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How long does it take to Sell a House?

How long does it take
to sell a house?

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 house selling 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.

Our latest guide begins with explaining how choosing the way you sell your property will impact the time it takes to sell your home. We then run through the typical timeline in selling a property and how the current housing market can impact your sale.

Finally, we look at what to do should you find that you are not getting any offers on your house and how you can improve your chances of securing a sale.

At the end of our guide we list some of the most frequently asked questions asked by vendors when wanting to know how long it takes to sell a property.

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Deciding which way to sell your house

After you have decided to sell your house the first big choice you will need to make is which method you use to sell it. In this chapter, we will examine the most common house-selling methods in the UK to see which is the fastest.

Broadly, there are three methods for selling houses in the UK today:

  • An open market sale
  • Property auction
  • Selling to a cash house-buying company

Your choice is critically important, as the method of sale used often determines the level of certainty that you can expect.

The method you choose also dictates the timescale of your sale. Faster and more certain methods, such as selling to a house-buying company or auctioning a property off can offer a fast sale at the cost of reduced proceeds. Selling on the open market can maximise your profit, but also remove certainty.

Selling on the open market (3-18 months)

Also known as an estate agent sale, putting your home on the open market involves advertising your property with an estate agent, and attempting to find and negotiate a deal with an interested buyer.

Selling your home on the open market is the most common way houses are sold and offers a few big advantages.

Firstly, estate agent sales typically achieve a higher sale price. This is for a variety of reasons, including their own marketing and negotiation expertise as well as the larger pool of potential buyers they have access to. They tend to target people who want to buy homes to live in, rather than as an investment. As these people do not have to make a quick profit reselling your property and are in competition with each other for the house, they tend to pay the full market rate for properties.

Secondly, the expertise estate agents possess on the legal and procedural side of house-selling also offers substantial benefits. Often, estate agencies are willing to assist with practically every aspect of a sale, from helping you handle paperwork, and find a conveyancer to deal with the legal side of the transaction, to providing after-sale support and ensuring completion occurs. Selling with an estate agent can therefore sometimes be less stressful than dealing with an auction house or cash house buyer.

The big downside of selling on the open market, however, is its lack of speed and its uncertain nature.

You are relying on getting the right buyer to see your house at the right time, and this can take a very long time. Finding them can take many months, and in addition to this, even when you find them, the sale itself takes a long time with extensive negotiations and conveyancing potentially adding many weeks to the transaction. Prior to the exchange of contracts, your buyer can even drop out, leaving you essentially right back at the start of the process again.

Selling at property auctions (approx. 2 months)

A property auction is a public sale where people bid on houses. They are usually organised by established auction houses, who specialise in running this kind of event. Selling property via auction is fairly popular in the UK, with more than 19,000 homes being sold this way in 2022.  Auctions offer a number of benefits over estate agents including speed and an additional level of certainty.

When you engage an auction house to sell a property, they will normally advertise it in their catalogue and on their website for about a month, before putting it up for sale on an auction day. In order to avoid your property selling for too little, you can set a reserve price. This should be the minimum price you are willing to accept for your property. If the bidding fails to reach this price the property will not be sold.

On the auction day itself, many properties will usually be sold in succession. Potential buyers place successively higher bids or offers to buy on the properties or lots they want as they come up. After all the bids for a lot have been placed, the highest bidder is obligated to immediately pay a deposit and buy the lot in exchange for their bidded amount. If they refuse, they can be held in breach of contract. After a property is sold at auction, the buyer typically has 28 days to pay the remaining amount for the property. If they fail to do so, they will forfeit the deposit, be considered in breach of contract, and can be held liable for all potential damages caused to both the auction house and the seller.

In the modern day, most property auctions are live-streamed online. In addition to this, many property websites now also offer something called the modern method of auction. This works through properties being listed online, and potential buyers being able to place bids on them for a set time period. Once this timer runs out, the highest bidder is then required to buy the property. The easiest way to understand the modern method of auction is to think about it as eBay for houses.

Cash house-buying companies/quick sale estate agents (typically 6 weeks, but variable)

The fastest way to sell your property is to work with a cash house-buying company or quick sale estate agent. The very existence of these firms is to help ensure you achieve a faster house sale without the usual delays of a high-street estate agent.

These companies normally work in one of two ways: either they buy properties directly using their own capital, or they arrange for a property investor to purchase your property.

As these companies and their investors operate on a larger scale than individual homebuyers, they have access to their funds more readily and can move quickly, letting them essentially offer house buying as a professional service. However, like with all professional services, you will be paying for it.

While house-buying companies often promise ultra-quick services and completion within a fortnight, in reality, this is highly dependent on the property’s specific situation and can be slowed if any problems come up relating to either the property’s physical or legal condition. A timescale of 6 weeks is much more realistic.

Some less reputable companies have also been known to give out an initial offer, delay the sale, and then give a much lower real offer. This is an especially unscrupulous practice given many people selling to these companies are on very tight timescales and are unlikely to be able to seek alternative options.

So how long does the average house sale take?

The average time required to sell a house in the UK varies according to different sources and methodologies. While the UK Government’s website claims that the normal time taken to sell a home is 2-3 months, most studies have found this to be very optimistic.

For instance, research by the Homeowners Alliance, using data from ViewMyChain.com, indicates that the average time between listing a property with an estate agent and sale completion is approximately 6 months or 25 weeks. This timeframe is corroborated by the property giant Zoopla, which also reports an average of 6 months from listing to completion.

On the other hand, Rightmove provides a different perspective, tracking the average time a house typically stays on the market at about 9 weeks (62 days or 67 days in London) as of October 2023. It is worth noting that Rightmove’s data only accounts for from when a house is listed till when an offer is accepted and does not include subsequent phases such as conveyancing, negotiations, and the time between exchange and completion.

As the figures from Zoopla and ViewMyChain.com are likely inflated by including sales that eventually fall through, Rightmove’s data, focusing only on the time between going on the market and the initial offer acceptance might be a more relevant metric for the median seller.

Another company which offers an estimate is the Post Office’s mortgage branch. Their data found that the average UK property currently takes 114 days or approximately 16 weeks to sell. While they haven’t stated their methodology, the discrepancy between their data and the others indicates that they are likely not accounting for house sales which fall through but are accounting for the full sale duration.

Even with this somewhat more optimistic timescale in mind, it is worth considering that the average is what it is for a reason: Zoopla’s data is not false, and at least under some circumstances, more than half of properties take longer than six months to sell.  Whether it be due to ineffective marketing, a buyer dropping out, bad pricing, or a myriad of other potential reasons, the reality is that many properties are on the market for months.

While it is possible that your dream buyer will walk into your door on your first day on the market and offer you your full asking price in cash, you cannot rely on this.

Do different property types take different lengths of time to sell?

Yes!

Research carried out using the Rightmove database by the website Goodmove shows that different types of homes sell at different speeds.

They found that on average:

  • Detached homes typically sell the fastest, spending approximately 57 days on the market before an offer is accepted.
  • Terraced and semi-detached houses fall in the middle, taking 66 and 70 days to sell respectively.
  • Finally, flats take the longest to sell, with the average apartment sitting in its estate agent’s books for approximately 82 days before someone agrees to buy it.

Note that all of these numbers only account for the time spent on the market and do not include the conveyancing or negotiation processes.

In addition, what type of property sells fastest can change depending on where you live and what time of year it is. Terraced two-bedrooms and flats may well sell faster than large family homes in January, or in fast-growing tech hubs with lots of young workers, while bungalows typically sell faster in summer when older people who favour them are more inclined to go house hunting, and in places with a higher average age.

Average Days on Market

Leasehold vs Freehold

A leasehold property normally takes more time to sell than its equivalent freehold property, with data from Zoopla showing it takes an average of three weeks longer.

This isn’t because leasehold homes aren’t popular— there are more than 4 million in the UK, and they can be great buys. They just take longer to sell because there is more legal work to do when selling such a property.

In addition to all the usual legal work involved in selling a house, the conveyancers or solicitors will also have to:

  • Double-check the terms of the lease: The lease is a legal document outlining the responsibilities and rights of both the leaseholder and the landlord (freeholder). The buyer’s solicitor needs to thoroughly review this document to understand any conditions, restrictions, or obligations that might impact the sale.
  • Stay connected with the freeholder or their managing agents: Both solicitors must communicate with these parties. This step is crucial because the freeholder and their agents hold important information about the property, its management, and any upcoming changes which could affect the new owner.
  • Review the property’s management accounts: These accounts provide details about the property’s financial management, including service charges, ground rent, and funds for maintenance. It’s important for the buyer to know the financial health and obligations associated with the property.
  • Identify any upcoming planned works on the property: The legal representatives will investigate to determine whether there are any scheduled maintenance activities or improvements for the building. This is important as these might involve additional costs for the new owner.
  • Investigate any disputes: If there have been any disputes regarding the lease, such as issues with service charges or disagreements with the management company, these need to be resolved or disclosed to the buyer.
  • And ensuring the buyer’s lender’s requirements are met: Once the buyer’s solicitor has gathered all the necessary information, they will share it with the buyer’s mortgage lender. This step is vital for ensuring that the lender is comfortable proceeding with the loan.

Does the location of my house matter?

Like everything else to do with property, when it comes to sale duration, location is king.

The average time to sell a house varies dramatically across the UK, with Rightmove’s figures showing selling houses usually spend less than 33 days on the market in Scotland, compared to more than 69 days in Wales or the West Midlands.

While this chart shows the variation from region to region, if you approach the country on a more granular level, as the Post Office do in their analysis, you will see that a whole bunch of cities and towns do not follow their regional trends.

While comparing the Post Office’s Data to Rightmove’s is difficult as they use a different methodology to record it and look at towns rather than regions, by looking at some of the towns they have listed on their website you can see how the regional pictures, while not totally consistent, hold somewhat true. For example, properties in Norwich and Ipswich, both in East Anglia take 93 and 92 days to sell respectively. Hull and York, in Yorkshire are similar taking 91 and 90 days.

This doesn’t always hold true however, as properties in Leeds and Bradford show, with houses taking very different amounts of time to sell despite being very close to each other, at 89 days for Leeds and 116 days for Bradford.

Days spent on Market

A house-selling timeline for the open market

The majority of homes sold in the UK are listed on the open market with an estate agent.

This is for a good reason: generally, selling with an estate agent will maximise the price you can get for your house.  However, this comes at the cost of your house sale taking a relatively long, and often unpredictable, amount of time.

In this section, we will divide the process of selling a house on the open market up into six steps, examining roughly how long each should take, and what you can do to speed them up.

Choosing an estate agent (As soon as you are ready to sell)

The first step of the house selling process is to engage the services of an estate agent. A good estate agent will help you through the house selling process, assisting with valuation, marketing, viewings, and negotiations, all while ensuring the sale continues to progress. Finding a good estate agent is especially important if you are an inexperienced seller— and let’s face it, most of us are—we normally only sell a few properties in our entire lifetimes after all.

When choosing an estate agent, you should check what properties they have sold recently using a website like getagent.co.uk. This is to ensure you choose an agent who has actual experience selling properties like yours in a similar location. There is no better way to tell if an estate agent is effective for your property than checking their recent success rate with similar properties. You should also check they appear on the leading house selling websites, Rightmove and Zoopla to ensure their photography and descriptions are up to snuff.

While online estate agents can be substantially cheaper than their high street rivals, they tend to provide a substantially less comprehensive service. If you are confident about your house’s value and easy marketability, selling through an online agent can be a good idea, but when dealing with more challenging property in less active markets these services can often leave you cold.

In general, an estate agent’s price should not put you off— more expensive agents can often make up for their higher bill by getting you a higher price for your property.

Marketing your house (A few days to a couple of weeks before your property is listed, and then 62 days on average to secure a buyer)

Once you have engaged an estate agent’s services, they will begin to market your property.

The first steps to this are to stage the property, take some photos, write a description, and make up a floor plan. While you can complete these steps yourself, and some cheaper online estate agents will expect you to, generally estate agency companies have professionals who are specialised in these areas.

If your house is in poor condition, it may well be worth conducting some minor repairs. Filling holes, replacing missing roof tiles, fixing window frames, and giving everything a nice coat of paint can help your house make a good first impression, and add to its curb appeal.

Next, your agent will value your property. This is very important, as if a house is overpriced, it will fail to garner much interest and is unlikely to receive any good offers. While adjustments can be made further down the line, houses which spend too long on the market tend to lose some of their appeal and sell for a lower price. If you have priced your property too cheaply, and are getting lots of attention, raising the price is easier, but still can have negative consequences.

Once the marketing materials have been gathered and a price has been chosen, the estate agent will list your house on their website and one or more of the major property portals. Agents with brick-and-mortar shops are also likely to put advertisements in their windows, catching the eye of potential buyers on the high street.

There are a bunch of other marketing techniques which are often used too. Adverts in print magazines and local newspapers can often still have a surprising reach, while many estate agents have embraced technology, offering virtual tours, making use of drones for photography, and employing social media and email campaign marketing.

Viewings (10-20 different viewings on average, which continue until you accept an offer)

Conducting viewings is absolutely crucial when trying to sell a house— think back to the last time you bought or rented a property— you went to see it beforehand, didn’t you? Being able to see something as important as a house in person before you buy it is absolutely essential for most people, thus when you are selling a house, you need to give your potential buyers the chance to do so.

Typically, your estate agent will lead potential buyers around your property, showing off its quirks and features. It is important that your property looks its best when this happens, with as little clutter as possible scattered about.

Generally, viewings begin a few days after you put your house on the market and will continue until you accept an offer. Various sources offer very different numbers as to how many viewings you should expect before an offer: The estate agent comparison site GetAgent’s data indicates showing an average of ten viewers around is required, while the Chancellor’s estate agents group pegs it at 17, or 23 in London.

One of the reasons picking an estate agent who sells lots of properties like yours should be a priority is that when people view houses, they often are shown multiple at once. If your agent is showing a potential buyer around a property which is similar to, and local to yours they are likely to bring that potential buyer to your house too.

The conveyancing process and property searches (6-20 weeks)

Once you have an offer, the conveyancing process begins. This is the legal process of transferring a property from one party to another.

It is a relatively complicated multistep process and people are well advised to get professional aid when undertaking it. Conveyancers and conveyancing solicitors are legal professionals who specialise in property law and help their customers deal with the legal side of buying and selling property.

When selling a house, the conveyancing process typically follows these steps.

  1. Choosing a conveyancer: The first step in the conveyancing process is typically hiring or ‘instructing’ a legal professional. They will start a file for your case and begin to conduct the initial checks. Generally, it is worth doing this before you secure an offer. You should be cautious about simply using your estate agent’s preferred conveyancer, and instead consider a cheaper online option such as Compare And Convey or ConveyQuote.
  2. Drafting a sale contract: Once you get an offer you should immediately task your conveyancer with preparing a draft contract. While it is possible unknown information may come forward later, this generally doesn’t happen, and by having a draft contract ready to go, you can sometimes sell faster.
  3. Conveyancing searches: When someone decides to buy a property, they will typically have conveyancing or property searches carried out. This is so they know what they are actually buying, and so they can avoid getting a “lemon” of a house, with many problems. Conveyancing searches typically check for any issues with the property’s title deeds, as well as enquiring to the local authority about the property and checking its planning. Such searches typically also check the property’s water supply, if the property is built on contaminated land, and if it has a history of flooding.Practically every buyer will undertake conveyancing searches, and they can be quite time-consuming, potentially taking as many as 6 weeks. This heavily depends on your local authority, with some councils processing searches much faster than others. Paradoxically, faster housing markets, with more homes selling can actually have slower conveyancing searches. This is because the local authority staff can get a little overwhelmed when lots of houses sell suddenly, and a backlog can develop.It is important to provide your buyer with everything they need at this stage of the process, as the searches must be completed before a contract can be agreed.
  4. Negotiating contract terms: Once the conveyancing searches have been completed, it is time to negotiate your final sale contract. This is the document which, when signed and exchanged with another party, binds you to the transaction. Its terms are typically final and pulling out after the exchange can carry significant consequences, including having to cover all of the buyer’s costs and making the property much harder to sell in future.

If something bad has come up in the searches, you do not have to give up on your sale. By lowering your price or offering to buy indemnity insurance for your buyer you may be able to convince them to still purchase the property.

The amount of time taken to negotiate the terms of your sale contract can vary dramatically. If the buyer is happy with everything after the searches, there is no reason the negotiations cannot be done in a couple of days, while if a detail becomes a sticking point they can quickly drag out into many weeks.

If you would like to know more about conveyancing, you can read our Ultimate Guide to Conveyancing here.

Property chains (Unknown delays, potentially many months)

Once your final contract is completed, and both you and the buyer are happy with it, it is, in theory, time to proceed to the next step.

I say this “in theory” because this relies on your buyer being able to pay for your property. Often, people buying houses are dependent on their previous house selling to pay for their new purchase. This is called being in a property chain.

A property chain is essentially a number of linked property transactions, whereby each seller is the buyer in the next transaction. Because of this, each transaction in the chain is dependent on the previous one succeeding in order for it to go forward.

At the bottom of a chain is a chain free buyer, who is buying a house while not selling one. They are often a cash buyer or a first-time buyer. At the other end, or top, of the chain someone will be selling a house without buying. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as the home being a new build, someone moving into rented accommodation, or due to someone selling a house they inherited or a former buy to let.

It can be helpful to think of a property chain as like a line of hermit crabs changing shells, each moving into the larger one abandoned by the previous crab.

Nobody is quite sure how long the typical property chain is, although industry experts believe most contain four or five properties.

Often, delays in the house sale process, or even transactions falling through can be caused by issues far away from you or your buyer in the chain. For example, if the person buying the person buying your buyer’s house drops out, suddenly your buyer has no way to pay you.

While chains can be repaired by hardworking estate agents finding new buyers, or through the intervention of cash house-buying companies, parties involved often do not have the patience or loss tolerance for this, and the chain disintegrates, leaving most everyone back at square one.

Lots of people prefer to sell to chain-free buyers, as it means their sale is less likely to be delayed or fall through.
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).

Exchange and completion (Typically two weeks)

When we talk about the final steps of selling a house, two critical milestones crop up: The exchange of contracts and completion. Let’s untangle these terms to see what they really mean.

Exchange of Contracts: This is a crucial part of selling your house. It’s when you and the buyer both agree to the sale and can’t back out without major financial penalties and your buyer pays their deposit, usually 10% of your house’s price.

If there are multiple transactions linked in a chain, they must exchange contracts one after the other. This is as each transaction is dependent on the previous one to succeed. Generally, a call will be sent up the chain from conveyancer to conveyancer asking if everyone is ready to proceed, and then another call will be sent back down the chain, giving all the legal professionals the all-clear to exchange the contracts and wire the deposits.

Setting the Completion Date: When you exchange contracts, you will set a date for the transaction to be completed. This is the day when the final payment is made for the property, the legal owner changes, and generally, you move out. Normally people set the completion day for two weeks after the exchange of contracts, but this is by no means mandatory. Indeed, it is possible to exchange and complete on the same day.

Like during the exchange of contracts, when a property chain completes, each transaction proceeds one after another, as the previous one finishes giving each party the capital to continue.

The Final Step – Land Registry Registration: After completion, the buyer’s conveyancer has one more task: registering the change of ownership with the Land Registry. This formalizes the buyer’s status as the new owner, making it official and legally recognised.

House sale timeline in summary

Below is a quick summary of the house sale process. While all property transactions vary, most open market sales will broadly proceed following these steps.

  1. Valuation and Choosing an Estate Agent:

    Timeframe: A few days to a week.

    Activities: Getting your property valued and selecting an appropriate estate agent.

  2. Preparing the Property:

    Timeframe: 1-3 weeks, depending on needed work.

    Activities: Staging your home and making any necessary repairs to enhance appeal.

  3. Marketing the Property:

    Timeframe: A few days to a couple of weeks for listing.

    Activities: The estate agent prepares and publishes your property listing with photos and descriptions.

  4. Viewings and Offers:

    Timeframe: Varies widely, typically 1-6 weeks.

    Activities: Potential buyers visit and make offers on your property.

  5. Accepting an Offer:

    Timeframe: Can be immediate or several days, depending on negotiations.

    Activities: Agreeing to an offer and moving to the legal phase.

  6. Conveyancing:

    Timeframe: Around 8-12 weeks, sometimes longer.

    Activities: Handling the legal aspects of transferring property ownership, including property searches, and addressing any issues.

  7. Exchange of Contracts:

    Timeframe: Can be immediate or up to a few weeks after conveyancing is complete.

    Activities: Both parties legally commit to the transaction, and the buyer may pay a deposit.

  8. Completion:

    Timeframe: Typically, 1-4 weeks after the exchange.

    Activities: Final payment is made, and ownership officially transfers to the buyer.

  9. Post-Completion:

    Timeframe: Usually a few days to weeks.

    Activities: Finalising legal formalities like updating the Land Registry and settling any remaining fees.

How do market factors affect house sale times?

The speed at which a house sells can be heavily influenced by current market conditions.

These are typically fairly localised and can be affected by a wide range of factors— for example, if a large business decides to open a new factory in an area, the housing market is going to speed up as more people will need the local housing stock.

This chapter examines how different market environments, be they hot or cold, affect selling times. We’ll look at the impact of national property market trends and identify the best times of year to sell for a quicker transaction.

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.

Understanding the difference between Hot and Cold property markets

When talking about property markets people often refer to them as hot or cold. Now, this has nothing to do with the local weather— some of the UK’s hottest markets are in Scotland after all.

No, hot and cold in this case refer to how fast a market is moving. In a hot market, there are more buyers than sellers, and competition for houses is fierce, leading to quick sales. Alternatively, in a cold market, there are comparatively fewer buyers and more houses available to buy. This more often than not, leads to an increase in the average time to sell a house.

This often also has an impact on property prices in the area. In a cold market, prices will fall as people attempt to undercut each other to secure a buyer from the smaller available pool, while in a hot market, sellers inundated with offers will up their prices.

This does not mean, however, that all cold markets are cheap, and all fast markets are expensive, simply that they are likely to be going down or up respectively. It is also worth remembering that not every property type is in the same demand in every area. In some places, flats might be undersupplied, while in others it could be large family homes or terraces that are in high demand.

By speaking to a local estate agent, you can get to know the market in your particular area and understand how to best price and market your house for it.

Selling times in a hot market

In hot markets, where demand for properties significantly outstrips supply, homes tend to sell much faster than average.

For instance, while the Post Office reports an average UK property sale time of 114 days, this can be considerably shorter in more active markets. Notable examples include Edinburgh and Glasgow, where properties often sell in under 50 days, and in England, cities like Bristol and Northampton see average sale times of around 80 days, with Stoke-on-Trent at an even brisker 77 days.

In such buoyant markets, opting for an online estate agent could be a strategic choice. These agents typically offer lower fees compared to traditional high street agents. While risks such as less comprehensive marketing exist, the abundance of buyers in hot markets tends to mitigate these concerns possibly making this the best time to sell a house.

The high demand means that even if a property is not marketed optimally, there are still likely to be plenty of interested buyers. Furthermore, in a market where buyers are keen and numerous, adjusting your asking price upwards, if necessary, is less likely to deter potential buyers.

Selling times in a cold market

In cold markets, where the supply of properties outweighs buyer demand, selling a home can be more challenging and often takes longer than in hot markets. For example, while the average UK property sale time is reported at 114 days by the Post Office, in slower markets, this duration can stretch significantly. Cities such as Lincoln, London, Middlesbrough, Oxford, Slough, Sunderland, and Aberdeen exemplify this, with average selling times ranging from 127 days in Lincoln to as long as 152 days in Oxford.

In such markets, the role of a skilled and experienced estate agent becomes crucial. Traditional high street agents, with their comprehensive services and local market knowledge, might offer an advantage in effectively marketing properties and attracting potential buyers.

The challenges of a cold market include a need for more robust marketing strategies and potentially more flexibility in pricing. Properties may need to be more competitively priced to attract interest, and sellers should be prepared for negotiations. Additionally, emphasising the unique selling points of the property and ensuring it is well-presented and in good repair can help it stand out in a crowded market.

Patience is key in a cold market. Unlike hot markets, where quick sales are common, sellers in cold markets should be prepared for a longer sale process. It’s important to set realistic expectations and be open to adjusting strategies as needed based on market feedback and guidance from your estate agent.

How does the national property market affect selling times?

The national property market significantly influences how long it takes to sell a house. In a strong national market, characterised by high demand and rising prices, houses generally sell faster, even in areas that aren’t usually very active. This is often driven by a robust economy and favourable mortgage rates, which encourage more people to buy. However, when the national market is weak, perhaps due to economic uncertainty or higher mortgage interest rates, selling times can increase across the board.

Despite these general trends, local markets can sometimes buck the national trend. For instance, a city with a booming job market might see quick sales even when the national market is slow. Conversely, an area with local economic struggles might have slower sales even in a strong national market. For sellers, this means understanding both the national outlook and local conditions is important for setting realistic expectations and crafting an effective sales strategy.

When is the best time to sell a house?

Identifying the optimal time of year to sell your property depends on a mix of market trends and the type of property you’re selling. Generally, spring is considered the best time to sell in the UK, characterised by better weather, longer days, and gardens in bloom, all of which can make properties more appealing. Additionally, families often prefer to move during the summer months to avoid disrupting the school year, making spring an ideal time to list when trying to catch their attention.

However, this “best time” can vary depending on the market and property type. In hot markets, where demand consistently outstrips supply, the seasonal impact might be less pronounced, and selling can be effective at any time of the year. Conversely, in colder markets, timing becomes more crucial. Selling outside of peak seasons in such markets might result in longer listing times or the need for price reductions.

The type of property also influences the ideal selling time. For example, family homes often sell better in spring and early summer, aligning with the preferences of families planning moves around the school calendar. In contrast, apartments or homes in urban areas might see less seasonal fluctuation, as their buyer demographics, like young professionals or investors, aren’t as tied to the academic year.

It’s worth noting that the period around Christmas usually sees a slowdown in the property market. Many people are focused on the holidays, leading to reduced buyer activity. Therefore, listing just before or during the holiday season might result in longer sale times.

Ultimately, while seasonal trends provide a general guide, sellers should also consider current market conditions and the specifics of their property. In some cases, unique attributes of a property or local demand spikes can make off-peak selling advantageous. Staying informed and seeking advice from real estate professionals can help determine the best time to sell your specific property.

Why is my house not selling?

Houses can take a very long time to sell in the UK, with the average time from the start to finish of the sale process approaching six months.

This means that people can be led to worry about their house not selling unnecessarily, or alternatively can have them ignoring warning signs, overconfident in their knowledge that “houses take ages to sell”.

Generally, you should keep the following factors in mind:

  1. Are you getting enough viewings? The number of viewings you get can be a very important bellwether when trying to sell your house. Typically, properties receive between 5 and 20 viewings before selling, with a majority of them in the first couple of weeks on the market. If your house has been on the market for more than a month, and your number of viewings is in the single figures, it is perhaps time to consider something may be wrong.This likely indicates a problem with your listing and that people are either not seeing it or are not finding it attractive. This could be for a range of reasons, including bad photos, an unappealing description, missing information, or overpricing. All of these things are typically the responsibility of the estate agent, and if you are not getting viewings, it may be the case that they are not doing their job properly. Consider changing your estate agent.
  2. Are you getting any offers? If you are getting a large number of viewings, but no offers this is a sign of a different issue. Normally, houses receive an offer within roughly two to three months of being on the market.If you have not received an offer within three months, and yet lots of people have looked around the house it likely indicates there is something they do not like about it.  Consider repainting the outside of the house, repairing any damaged doors or window frames, and tidying the garden to boost curb appeal. In addition, you should make sure your interior is well-lit and tidy without seeming empty.A lack of offers could also be indicative of substantial overpricing. While some people might be willing to make a low offer, many are put off by a higher price and simply assume you’d be unwilling to negotiate. By dropping your sticker price, you can attract more interest, and more people willing to buy, potentially even boosting your final sale price.One additional thing to keep in mind is you should be listening when people criticise your property. While your home may be your castle, it is important to take on board any feedback you hear repeatedly. For example, if people are consistently put off by the amount of repair work your house requires, it is probably worth getting it done yourself.

What’s happening in 2024?

While the UK housing market is notoriously hard to predict, it is possible to analyse a few trends from the last couple of years.

Broadly, the time taken to sell a house in the UK has increased over the last couple of years. If you compare the number of completed house sales in 2022 with 2023, you will see a substantial increase across the board.

This is partially because events taking place in late summer 2022 had a negative effect on the UK housing market. Liz Truss’s short tenure as PM coincided with a massive increase in interest rates, which drove down demand across the housing market as mortgages became more expensive. This reduced demand dramatically and increased the time taken to sell on average.

Days to secure a buyer

According to the property giant Zoopla’s predictions, property prices are expected to fall by 2% during 2024, while mortgages are expected to become slightly cheaper as the year progresses.

If this is the case, it seems likely we will see the time taken to sell fall back again as these lower mortgage rates and house prices make property more affordable although whether it will ever get back to the lighting fast speeds seen in March and April 2022 remains to be seen.

Afterall, if you have been paying attention for the last few years, you will know things are complicated at the moment, from a technological, geopolitical, and economic standpoint. Predicting the future is always hard, but at the moment, it is almost impossible.

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. Be sure to chekc they have your property listed on all of the major house selling websites.

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.

In Summary

The amount of time it can take to sell a house today varies enormously.

If you are lucky enough to find a cash buyer with a skilled conveyancer you could sell your property in as little as six weeks.

However, if you pick a poor estate agent, it can take longer than that to receive your first viewing and you could still have your property sitting unsold up to 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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Frequently asked questions

When considering if a house is overpriced, the key is to compare it with similar properties in the same area. This involves looking at the sale prices of comparable homes, considering factors such as location, size, condition, and unique features. Websites like Zoopla and Rightmove can provide insight into local market trends.

Overpriced homes tend to have fewer people view or make offers on them, will stay on the market longer and may eventually sell for a lower price than they would if they had been listed for less.

Selling a house requires several key documents: an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to show the energy efficiency of the property, proof of your identity, property title deeds to prove ownership, and complete property information forms (TA6, TA10, and TA13) which provide details about the property to the buyer.

This is a difficult question to answer and ultimately depends on your reason for selling.

We can tell you that in general there are two types of housing market. These are termed ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’. And at any one point in time there are both hot and cold markets (and every temperature inbetween) being experienced throughout the UK.

A hot market is one that has more buyers than sellers meaning you should achieve a good price and fairly quickly. In short, there is a lot of competition to buy property.

In contrast, a cold market has more sellers than buyers with demand for buying property having fallen. More often than not, this is as a result of a weakening economic environment where people are generally feeling less optimistic about the immediate future. Selling in a cold market will mean having to ensure you price your property keenly at the outset to generate the right level of interest.

The number of viewings needed to sell a house can vary significantly. On average, it might take 10-15 viewings to sell a property, but this depends greatly on the attractiveness of the property, its location, and the overall market conditions.

A typical house viewing lasts about 20-30 minutes. This allows potential buyers to get a good feel for the property and ask any pertinent questions.

Viewings can continue all the way up till you accept an offer. This is because when selling your house you can only afford to stop once you have secured a buyer.

There’s no legal restriction on how quickly you can sell a house after buying it. However, it’s often advisable to wait at least 6 months to a year. This allows you to build up some equity in the home and can help cover any costs associated with selling.

In addition, if a house quickly returns to the market after being bought, people may suspect something is wrong with it, and many of your potential buyers could have already seen it. This could make it much harder for you to sell it.

Provided you find a keen and willing buyer without any complications, selling your property via an estate agent could take as little as 3 months. However, if you need to sell very quick, selling to a property buying company could enable you to sell your property in just one week.

After an offer is accepted, it usually takes about 2-3 months to reach completion. This period allows time for the conveyancing process, which includes legal checks, property searches, and arranging mortgage details.

However, this timeframe can be influenced by factors such as the complexity of the sale, the efficiency of the conveyancers, and whether there’s a property chain involved.

Choosing the right conveyancer or solicitor is crucial. Look for someone with a strong track record, reasonable fees, and positive client reviews. They should be communicative and knowledgeable but do not necessarily have to be local.

Often, online conveyancers provide just as good services as their high-street equivalents for substantially lower fees. Consider taking this route, rather than simply going with whoever your estate agent recommends.

On average, selling your property via a high street estate agent could take 4 -5 months from start to finish. However, if there are complications along the way such as delays in your buyer securing suitable mortgage finance or your property chain failing, your sale could take a great deal longer.

Conveyancing, the legal process of transferring property ownership, usually takes about 8-12 weeks. This includes time for conducting property searches, resolving any legal issues, and preparing the necessary documents.

Property searches are a crucial part of the conveyancing process and typically take 2-6 weeks. However, this time can vary based on the type of search and the efficiency of the local authority or other bodies conducting the searches.

The process of buying and selling a house concurrently typically takes 4 to 6 months.

The process usually begins with securing a buyer for your current home. This crucial step helps you define your budget streamlining the subsequent buying process.

Once you have a buyer, the focus shifts to finding and securing a new property. This stage entails searching for a suitable home and negotiating the terms of purchase.

The final phase is the conveyancing process for both transactions. It includes handling legal checks, finalising contracts, and the crucial step of completing the sale. Completion marks the official transfer of ownership and funds, signalling the end of your sale and the beginning of life in your new home.

The avearge time from you having accepted an offer to your property sale completing is 12 weeks.

Provided you are able to find a very motivated buyer, selling a house with no chain typically takes just 2-3 months. However, this will only work if your buyer is able to buy without a mortgage or arrange their fianances quickly.

Yes, a property that remains on the market for an extended period may be seen as less desirable, leading potential buyers to wonder if there are underlying issues. It could indicate problems with the property or suggest it’s overpriced. If this is the case, it may eventually secure a lower price than it would have if it was reasonably priced to begin with.

Legally, a house is considered sold once the completion stage is reached. This is when the transaction is finalised, funds are transferred, and the new owner takes possession of the property.

This term indicates that an offer on a property has been accepted by the seller, but the legal process of transferring ownership (conveyancing) is not yet complete. It’s a crucial stage where the sale is agreed upon in principle, but not legally binding until contracts are exchanged. This means the sale could still fall through due to various reasons, such as issues found during property searches or a breakdown in the property chain.

No you do not pay stamp duty in the UK when you sell a house provided it is your principal place of home.

This is a question only you can decide and should be based on just how important it is to sell today. Bear in mind that housing markets do run ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ and so you may get a better price and faster sale in a hot market where there is plenty of buyer demand.

Once you have accepted an offer on your property it typically takes 12 weeks to complete the sale.

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