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How Long Does it Take to Move House?

Updated: Jun 18

Buying a house is a complex process with many moving parts.  On average, expect it to take between 12 weeks and 6 months from finding your dream home to getting the keys on moving day.  However, various factors can speed up or slow down this timeline, so it's essential to be prepared for a flexible journey.


The house-buying process can feel exciting yet overwhelming.  Understanding the typical timeline, potential roadblocks, and tips to navigate it all will give you a sense of control amidst the chaos.  


This guide breaks down the key stages of buying a house, offers realistic timeframes, and provides strategies to minimise delays. Whether you're a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner,  buckle up – let's explore how long it takes to  move house!


Key Stages of Buying a House: Timelines, Delays, & Preparation

Stage in Process

Average Length of Time

Common Causes of Delays

Tips for Preparation/Speeding Things Up

Finding the Right Property

10-12 weeks

Slow market, indecision, unrealistic expectations

Start early, have clear priorities, get a mortgage in principle

Getting a Mortgage

18-40 days

Application errors, slow lender response, valuation issues

Gather documents early, be responsive to your lender, research mortgage brokers

Finding a Conveyancer

8-12 weeks (from sale agreed)

Unresponsive conveyancers, slow searches, complex legal issues

Choose early, compare quotes, maintain clear communication

Property Survey

2-3 weeks

Surveyor availability, survey type, issues needing follow-up

Book early, understand survey levels, discuss the report with your conveyancer

Exchanging Contracts

Varies, often week 8

Delays in the chain, unresolved legal issues, search results

Choose a proactive conveyancer, stay in touch throughout

Completing the Sale

7-28 days after exchange

Last-minute issues with funds or paperwork, moving date logistics

Completion checklist, have funds confirmed, book removals in advance




Potential Delays from Property Chains

Property chains occur when multiple house sales and purchases are dependent on each other. For example, your buyer might need to sell their own house before they can buy yours.  If any sale within the chain falls through, it can cause delays for everyone involved. Longer chains increase the risk of disruption, so ask your estate agent about the chain's length and consider having contingency plans in case of delays.


The House Hunting Phase


A terraced London home with a "For Sale" sign out the front

Setting Realistic Expectations

Finding your perfect home is thrilling, but it's vital to set realistic expectations to avoid disappointment or rushing into a bad fit. It's highly unlikely you'll tick every box on your dream home list – compromises are inevitable. 

Understanding the current property market is key; a seller's market means fewer homes available and fiercer competition, potentially extending your search time. Take the time to find the right house for you, rather than feeling pressured to make a quick decision you might regret later.


Search Strategies: Online & In-Person

Online property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla are a fantastic starting point. They allow you to filter by location, price, and features, saving you time. However, photos and descriptions can sometimes be misleading, so don't rely solely on the internet. Get out there and explore your desired area on foot. This helps you get a feel for the area and potentially spot homes that aren't yet listed online. 

Don't underestimate the power of local estate agents; let them know what you're looking for, and they might have off-market leads or upcoming properties perfectly suited to your needs.


Negotiating & Making an Offer

When you find a property you love, it's time to make an offer. Being prepared is your greatest advantage. Having a mortgage agreement in principle demonstrates to the seller that you're serious and increases your chances of success. Remember, price isn't everything. In a buyer's market, offering flexibility on moving dates or a quick completion can make your offer more attractive.  

Be aware, however, of the risk of gazumping (where a seller accepts a higher offer after yours was agreed). While disheartening, being prepared will lessen the blow, and a more suitable home could be just around the corner.


Securing Financing


The Mortgage Journey: From Application to Approval

For most buyers, securing a mortgage is the biggest hurdle in the homebuying process and understanding the steps involved will make it feel less daunting.  

Start by comparing mortgage lenders and types. An independent mortgage broker can save you time and find the best rates. Gather your financial documents in advance – bank statements, payslips, proof of identity, etc. 


The mortgage application itself is detailed, so set aside time for accurate completion. Expect the lender to conduct a property valuation to ensure it matches the price you're paying.  Finally, the most nerve-wracking part– underwriting, where the lender assesses your finances to determine if you can repay the loan. The entire approval process typically takes 18-40 days.


Mortgage in Principle: Your Powerful Tool

Think of your mortgage in principle (MIP) as a pre-approval.  It gives you a clear idea of how much a lender is willing to offer, making you a far more attractive buyer. Sellers are far more likely to consider offers backed by an MIP, giving you an edge in competitive markets.  It also streamlines the process later.  

Note that an MIP is a guideline, not a guarantee, so it's wise to stay within your budget during your house search.


Credit Score & Its Impact

Your credit score is a numerical representation of your financial history.  Lenders use it as a predictor of how likely you are to repay your mortgage.  The higher your score, the better your chances of getting approved and securing favourable interest rates.  Before starting the process, check your credit report with the major credit bureaus and correct any errors. 

If your score is low, you may need to spend time repairing your credit before applying for a mortgage.


Legal Processes & Surveys


A house surveyor outside a London property with a clipboard

Finding the Right Conveyancer

Your conveyancer is your legal guide throughout the buying process and arguably one of the most critical choices you'll make. Don't simply go with the cheapest option or whoever your estate agent suggests. Start your research early and compare house survey prices from multiple conveyancers. Look for recommendations, check online reviews, and importantly, ask questions about their communication style, average turnaround times, and fees for potential complications.


Understanding Property Searches

Once you've chosen your conveyancer, they'll conduct various searches to uncover any hidden issues with the property or land. These searches can include things like local authority searches (revealing planning permissions), environmental searches (for flood risk, etc.), and water and drainage searches.  While searches may seem like a formality, they can uncover crucial information impacting your decision to proceed, so it's important to understand what they entail.


Choosing the Right Survey

A property survey is your best protection against buying a house with hidden problems. While your mortgage lender will do a basic valuation, you should invest in a more comprehensive survey. Explain the age, property type, and any initial concerns to a qualified surveyor.  Discuss the different levels of surveys available:

  • RICS Condition Report (most basic)

  • RICS HomeBuyer Report (mid-level)

  • RICS Building Survey (highly detailed, best for older or unusual properties)


Specialist Inspections: When You Need Them

Depending on the property's age, location, or any issues raised in the survey, you might need additional specialist inspections. These could include things like a damp and timber survey, structural inspection, or an electrical check. These additional costs are worth factoring into your budget to avoid nasty surprises down the line.


Handling Survey Results

If the survey reveals issues, don't panic!  Your conveyancer will advise on the best course of action. In some cases, you might renegotiate the price with the seller to cover necessary repairs.  Other times you might need to walk away if the issues are too extensive. Remember, it's better to discover problems now than after you've moved in.


Countdown to Completion


Exchanging Contracts: Meaning & Process

Exchanging contracts is the point when the sale becomes legally binding. Before this, either party can pull out without significant penalty. Once you exchange, however, there are financial consequences for breaking the contract.  Your conveyancer will walk you through the contract thoroughly, ensuring you understand its terms and any specific clauses. Ensure all the details (names, property address, price, completion date) are accurate, and raise any questions or concerns before signing.


Final Checks & Your Conveyancer's Role

In the lead-up to the completion date, your conveyancer will conduct final checks, like ensuring all search results are in order and mortgage funds are ready for transfer. Stay in close contact with them throughout this period to address any last-minute issues promptly.  Remember, they're there to guide you through these often-stressful final steps.


Completion Day Checklist

Moving day is chaotic!  Having a comprehensive completion day checklist will help you stay on track.   Beyond the packing and logistics of the move itself, be sure your checklist includes the following:


Packing & Logistics

  • Confirm removal company: Double-check the time and date of their arrival.

  • Final packing sweep: Go through each room ensuring no essentials are forgotten.

  • Overnight bag: Pack this separately with everything you'll need for the first night in your new home (toiletries, change of clothes, chargers, etc.).

  • Cleaning supplies: Keep a basic kit at hand for a quick clean-up before leaving.


Administrative Tasks

  • Final meter readings: Take accurate readings for gas, electric, and water, and submit them to your providers.

  • Service providers: Contact your utility companies, bank, council tax office, insurance providers, etc., to update your address. Here's a change of address checklist on who to notify.

  • Mail redirection: Ensure this is activated with the Royal Mail.

  • Important documents: Gather your house documents, conveyancing paperwork, warranties, and manuals to take with you.


Key Handling & Security

  • Collect all keys: Verify with the estate agent that you have a full set of keys to the new house, including window locks, sheds, etc.

  • Key handover: If you're selling, have your own property's keys ready for your buyers.

  • Change the locks: Consider changing the locks on your new home for peace of mind – discuss this with your estate agent depending on the local handover process.


Additional Items (if applicable):

  • Childcare arrangements: If you have children, plan where they'll be during the moving process to avoid added stress.

  • Pet safety: Secure your pets in a designated room or arrange for them to stay with friends/family during the move.

  • Food and Drinks: Have snacks and drinks handy as it's unlikely you'll be unpacking the kitchen first.

  • Defrost the freezer: Do this a day or two in advance as part of your packing preparations.


Notes:

  • Timeline: Ideally, start tasks like contacting service providers a few weeks before completion to avoid last-minute hassles.


It's Official! You're a Homeowner


Completion Day: What to Expect

Completion day is a whirlwind of emotions – excitement mixed with a healthy dose of nerves. Your conveyancer will handle the legal transfer of ownership. The seller's conveyancer will confirm to your conveyancer once they've received the funds. Once that's done, the property is officially yours!  Expect a phone call from your estate agent letting you know when keys will be available for collection.


The Legal Transfer of Ownership

While you may become the practical owner on completion day, there are a few more administrative steps behind the scenes. Your conveyancer will handle the following:

  • Stamp Duty: Pay the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) if applicable.

  • Land Registry: Register the change of ownership with the Land Registry. This may take some weeks from the completion date.

  • Title Deeds: You'll either receive paper title deeds or (increasingly common) be notified when the electronic deeds are updated.


Tips for a Smooth Completion Day

  • Stay Connected: Maintain communication with your conveyancer and estate agent throughout completion day to track progress.

  • Be Patient: Delays can happen. Keep packed essentials to hand in case you can't move in as originally planned.

  • Celebrate: Despite any stress, don't forget to celebrate this momentous milestone! Order a takeaway for your first night if unpacking the kitchen feels overwhelming.


The Big Move


A man lifting a box from a removals van into a London home

Packing: Balancing Efficiency & Sanity

Packing can feel overwhelming, but a little organisation goes a long way. Start by decluttering – now is the perfect time to get rid of unused items. Pack room by room, clearly labelling boxes with their contents and destination room in your new home.  Keep a "moving day essentials" box with anything you'll need immediately – kettle, tea bags, mugs, etc.


Selecting a  Removal Company

Choosing the right removal company can make your moving day significantly smoother. Consider factors like the size of your move, any specialty items (piano, etc.), and whether you need packing services.  If you're moving within London, a company with local knowledge is a real asset.  


Look into Denix Moving for award-winning service, great prices, and expertise in navigating West London removals with ease.


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