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How long does it take to sell a house?

Ready to put your home on the market? Find out how long it takes to sell a home, from first listing your property to handing over the keys.

Key points:

  • On average, it takes around 25 weeks to sell a home, from the moment it's first listed to the moment you hand over the keys to your buyer

  • However, selling a home is dependent on many factors and the process can take anything between 17 and 34 weeks

  • The biggest hold ups are caused by poor communication, delays in the conveyancing or mortgage application process and the searches taking a long time to come back

1. How long does it take on average to sell a home in the UK?

The time it takes to sell a home runs from the moment it’s first listed until the date of completion.

It's not the moment it goes under offer. That's simply when the paperwork begins.

The average home takes 185 days to sell from when it's first marketed, according to our data. 

That’s around 25 weeks, or just under six months.

There are several stages a seller and buyer need to go through before completing on a sale. Let's take a look at what they are.

2. Stages of the selling process and how long they take?

Listing the property for the first time

Time taken: one to three days

Once you find an estate agent to list your property and have agreed a fee, they’ll need to:

  • Make sure the property has a valid Energy Performance Certificate in place

  • Visit the property to take the photos

This process can take anywhere between one and three days.

Later down the line, your solicitor will ask you to make sure you have certain documents available for your buyer. They'll include:

  • FENSA certificates for your windows and doors

  • Gas and boiler safety certificates

  • Electrical installation safety certificates for any work you had done on the property while you lived there.

  • If you made major changes to your property, such as an extension or major refurbishment, you’ll also need to show planning certificates to show that they were all done inline with planning regulations. 

If you need to apply retrospectively for planning permission, bear in mind that the process can take 13 weeks or more.

You may also want to spruce up your home before contacting agents to ensure it’s looking its best to attract more buyers.

Whether it’s a lick of paint, a declutter or a garden tidy up, making your home feel as spacious, light and airy as possible goes a long way with potential buyers.

Listing a property to having an offer accepted 

Time taken: five to 14 weeks

The time it takes between listing your property to accepting an offer on it depends on how hot or cold the market is where you live.

A hot market means homes are selling quickly and there's plenty of demand from buyers. 

At the moment, you can expect to receive an offer in around 35 days, or seven weeks, according to our data.

A cold market means homes are taking a while to sell and there are few buyers around.

Homes will always take longer to sell in a cold market, and it can take up to 101 days, or just over 14 weeks, for an offer to be accepted by the seller.

Searches to exchange of contracts 

Time taken: 12 to 16 weeks

The conveyancing process starts as soon as you accept an offer on your property and it forms the longest part of the buying and selling process.

The buyer has to organise and pay for the conveyancing process, but you will also need to have a solicitor in place to help with their queries.

Your buyer's solicitor will need to organise the relevant searches on your property, which include:

Local authority searches 

These are designed to uncover any potential issues relating to roads, railways and building works that might be planned or already underway around your home.

Environmental searches

Environmental searches look into:

  • Flooding issues

  • Landslide issues

  • Subsidence issues

  • Contaminated land issues

They'll also reveal if there are any gas hazards or landfill sites in the area.

Your buyer’s bank may not confirm their mortgage until the environmental searches are carried out.

Water and drainage searches

Water and drainage searches check:

  • That the home is connected to a public water supply and sewer

  • Where that public sewer is and where the drainage pipes are

  • If you’d need permission from the water company to extend the home

The Land Registry search

This search checks the up-to-date ‘title register’ and ‘title plan’ at the Land Registry.

It basically proves that you actually own the property you're selling. The sale can’t go ahead until it's been done.

While all of these searches are underway, your buyer’s solicitor will also be getting in touch with all of the other solicitors in the chain to draft contracts for exchange and completion dates.

Your buyer will also be arranging their mortgage at the same time, which can take approximately four weeks.

Exchange to completion

Time taken 1-28 days

Exchange is the point in the homebuying process when a sale becomes legally binding.

It would cost your buyer money (10% of the purchase price) to back out of the sale once the contracts have been exchanged.

Completion is the final stage of the process when your buyer becomes the legal owner of the home and can move in.

As most of the work has been done by the time contracts are exchanged, there isn’t any need to have a long gap between exchange and completion.

In fact, in some cases, people exchange and complete on the same day. But this can be tricky to arrange and is generally not recommended.

It usually takes between seven and 28 days to complete once the exchange has taken place.

3. What factors can slow down a house sale?

From chains falling apart to delays in the conveyancing process, there can be hiccups that slow down the selling process along the way. They can include:

A broken chain

A chain breaking can slow down a sale and sometimes, devastatingly, cause a whole chain to collapse.

If your buyer pulls out when you’ve got your heart set on another property, contact your agent immediately.

They’ll want to help you find another buyer ASAP and are capable of minor miracles when it comes to preventing chains from falling apart.

Delays with the solicitor or conveyancer

Make sure you choose a good solicitor or conveyancer to manage the selling process, preferably one that’s been recommended to you.

A diligent, thorough and above all, responsive solicitor is what you need.

Frustration can quickly build up between parties when buyers or sellers feel their queries aren’t being answered and the process is taking too long.

The HomeOwners Alliance is a good place to start when comparing quotes from solicitors or conveyancers.

Their quotes have user ratings, showing which conveyancers people have had the best experiences with.

Delays with the searches

Your buyer’s solicitor will get in touch with your local authority and the land registry to carry out searches. 

On average, local authority searches should take around two to three weeks to complete. That said, some local authorities have been known to take up to 13 weeks to complete search requests. 

Your buyer should stay in regular contact with their solicitor to make sure everything is moving along as it should be.

The survey throws up problems

It’s not a legal requirement, but your buyer is highly likely to have a survey done on your home to check everything's in working order and as it should be.

Depending on the issues it reveals, your buyer may ask you to fix them before the sale goes ahead, or request that you lower your asking price for your home.

Your solicitor will negotiate on your behalf with your buyer’s solicitor if this happens.

Delays with arranging the mortgage

Your buyer may have already lined up a Mortgage Agreement in Principle before looking for a new home. 

But these generally last for six months, so if it took them a long time to find yours, it’s possible it may have expired.

If that happens, they’ll need to start the mortgage application process again. 

That said, mortgage applications tend to take around four weeks, so as long as they apply again soon after you’ve accepted their offer, it shouldn’t hold up the process.

4. How long does it take to sell a house with no chain?

If you’re lucky enough to be chain-free - and only one in 10 property transactions are - then the conveyancing process can be dramatically reduced from around 12 weeks to just four weeks.

A chain-free transaction happens when the buyer has nothing to sell in order to proceed, while the home they’re buying is already vacant. 

A first-time buyer purchasing a brand new, new-build home would be chain-free.

5. How can I speed up a sale?

Pick your professionals carefully.

It pays to work with people you trust during the home selling process. 

When hiring solicitors and removal companies, ask friends and family for recommendations.

Make sure you're responsive.

Your solicitor will no doubt send through a lot of information about your property, including local authority searches. 

Be ready to review, fill out, sign and return all documents quickly and efficiently. 

Sitting on the paperwork will only hold up the process.

Communication is king.

Stay in regular contact with both your solicitor and your estate agent.

This will ensure that you are up to speed with the sale and that it’s on track. 

You could agree to have weekly updates between all parties. This will cut the chances of miscommunication over what is expected from whom and when.

Be realistic about the timescale.

Everyone wants to sell their home quickly. But it’s sensible to be realistic.

Set a target for exchanging contracts so that everyone in the process has the same deadline to work towards. 

You can always amend the timescale between exchange and completion if you and/or the buyer need to delay moving.

6. What do homeowners think?

Our research reveals many Brits often overestimate the length of time it will take to sell their home and many could be mis-valuing their property too.

More than half of homeowners think it will take over two months to secure a sale, when in reality it takes an average of seven weeks, according to our data.

Our research also found that while homeowners are confident they know how much their property is worth, four out of 10 are basing the figure purely on what other homes have sold for in their local area.

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