There are a number of key stages involved with buying a house. Many things need to happen before the property is yours. Let’s take a look at the average mortgage offer to completion timescale, and what you can do to give you the best chance of hitting each milestone.
How long after the mortgage offer to completion?
Truthfully, the answer to this depends on a number of factors, from communication to property chains. Some things will be outside of your control, but ensure you do your bit to reduce the risk of delays, including being responsive and making sure your solicitor is being proactive.
However, completion typically takes place 1-3 months after you receive your mortgage offer. It can be as quick as 5 working days, but this is unlikely.
What is a mortgage offer?
A mortgage offer is when your loan is officially accepted and the lender has confirmed they’re happy to give you the money you need to buy the property. It will take place after they’ve carried out their mortgage valuation.
Note: a mortgage agreement in principle is not a confirmation.
Your mortgage offer should outline exactly how much a lender is willing to let you borrow, and if there are any conditions attached, such as paying off any other loans first (e.g. credit cards). Your solicitor will be the main point of contact for your mortgage lender.
What needs to happen from mortgage offer to completion?
If you’re happy with your mortgage offer and have accepted it, what next?
- Your solicitor agrees a date to exchange contracts (the point at which a sale becomes legally binding)
- Exchange signed contracts
- Agree a completion date
Most of this will be handled by your solicitor as a key part of the conveyancing process.
What happens at some of the key stages between exchange and completion?
Exchange of contracts
In England and Wales, exchange is the point at which a sale becomes legally binding. Up until this point, either party can back out. In Scotland, this point in the process is known as a ‘missive.’
Many things happen at this time, including:
- Swapping signed contracts
- Paying the deposit
- Paying stamp duty
- Transfer of deeds
- Registering new ownership with the Land Registry
Take out home insurance from the moment you exchange contracts; you become legally responsible for the property at this point! This is usually a requirement from your mortgage lender.
It can take around 2 months to exchange contracts, but this can be faster or slower depending on how proactive both solicitors are.
Completion normally takes place 1-3 months after you receive your mortgage offer. Again, this can vary depending on whether you’re part of a chain, and how fast your solicitor is. ‘Completion day’ is often the day you can pick up the keys and move in.
A lot needs to happen before then, which is why having a pre-moving checklist is handy, including:
- Notifying your change of address (e.g. bank)
- Mail redirection
- Registering to vote
- Booking a removals company
Why might a mortgage offer be refused?
Even if you secure a decision in principle, your mortgage may be declined. This will be down to the mortgage broker, and could be for many reasons, such as:
- Findings uncovered during their valuation survey
- Changes to your circumstances (e.g. job)
- The property is losing value
- Changes to your mortgage application
A mortgage offer can also be withdrawn, again for the reasons mentioned above.
However, it’s rare for a lender to reassess finances after making the final offer. But, to provide extra security, try to complete on your purchase as soon as possible after exchanging contracts. That way, you reduce the risk of being legally obliged to buy a house – with no way of paying for it.
What happens if your mortgage offer expires before completion?
Most mortgage offers last between 3-6 months. While you should have completed within this timeframe, there is a chance it could expire before you buy the property.
If that happens, you may need to apply for a mortgage again. However, contact your lender and let them know if you’re unlikely to meet the deadline, they might be understanding and give you an extension.
An offer extension could involve:
- Extending the offer as it stands currently
- Extending your mortgage deal
- Delaying the start of your mortgage deal
Can you increase your mortgage offer?
If the seller changes the purchase price before signed contracts are exchanged, for example due to changing conditions in the market, you might be able to secure a higher mortgage. However, there are no guarantees. Gazumping is frowned upon in the property world, but it doesn’t stop it happening.
Remember, it’s your choice to decide whether to go ahead with the property purchase. Speak to your solicitor for advice should you find yourself in this situation.
If you did manage to secure a new mortgage deal, it could mean less favourable interest rates, so always check thoroughly before signing up to anything. Buying a home can be complicated – but don’t be pressured into paying more than a property is worth.
Why can completion be delayed?
In some cases, delaying completion can be beneficial for both buyer and seller. However, dragging out the process for longer than is necessary can be risky.
Completion may take longer because:
- You don’t have immediate access to deposit money
- You don’t have immediate access to money needed to pay Stamp Duty (first-time buyers don’t pay anything on the first £300,000)
- A break in the property chain (e.g. the seller’s onward purchase falls through)
How to speed things up
Some delays can’t be avoided, but you can do your bit to ensure the process doesn’t drag out necessarily:
- Know the name and contact details of everyone in the chain
- Be responsive and communicative
- Work closely with your solicitor
- Build a good relationship with the seller
- Get organised and prepared in advance
Need help finding a solicitor?
You should instruct a solicitor as early in the process as possible so the moment your offer is accepted by the seller you are able to proceed promptly. Still haven’t found one? We can connect you with a member of our approved panel, all who work on a ‘no sale, no fee’ basis. Get a conveyancing quote below.
Last Updated: October 7th, 2021