First-time buyer guide to buying a home – from timescales to the hidden costs involved


Buying a home is a milestone that many people work towards and look forward to. But although securing the keys to your new home is a monumental time for first-time buyers, the home-buying process isn’t exactly plain sailing and if you don’t know what you are doing, it can be rather stressful.

From the initial search for a property to completing the sale, there are many different stages to buying a home which can make the whole process quite lengthy. Aside from the price of your house, there are also a number of additional, hidden costs that new house hunters need to consider.

Having a rough expectation of how the process works will therefore make the journey a lot easier. The co-founders of Stipendium have put together a comprehensive guide that looks into the average costs and timescales involved with buying a home – whilst providing tips on making the easier, faster, and more affordable.

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Finding a property

The time it takes to find a property completely depends on what you are looking for, what’s available on the market and how quickly you come across your dream home. Stipendium co-founder John Bohan says it can take anywhere from just four to 36 weeks to find a property.

“To speed the process up, it is best for buyers to be well prepared and have a good knowledge of what they can afford in their chosen area. This helps eliminate a lot of potential properties very quickly,” he said.

“However, a one to eight-month timeline seems to be the norm although it’s important to note that current market conditions are anything from normal and so homes are flying on the shelves at an incredible pace. “This means that while you may act far sooner to secure a property, you may also find this lack of stock results in you waiting far longer before your ideal home comes around.”

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Putting in an offer and getting it accepted

Making an offer on a property you love is quick and easy, but the time it takes for it to be accepted can vary due to negotiation. On average, this part of the process usually takes between one day and two weeks.

“Sellers often want to negotiate to push a buyer’s initial offer higher and the buyer will then want to push it lower again, and so the negotiation process goes on,” John said.

“To speed this along, buyers should take the advice of a good estate agent who will know what a reasonable and realistic offer is and if the seller is likely to accept it the first time around.

“To reduce this timeline, buyers should make sure they get a mortgage agreed in principle. This means a lender is willing to say that, in principle, they’re happy to lend the required money. For sellers, this is very attractive because it means there is less chance of the sale falling through and also that the process should move along more quickly.”

Getting your mortgage set up

Getting a mortgage approved in principle usually makes it much quicker to turn into a mortgage agreement once you’ve had an offer accepted. This can often take two to eight weeks to set up. “This is, by far, the best way of speeding up this part of the journey. The fees associated with setting up a mortgage usually amount to around £1,500,” said John.

Conveyancing and surveys

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There are many legal processes that must be done before a house sale can be completed. This hiring involves a conveyancer or property solicitor to carry out the essential tasks such as searches and draft contracts. This part of the process usually takes between one month and 12 weeks and can cost up to approximately £3,000.

“It can be a very long process, often the longest leg of the journey, especially when the housing market is particularly busy,” says John. “Ensuring a good solicitor is hired can help speed it up, as can be proactive and getting the process started early rather than waiting until the last minute.

“Surveys are essential to the buying process. The mortgage provider will want to conduct their own survey to ensure the property is in the condition as described by the seller. And the buyer should hire an accredited surveyor to ensure that there are no structural issues with the home that the seller has not been forthcoming about.

“If problems are identified, the seller and buyer can negotiate over price in light of these discoveries. To speed the process up, buyers should commission surveys as soon as they can, booking their surveyor well ahead of time to avoid finding themselves at the back of a long waiting list.”

Exchange of contracts

Once all of the legal processes, surveys, and mortgage agreements are complete, you can then exchange contracts. This usually happens around two weeks before completion and will be handled by each party’s solicitors. It usually takes between two to four weeks.

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Once all of the above processes have been completed, you are almost ready to move in. But before then you need to make sure you have paid any required Stamp Duty Land Tax, which can take up to two weeks. If your first home is more than £300,000, then you will have to pay a stamp duty bill which is between 5 to 12 per cent of the purchase price. Any first-time buyers who are buying a home for less than £300,000 won’t have to pay stamp duty.

All in all, the average time that the home-buying process takes from the initial search to moving in is around eight to nine months, with additional costs of up to £8,500.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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