If you’ve got offers from a buyer that’s in a chain, as well as an offer from a buyer that isn’t in a chain, it would make life easier for you to go for the latter; even if their offer is slightly lower than the buyer in a chain. This is because the whole transaction is likely to be much more straightforward and therefore go through quickly.

The estate agent

If you’re following the traditional route of selling with an estate agent, they will be the ones that gather documents, check that solicitors have been appointed and provide advice. They act as the ‘go-between’ for you and your buyer, so if they’re slow to respond to emails, or not easy to reach on the phone, your sales process can be delayed.

Even when using major websites like Rightmove, the sale of your house will often depend upon the proactivity of your estate agent. There’s something that you can do to find out just how efficient they are and if your agent really is working for you. Ask a friend to call your agent and describe a property similar to yours to find out if yours is mentioned. It’s a simple but effective plan.

If you’re having doubts about the ability of your agent, search for online reviews from real customers like you to find out if others have been in your position.

Solicitors and conveyancers

Having an efficient and proactive solicitor will help you to achieve a fast sale. One of the things they’ll do for their buyer is called a local search. Obtaining the results from these surveys can take a couple of weeks – sometimes longer – but if your solicitor requests these as soon as you appoint them, it’ll make sure things are on track for you.

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Surveys can delay your sales process not only when the local authority is slow to respond, but also when the buyer is slow to make their payment. Solicitors will not request the local searches until payment has cleared because it is a cost to them. Any delay in your buyer making the payment will have ramifications, but it’s out of your hands. At this point, all you can do is to chase the estate agent for updates and make sure the buyer has done all they can.

RICS survey

We mention this because although it isn’t strictly necessary for a buyer to have a RICS survey, they may well want one to be done. The survey itself will take a matter of hours, but it’s the waiting for survey results to be returned that can hold things up. Then if the survey alerts your buyer to anything abnormal, they might drag their feet, request that remedial work is undertaken before the sale progresses, or even ask for a reduction on the price. Naturally, these outcomes would lead to negotiations that would hold up the process. Of course, all that assumes that the buyer requested the RICS survey in good time, and that you’re available for the surveyor to visit.

Mortgage company

If your buyer is using a mortgage to buy your property, it could be that there are delays in getting the finance in place. Obviously, you’ll have wanted them to have done this before they placed an offer, but it isn’t always the case. To some degree, the mortgage application process is out of your buyers’ hands, but then again, if they put in the hard work earlier on, it would speed up the sale for both parties. Documents from the prospective buyer, official certifications and sending things back and forth through the post can all add up to more delays for you as a seller.

I’m a buyer, so what can I do to keep the process moving and not delay things?

There are a number of things that you can do as a buyer to help the house sale move along and get into your new home sooner. Here are eight tips:

Get your finances in order

To speed up the time it takes to buy your next property, it will help a lot if you can get your finances in order ahead of applying for a mortgage or making an offer. Checking your credit score with one of the main agencies – such as Experian or Equifax – a few months before you start looking for your new home will give you time to see your report and make sure there aren’t errors that could prevent you from getting a mortgage. Being registered on the electoral roll will help you to achieve a favourable score.

Get a mortgage in principle

Obtaining an agreement in principle from a mortgage lender will give you an indication of how much they might be willing to offer you as a mortgage. The amount will be based on the information you provide and so they will not have checked at this point whether the details you have given about your income and expenditure are correct. This means it is only a tentative offer. The lender will not have had a chance to appraise the property either, so it really is just an initial overview. However, it can be helpful if you have never bought a house before and want to get an early indicator of how much you can borrow. It can also be very useful to show to an estate agent and seller that an offer you make for a property is serious and is likely to be supported by the bank.

Instruct your conveyancing solicitor early on

Between the point that your offer is accepted by the seller and the completion of your house purchase, there are a great many overlapping processes that all need to take place.

Ofter having had an offer accepted by the property vendor, you’ll then need to instruct a conveyancer and apply for your mortgage. A great way to prevent any hold-ups is to have previously done your research on which conveyancing solicitor you want to use.

Your conveyancing solicitor will get things started by contacting the buyer and seller’s solicitors as appropriate, conducting local searches and reviewing all the relevant legal documents. Freehold properties are usually straightforward but if you’re buying a leasehold, a property with restrictive covenants or you’re using a government scheme such as Help to Buy, the process can take a bit longer.

It’s important to note that processes are not the same across the UK. Things are different in Scotland because when an offer has been made, it’s legally binding to prevent the frustration caused by offers being made then withdrawn.

In Scotland, a prospective buyer must first instruct their solicitor to provide a so-called ‘note of interest’ to the seller. This will indicate that there is interest in the property and means the buyer will be made aware of important aspects of the sale, such as when the seller is accepting offers and the closing date for making an offer.

Many conveyancers in Scotland are ‘Solicitor Estate Agents’ and they are bound by the Law Society of Scotland’s guidelines that are designed to discourage gazumping. When a conveyancer has accepted an offer on the property on behalf of the seller, they cannot accept a subsequent offer from another potential buyer.

However, if the seller does want to accept a second offer, the solicitor must withdraw from acting on their behalf and the seller needs to then hire another conveyancer for their sale.

Instead of ‘sold STC’, a property in Scotland would be sold ‘subject to conclusion of missives’. Missives are a series of letters between the buyers’ and sellers’ solicitors that include the terms of the sale. Completion of this stage is known as the ‘conclusion of missives’ and from this point onwards, the sale is legally binding.

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Arrange the mortgage

Make your mortgage application after you have instructed your conveyancing solicitor, either through a broker or by contacting a lender directly if you have done your own research. The process of applying for a mortgage to the point of receiving an offer can take around three to six weeks. You may already have an agreement in principle, but if some time has elapsed since you received that document, the might not be the most competitive on the market, so it’s important that you check again to make sure you’re getting the best deal for you and your situation.

Be quick to respond

There is likely to be a lot of communication between you, your mortgage lender, your conveyancing solicitor and the seller’s solicitor. Being responsive and keeping on top of communications will certainly help to keep things moving.

Allow time to book surveys (and tradesmen)

The mortgage lender will invariably want to instruct their own surveyor to carry out a valuation survey to ensure that the property you’d like to buy is a sound investment for their money. This can take anything from a few days to over a week and is only for the benefit of the mortgage lender.  If you arrange to have your own surveyor carry out a detailed inspection of the condition of the property, it will take time to get them booked in and find a time that’s suitable for the homeowner. It’s possible that the survey will identify areas that need to be addressed. If you get in touch with local tradesmen to work out the costs involved, you’ll be holding up the sale process, but it will give you an indication of what lies ahead for you.

Get building insurance in place ready for the exchange of contracts

Arranging building insurance for your new property to take effect on the day you exchange is usually a condition of the mortgage agreement. Shopping around early will save you time later on.

Prepare for moving day

Once you have your completion date set, you can begin to prepare for moving day.  You may want to hire a removals company to pack up your belongings and assist you with your move. Doing your research on removal companies and asking friends, family and colleagues for recommendations will help you to get ahead of the game.

Is there anything I can do to avoid delays when I’m selling?

As a seller, there are some things that you can do to help speed up the sale of your property. Here are three things to consider.

Communication

Good communication is always going to be at the heart of an efficient house sale. Be sure to stay in regular contact with your agent and solicitor to make sure that everything is on schedule.

Research

Your property is likely to be your biggest and most expensive asset, so choosing who should sell it is an important decision. Researching the agent you’re going to use will help you understand which agent is most likely to get your home sold quickly and do everything that you need.

Use a fast sale company

A cash buyer will work with motivated sellers to push through a fast sale. Their job is to buy properties that are either difficult to sell or whose owners need cash in their bank account very quickly. Equally, it could be that you’re fed-up with using estate agents and want a hassle-free house sale where you don’t have to pay fees.

To achieve these super-fast sales, you as a seller will usually have to take a hit on your price. Cash buyers typically offer around 80% of the current market rate, although some may offer you less than that. If you’re considering a cash buyer, you must be aware of these two critical points.

There’s little regulation in this industry so anyone can set up a business and say they’re a cash buyer. However, that doesn’t mean they have cash or that they’re competent. It’s up to you to do your due diligence and check where their money comes from, what experience they have, the price they offer and everything else. Secondly, cash buyers are a business and like any business, their aim is to make a profit. Some cash buyers are sniffing around for what they call ‘the three D’s’; these being divorce, death and debt. These three situations generate the most emotion, making sellers more desperate and weaker in negotiations.

However, you could find that they are able to sell your property in 30 days. As they’ll often be using their own money, no time is wasted sorting out mortgages and they won’t be in a chain.

How does a legitimate cash buyer operate?

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide for you, although please do remember that some companies will operate differently. However, this is a rough template that most will follow:

  1. After contacting the house buying company, they will be in touch with a cash offer for your home. You should receive this offer quickly. (After all, cash sales are meant to save you time).
  2. If you decide to accept the offer, a trustworthy company will then deal with everything for you; usually at no cost to you. They’ll typically pay the legal and admin fees on your behalf.
  3. A completion date will then be agreed between you and the property buying company. Often, this will be within a month or sooner.
  4. The sale will then go through, and you’ll have the funds in your bank account.

A reputable cash buyer can be a life saver though in a tough situation and, as long as you have done your due diligence to fully understand the company with which you’re dealing, a cash buyer can produce great results for you and get your house not only ‘under offer’ but ‘sold STC’ in a short timeframe.

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What should I look for in a cash buying company?

For your own security, check that the company is a member of the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) and The Property Ombudsman. This will give you independent help if there’s a dispute and also means that they have to abide by a code of conduct.

Get everything in writing, for extra peace of mind. This way, you can recheck any details and you’ll have evidence of the price that was offered to you for your property. And on that topic, make sure that the offer they give you for your property is fixed. It’s not uncommon for some less scrupulous companies to reduce their offer at the last minute, leaving you with little choice but to accept.

Avoid the ‘one man band’ companies 

There are some ‘one man bands’ that pretend to be cash buying companies. The risk you face with these are only having one person to deal with enquiries, viewings, and completions; instead of a team dedicated to each stage as you’d get with the larger cash buying companies. Also, if you are dealing with a ‘one man band’, there’s a risk that they won’t have the money they’re offering to you. If they do have the funds, it could be that they’re sorting out a loan or mortgage. At the very worst, they may not have any capital and are trying to exploit homeowners that are trying to quickly release some equity. Wading through all of this takes time and holds up your sale; not what you need when you want a quick sale.

What should a seller look for in a cash buying company?

For your own security, check that the company is a member of the National Association of Property Buyers (NAPB) and The Property Ombudsman. This will give you independent help if there’s a dispute and also means that they have to abide by a code of conduct.

Get everything in writing, for extra peace of mind. This way, you can recheck any details and you’ll have evidence of the price that was offered to you for your property. And on that topic, make sure that the offer they give you for your property is fixed. It’s not uncommon for some less scrupulous companies to reduce their offer at the last minute, leaving you with little choice but to accept.

Any other advantages to using a cash buyer?

When you use a cash buyer, it’ll put you in a strong position for you to go ahead and purchase your next property. You’ll be seen as a ‘power buyer’ when you have a sale agreed on your current home before you buy. It effectively puts you in the position of a first-time buyer because you’re approaching the vendor with no chain. This means you can potentially move quickly and you have your finances in order.

In addition, if you choose to sell to a cash buying company, you won’t have people walking through your property pointing out any cracks and dated décor. You won’t have a ‘for sale’ sign in front of your home to alert the neighbours that they can go online to have a virtual snoop around. What you will get is a hassle-free sale when you choose a reputable company, as well as their property expert to provide you with a free, no-obligation market appraisal. As mentioned, the price they offer is likely to be around 80% of your property’s true market value, but that is to take account of the fees that you won’t have to pay, the renovation work undertaken by the company to get it re-sold, and the convenience of selling to a buyer that isn’t in a chain and doesn’t need a mortgage.

Conclusion

The method you choose to sell your house is entirely your decision and will be influenced by your timescales and personal preferences. There are pros and cons to consider, but before you do make a choice, pay attention to online feedback. There are review websites (such as allAgents) that collate feedback on estate agents, online agents and fast sale cash buyers. Have a look at the comments left by people that have sold or are selling to see how they were treated and if they received a good service.

You’ll also want to find out how each of the different companies reach their valuation for your property. The amount that a fast sale company will offer to you for your property will depend upon the company. Some of the most reliable cash buying companies will use independent valuations to decide on a figure and show you the evidence that has enabled them to decide on that number. Meanwhile, others may not use such respected methods and flatter you with a higher offer on the phone; only to reduce it when they visit your property. It’s essential to ensure that the valuation you get is a ‘no obligation’ valuation; meaning you’re not forced to sell to that company just because they visited and valued it.

Equally, estate agents and online agents may suggest you pitch your property with an asking price at the top end of the valuation and then after being on the market for a while, they’ll suggest you lower the asking price. All of this takes time and holds up your sale.

Any questions?

We hope you’ve found this article to be informative and helpful and given you a better understanding of how long it can take to sell a property in the UK. To find out more about getting your free, no-obligation offer for a fast house sale, call us or send an email.