How long does a house sale take

Last updated: May 2024 | 3 min read

Wondering about the timeframe for completing the sale of your house? This article discusses the stages of property transactions in the UK housing market, common reasons for delays, and ways to mitigate them. It also provides helpful tips for accelerating the process.

On average, a house sale in the UK currently takes six months.

According to most predictions by property experts, house prices will continue to fall in 2024.

This means there are many more homes up for sale, but in the UK, there is also a dearth of good housing options, therefore, the market can be unpredictable.

In this piece we will uncover market trends in the buying and selling process equipping you with the knowledge required for selling your house with ease.

Discover the factors that can accelerate or prolong your house-selling journey. Learn why house sales might fall through and find some useful tips for selling your property.

Deciphering the UK housing market

The UK property market remains in constant flux, adjusting to various external factors.

Current trends and their impact on house sales

According to the majority of data available, it would be advisable to hold off on your house sale in 2024.

House sales in the UK often fluctuate, swayed by national economic health, legislation changes, and buyer behaviour. One mortgage company's data might show an uptick in activity, while Homeowners Alliance groups might share anecdotes of slower markets.

Estate agents play a big role, with their fingers on the pulse of regional trends.

Experienced house sellers can vouch that while the average time for a house sale might hover around a specific number, the real duration can vary.

Events such as Brexit or the COVID-19 pandemic certainly left their mark.

Today's market, however, seems to thrive on technology, with virtual house viewings becoming commonplace, and online portals facilitating smoother interactions between buyer's solicitor and seller's solicitor. Online auctions might offer sellers a speedy way forward.

Hot markets vs. cold markets

A hot market ignites a flurry of activity. Properties in such a climate tend to sell quicker, often because potential buyers outnumber available homes.

A seller's market typically denotes a hot market, where demand outpaces supply. With multiple offers on the table, homeowners might even witness bidding wars, pushing the property sale above the asking price.

A cold market or a buyer's market signals a slower sales process. In these climates, similar properties might linger on the market indefinitely.

Sellers might find themselves reducing their asking price or even withdrawing their property listing temporarily, waiting for a time when the market improves.

In a cold market, doing your research becomes invaluable.

Observe neighbouring properties and local amenities, while also gauging how long similar homes stay listed.

The disparity between hot and cold markets emphasises the many factors influencing how long a house sale takes in the UK.

Stages in the house-selling process

Initial preparations and setting the right asking price

To start, knowing the true value of your property sets the foundation for any house sale.

Estate agents, equipped with their expertise in the property market, typically assist sellers in determining this.

Factors like the location of your house, recent sale prices of other properties in your neighbourhood, and the current condition of your property are all considered.

Moreover, engaging with multiple estate agents can offer a broader perspective and a more balanced estimate.

Ensuring an optimal listing price

Establishing the right asking price isn't merely about maximising profits. An overpriced listing could repel potential buyers, while under pricing might result in a loss.

Using recent sale data in your area can give you an indication of what buyers are willing to pay.

It's advisable to be cautious of "valuation inflation" where estate agents might inflate the value to win your business.

Seeking advice from different agents and potentially a chartered surveyor ensures an accurate and competitive price.

From listing to receiving offers

Once your house hits the open market, it's a waiting game. The average time to receive an offer can vary. While some houses might spark interest on the same day, others might require patience. Several factors play into this:

  • Market conditions: a seller's market, characterised by fewer buyers and high demand, can speed up the buying process. Conversely, when it's a buyer's market with more houses than buyers, it could take longer.

  • Property appeal: a well-presented, attractive property generally receives offers faster. But remember, even properties that aren't "perfect" find buyers, it might just require more time.

  • Pricing: as previously mentioned, a reasonably priced house often generates interest faster than one perceived as overpriced.

Exchange of contracts to completion date

Upon accepting an offer, the conveyancing process starts. This involves both the buyer's and seller's solicitors in preparing and exchanging legal documents to transfer ownership.

Before contracts can be exchanged, searches are conducted, and the buyer's mortgage agreement (if applicable) needs approval.

The time between an accepted offer and the exchange of contracts varies. Typically, with no property chain and a pre-approved mortgage, it's faster. However, if there are delays with mortgage applications or the property chain, this stage can extend.

After contracts are exchanged, a completion date is set. This is the day the buyer gets the keys, and the sale is finalised. Typically, this takes nearly a week after the exchange. However, for cash buyers, it can happen on the same day.

Speed bumps in the house sales journey

The house sales journey isn't always smooth sailing. Various obstacles can slow the conveyancing process, making it essential for sellers to be aware and prepared.

Delays due to property chains and how to mitigate them

Property chains form when multiple property sales and purchases are interdependent. For instance, if a buyer waits for their house sale to complete before purchasing a new one, a chain forms. One break can cause a domino effect, stalling several transactions.

Sellers can mitigate these delays by seeking buyers not part of lengthy chains, such as first-time buyers.

When mortgage applications become a hindrance

Mortgage applications are a major part of many property purchases. But sometimes, they throw a wrench in the works.

Mortgage application rejected: next steps

One mortgage company might reject a buyer's application, but that doesn't signal the end. Buyers should consider reapplying with a different lender or seeking professional advice to understand the rejection.

Sellers can protect themselves by verifying the financial credentials of potential buyers before accepting offers.

Challenges faced with leasehold vs. freehold properties

In the UK, properties come as leasehold or freehold. Leasehold properties often involve additional layers of bureaucracy, such as seeking permission from the freeholder for specific changes. This can lengthen the time it takes to sell compared to a freehold property.

Maximising your chances for a swift sale

Achieving a successful sale swiftly requires more than luck. It's a combination of diligent preparation, marketing, and choosing the right partners.

How a good estate agent makes a difference

Estate agents wield significant influence over how quickly you sell your house. A knowledgeable agent understands the property market nuances and uses this insight to position your property appealingly. They can also help in weeding out dragging unsuitable buyers, streamlining the process.

Preparing your property: more than just aesthetics

A well-presented property might catch an eye, but documentation seals the deal. Sellers must go beyond surface appeal to ensure all legal and procedural aspects are in order.

Ensuring all the necessary documents are in order

A clutter-free property attracts, but so does a clean paper trail.

Sellers should organise all necessary documents, from property deeds to energy performance certificates, ensuring no hiccups during the conveyancing process.

Attracting the right potential buyers

Not all viewers are buyers. Some might be unsuitable buyers, lacking serious intent or the means to purchase.

To attract genuine interest, consider the house's unique selling points and highlight them in listings.

Effective marketing strategies for your property

Selling a house fast in a competitive property market requires an edge, and effective marketing offers just that.

Online listings vs. traditional advertising

The digital age favours online listings, catering to tech-savvy individuals. Such platforms offer broad reach, detailed analytics, and real-time updates.

Traditional advertising, such as open houses or newspaper ads, appeals to a different demographic, offering tactile engagement. Balancing both strategies can yield optimal results.

Alternative avenues for selling your property

Estate agents, while common, aren't the only route to selling your home in the UK. Let's look at some alternative strategies.

Selling through house buyers

House buyers, companies that purchase properties directly, offer an alternative to traditional methods. Engaging with a house buyer can streamline the process, often bypassing some standard steps in a sale. The typical steps include:

  1. Initial assessment: the house buyer assesses your property's condition and location.

  2. Offer generation: a preliminary offer, generally below market value, is presented.

  3. House inspection: a more thorough property inspection is scheduled to confirm details.

  4. Final offer: post-inspection, a final offer is made.

  5. Completion: if you accept, the sale is finalised, often within a shorter period than with traditional routes.

House buyers can be a fit for those who want to sell quickly, but remember this route often means selling below market value.

Considering auctions for a quick sale

Auctions represent a distinct path for house sales. At an auction, potential buyers bid on your property, and the highest bidder becomes the new owner. Here's a brief overview:

  1. Auctioneer selection: just as with estate agents, you'll want to choose a reputable auctioneer.

  2. Property evaluation: the auctioneer provides a guide price, which indicates the expected selling range.

  3. Listing and marketing: the property is listed in an auction catalogue and promoted.

  4. Auction day: buyers place their bids, and if the reserve price is met or exceeded, the property is sold.

Auctions can lead to a quick sale, but there's no guarantee your property will meet the reserve price.

Benefits and challenges of selling with estate agents

Estate agents bring expertise to the table, but there are both upsides and downsides to using their services.


  • Market knowledge: they provide pricing insights based on current market trends.

  • Marketing prowess: with networks and advertising resources, they can promote properties to a broad audience.

  • Negotiation skills: they handle offer negotiations, striving to get the best price.


  • Fees: estate agents charge a commission, typically a percentage of the sale price.

  • Time: depending on the market, selling through an estate agent can take longer than alternatives like auctions or house buyers.

While estate agents remain popular, understanding the full range of options allows you to make an informed choice tailored to your needs.

Real-world examples

Cash buyer scenarios: how they expedite the process

Cash buyers bring a fresh wave of convenience to the house sale. Sellers who've been fortunate to encounter them highlight a significant reduction in the average time it takes to sell a house. With cash buyers, the tedious process of mortgage approval becomes redundant.

One seller recollected finalising a house sale in as little as two weeks when a cash buyer showed interest.

However, it's worth noting that while cash buyers speed up the sale, the offered price might sometimes be below the market value.

Overpriced properties: tales of prolonged market listings

A house that sits too long on the market often carries risks.

Sellers who've priced their properties ambitiously share stories of long waiting periods without an acceptable offer.

In one instance, a house remained on the market for a year before the seller reconsidered the price. It's a stark reminder: pricing a property correctly from the outset can be the difference between a swift sale and months, or even years, of waiting.

Success stories: strategies that led to swift sales

Every house sale carries its unique story. A seller from Birmingham shared how renovating the kitchen led to a successful sale within a month. Another seller highlighted the effectiveness of staging their home and professional photography, securing an offer within just two weeks.

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution, the consistent thread in these tales is the willingness to adapt and take actionable steps to make the property more appealing to potential buyers.

Final thoughts: strategising your house sale for success

Being a prepared buyer in a seller's market

For those of you looking to buy, preparation is the ally you need in a seller's market. With properties selling swiftly, having all necessary documentation in order and being ready to make a quick decision can place you a step ahead.

Remember, in a seller's market, the competition isn't just among those selling but also among buyers. Being organised, proactive, and decisive will increase your chances of securing that dream home before someone else does.

Tailoring your approach based on market conditions

Paying close attention to market conditions can be the key to a successful house sale. If it's a buyer's market, focusing on your property's unique features and ensuring it stands out can make a difference.

Conversely, in a seller's market, knowing that buyers might be in abundance can give you an edge in negotiations. Regardless of the conditions, aligning your strategy with the pulse of the market can guide your house sale towards a favourable outcome.

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