How long does it take to get a mortgage offer?

The process takes typically around 14-40 days but will depend on the complexity of your application. There are steps you can take to speed up the process.

The amount of time you’ll wait can vary depending on:

  • The complexity of your application.
  • How quickly your solicitor acts.
  • How quickly you respond to your solicitor’s and mortgage lender’s requests.
  • The applications of other people in your property chain.

A good solicitor will keep you informed about the process of approving and completing your mortgage, but it can be useful to stay on top of them to ensure they’re moving things along in a timely manner.

Developing a communicative relationship with the seller, and the buyers of your existing property, can also prove useful.

What is a property chain and how can it delay your application?

A “property chain” describes the line of homeowners all buying and selling property from one another. If one transaction in the chain is delayed or falls through, the whole chain could do the same.

If you can buy from a seller who has no chain ahead of them (perhaps because they’re moving into a property they already own), this can increase your odds of a smooth purchase. It can also prove simpler if you’re not selling a property or you’re selling to a first-time buyer (who therefore has no chain behind them).

The key stages of a mortgage application and how long they could take

There are several stages of a mortgage application, each of which can vary wildly in length, because there is potential for delays (or for the whole process to be derailed) at each point.

The stages after you’ve submitted your mortgage application won’t require any work on your behalf, although third parties may get in touch for extra information.

  • Obtaining a mortgage in principle. A mortgage in principle is a conditional agreement from a mortgage lender to lend you a specific amount of money. In order to obtain one, you’ll need to supply some basic personal and financial details, as well as being put through a credit check. If your application is successful, you can expect to receive a mortgage in principle on the same day you apply for it.
  • A full mortgage application. Once you’ve had a bid accepted on a property, you can make a full mortgage application. This will require more detailed questioning about your financial circumstances.
  • The underwriting process. Upon receiving your application, the mortgage lender’s underwriting team will assess your finances in great detail. Your income, debts, savings and credit history will all come under scrutiny. The property will also undergo a valuation survey. These processes can take anything from a few days to a few weeks to complete, upon which you’ll receive a mortgage offer which typically remains valid for three to six months.
  • Exchanging contracts. Next, your conveyancer will work with the seller’s conveyancer to draft and exchange contracts. This will include an agreement of the moving day and a list of fixtures and fittings included in the price of the property. You and the seller can still pull out of the sale at this time, which makes this a nerve-wracking part of the process. It can be completed within a couple of weeks, but there are often bumps in the road causing delays.
  • Completion. Once you’ve exchanged contracts, neither party can pull out of the deal without being subjected to serious financial ramifications. The final step is completion, which involves the transfer of funds from buyer to seller, obtaining the keys to your new home and moving in. Completion day will always fall on a weekday, usually around 7 to 28 days after contracts are exchanged. This gives all parties in your property chain time to exchange contracts and make moving arrangements. Only once the money exchange has been confirmed will you be given the all-clear to move in.

House purchase delays and how to avoid them

Here are some of the most common reasons that a house purchase can be delayed or derailed. If these situations occur anywhere in your chain, it affects the moving process for everyone.

  • A change in personal circumstances. If someone in the chain falls ill, falls out with a co-buyer, loses their job or dies, the whole chain could collapse.
  • Missing paperwork. As unprofessional as it sounds, this happens. All you can do to prevent it is submit all paperwork in a timely manner.
  • Survey problems. All properties in the chain will be subjected to a valuation survey and buildings survey. The former ensures a property has been valued correctly, while the latter checks for structural issues. If problems are discovered in either of these, you may feel the need to renegotiate the selling price. However, in some cases, the buyer will pull out of the sale or the lender won’t accept the property as collateral for a mortgage, potentially causing your chain to collapse.
  • Gazumping. Gazumping describes the seller changing their mind about an accepted offer in order to accept a higher offer from someone else. This is completely legal at any point before the exchanging of contracts (except in Scotland where the laws are different). The best way to avoid being gazumped is to tell the estate agent that your offer is subject to the property being taken off the market. You could also ask them to change the online listing and “for sale” board to say “under offer”.
  • Money transfer errors. Administrative errors on completion day can be highly stressful, as all your belongings are likely to be packed in boxes. If you’re moving on a Monday to Thursday, this typically only delays proceedings by a day, but it’s best to have a contingency plan in case this happens.

How long is a mortgage offer valid for?

Typically, a mortgage offer will be valid for between two and six months, depending on the lender. A re-mortgage offer will usually be valid for a shorter period of time – this is mainly because a purchase would take longer from application to completion. It’s worth knowing that some lenders will have a deadline rather than a time limit, and if you go past that deadline then your application will have to be re-assessed.

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