It's possible to get a mortgage approved in 14 days – Of course, this depends on everything running smoothly, the average timescale is between two and six weeks. In this guide we look at how long each stage of a mortgage application takes, and how to speed up the process.
A remortgage can be much quicker, and in some cases may be completed in as little as 24 hours.
The major stages of the mortgage application process are as follows, and we will take a detailed look at each of them below:
|1||Get a mortgage in principle||1-3 days|
|2||Find a property||1-3 months|
|3||Apply for a mortgage||3-6 hours|
|4||Wait for your mortgage valuation||1-2 weeks|
|5||Receive your mortgage offer||2-20 days|
|6||Exchange contracts||1-2 months|
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. You can apply for a mortgage without one, but especially as a first time buyer it can help you appear as 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 show what the lender will be happy to lend you, assuming your full mortgage application goes through without any issues.
An agreement in principle can be prepared in less than an hour, but this can take 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'll need to view properties and have an offer accepted on your chosen home.
You'll be asked how much you need to borrow and what your income and outgoings are. You'll 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've given matches 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've never borrowed money), it's worth spending time to improve this before applying for a mortgage.
You could also consider speaking to a whole-of-market mortgage broker, as they know the individual criteria of different lenders, so can recommend those most likely to approve you for a mortgage.
Once you’ve found a property and had an offer accepted, 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, as it isn't binding.
Applications vary from one lender to the next, but the average length of time to complete the actual form is around three to six hours.
It will be quicker if you’re applying as a continuation of your agreement in principle than if you start again with a new lender. It can also be quicker to complete a mortgage application through a broker, as they can do the paperwork on your behalf.
In addition to the documentation needed for the mortgage agreement in principle, you'll also need:
Three to six months’ worth of utility and council tax bills
A P60 form from your employer (If employed)
Proof of earnings for the 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 or additional income that 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.
Once submitted, your lender will review your application and supporting documents. They will carry out a thorough or “hard search” of your credit record, which will be recorded on your credit file.
The lender’s underwriters will look at how much you're currently borrowing, and how reliably you've been repaid financial obligations in the past. A valuation survey of the property you wish to buy will be arranged and you should be asked to supply your solicitor’s details.
The valuation survey is usually carried out by an independent surveyor appointed by the mortgage provider. They carry out a series of structural stability checks, and study the housing market to ensure your chosen property is worth the value of your mortgage loan.
Most surveyors complete their report within 24 hours, and then the underwriter reviews it alongside the other supporting information to make a final decision on the property value.
If you’ve offered more than the surveyor believes the property is worth, there could be delays. The lender could deny your application or ask you to pay a higher deposit or higher interest rate to compensate the discrepancy in price.
It will typically take up to 14 days from submission of your mortgage application to get a mortgage approved. You should expect to wait up to another two weeks to receive the lenders formal mortgage offer.
So from application to offer is typically two to four weeks. It can be quicker or take a little longer, depending on the complexity of your application.
Exchanging contracts is where you swap signed contracts with the seller and pay your deposit – making the sale legally binding. You'll typically be ready to exchange contracts around two months after you received the lender's offer.
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 avoid further delays.
As the name suggests, the final stage of the mortgage application process is completion. Once you've 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 payment of any bills.
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.
A standard mortgage offer is valid for six months, but not all lenders use time validity in the same way, so check out our guide, mortgage offers explained, to find out more.
Remortgage offers are usually only valid for three months as the property does not need to be purchased, so the process is much shorter.
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're concerned about your credit file, it’s always best to inform the broker or lender from the outset, that way they won't 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, all addresses must be correct and current
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 the lender needs there will be delays whilst they 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, this 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
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:
Assess and improving your credit status
Collate the documents mentioned
Ensure all of your supporting documents are accurate and up to date
Be available to and keep in touch with your solicitor and mortgage provider
Return requests for additional information, forms and documents in a timely manner
Using a mortgage broker can help to speed up the process, 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 immediately know what each lender requires and whether or not you're likely to fit their criteria. This can prevent false starts where you apply with a lender that will end up turning you down.
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. 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.
A remortgage is generally much quicker than a mortgage, as there is no exchange of property involved. It's possible to do a product transfer, which is a remortgage with your existing lender, in as little as 24 hours.
If you remortgage and switch lenders it can take a bit longer, but will usually be sorted within four to eight weeks.
It depends whether you opt for a minimum valuation, as required by the lender, or you pay for a full buildings survey to be carried out at the same time. The lender typically uses an independent surveyor for the valuation, but you have the option to order a full survey separately if you don't want to use the lender's.
Typically the valuation process takes around 2 weeks to complete, but this could be longer if any issues or picked up on, or shorter if you choose a standard mortgage valuation rather than the full report. Keep in mind that a full buildings survey can help you avoid expensive mistakes further into your home ownership.