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How long does it take to get a mortgage?

Planning to buy a property or remortgage the one you have? This guide looks at how long each stage of a mortgage application typically takes, and what you may be able to do to help speed up the process.
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How long does it take to get a mortgage?

What does this mean for your mortgage options?

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The good news is it can take as few as 14 days to get a mortgage approved – Of course, this depends on everything running smoothly and the average timescale is between two and six weeks. A remortgage can be much quicker, and in some cases may be completed in as little as 24 hours.

The major stages of the process are as follows, and we will take a detailed look at each of them below:

Mortgage application timeline

StepTaskTime
1Get a mortgage in principle1-3 days
2Find a property1-3 months
3Apply for a mortgage3-6 hours
4Wait for your mortgage valuation1-2 weeks
5Receive your mortgage offer2-20 days
6Exchange contracts1-2 months
7Complete0-4 weeks

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Mortgage agreement in principle

Having an agreement in principle (AIP), sometimes referred to as a decision in principle (DIP) is not an essential, but a highly recommended stage of the home buying process. It is usually valid for 2 to 3 months. You can apply for a mortgage without one, but as a first time buyer in particular, it can help you look like a serious buyer. In fact, some estate agents won’t even arrange an appointment to view a property if you don’t have one.

They are also very helpful in determining how much you have to spend on a home, as they outline a provisional offer of what the lender will be happy to loan you, assuming your full application goes through without any issue. 

How long does it take to get a mortgage agreement in principle?

An agreement in principle can be sorted in under an hour, but this can be a little longer if you don’t have the necessary paperwork ready, or any issues are highlighted.

Once you have the agreement in principle it will typically remain valid for 30 to 90 days, depending on the lender. This is the time-frame in which you will need to view properties and have an offer accepted on your chosen home. 

What documents will I need for an agreement in principle?

When you apply, you will be asked how much you would like to borrow and to detail your income and outgoings. You will also need to supply the following original documents:

  • Three to six months’ worth of bank statements

  • Payslips for the last three months (if employed)

  • Tax calculations for 12-36 months, depending on the lender (if self-employed)

  • Photo ID such as a passport or driving licence

The lender will then ask a credit reference agency to check that the information you have given matches what is on your credit file. At this stage only a “soft search” will be carried out, which means that no marks will be left on your credit file.  

If you know your credit history is poor, or you have no credit history at all (because you have never borrowed money or taken out a credit card), it is worth spending time to improve this before applying for a mortgage. 

You could also consider speaking to a whole-of-market mortgage broker, who will know the individual criteria of different lenders and recommend those most likely to approve you for a mortgage.

Mortgage application process

Once you’ve had an offer accepted on a house, it’s time to make your full mortgage application. This doesn’t have to be with the same lender that you have an agreement in principle with, if you’ve found a better deal elsewhere, as the AIP is in no way binding. 

However, it can be quicker and easier to pick up the process from where you left off with the lender who provided you with an AIP, as the preliminary steps have already been taken.

How long does it take to complete a mortgage application?

Applications will vary from one lender to the next, but the average length of time to complete one is around three and six hours. It will also be quicker if you’re applying as a continuation of your agreement in principle. 

What documents do I need to apply for a mortgage?

In addition to the documentation supplied for your AIP, you should you also have the following available:

  • Three to six months’ worth of utility and council tax bills

  • A P60 form from your employer

  • Proof of earnings for last three years – self-employed people can provide business accounts

  • Address and estate agent details for the property you wish to buy 

  • Details of your outgoings, including insurance policies, childcare, travel and entertainment costs

  • Proof of any benefits you receive

  • Credit card and personal loan statements – these can also double-up as an additional proof of address

Supplying original documents will often speed up the process – copies may not be accepted or may need to be verified by your bank or solicitor. That said, many brokers now use an entirely electronic submission process. Either way, if you have everything the lender needs, the application process is likely to take just a few hours.

What happens after the mortgage application is submitted?

Once submitted, your lender will review your application and supporting documents. At this point, the lender will carry out a thorough or “hard search” of your credit record. Unlike the “soft search” carried out for an AIP, this credit search will be recorded on your credit file. 

The lender’s underwriters will look at how much you are currently borrowing, and how reliable you have been at repaying your financial obligations in the past. 

A valuation survey of the property you wish to buy will also be arranged and you should be asked to supply your solicitor’s details. 

Valuation and offer

The valuation survey is usually carried out by an independent surveyor appointed by the mortgage provider. They visit the property, carry out a series of structural stability checks, and study the housing market to ensure that the asking price equates to the amount you are trying to borrow. 

Most surveyors will complete their report within 24 hours, and the underwriter will then review this to make a final decision on the property value. If you’ve offered more than the surveyor believes the property is worth, this could hold up the process. The lender could deny your application or ask you to pay a higher deposit or higher interest rate. 

How long does it take between a mortgage valuation and an offer?

It will typically take up to 14 days from application for the mortgage lender to complete the relevant checks and acquire the valuation report. At this point they will look at making a formal offer of a mortgage.

You can expect to wait up to another two weeks to receive this offer, so from application to offer is typically two to four weeks, although it can be quicker than this, or take a little longer, depending on the complexity of your application. 

Exchange of contracts

Exchanging contracts is where you swap signed contracts with your seller and pay your deposit – making the sale of the property legally binding. Once your mortgage offer has been formally extended, you will typically be ready to exchange contracts after around two months. 

This can be much longer if you join a chain of other buyers who are also buying and selling properties, however, as the progress of their sales and purchases will have a knock-on effect on your timeline.The longer the chain of properties, the more problems there can be and the slower the process becomes. Everyone in the chain has a responsibility to stay in close contact with their solicitor to ensure they have everything they need, and questions are resolved promptly, as this will avoid further delays. 

Completion

As the name suggests, the final stage of the mortgage application process is completion. Once you have exchanged contracts, your solicitor will organise the completion date with the seller’s solicitor. As this needs to be coordinated with the other people in the chain, it can be hard to speed up this part of the process.

The completion date is the day that you take ownership of the property. You won’t necessarily have to move in immediately, but this is the date that you will get the keys and become responsible for the upkeep of the property and the payment of any bills. 

How long does it take to complete?

Completion is typically a single day event, and you can expect it to take place between seven and 28 days after you’ve exchanged contracts – although it is typically set for two weeks after the exchange date. This gives you time to pack, book a removal company and prepare for the move. 

While Friday is a popular completion day, financial hold-ups can leave you stuck through the weekend while you wait for the banks to reopen on Monday. It is, therefore, worth choosing to complete the sale on a Monday or Tuesday, as this way you have the opportunity to resolve any issues before the close of the week.

How long does a mortgage offer last?

A standard mortgage offer is valid for six months, which should be ample time to cover the buying process from start to finish. Some lenders start the clock from when the offer was first made, while others use the application date, so it is worth checking this with your lender.

Some lenders apply a completion deadline rather than an offer period. This means that once the deadline has passed, they may wish to re-examine your circumstances, or in the worst case scenario, reapply. You can request an extension of the offer if needed, but you might not get more than a week, and any agreement depends on the lender’s internal policies. 

Remortgage offers are usually only valid for three months as the property does not need to be purchased, so the process is much shorter.

What factors affect the time the mortgage process takes?

There are a number of factors that can affect the progression of a mortgage application. Some of these are within the buyers control, and some, unfortunately, aren’t. This could include:

  • Bad credit - if you have a poor credit history it can take longer to process your application. That said, the biggest delays will occur when there is a surprise in this area. If you are concerned about your credit file, it’s always best to inform the broker or lender from the outset, that way they will not uncover any unexpected problems that could hold things up.

  • Incorrect addresses - Something that can affect both your credit rating and your ID verification is not appearing on the electoral roll at your existing address. This also applies to bills, bank statements and any driving licence that may be used to support your application, the addresses must be correct

  • Incorrect personal information - If you've recently married or changed your name or identity status, make sure all of your new documents reflect your current name and gender identity. It’s also important that your date of birth is accurate, whilst this won’t be subject to change, errors do occur

  • Not having the required documentation - if you haven’t supplied everything that the lender needs there will be delays whilst the request the missing information and you provide it

  • Issues with the property - This is less within your control, but any issues that the surveyor finds during their valuation or that are found during conveyancing will need to be resolved before the application can progress any further. The best thing you can do to aid this is to stay available to your solicitor/broker/estate agent etc

  • Delays in the chain - again a difficult one to prevent, as other members of the chain may be struggling to sell their home or have an offer accepted on a new one. If everyone in the chain is as responsive as possible, delays can be minimised, but not really prevented 

How can you speed up the mortgage application timeline?

One of the best ways to avoid delays in the mortgage process is to go into it as prepared as possible. Bear the potential delays above in mind and think about how you could prevent them. For example, assessing and improving your credit status, collating the documents mentioned above and ensuring your supporting documents are all accurate and up to date will all help.

Be available to and keep in touch with your solicitor and mortgage provider to ensure they keep you in the loop with any queries or issues that may cause delays. Also ensure you return requests for additional information, forms and documents in a timely manner.

How a mortgage broker can speed up the mortgage application process

Using a mortgage broker can help to speed up the process for you, as they have more time to focus on liaison with the mortgage lender, solicitor and other key players involved with buying your home. It can be difficult to fit this around a full time job and family commitments, whereas this is what they do on a daily basis. 

At application stage, they can also save delays in having your agreement in principle and application approved, as they will immediately know what each lender requires and whether or not you are likely to fit their criteria. This can prevent false starts where you apply with a lender that will end up turning you down. 

Buying an empty property

The major part of the home buying process that you have less control over is the chain. To avoid delays, you could therefore look for an empty property, which is chain free or very short. 

Owners of unoccupied properties are typically keen for a quick sale, so this can be a helpful way to speed up the process. Obviously this is not a factor that should hold too much weight in choosing your dream home, as some places are simply worth the wait, but it’s something to keep in mind if you see empty property listings.

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