How long does it take to sell a house?  

Sold prices in Forest Hill, for example, are up by 15% on the previous year and 9% on the 2017 peak of £545,838, according to the property portal Rightmove. If you reckon it’s the right time to move on, but are wondering how long it will take to sell your house, we look at the things you need to consider. 

After a frantic year of home buying, the housing market seems to be settling down. With the stamp duty holiday behind us, commentators are suggesting that, while prices won’t be falling anytime soon, things will stabilise. However, with a lack of supply in the market, buyers are definitely out there for the right homes. 

property for sale

When considering how long it takes to sell a house there are two timescales to think about – the length of time to find a buyer and how long the conveyancing process takes once a sale is agreed.   

  • The time it takes to get an acceptable offer on your property will vary based on location, condition, whether there’s a chain and how hot or cold the market is.   
  • The time it takes to get you to completion will be down to how proactive your conveyancer and estate agent are, how many people are in your chain and the level of demand in the system.  

There are things you can do to speed the process up – choosing your conveyancer carefully and being ready to answer all of their questions and even considering going into rented accommodation when you find a buyer to make you a more appealing seller. 

To help you understand the process better, we answer some of the questions we’re most frequently asked about how long homes take to sell in the UK. 

How long will my house stay on the market?

The average time it takes to find a buyer is usually quoted as between five weeks and 14 weeks. Over the past year, as demand increased, this average fell with many reports of homes selling in days.  

How long will it take to sell my house after an offer is accepted?

In normal circumstances the average time to sell a house, from accepting an offer to exchange of contracts, is 65 days – or just over two months. However, the pressure on the system due to the stamp duty holiday, coupled with coronavirus restrictions on banks and conveyancers stretched this to up to five months during 2020/21.  

How long does it take between exchange and completion?

Most buyers set a period of two weeks between exchange and completion. This time can be reduced if you really need a quick sale – or lengthened, which sometimes happens in long property chains to build in extra time in case issues occur.  

How long will it take to sell my house with no chain?

If you’re in the lucky position of having a buyer without a place to sell, and you’re not buying right now either, things will go considerably faster. The sale will move even more quickly if you have a cash buyer, who doesn’t need to arrange a mortgage.   

It should take no longer than 10 weeks to complete a sale to a first-time buyer with a mortgage. Where there is no chain, and you have a cash buyer, you should be looking at no more than eight weeks or even four weeks, if you have an experienced buyer and a good, proactive conveyancer. In some circumstances it can all happen in two weeks or less, but usually where professional property buying services are involved.  

What should I do if I need to sell my house quickly?

This will depend on how quickly you mean, the state of the market in your area is, and how desirable a prospect it is. If you absolutely need to sell in a few weeks, and there isn’t substantial demand for your type of property, you may need to look at property buying firms or going to auction.  

How else can I speed up a sale?

You can speed up the sale by choosing your estate agent wisely – don’t necessarily go for the cheapest or the one who values your home most highly. Make sure your home is priced competitively, and that it is staged to sell. Choose the right conveyancer too – shop around and read reviews. You need someone who will be very proactive.   

You will also need to be selective about offers. If speed is of the essence, go for chain free, or, ideally, cash buyers. You should also be very organised; keep in close contact with your conveyancer and be around – don’t book a holiday during the sale period.  

What could delay a house sale?

There are many factors, from a slow or overworked solicitor to overpricing, that can derail your sale and make it take longer. Some of these you can’t do much about, like a buyer pulling out somewhere in your chain. But there are things you can do to avoid others. These include choosing the right solicitor and estate agent and keeping in touch – calling them each week. Getting to know your buyer can help too. Make sure you have all the paperwork, such as guarantees and certificates, to hand before you get an offer and sign everything immediately. Instruct your conveyancer early on too. And if you are buying as well as selling, do your research and decide on your mortgage options as soon as you can.  

Will I get a quicker sale at certain times of year?

Traditionally, spring and early summer are considered the best times to sell, when more buyers are looking and you’re more likely to get interest in your property. Early autumn is regarded as a good time too, with summer holiday season (August) and Christmas usually seen as dead time when you’ll struggle to make a quick sale.   

The coronavirus pandemic has turned a lot of this conventional wisdom on its head.  Summer 2020 was very busy, thanks to the launch of the stamp duty holiday, as was December – when its deadline was in sight. With the best month to sell is less clearly defined than it used to be, the advice is to go to market when the time is right for you.  

How long do I need to live in a house before selling it?

There is no legal restriction on selling your house soon after buying it, but a few practical considerations. You will need to pay stamp duty on two house purchases for one – quite a steep tax bill. Buyers may wonder why the property is on the market again and suspect the worst. You may also struggle to get a new mortgage six or even 12 months after your previous one was granted.  

How quickly can I sell a leasehold property?

Leasehold properties can take longer because the transactions tend to be more complex and involve dealing with management companies. Help speed things up by instructing a conveyancer with experience of leasehold sales.