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How Long Does It Take to Sell a House?

May 7, 2019

Although we’d all like the process to sail by as quickly as possible, selling a house is always going to take time. How long it takes can depend on luck to some extent, but there are things you can do to try and speed up your sale. Here we take a look at which parts of the process take up time, and what you can do to help things run smoothly.

Finding a buyer

Depending on how desirable your property is; putting it on the market, holding viewings and finding a buyer could be the lengthiest part of the process. Wherever your property is, make sure you’re realistic when it comes to your asking price. It’s a painful experience to have an overpriced property languishing on the market, and demanding an unrealistic price is a surefire way to add time onto your transaction.

The conveyancing process

As soon as you accept an offer on your home, the conveyancing process can begin. This is where you’ll need the assistance of experts who’ll help you with the legal aspects of selling your property. The timescale for the process varies from case to case, but providing everything goes relatively smoothly, you can expect it to take around twelve to fourteen weeks to reach completion – per the national average. If you’re involved in a chain or you’re selling a leasehold property, this may take much longer.

• Pre-contract stage

You’re in the pre-contract stage as soon as you accept an offer, and this typically takes around twelve weeks. During this time your conveyancer will draft contracts and obtain documents such as the title deeds on your property, to prove that you’re legally allowed to sell it. They’ll also respond to any enquiries raised by the buyer’s lawyer, which usually arise from any searches and surveys they have done. Once everything’s been ironed out, you can arrange for contracts to be exchanged and confirm a completion date.

• Completion

Before you complete on your sale, your conveyancer will approve all the documents received from the buyer, and draw up a financial statement that details the net proceeds you’ll receive from your sale. Typically, completion will occur a week or so after you exchange contracts on average, but be prepared as you might only get a few days. On your completion date, you must be completely moved out by around midday and hand in all sets of your keys for the buyer to pick up.


Usually the biggest cost you’ll face when selling your home is the fee your estate agent charges. High street agents typically charge anything between 1% and 3% commission, so the amount you’ll pay will depend on the price you get for your house. This can quickly become a huge amount of money.

If you’re in London for example, where the average property price is almost £700,000, a 3% commission fee would cost you in the region of £20,000, and there would be VAT payable on top of that. Even a 1% fee on a property worth £700,000 is £7,000. Away from the capital the average house price in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire is just under £200,000, while in the West Midlands it’s around £210,000. In Norfolk, it rises to nearly £260,000, to over £365,000 in Essex and almost £400,000 in West Sussex.

To avoid forking out huge fees to estate agents, you can consider going with an agent that charges a fixed fee. You can often find these online, helping to drastically reduce the cost of selling your house, if you are willing to host your own viewings and not have a high street presence.

How to speed things up

• Use an estate agent

Although estate agent fees are usually the biggest cost when selling your home, if you decide to go it alone it can take longer to find a buyer. It’s in an estate agent’s interests to sell your house as quickly as possible and for the highest price they can get, so having one on board usually means you’ll sell quicker and more profitably.

• Spruce up your home

Whether selling privately or through an estate agent, giving your house a quick makeover can work wonders when it comes to making an impression on potential buyers. Whether your efforts stretch to a lick of paint here and there or just a good clean and tidy, an attractive-looking home could find you a buyer much sooner than a tired looking home.

• Be prompt and prepared

One of the biggest things you can do to help speed up your sale is to be prepared. If you’re prompt and ready to proceed at each stage of the process, you’ll stand the best chance of a swift sale. From providing prompt access for viewings and surveys the buyer’s having done to returning paperwork as quickly as possible, keeping on your toes counts for a lot.

• Choose a reliable conveyancer

As the legal process is often what takes the most time, it’s important you choose a reliable conveyancer that’s going to help you through the process as quickly and professionally as possible. When you have a conveyancer who knows what they’re doing, you’ll find that you’ll have to do minimal chasing during your sale as everything’s taken care of for you in good time. Check that your chosen firm is willing to use email or an online portal rather than having to wait for everything to come through the post – it sounds simple but can shave weeks off the transaction.

For further information on the process of selling a house, please take a look at our handy article on the cost of selling a house and our detailed house selling guide.

Disclaimer: The article above is only a rough guide to give you some idea of the timescales involved when selling a house.

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