Everything You Need To Know:
How long does it take to sell a house?
Well, the first part of selling a house is how long it takes to find a buyer.
The second is how long it takes for the sale to go through.
In other words, how long it takes for all the legal stuff to be processed so you can get to the actual moving day.
Want to hear why we recommend My Homebuyers above everyone else?
We have independently investigated all the best cash home buyers in the UK.
We ranked them based on their cash offers, reliability, customer service and 15 more metrics.
And we discovered that ‘My Homebuyers’ are superior in every regard to all other companies.
My Homebuyers will give you the best genuine cash offer, without contracts and without any fees.
While other companies will try to lock you into a contract which is rarely in your benefit. Even if they claim they don’t have contracts, the truth is, they do. And they’ll force you to sign it.
Click the button below to see exactly why we recommend My Homebuyers as your best option.
And how you can use the free Safe Connect™ programme to get VIP treatment from them.
This guide is divided into two parts: one for those who are waiting to find a buyer, and one for those who have agreed a sale.
If you’re in the first group and still have the whole process ahead of you, you’ll likely find it very useful to read both sections.
In as much detail as possible, we’ll take you through exactly how long it takes to sell a house from offer to completion.
We’ll go from your first valuation to the day you physically leave your property.
We’ll talk about each of the factors that can affect the time it takes, including the time of year, property type, local area, and conveyancing issues (legal stuff).
And we’ll provide actionable advice on how to manage each of these factors.
Two types of agents can help you sell your home.
Estate agents are the most conventional choice. The average time for an estate agent to agree on a sale was 10 weeks in 2020, but it can be more.
Cash home buying agents are not so well known, but they’re a good choice if you need to sell really quickly.
Here we’ll take you through what to expect with each.
Let’s start at the beginning: the moment you first list your property for sale.
How good your chosen estate agent is can make a big difference in how quickly you can sell your house.
This is slightly less important if your house is in a very popular area, is very similar to those around it, and doesn’t come with any major issues.
But if you think your house might be a bit more difficult to sell, think carefully about the agent you choose.
You’ll get the opportunity to grill your estate agent when they come to value your house.
It’s always best to get three different agents to visit.
This way you’ll have a fair and unbiased idea of price.
You’ll also have the chance to meet them in person, and ask them lots of questions about their selling process, their experience, and how quickly they can get moving.
A valuation visit usually takes half an hour. Bigger properties might need a full hour. If they’re in and out in ten minutes, they’re probably not the agent for you.
Once you’ve chosen an agent, there are a few things they need to do before they can start advertising your property:
These items are legal obligations that your agent must fulfil before they can start marketing.
There’s no reason they shouldn’t all be completed within a week or two.
Some possible reasons for delay could include trouble getting hold of external contacts like the photographer or the EPC certifier.
You can help speed things up by getting your contracts signed and returned quickly, and allowing access to your home for the above.
Your estate agent will then arrange to have a ‘for sale’ sign put up, unless you specifically ask them not to.
A for sale sign is always a good idea. It targets passing traffic and people who may not actively be looking online.
Some estate agents – if they’re particularly efficient – might start talking to registered buyers before all of the above is completed.
They won’t be able to show them your property, but they can start making phone calls and creating a waiting list.
They’ll start with the ones who are very motivated to move and are able to proceed quickly.
This means they will have a buyer lined up for their house already, have nothing to sell, and/or have a mortgage in place or cash in the bank.
You might hear your estate agent refer to these buyers as “hot” buyers.
There is no exact science to the number of viewings it takes to sell your house.
UK averages over the past few years have ranged between 11 and 19. But it will totally depend on your area and the factors we’ll explore in section 2.
If there is a lot of interest in your property your agent might host an open day.
This is where they book in several viewings all in one go.
If there are a lot of positive responses on the day, it may go to ‘best and final bids’.
This is where buyers are asked to come up with their best price straight away rather than trying to haggle.
You may receive a selection of offers to review that day.
Naturally, it doesn’t always work like this. Some properties are harder to sell, and we’ll explore reasons for that in the next section.
This section is really important if you’re looking to sell very urgently.
A house buying service is almost always the quickest way to secure a buyer for your property.
They will take on any house in any condition. There is no need to spruce it up, because you’re not looking for an individual to buy it.
Because they buy with cash, there are no lengthy mortgage applications to wait for.
Sometimes, house buying agents are able to exchange and complete on your property within 10 days.
This is extremely quick compared to the average time it takes to sell a house through a high street estate agent (10 weeks).
There’s one only thing to be aware of: is that you will likely achieve a lower sale price receive less money than you would with a high street agent.
Some people find the lower price is worth it in exchange for a very quick sale. This might particularly apply to you if it’s costing you money to run or keep the house
There’s an easy way to estimate how quickly you can sell a house. Ask yourself, is your home surrounded by lots of other similar properties? Is it in a busy, built-up area where lots of families come and go?
If you answered yes to both questions, there is likely a good list of ready and waiting buyers. This usually translates to a quick sale time.
If the above doesn’t apply, read on to explore the different factors that will affect how quickly you can sell a house.
Want to know the number one factor affecting the speed of your house sale?
Where it is – Location, Location, Location.
Houses are known to sell the same day they’re listed in:
Many estate agents operating in these types of areas have waiting lists.
In these cases, they might not even need to advertise your property – just make a few calls.
Your house might take longer to sell if it’s located next to a main road, motorway, railway line, airport, or industrial estate.
The same goes if it’s very rural or far away from amenities.
Naturally, there isn’t much you can do about location. It’s your estate agent’s job to keep buyers focused on the benefits and not the downsides.
Possibly the second most important factor in the time it takes to sell is your asking price. And it’s clear why.
If you have a fantastic property that’s being offered way under the market value, you’ll have a heap of people who want to snap it up.
If your property is priced above its actual market value, it will be affordable for fewer buyers. You’ll likely have to wait longer for the right one to come along.
A huge amount of data on property values is available online. People are very aware of a house’s true worth. This is why it’s key to get your asking price right from the start.
Particularly high asking prices can come across as greedy. You risk making the wrong impression even if you reduce the price later on.
You’ll also have missed the initial market impact.
After a couple of weeks, properties get shuffled further down the Rightmove listings.
Estate agents may turn their attention to newer, more affordable properties. And the longer a house sits on the market, the more like people are to think something is wrong with it.
The age of your property might affect how quickly you can sell it. This is for two reasons.
Don’t panic if you’re selling an old house.
Older or ‘period’ properties can still be very desirable.
Make sure your estate agent is aware of any original features you might have.
They’ll be a selling point rather than a negative for many people.
Most people won’t want to be right on the edge of a motorway.
But they’ll often want reasonable access to a motorway entrance or train station.
By reasonable access, we mean a five to fifteen minute drive to a motorway entrance for car commuters.
Train commuters will want to be a ten to twenty minute walk at most to a train station.
This will be most important for working professionals.
If you’re selling an affordable flat with good transport links, the time it takes to find a buyer should be relatively quick.
You might be surprised by how much the time of year can affect your timescales.
Things like summer holidays, school dates, and the festive period can affect how appealing your property is to buyers.
It can affect the legal side of things too. The average time from sale agreement to completion is 12-16 weeks.
But seasonal holiday dates can also affect average conveyancing times.
One of the biggest causes of delay in selling a house is the Christmas period.
Many estate agents and solicitors stay open until Christmas Eve and reopen on the first working day of the New Year.
Naturally this means losing a week (but you’ll likely be glad of the break too).
This week-long holiday naturally means there will be no viewings and no enquiries taken.
That being said, the Christmas period can be a good thing for house sellers.
Most people are at home with a lot of free time on their hands to browse Rightmove.
It’s also a time where people tend to reassess their lives and living situations, and make plans and resolutions for the New Year.
This is why when offices reopen, January can sometimes be a surprisingly strong period for the market.
After the initial rush of interest for the year, things tend to die down.
February and March are generally pretty cold and miserable in England.
Properties (especially gardens) aren’t looking their best, and neither are local areas. It can be hard to get excited about a beachfront property when the beach is blustery and grey.
May is widely regarded as the best time to sell a house.
Houses sell 18.5 days faster than any other month, and for a 5.9% higher price.
Buyers are past the tax period, children are off school, and people are generally feeling optimistic and energised by the better weather.
Early summer always comes with its pros for the market, with gardens in full bloom.
But for families, when it gets to August, they feel it’s too late to move house.
Agreeing a sale in August means completing in the autumn or winter.
If they’re moving areas, that means disrupting their children in the middle of the school year.
Like estate agents, solicitors close their doors on Christmas Eve and usually reopen the first working day of January.
However, legal firms are often more flexible than estate agents.
Some firms give their solicitors a couple of extra days off, and some solicitors might choose to book longer holidays.
The fact that agents and solicitors shut down over Christmas probably won’t come as a surprise.
But what some people don’t know is that attempting to complete anywhere near the festive period can come with problems of its own.
If something goes wrong on completion day (this could be anything from removal companies failing to show up to a problem with transferring funds), solicitors will serve a notice to complete.
This is essentially a grace period of 10 days during which you must complete.
If you don’t, the sale will be void, and you could be subject to legal action.
So if you had an agreed completion date of 15th of December, for example, and needed the full 10 day period to reorganise your move, you wouldn’t be able to fulfil that completion on the 25th of December when solicitors offices are closed.
It’s possible to complete a day or two before Christmas, but for this reason, some solicitors will advise giving the festive period a very wide berth.
Some will not agree to a completion date in the early to mid days of December. It just depends on how cautious they are.
The conveyancing process is much less subject to the time of year than the selling process.
The only other thing to be aware of is your solicitor taking a holiday in the summer months.
If they decide to go away for a week or two, this could slow down the legal process.
If you’ve got really bad luck and your buyer’s solicitor goes away immediately after, you’re potentially looking at several weeks of downtime.
‘Conveyancing’ is the word solicitors use for the legal part of selling a house.
The conveyancing stage is where estate agents really earn their money.
Their job is to be the point of contact between you, your buyer, and your respective solicitors.
You might hear them describe this stage as “sales chasing”.
Your estate agent may also chase up the council providing search information, mortgage companies, and surveyors.
This section will focus solely on the stage after:
There are a lot of moving parts to this stage.
The more people you have in your chain, the more complicated it gets.
This is why the process can often take several months.
In estate agent speak, your “chain” means all of the buyers and sellers involved in the sale.
The average chain has two to three “links” or buyers.
Let’s say you’re selling to someone who is moving out of their parents’ house or a rental property.
They have nothing to sell, so they have no chain.
Now let’s say you’re selling to someone who has to sell their own property.
This adds a third-party to your sale – your buyer’s buyer.
That third party might have their own property to self. Now you’ve got four parties in your chain.
Each of those parties may need mortgages approved and searches to be submitted (more on these below). Each will come with complications and demands of their own.
So the shorter your chain, the quicker your house sale should be.
One of the worst ways your chain can affect your sale time is if a link breaks. If your buyer’s buyer pulls out, your buyer now can’t buy your property.
You may have to wait for them to find a new buyer. Or you could go back on the market and try to find someone else.
Finding a cash buyer with no chain is like winning the lottery in house selling.
You won’t need to wait several weeks for their mortgage to be approved.
And you won’t need to wait for the mortgages of others in the chain to be approved.
In this scenario, the two things that still need to happen are enquiries and local searches.
We’ll explain both of these in more depth below.
But for a quick answer to how long it takes to sell a house to a cash buyer with no chain, you should be looking at weeks – not months.
Sadly, most people don’t have a pile of cash sitting in the bank. So it’s likely your buyer will need a mortgage.
They should also have a mortgage agreed in principle (AIP) by the time you accept their offer.
Estate agents will rarely deal with people without one.
Some are reluctant to even take viewings from people without a mortgage AIP.
Because there are no guarantees they’ll be granted one, it could be a waste of time.
You might hear your estate agent referring to buyers with mortgages AIP as “proceedable”.
That said, there is a final hurdle for those with mortgages lined up.
A mortgage surveyor from the buyer’s bank or building society will need to visit your property so they can check it’s worth what they’re lending.
They will also look at other sale prices nearby to make sure your price is in line.
This usually goes without a hitch.
But if the surveyor feels it’s not worth the price you agreed, they can “downvalue” the property.
They might even refuse to lend on your property altogether.
There are a few solutions to down-valuing.
You can drop your price according to the mortgage surveyor’s valuation and proceed with the sale.
Your buyers could try to find another mortgage lender (although this takes several weeks and may yield the same result).
You could go back on the market and try to find a cash buyer.
Unfortunately, all of these options can be very time-consuming.
The best thing to do is accept the lower price.
And the quickest way to skip the mortgage hurdle altogether is to sell your house through a home buying agent.
Pretty much everyone who’s been through a house purchase has seen the solicitor’s bill and winced at the numbers.
But your solicitor’s job is to ask the questions you wouldn’t know to ask.
They’re aware of all the things that are likely to catch you out both legally and financially in home ownership.
It’s their job to protect you against them. It’s highly likely you’ll end up saving much more than the cost of their fee over time.
One of the first things your buyer’s solicitor will do after the sale is agreed is send you a list of enquiries. This might include things like:
This is one of the few parts of the conveyancing process where you have influence over timescales.
Getting these questions responded to quickly (and honestly) helps speed things up.
There is usually a second round of enquiries. There may be several if more clarification is needed. 1
This gets less likely the more clear and detailed your responses are in the first place.
Local searches are sometimes called ‘local authority’ or ‘LA’ searches.
This is where your solicitor requests key information from the local council.
Local searches aim to protect you from unexpected changes in the area.
They check for proposals of new developments like newbuild estates or new railway lines nearby.
Searches also tell you what you can and can’t do within the area you’re buying.
They’ll give you information on planning and tree protection orders specific to the area.
This part of the conveyancing process usually has the biggest impact on timescales.
You’re completely reliant on the efficiency of your local council. Some councils process searches within 2 weeks.
In some parts of the country it’s up to 6. Unfortunately, there’s little your buyer or their solicitor can do to speed this up. It just depends how busy the council is.
The only way around it is for your buyer to refuse them. They can only do this if they are a cash buyer.
If they are a mortgage buyer, their bank or building society will require searches to be carried out.
Either way, very few solicitors will advise their clients to refuse searches, as they’re in place to protect the buyer.
The final stage is getting everyone to agree on dates.
Everyone in your chain must exchange and complete on the same day.
Exchanging contracts is the official “no going back” date – if you fail to complete after this, you’re in breach of contract and can be sued.
Everyone is usually very keen to exchange, as this locks in the sale.
It’s usually an easy date to agree on, because no action is required from anyone.
Your solicitors just handle the exchange of signed paperwork.
Completion day can be a little trickier. Everyone has things going on in their lives they’ll want to work around.
People have to coordinate things like removal services, care of children and pets, work, and holidays.
Your estate agent must work with other agents in the chain to get a date agreed.
The more flexible you can be at this stage, the better.
A common cause of delay is people digging their heels in and insisting on a date that others can’t manage. Someone will usually have to compromise.
The key thing to remember is that you’ll get to move into your new home at the end of it.
A home buying service simply cuts out all of the above.
You don’t need to rely on a conventional buyer.
That means no lengthy mortgage applications are needed.
There are no risks of the chain falling apart. There’s no haggling over dates.
And as it’s always a cash purchase, you don’t need to wait weeks for local searches to come back.
We want to help out as many people as possible. That’s why we created this comprehensive article.
If you are looking to sell your property, call us on 0333 242 2814 or message us through the live chat.
Depending on your preference and circumstances, we’ll connect you for free with one of our strictly vetted, ethical partners.
They will help you sell your property for the best offer you can realistically achieve.
They will take care of all of the legal processes and fees and you’ll get the cash straight into your bank account.
With our partners you can achieve a very fast sale or a slower one if you’re not pressed on time.
Faster sales usually yield a lesser price but they save you time.
It all depends on your circumstances and preference.
We really hope this guide has given you some insight on how long does it take to sell a house. Being better armed with information can’t always speed things up. But it can help things make sense.
We hope knowing what’s going on behind the scenes helps to remove some of the stress.
You might not have realised how long it can take to find a buyer.
You might decide you want to sidestep the tricky conveyancing process.
And you might well want to avoid the stress of both altogether.
More To Explore
The Definitive Guide:
How to Stop Your House From Being Repossessed
Read More >>
Selling a Property After the Death of Parents
Read More >>