How long does it take to complete on a house sale? We reveal all...

Selling a house is no easy task. If anything, it's a hefty challenge, especially if you want it taken off your hands pretty sharpish.

You've got the whole task of listing the property, hosting viewings and then of course negotiating and accepting a strong offer.

Only then can you finally get down to the business of making the offer legally binding, providing everyone is satisfied after surveys of course.

Question is, when is accepting an offer on a house legally binding?

Well, that's a tricky one. You see, a house sale isn't technically legally binding until contracts are exchanged. Any time before that and either party can pull out with no real financial penalty - a common cause of chain break!

But that's not to say you can't minimise the likelihood of chain break. In fact, by being clued up on the stages of selling a house you can do exactly that. So keep reading, and we'll disclose just how long it takes to complete on a house as well as set out a rough timescale for moving house

Want to know something specific about the effect of breakage on property chains? Use the menu below to navigate to the relevant section of our guide:

What Happens After Offer Accepted?

When an offer is accepted the real work starts. You've managed to find a buyer and get them to commit to a figure. Now, it's all about driving that sale through as soon as possible.

To avoid you making any unnecessary slip-ups, we've outlined exactly what you should be doing after offer accepted. Call it our 'Sell House Fast' checklist...

Take Your Property Off The Market

There's a very good reason this is first on the list. Not because it's the first thing you should be necessarily doing, but more that it's something you need to be aware of, as your buyer will likely have other ideas.

As a seller, you want to prevent the property from being marked Sold for as long as you can. Mark it Sold too soon and if your buyer pulls out, the remainder of your interest will have likely gone off to make bids on other properties instead.

However, for your buyer, marking your property at least Sold STC is something'll be pushing for you to do early on. Reason: they want to minimise the chance of being gazumped. Whereas you, you're out to minimise the chance of being gazundered.

Take it from us, try and hold out until surveys if you can, as this is where the majority of buyers find an excuse to nit-pick, or go back on your agreement.

Appoint Solicitors And Make Sure Your Buyer Does Too!

Once you've received a firm offer, your next step is to appoint a legal professional to help you negotiate the giant web of conveyancing that lays ahead of you.

We'd advise shortlisting those who have good Google reviews (that aren't fake), who 'get you' and are nice to talk with in person, but also fast and efficient at what they do.

How you track down this info is up to you, but what we wouldn't say is go with the first person you see. Fall for a slow or unreliable solicitor and your sale can get put back months!

Here's a taster of what your solicitor will do...

  • Conduct local authority searches

  • Sort your property's deeds

  • Check out water authority searches

  • Look into flood risk searches

  • Check future plans using location specific searches

  • Assess the environmental searches

  • Look into chancel repair searches

Crack On With Your Mortgage Application

If you're a cash buyer (like us) you can skip this part.

Now you've got a solid idea of the amount you'll be looking to borrow, you can set about turning your mortgage-in-principal into a mortgages itself.

Depending on your final sale price this could be lower than your original offer but potentially higher too. Bear in mind that if the current sale price means you'll need to borrow a higher amount that a lender may need to reassess your eligibility - all of which takes time.

Appoint A Surveyor

What happens after a survey on a house? Well, potentially two scenarios. If the survey is positive and both parties are satisfied you can simply proceed to the next part of your sale.

But if this is not the case you may have a few more hurdles to overcome before you can proceed any further. Hurdles could be anything from a slight re-negotiation to something more drastic like the sale falling through.

Exchange Contracts And Cough Up Your Deposit

If your solicitors have exchanged contracts, the end is in sight. You see, this is the point at which your house sale becomes legally binding and the buyer will have to pay a pretty hefty penalty if they choose to back out.

Upon exchange you'll also have the challenge of agreeing a date for completion, but once you do, be sure to proceed to the next step...

Book Your Removals Early

While at this point moving day may still seem like a long way off, don't let it stop you from booking your removals early. Yes, the gap in between exchange and completion can often be long (at the very least two weeks, but usually around a month), but if you want the best possible chance of receiving the date you want, it's essential that you act early.

Even if you're yet to come to a definite date, get your research done and track down the company you wish to use. Neglect to do so and you could be the one to blame for hold ups down the line.

And let's face it, no one wants to be the one who's preventing everyone else from having a speedy completion, especially in a long chain.

Complete On Your House Sale

This is the BIG moment - upon completion the mortgage lender releases your funds. At this point ownership is transferred and the property is legally yours.

Once confirmed with the agent, they'll then release the keys to the buyer and the whole chain will one by one begin to move into their new house.

Therefore on the day you'll likely bump into your buyer as well as the seller of your onward purchase, so be prepared for an awkward "hello" if you were at lock heads during negotiations.

Any Stamp duty you owe on the purchase will also be due 30 days after completion.

Looking to leave the open market behind? Then sell directly to us!

What Fees Do I Pay When I Sell My House?

How long it takes to move house can often depend on the fees involved - budgeting is key when selling a house, don't forget that. And when it comes to selling there's a whole ream of fees that you need to take into account. The major fees to watch out for are...

Mortgage fees

These cover the costs of arranging your mortgage, including your self assessment and principal amount.

Estate agent fees

This is the cost that your estate agent will charge you for piecing together your sale. The typical estate agent fees come in at anywhere between 0.75% to 3% (MoneySavingExpert). Just bear in mind that how much an agent charges will differ substantially, although that's not to say you can't beat them down.

Ask them the right questions and you could save yourself some money. Saying that though, we don't even charge them.

Conveyancing costs

These are costs that you will incur through the acts of the solicitor, that will usually be charged in addition to their fee (another cost to watch out for). These costs include retrieving your title deeds (£25), transferring the ownership via the land registry (£200-£300), searches (around £250), money-laundering checks (£8 per person) and so on.

Other fees to watch out for include...

Mortgages withdrawal charges (your current loan)

If you're switching from a fixed term mortgages (i.e. one that isn't on the Standard Variable Rate) then you're likely to incur a form of withdrawal fee for breaking the agreement. So consider this before you sell!

Home improvements

If you're looking to get the best possible price for you property, you're likely to have done some home improvements. Hopefully these will pay for themselves, but in the case that you've been down bid and they don't, factor these into your costs.

Agent extras

While agents charge you a hefty fee, they also make sure you incur extra costs too. What better way to make their price look cheaper than it actually is! These typically include photography costs, property portal extras like Rightmove Premium or even essentials like an EPC.

Online agents take this a step further, hence why they appear to be so cheap. Use these and you'll likely incur costs for viewing support and even have to renew your marketing support because you didn't read the small print... it usually only lasts for X amount of months.

What's The Average Time To Move House?

When it boils down to it, there's no set timescale for how long it takes to move house. Every move comes with its own set of hurdles to overcome, some of which take more time to overcome than others.

But if we were to forget that a pretend that everything was done down to the book, then in an ideal world you could go from offer accepted to complete in as little as 6 weeks, although in the majority of cases it's a lot longer.

How Long Does It Take To Buy A House With No Chain?

Chains are hands down one of the main reasons for hold ups during a sale - to be shackled to long chain is very rarely a pleasant or stress-free experience. All you need is one person to back out and the whole chain of sales can fall through and send you kicking and screaming back to square one.

Also, if you do manage to complete as part of a long chain, you'll then have to agree a completion date which works with everyone in the chain - not easy. So as you can imagine, chains aren't exactly the fastest way to sell a house. Hence why leaving them behind, or at least cutting them short, is a popular choice.

Ask us 'how long does it take to move house if you're chain-free' and we'd say if you manage to find yourself a buyer with no dependant sale or opt to buy a probate property or even a second home, then you stand a far better chance of having a short and successful sale.

TIP: On a probate property always ask if probate has been granted. If not, then you can expect delays.

Looking to leave the open market behind?

What Can Elongate The Timescale For Moving House?

Before you delve into how to reduce the timescale of moving house, you first need to know what can slow it up. Otherwise how are you going to know what to fix and why? So without further ado, here's just a few factors, which can affect the length of your property sale...

The Buyer

There isn’t too much you can control in regards to this, but your buyer needs to be just as motivated to push the sale along as you, you also depend on them making good choices when it comes to solicitors or conveyancers and getting their mortgages approved.

A slow buyer means a slow sale. They might be slightly slower than you at returning documents, there mortgages company could be a little slow at processing their application or their solicitors could have a significant backlog.

Unfortunately, this is the luck of the draw. You can’t really tell from a viewing whether the buyer is going to be slow throughout the process.

Estate Agent

Estate agents are one of the key ingredients if you are going through a traditional sale process of course. They are the ones who gather the initial documents from yourself and the buyer, check that you’ve instructed solicitors and often provide things like mortgage advice.

The Estate Agents are also the only go between for the communication between you and the buyer, you can use them as a way of speeding up a slow buyer as mentioned above.

If you have Estate Agents that are particularly slow at answering emails, never easy to reach on the phone or are far too busy selling the next property on their books, then it can cause a lot of issues in the process.


This is another big piece to the puzzle, picking the right conveyancer is vital. It’s probably the longest part of the process, and you need to try and ensure it goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Local Searches

Part of the process is for the local searches to come back, which typically takes around two to three weeks, but some areas respond much quicker than others. This is one of the first things your solicitors should try and get when you instruct them.

This stage can cause delays for two main reasons, one is of course the local authority being slower and the buyer not paying the solicitor quick enough. Solicitors wait to request the local searches until payment has cleared as it costs them.

Any delay can have an obvious knock on effect, but both of these things are out of your hands, all you can do is keep getting in touch with your estate agent to ensure that the buyer has done all they can to push things along.

RICs Survey

It’s not required to have a RICs survey, but it’s advised. The actual survey doesn’t take that long, around 2-4 hours depending on the property, the results usually come back pretty quick as well.

The delay here can be due to the buyer not arranging the survey quickly enough, or the seller (yourself) not having the availability to allow the surveyor to visit the property.

It also is a point in which the buyer could try and negotiate to bring the price down which can delay or even cause the process to break down if neither party is willing to shift.


If your buyer needs a mortgages can also add time to the sale duration. Mortgage applications can take a little while and for the most part it's out of your buyers’ hands.

They take a long time and require a fair number of documents from the buyer, some of which might have to be through the post, which can of course cause more delays.

This adds further complications if they get rejected and have to start the whole process again, but fingers crossed that doesn’t happen!

Property Chains

If you can and have the luxury of a bidding war, pick a buyer who doesn’t depend on selling their house to have the funds for yours.

If the buyer relies on someone buying theirs it means it’s more likely to fall through or have delays.

The longer the chain, the increased likelihood. Avoiding a property chain can save you a lot of grief and hassle.

How To Reduce The Timescale For Moving House?

So now you're clued up on how long it takes to move house as well as what causes it, you'll no doubt be wondering what you can do to reduce it.

Do we have some top tips? What's the easiest way to speed up a property sale? Is selling through the open market even the way to go? All this and more coming up...

Communication is key

Communication sits at the heart of a smooth house sale, as it's this which holds it together. Rob a house sale of communication and you risk the timescale for moving house extending and potentially even chain break!

To minimise the risk of communication hampering your sale, be sure to stay in regular contact with both agents and solicitors. Monitor progress on your sale regularly and you can be sure that the agents and solicitors will see you as a priority. So take it from us, get on their back!

Research, research, research

If you're looking to give someone the momentous task of selling your house, don't just use the first agent you lay your hands on.

The same goes for solicitors. Opt for a poor agent and you risk your property becoming stale on the open market, which not only means your property sale could take longer, but also that you could achieve significantly less too. It's much the same with a solicitor.

Stumble across a slow one of these and you risk your buyer backing out altogether - a costly consequence, especially when you still may have to cover their fee.

Go off market

If you're really wanting to decrease the average time to move house, then open market may not even be the place.

In fact, choosing to go off-market is one of the easiest ways to cut down on how long it takes to move house after an offer is accepted. Not only that, but it can leave you with less outgoings too.

You see, if you choose to go off market, you're not dependent on the demand of the open market.

Cash buyers (like us) will buy your house whatever the weather. All of which means you don't have to spend hours on end researching the intricacies of the market, or trying to evaluate an estate agent with no actual guarantee that you'll sell.

In short, if you value time and money, then we may be able to help. Our team has over 50 years' experience in buying homes fast for cash. Hence why when it comes to cash buyers of property we're an industry leader.

An industry leader that will even cover your legal and survey costs too, so you don't have to outlay a penny.

Looking to leave the open market behind? Then sell directly to us!
Tom Condon

Tom Condon, one of our content writers, has fascinating expertise in sustainability in the property industry. Tom thoroughly understands the market and has experience in both residential and commercial property. He enjoys attending conferences and staying current with the most recent property trends.