1 November 2023

What are the lead times in the home buying process?

Here's a quick breakdown of how long each stage in the homebuying process normally takes.

As an eager first-time buyer, one question that's sure to be on your mind is "How long will the homebuying process take?"

Once you've made the decision to buy your first property, you'll no doubt be excited to get to house-hunting and find the home where you'll make treasured memories.

There are a few hurdles to clear before you start packing your moving boxes, though. First, you'll need to save up for a deposit, then find your dream home and, finally, dot your contractual i's and cross your legal t's.

There isn't a straightforward answer to the time needed for the entire process. But you can get an idea of how long it could take by looking at the timeframe for each stage of buying a home.

Stage 1: Calculate affordability and save for the deposit (1 to 4 years)

The first step when purchasing any big-ticket item is to work out what you're able to afford. In Ireland, you can borrow up to 4 times your annual income for a mortgage.

When you know what your budget is, you can start saving for your deposit and the other expenses – like legal fees, home insurance, and stamp duty – that come with buying a home.

This will likely be the longest stage in the homebuying process. Depending on your income, lifestyle, and spending habits, this can take from one to four years.

Stage 2: Identify your housing needs (7 to 14 days)

Once you've saved your deposit, you're officially ready to enter the market.

Before you start looking at what's available, it's important to take a moment to think about what exactly you'd want in your new home. Would you fancy a state-of-the-art apartment or a house with a large back garden? Are you planning on living by yourself, with a partner, or looking to raise a family?

It helps to write down lists of your must-haves and nice-to-haves, which can serve as guides when researching different options. Here's a quick checklist of what you'll need to cover during this phase:

  • The type, price range, and potential location of your desired house;
  • The mortgage rates, lenders, and options available;
  • A list of potential solicitors who would assist you in the process;
  • The various costs, fees, and duties involved.

Remember, it's important to take your time and get the best value you can out of your research. So feel free to weigh out all your options, create pros and cons lists, and talk to seasoned homebuyers before making an informed decision.

Stage 3: Shopping and applying for a mortgage (1 to 7 days)

Applying for a mortgage is the first big step in the process of buying your first home. First, though, you'll need to find a mortgage lender.

Lenders each calculate your eligibility slightly differently. The one you choose will have an affect on the value of the loan they're prepared to provide as well as the interest rate they will offer.

Once you've identified the best lenders for your purposes, you can apply for a mortgage. This process shouldn't take more than a couple of days if you have all the necessary documents and information.

If you need any assistance in calculating your mortgage amount, use the Glenveagh finance calculator. It's also useful to be aware of government-backed initiatives like the Help-to-Buy and Shared Equity schemes, which are tailored to the needs of first-time buyers.

Stage 4: Getting approval in principle from your mortgage lender (10 days)

If you find a house you want to make an offer on, your chances of succeeding will be higher if you have approval in principle from your mortgage lender.

It's essential to note that approval in principle doesn't guarantee a mortgage, but it does improve your credibility as a serious buyer.

This step is essential, as it validates how much you can afford when you view properties and decide to renovate.

When it comes to providing the approval in principle, lenders won't need all the documentation for the mortgage. However, they will need to confirm your identity and your income.

Stage 5: Viewing properties (1 to 4 months)

After all the paperwork involved with applying for a mortgage, it's time to get to the fun part: house hunting. While it's natural to feel excited to proceed and hold the keys to your dream house as soon as possible, it's important not to rush this stage.

Spend time exploring and getting a feel for every house that you view. Have a good look at the neighbourhood, facilities available, and the property's build. Don't forget to refer to your list of must-haves and nice-to-haves and gauge how each property you view meets your requirements.

How long this stage takes depends on how many houses you'd like to view and what you're looking for. If you happen to find a house that checks all your boxes early enough, there's no harm in proceeding to the next stage. But it's also important not to settle, and to keep at it until you find a place that really feels like home.

Stage 6: Making an offer, purchasing the property, and transferring ownership (2 to 3 months)

Very few moments in life come close to the thrill of finding a house that meets – or exceeds – your idea of a dream home. The only downside is that you're likely not the only one with your eyes (and heart) set on it.

While some buyers prefer to secure the house with a substantial offer, others choose to start small and negotiate. But before you enter the bidding war, it's essential to bear in mind that you remain cognisant of your budget and don't exceed it.

Once your offer is accepted, take a minute to pat yourself on the back for coming this far, and take yourself out for a celebratory drink before getting lost amidst a flurry of paperwork. And here's when your solicitor steps in to help with the conveyancing process.

There's a lot that goes into purchasing a property and transferring it to your name (hyperlink to article 11). At a glance, you'll need to:

  • Review the contract of sale with your solicitor;
  • Sign the contract and return it to the seller for signing;
  • Pay registration fees, Stamp Duty and Local Property Tax.

While this stage depends largely on your solicitor, it typically takes eight to 12 weeks.

Stage 7: Completing checks and final mortgage approval (3 weeks)

At this stage, you're on the home stretch and the finishing line is well within sight. Of course, there are a few more hurdles to clear before you step into your dream home, put down your roots, and start making memories:

Completing a professional valuation

Your mortgage lender will base their final loan offer on the value of the property. For this reason, it's necessary to get a professional valuation to assess the state of the house and its locality. Please remember that even if you have been pre-approved, your loan can be rejected if the valuation is lower than the initial price proposed.

This is because the lender needs a guarantee that if you're unable to make payments and the property needs to be sold, it would be possible for them to recover the debts.

Creating a snag list

If you're buying a new build, you need to have a snag list (hyperlink to article 10). This refers to items that require repairs or any fixtures. You can do this yourself, but it may be a better idea to have a surveyor cast their trained eyes on it.

Both a valuation and the creation of a snag list can take between two to five days depending on the size of the house, and how detail-oriented the survey is. Based on the results received, a final mortgage approval can take anywhere from two to 14 days.

Stage 8: Paying final costs and signing paperwork (1 to 2 weeks)

Now, it's all about adding the finishing touches and completing all pending paperwork.

After both your solicitor and lender are happy with the legalities involved, it's time to sign the dotted line and pay your deposit. It will usually take about five working days for the documents to be sent between yourself and the seller, and for them to be finalised.

In addition to the contracts, your solicitor will also take care of the following on your behalf:

  • Stamp duty;
  • Registration fees;
  • Local Property Tax.

While the official sale will take only a matter of days, the transfer of the property can take months – or even years.

Once you've saved for your mortgage deposit, you can bank on the homebuying process to take around 25 weeks – or six months – from identifying your home-related needs and wants to transferring the property to your name.

Then all that's left to do is pack your moving boxes and get ready to organise and decorate your new home (hyperlink to article 19).

It's never easy entering the real estate market – especially if it's your first time. Glenveagh's resources will help you get started with every aspect of the homebuying process.