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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 tells you all about the stages of a mortgage application, including how long it takes to get a mortgage, the common pitfalls of the process and how to avoid them, and what you can do to speed it up.
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How long does it take to get a mortgage?

According to TwentyCi’s Property and Homemover Report, 1.45 million property sales were agreed in 2021. But once you’ve found the right property, how long does it take to get a mortgage?

The good news is it can take as few as 14 days to get a mortgage approved – and just 24 hours if you’re looking at a remortgage. Of course, this depends on everything running smoothly. Any hold-ups can significantly increase these timeframes, so it is worth preparing properly before starting the process.

You can think of a mortgage application as being split into two parts: the Agreement In Principle (AIP) and the mortgage application itself. While the AIP can take just a single day to complete, the mortgage application is likely to take a few weeks to be approved, as this involves credit checks and property valuations, which take time and can be prone to delays.

Covid-19

Indeed, one major hold-up we have experienced recently came as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Moneyfacts, lockdown in the UK had a significant impact on the time buyers had to wait to get a mortgage approved because of the difficulties involved in carrying out physical valuations of properties.

What’s more, many lenders have since tightened their lending criteria, meaning they want larger deposits for their mortgages, and some have even pulled mortgage products from the market due to the uncertainty, leaving customers with a more limited choice.

There are many stages to a mortgage application, and each one can be subject to delays. To proceed as quickly as possible, assemble all the documents you need before starting. This includes: 

  • Payslips

  • P60

  • Passport or driving licence

  • Bank statements

  • Self-assessment forms

  • Estate agent details

It’s also worth ensuring that you are on the electoral roll.

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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

Mortgage agreement in principle

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

According to Unbiased, an agreement in principle can be sorted in under an hour provided there are no problems. However, it can take up to three days if any issues are found. A typical reason for delays is the need to review paperwork. 

An AIP – also known as a decision in principle or mortgage in principle – is a certificate or statement from the lender specifying the maximum sum it would be willing to lend you in principle. 

While an AIP isn’t essential, it is advisable to get one because it shows you are a serious buyer. Some estate agents will also ask to see it before allowing you to view properties. 

How long does a mortgage in principle last?

While different lenders have their own timeframes, a standard AIP will generally last between 30 and 90 days.

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 return form SA302 (if self-employed)

  • Passport or driving licence with a photo

The lender will then ask a credit reference agency to check that the information you have given matches what is on your credit file. This is known as a “soft search”. 

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 the more likely ones to approve you for a mortgage.

Mortgage application process

How long does it take to complete a mortgage application?

After you have received an agreement in principle and found the property you wish to buy, you can put in your official mortgage application, which should take between three and six hours.

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

  • 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 speed up the process – printouts and copies may not be accepted or may need to be verified by your bank or solicitor.

Your lender may allow you to complete the application entirely online or over the phone. On the other hand, they may invite you into a branch to fill out your details with a mortgage adviser (this can save time as documents can be copied and verified straight away). If you have everything the lender needs, the application process is likely to take just a few hours (the more information you can supply, the faster it should be).

What happens after the mortgage application is submitted

Once submitted, your lender will review your application and supporting documents. All being well, it will then organise a valuation survey of the property you wish to buy. You are also likely to be asked to supply your solicitor’s details at this point. 

The valuation survey will usually be carried out by an independent surveyor appointed by the mortgage provider. They will visit the property, carry out a series of checks, and study the housing market to ensure that the asking price equates to the amount you are trying to borrow. The property can be surveyed quickly, but this step may be delayed if the chosen surveyor is busy.

If you’ve offered more than the surveyor believes the property is worth, the lender could deny your application or ask you to pay a higher deposit or a higher interest rate. This is because the lender could struggle to get its money back by selling the property if you fail to keep up with your mortgage payments. 

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 be looking at how much borrowing you already have, how reliable you have been in the past at repaying loans or credit cards, and essentially assessing the risk of you not being able to repay your potential mortgage loan.

Incidentally, if you should get turned down for a mortgage at this point, be sure to find out why so that you can address any issues. You may also wish to wait for a few months before applying for another mortgage, as making several mortgage applications in a short space of time can make you look desperate for a loan and could damage your credit score.

Valuation and offer

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

Normally it will take one to two weeks for the mortgage lender to send a formal offer. You could find the process is completed in only two days, assuming your documentation is well organised, the survey was completed quickly, and your credit score is good. But it can and can take four weeks or longer if the lender needs to chase you for missing information.

How long does it take to exchange mortgage contracts?

According to Lloyds Bank, you can normally exchange contracts two months after your mortgage is approved and your offer on a home is accepted. Exchanging contracts is where you swap signed contracts with your seller and pay your deposit – making the sale of the property legally binding. 

Exchanging contracts can happen very quickly – in just days – if you have a straightforward sale (such as buying a new build property) and no chain. But buying a property often means joining a chain of other people, many of whom are not only selling a property but buying one, too. And this is where the delays can begin.

If the person you are buying from has not yet found a property to buy, they may be unwilling to move forward (and so hold you up). And if they do have a property to buy but their seller experiences problems, this will hold you both up. The longer the chain of properties, the more problems there can be and the slower the process becomes. 

As the chain can only progress at the speed of the slowest link, every buyer and seller must do everything they can to avoid causing a delay for everyone else. This means keeping in very close contact with your solicitor to ensure they have everything they need, and answering questions and returning forms promptly.

How long does it take to complete?

Once you have exchanged contracts, your solicitor will organise the completion date with the seller’s solicitor, which will be between seven and 28 days later – although it is typically set two weeks after the exchange date. 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. Still, it 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 for a whole weekend while you wait for the banks to reopen on Monday. For this reason, it is worth choosing to complete the sale on a Monday or Tuesday so that you can tackle any problems straight away.

How long does a mortgage offer last?

Typically, a standard mortgage offer will be valid for six months, which should be ample time to cover the buying process from start to finish. Some 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.

Remortgage offers are usually valid for three months as the property does not need to be purchased. 

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. 

Some lenders apply a completion deadline rather than an offer period. This means that once the deadline has passed, the lender may wish to re-examine your circumstances, or you may be asked to undergo the whole process again. The lender may then amend your offer and alter the amount you can borrow if your circumstances have changed.

What factors affect the time the mortgage process takes?

A poor credit score will often result in a declined mortgage, so it is worth checking your credit files with the three main credit reference agencies beforehand to look for any potential problems. You can do this for free. 

Not being on the electoral roll, having an old (and thus invalid) address listed on your driving licence or not supplying original documentation can cause major hold-ups. Getting married can mean you have different surnames on your documentation, which can cause things to grind to a halt. The same is true if you have documentation in different names for other reasons, such as using an alias in your working life. 

Self-employed people can find getting a mortgage more complex and may wish to consider using a certified or chartered accountant to sign off their business accounts to speed things along.

How can you speed up the mortgage application timeline?

Addressing any of the problems above will significantly speed up your mortgage application timeline. Create a checklist and tick off each item as you address it. 

Once the property sale is proceeding, keep politely chivvying your solicitor and mortgage company to ensure they are dealing with any forms or questions that come in straight away. 

It can be easy to drop to the bottom of their lists when they have numerous clients, so a regular friendly email or phone call can remind them to keep things moving – which will not only help you but everyone else in your house-buying chain. 

And ensure you return requests for additional information, forms and documents in a timely manner so that you don’t cause a hold-up.

If you want to make taking out a mortgage as fast and as painless as possible, allocate some time to preparing properly before you begin, and keep things moving once you start. It can save you a lot of time in the long run.

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