How long does it take to sell a house?
Selling a house can take a great deal of time. Getting it right can be a difficult balancing act.
The process can be impacted by factors both within your control, as well as those outside of it.
Essentially, you must choose if you want to sell quickly, or if you can afford to wait, and sell for a higher price.
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- How long does the average house sale take?
- How long should each stage of the selling process take?
- How long does it take to list a property?
- How long does it take to get an offer?
- Hot markets and cold markets
- What if your house is not getting any offers?
- What if your house is getting no viewings?
- How long does the conveyancing process take?
- How long do you wait between exchanging contracts and completion?
How long does the average house sale take?
Many organisations have conducted research with the goal of finding the average time required to sell a house in the UK.
Using data from ViewMyChain.com, the Homeowners Alliance found the average time taken between a property being listed with an estate agent and the sale completing was as much as 6 months.
This figure is also backed up by data from the property website Zoopla, who also found the average time between listing and completion was 6 months, or 25 weeks.
However, the home seller’s advice website, The Advisory looked at data on the sale of 1,726 residential properties they had conducted and pegged the average time it took to sell them at 18 weeks, or 4.2 months.
When you compare the Advisory’s numbers with the statistics others have recorded, the impact of experience becomes obvious.
The team behind the Advisory are experienced house sellers and their data is a good example for showing how long it should take to sell if you avoid common mistakes.
However, all of these are average figures and should not be taken as gospel. The amount of time required to sell a house can vary dramatically, mistakes or no mistakes.
Some sales can happen in as little as four weeks, for example, if a cash buyer immediately decides they want the property, while other properties can take many months or even years to sell.
Realistically, if you need to sell within 8 weeks or less, selling on the open market via a high street estate agent is not a reliable way to go. A cash house buying company or a property auction is likely to be a better option for you.
How long should each stage of the selling process take?
Selling a property is a process that can be divided up into 4 stages.
While things vary dramatically from market to market and property to property it is possible to construct a rough, “standard” timeline of the main stages involved in the sale of a house and how long they should take.
The 4 stages are:
- Listing the property (one to three days).
- Marketing the house and waiting for an offer (1 to 14 weeks). Once a sale has been agreed both the buyers and sellers details will be comfirmed by the estates agent’s Memorandum of Sale.
- The conveyancing and financing process between acceptance of an offer and the exchange of contracts (typically 8 to 16 weeks. This can be faster or slower depending on how well prepared the buyer is.
- And the time between exchanging contracts and the completion of the sale (typically 1 – 2 weeks but is set according to what is convenient for the buyer and the seller).
How long does it take to list a property?
The first stage of selling a house involves having it listed by an estate agent.
Finding a good estate agent is especially important if you are an inexperienced seller. And let’s face it most of us are as we only sell a few properties in our entire lifetime. How the agent manages viewings, looks after clients and negotiates on the seller’s behalf all play a key role in getting an offer agreed quickly.
When picking your estate agent, you should ensure they have a history of selling properties just like yours. Check their listings on Rightmove and Zoopla to look at their photographs and descriptions and read reviews of their service.
Only go with an estate agent whose portfolio looks well portrayed, and who is highly reviewed.
Many people, including Gavin Brazg at The Advisory advise against using cheap online estate agencies.
He says online agents will essentially just list your property on Rightmove and Zoopla, while a high street agency will go to greater lengths advertising a property.
High street estate agents often go so far as to have articles written about a property in local newspapers, and generally know where to advertise the type of property they specialise in.
Sometimes it can be a good idea to have multiple estate agents market a property in competition with each other. This is termed ‘multi-agency’ in estate agency circles.
Multi-agency contracts are often more expensive than using a single agent. Do check any proposed contracts to see what premiums agents will charge for this before you accept them.
Once you have picked your estate agent it should only take them a couple of days to photograph and list your property.
If there are substantial delays in getting this done you should be concerned. You may want to think about trying a different agent.
How long does it take to get an offer?
The second stage of selling a house is marketing it and trying to find someone willing to buy it. This can take a while and will depend on both the state of the housing market and whether your property has been valued correctly and advertised at a fair price.
Data from Zoopla shows it normally takes between 5 and 14 weeks from a property going on the market to an offer being accepted. This is based on a property being advertised at a full and fair price.
This chimes with the HOA’s data from ViewMyChain.com, which puts the average time taken to get an acceptable offer at 10 weeks.
As usual, the Advisory achieved better than average when selling, with their property getting offers in an average of 7 weeks.
However, all of this is very dependent on the market where you live.
Hot markets and cold markets
When selling a property, it is important to have an idea what the housing market is like in your area.
Local experts often describe the housing market in terms of it being hot or cold. A hot market means there is a lot of demand for property, and homes are selling quickly. A cold market means there are fewer buyers around, and property sells more slowly.
Zoopla’s data indicates this difference can be very substantial, with offers on property regularly being accepted within 4 weeks in hot areas. Contrast this with property in cold areas often taking as many as 14 weeks before the seller receives a good offer.
What if your house is not getting any offers?
If you are getting viewings but no offers it means your house looks great on paper but has flaws.
Generally, this is either to do with the condition of the property itself, its location or advertised price.
While structural and cosmetic issues with the property can be repaired and houses can be staged to make them more desirable, lack of interest due to a poor location can only be overcome by changing the price.
Alternatively, your agent could have overpriced your home. This is a difficult thing for a seller to stomach. It is possible they are dragging unsuitable buyers through your house purely to keep you off their back.
To deal with this, you will probably need to reduce your asking price, and possibly even get a new agent.
What if your house is getting no viewings?
There are two likely factors which could cause a property to have no viewings.
Firstly, it is typically a sign your asking price is too high.
However, it could also be that your estate agent is not suitable for marketing your property.
It is worth checking if your agent is the most effective for your type of property, especially if you are in a cold market.
How long does the conveyancing process take?
Once a seller has accepted an offer, the conveyancing task begins. This is the legal process used to transfer the ownership of a property from one person to another.
Conveyancing involves checks to ensure that the seller and buyer are respectively telling the truth about the property as well as their ability to pay for it.
These checks require the input of outside organisations which will conduct surveys and searches on the property.
This can be the longest part of selling a house, and generally takes around 2 to 4 months (8-16 weeks).
If a property is a leasehold, has any restrictive covenants, or if a survey finds a problem which needs further investigation, it can cause the conveyancing to take even longer.
In addition, some local authorities are notoriously slow when completing search requests, sometimes taking several months to complete a task others do in weeks. Most simply don’t have the resources to it any quicker.
It is generally a smart idea for a seller to have already chosen a conveyancer prior to accepting any offers as this will mean you can start the process right away.
Typically, the seller will be waiting on the buyer’s conveyancer. This is because the buyer’s conveyancer has a lot more work to do and the buyer’s mortgage can often directly depend on the result of the surveys they order.
As selling a property depends on your buyer having access to the available funds, this can obviously hold up the process. It can be worth ensuring that a buyer keeps close tabs on their conveyancer, to help ensure their surveys are conducted in a timely fashion.
How long do you wait between exchanging contracts and completion?
Once the searches and surveys are completed and the buyer has arranged their finances, buyers and sellers can proceed to exchanging contracts.
These contracts will have already been looked over by both parties, as well as their conveyancers, and should be exactly as they expect them to be.
Both parties’ conveyancers make the formal exchange over a recorded telephone call. This generally happens as part of a property chain and will not occur until all the buyers in the chain are fully ready.
The first conveyancer in the chain will call the second and conduct the exchange. The second will then call the third, and so on.
This continues until all parties in the chain have finished exchanging contracts.
Following the exchange of contracts, a property purchase becomes legally binding to complete. Buyers who back out after the exchange are vulnerable to being sued by the seller for both the deposit and the seller’s legal costs.
Prior to the exchange of contracts all parties in the chain will agree to a completion date. This is the day on which everyone moves and pays in full for their properties via their solicitor or conveyancer.
Ordinarily, completion is set for one to two weeks after the exchange of contracts. This is to give everyone time to prepare for their upcoming moves and get all their money in place.
While completing on the same day as you exchange is possible, this carries risks. If one mortgage company fails to pay out in time, or if a small piece of paperwork goes missing, it can lead to disaster, with dozens of moving vans parked up outside houses unable to load.
The amount of time it can take to sell a house varies enormously.
If you are lucky enough to find a cash buyer with a skilled conveyancer you can sell a property in as little as four weeks.
However, if you pick a poor estate agent, it can take longer than that to have your first viewing and you could still have the property sitting unsold a year later.
In addition, a cold market or an overvaluation can stop a house sale in its tracks, potentially causing it to receive little or any viewings.
The best way to help ensure a prompt sale at a full price involve choosing a suitable estate agent to market the property and having it priced suitably.
Generally, the faster you want to sell a house, the lower you should set the asking price.
However, once you have an offer, there is little you can do to speed up the buyer’s side of the conveyancing process.
While you can ask them to pester and keep an eye on their conveyancer, delays due to surveys and searches are hard to predict or prevent.
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