Let's face facts: when buying a property, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ procedure.
Every property purchase is a journey unique to each buyer. You might find one person lucky enough to sail smoothly and quickly through and another who is still stuck on the initial stages of the purchase after weeks or months. But if you're planning on starting, or adding to, your rental property portfolio, knowing the steps can be a huge asset.
Either way, a route that at first seemed straightforward is likely to have a few hidden twists and turns along the way and maybe even a few catastrophic bumps.
Although it is impossible to predict what might happen, it is always smart to gather as much information as possible from a property buying timeline just like this one. Being well-informed about the bigger picture will help you manage your overall expectations and, hopefully, make the process less stressful and more exciting.
Here, we hope to break down the time frame expected for each element in the process, from the most time consuming to the quickest.
The chain reaction
So you’ve finally found that perfect home and had your offer accepted; the hard part is over, right?
Unfortunately, once your offer is accepted, it is circumstance that will determine how quickly you’ll get to complete the process. As exciting as having the wheels in motion can be, often the ‘chain reaction’ nature of the market can slow things right down.
Frustratingly, these are difficulties that you have little control over. You might still have a property to sell yourself, or your seller is still in the process of buying a house. To move forward, everyone relies on each other, and if there is a hold up in one situation, there will be a hold up of the whole process.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. When looking for a buy-to-let property, If you’re a first-time buyer, or your seller isn’t looking for another house or has already secured somewhere, it can be quick and simple. But it varies massively and can be the biggest cause of delays in the process.
Making an offer – pre-contract stage
Securing your mortgage offer, drafting contracts, conducting surveys and property checks; with so much paperwork, it’s no surprise that there can sometimes be delays at this stage.
Your mortgage lender might have to conduct credit checks (and look into your income further if more information is needed). Your solicitor needs to check the property over, and negotiations on the legally binding contracts between buyer and seller may be necessary. These are all time consuming and complex procedures that require a lot of attention to detail, and they might hold you up.
Their results, too, can impact waiting time. If certain issues with the property have been unearthed while it was being checked over, the seller might have to address them. Even small hurdles require a back and forth between the various parties, creating further delays.
Once you have negotiated your contracts, buyer and seller can exchange them. Your contract will specify a move-in date and stipulates that you are legally transferring ownership of the property. You will also complete the transaction by transferring the agreed purchase price. Once you have signed, you are legally bound to complete the transaction.
As with most elements that require a degree of cooperation from other parties, completion dates can vary massively. Even after you’ve signed, completion day can be anything from a week to over a month away after exchanging contracts.
Finding your perfect rental property
With an overwhelming number of properties available on the market, it is time-consuming to source potential homes, organise viewings, and attend them. It’s a good idea to create a list of criteria that helps to narrow down your search. This includes area, price and property size.
But having a very clear idea of what you want can be a double-edged sword. Even if you find a home that meets all of your criteria, there’s no guarantee that your offer will be accepted. This can be devastating for buyers who have their hearts set on a property and is an emotionally exhausting process to keep going through.
However, don’t despair. Sometimes, people get lucky. The time it takes depends on a mixture of good timing, luck and proper research.
Getting a Mortgage Agreement in Principle (AIP)
Once a more laborious undertaking, the rise of online mortgage brokers and lenders has made it a lot quicker and easier to get an AIP from the comfort of your own home. It isn’t an official mortgage application, but it does give lenders and sellers a good idea of what you might be accepted for.
Before you apply, you can speed up the process even more by keeping an eye on your credit score, taking steps to improve it and getting your finances in order. By optimizing the chances of a decent AIP, your preferred lender has a good idea of what mortgage payments you can afford.
Taking these steps early on will make securing a mortgage deal easier further down the line. Some brokers offer an AIP in as little as 24 hours, so this is both a rapid, essential and effective step to take.
Moving in or getting ready for rental
You might be keen to get your new property ready as soon as possible, and there are many ways to speed up the process in the run-up to the big day; booking efficient decoration services, sourcing reliable storage facilities and pre-arranging insurance cover.
However, it’s always wise to make sure you leave plenty of room for error so you don’t have to rush through. Bearing in mind that you will only have around a week to report any issues, it’s important that you leave yourself the time to properly check that everything in your new home is as the contract specified.
Finally, it’s time to breathe a sigh of relief.
For more information about property searching, property investment and our property management services, get in touch. You can also read more about our tips for buy-to-let (BTL) properties in Scotland.