House buying process - A money timeline

The process of buying a house or flat can take anything from about six weeks upwards, depending on how quickly different stages of the house buying process are completed. During that period, you’ll need to pay a lot of different costs at different times. This timeline applies for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Get a quick overview of the key steps in buying a property with our video.

Week 1

Once you’ve found a home you want to buy you need to make an offer, usually via the estate agent marketing the property. At this stage any offer will be ‘subject to survey and contract’ which means you can withdraw if problems arise from the survey or contract. Once your offer has been accepted by the seller the process begins.

  • You may have to pay a booking fee or other fee to reserve the mortgage product you want. This only applies for limited-period deals. Typical cost: £99-£250.
  • There is often a fee – usually called an arrangement fee – to set up the mortgage. In many cases this can be added to your mortgage, but if you choose this option bear in mind you’ll pay interest on it. Typical cost: £0-£2,000.
  • The mortgage valuation fee pays for another survey on behalf of the lender to check the property is worth the mortgage amount. The cost depends on the property value and the lender. Your mortgage lender may get the valuation from your survey. Typical cost: £150-£1,500, depending on value of property.

Week 2

You will need to hire a solicitor to complete the legal paperwork for you in order to buy your home.

  • Your solicitor or licensed conveyancer will submit searches to the local council to check whether there are any planning or local issues that might affect the property’s value. They will also instruct a drains search. Although most solicitors request payment for their work after completion they might ask you to pay a deposit for searches up front. Typical cost: £250-£300.

Week 3

It’s vital that you get a survey done on the property you’re buying. This will highlight any structural problems such as subsidence or damp. There are three types of survey:

  • Home condition survey – this is the most basic and cheapest survey. Suitable for new-build and conventional homes. Typical cost: £250.
  • Homebuyer’s report – this is a much more detailed survey, looking thoroughly inside and outside a property. It also includes a valuation. If you are choosing this option, you should see if you can get the valuation and homebuyer’s report done at the same time to cut costs. Typical cost: £400+.
  • Building or structural survey – this is the most comprehensive survey and is done for an older or non-standard property (for example, if it’s made of timber). Typical cost: £600+.

Weeks 4–6

  • If there are no problems or delays, then at some point during this period you will sign and exchange contracts with the seller.
  • Once you have exchanged contracts you will have to pay a deposit typically 10% of the price of the home. At this stage both parties are committed to the sale. If you pull out after you have exchanged contracts you will lose the deposit.
  • With some schemes you pay 5% – read more in our section Affordable housing schemes

Week 6+

Once you’ve bought your home, known as completion, you will have to pay several bills.

  • The remaining money owed to buy the property (usually 90%) is now transferred from your mortgage lender to your solicitor's account and then on to the seller's solicitor's account. This might include a higher lending charge, depending on how much you are borrowing in relation to your deposit size. In some cases it may also include a mortgage account fee of £100-300. See our guide Estimate your overall buying and moving costs to find out more about these fees. If you don’t have a mortgage and are a cash buyer you’ll need to pay the rest of the purchase price via your solicitor.
  • You’ll need to pay any removal fees if you’re using a removal company. Typical cost: £300-£600+.
  • You’ll need to pay your solicitor’s bill at this stage, minus any deposit you’ve already paid. Typical cost: £500-£750 + 20% VAT.
  • Buyers also need to pay Stamp Duty (official name Stamp Duty Land Tax) on completion and your solicitor will arrange this for you. Cost: £0 to 7% of the price you’re buying the home for

  • Sellers will need to pay their estate agent on completion – typically paid by your solicitor out of your sale proceeds. How much this will be depends on the fee or percentage of purchase prices agreed when the property was marketed for sale, but it’s usually 1-3% of the sale price – plus VAT of 20%.