How long does a mortgage application take?

Fact checked
Fact Checked.
Updated on
March 15, 2021

In a nutshell

The actual mortgage application can be quick, but allow up to 6 weeks for a real mortgage offer from the lender, and a lot longer to actually move into your new home.

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Set your heart on a forever home? You’re probably wishing you could skip forward in time to sitting cross-legged on the floor with boxes all around you and an Indian takeaway on your lap. But first, you’ll need to get your mortgage application approved!

We’ve taken a look at exactly how long it’ll take.

How long does a mortgage application take to be approved?

First things first, the big question on everyone’s mind: how long does a mortgage application actually take to be approved? 

As a general rule of thumb, it’s likely to take between 2 to 6 weeks to get approved for a mortgage from the date of handing in your application. But the truth is, there’s a lot to do before you even get to that point.... like the most important thing of all: actually finding a house to buy! 

Let’s take a look at what it all involves.

Why does a mortgage application take so long?

If you’re wondering why a mortgage application takes so long, it kind of makes sense when you understand exactly what has to happen. In a nutshell, mortgage approval is normally split into two parts:

1. Mortgage in principle

You might have heard of a ‘mortgage in principle’, an ‘agreement in principle’, a ‘decision in principle’ or a ‘mortgage promise’ before. These are all different words for the same thing – we know, confusing right?! But what exactly is it?

A mortgage in principle is an official estimate of how much a mortgage lender is willing to lend you. In other words, if a lender gives you a mortgage in principle, it means they think you’d get approved for a mortgage if you applied for one. Happy days! 

For most people, this is the first step towards getting approved for a mortgage. 

Normally, you’ll get your mortgage in principle before you go house hunting. They tend to last between 60 and 90 days, so it’s best to try and find a house in that time if you can. Otherwise, you’ll have to reapply!

We know what you’re thinking: why not just go straight in with the actual mortgage application? Well, here’s why you’ll want to get a mortgage in principle first...

  • To help you budget: A mortgage in principle tells you how much you’ll (probably) be able to borrow. So, it’ll give you an idea of what houses you can afford before you go falling in love with something that’s totally over budget!
  • To please estate agents: A mortgage in principle shows estate agents that you’re a serious buyer. Some estate agents and sellers won’t accept an offer from someone who doesn’t have a mortgage in principle, and some won’t even let you go on viewings without one.
  • To help you avoid rejection: A mortgage in principle gives you a good idea of whether you’ll get approved for a mortgage. So, it gives you less chance of applying to a lender who’ll reject you, which could make it harder to get a mortgage in the future.

2. Mortgage offer

This bit happens after you’ve found a home to buy. Essentially, once you’ve found a house you like and the seller has accepted your offer, you can put in an application to turn your mortgage in principle into an actual mortgage offer. 

This might seem like the scary part, but don’t worry. Your lender already knows a bit about you – and what they saw, they liked. After all, they already gave you a mortgage in principle! 

That said, save the party poppers and the fancy champagne till after you’ve got your offer in the bag. Your lender will do some more checks when you put in your application, so there’s always a chance they could come across new information they don’t like. If that happens, they could still reject your application. This doesn’t happen too often though, so fingers crossed you’ll be just fine!

Mortgage application timeline

To keep things simple, we’ve broken the mortgage application process down into a few easy steps. Here’s how long you can expect each part of the process to take.

Mortgage application timeline
Mortgage application timeline

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

This bit is super quick and easy! Once you’ve got all the right documents together, getting accepted for a mortgage in principle should only take a few days. If you use a mortgage broker, it could even take as little as 1 hour (hint hint: use a mortgage broker. It’s totally worth it.).

Before giving you a mortgage in principle, your mortgage lender will normally want to see:

  • Proof of income
  • Your expenses and outgoings
  • Info about any other loans you have
  • Your previous addresses

A mortgage in principle will usually last between 60 and 90 days. So, try to find a house to buy during this time so you don’t have to reapply.

How long does a mortgage application take?

Once you’ve fallen head over heels for a house (and the seller’s accepted your offer), you can apply to turn your mortgage in principle into an actual mortgage offer. The application should only take a few hours as you’ll already have most of the info to hand from when you applied for the mortgage in principle.

If you used a mortgage broker, this is where you get to act smug! They’ll have all your information saved so all you have to do is call them up and ask them to go ahead with the full application. Did we mention that they’ll even fill the whole thing out for you?! Told you it would be worth it.

How long does a mortgage valuation take?

A mortgage valuation is where your mortgage lender checks how much they think the property you’re buying is worth. Just like how you probably hate paying too much for something, your mortgage lender will want to check they are not lending you too much money before they approve your application.

To check the value of the property, they’ll do something called a ‘valuation survey.’ This normally gets completed around 1 to 2 weeks after you send in your application. So, what does it involve? 

Well, your lender might arrange for someone to go into the property to take a look, or they might do what’s called a ‘kerbside valuation’ where they drive past and look at it from the outside. However, most mortgage lenders nowadays will just do a ‘desktop valuation’. This is where they use recent sales data online, without even seeing the house in-person!

Some mortgage lenders will ask you to pay for the valuation (which could cost anywhere from £150 to £1,500). But other than that, you won’t have to worry about it at all – your lender will sort the whole thing out themselves. All you have to do is make yourself a cuppa and twiddle your thumbs for a bit.

Just beware: the mortgage lender’s valuation won’t be very detailed, so you’ll probably want to get your own survey carried out before you buy the property. That way, you can make sure you’re not overpaying. 

You’ll want to make sure your surveyor is registered with a governing body that sets high standards for the work carried out, such as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or Residential Property Surveyors Association (RPSA). To find one, you can look on the RPSA or RICS websites.

How long does it take to get a mortgage offer?

Getting a mortgage offer is the moment where you’re officially approved for a mortgage. Hooray! Normally, once your mortgage valuation’s out of the way, your lender should have everything they need to make a decision. 

That said, you’ll normally still have to wait around 2 to 20 days to find out whether or not it’s good news. So, now’s a great time to start making your way through all 639 episodes of The Simpsons (you’ll need something to distract yourself, right?!).

If you’ve been approved for a mortgage, your lender will send you the offer in the post – now’s when you jump up and down excitedly before ringing everyone in your phone book! If it’s bad news – and we hope it’s not – get yourself a load of Ben + Jerry’s, wallow in self-pity and ask your mortgage broker what went wrong.

Just remember: your mortgage offer can still be withdrawn right up until the time you complete (that’s what we call it when you finally get the keys to your home.). So, lay low and don’t do anything that might put them off. 

Ideally, that means no switching jobs, no big spending and no taking out additional credit agreements. You’re so nearly there!

How long does it take to exchange contracts?

Exchanging contracts is the moment where there’s no more turning back as both you and the seller are legally committed to getting the house sale done. Eek! 

Normally, this happens around 2 months after you hand in your mortgage application. But there’s a ton of legal stuff that your solicitor will have been sorting out while you were waiting on your mortgage offer. So, at this point, it all depends on how the legal stuff is looking! 

That’s right, even though you’re not waiting for your mortgage lender anymore, you are still going to have to wait for your solicitors to get their act together. Ultimately, when you’re buying a house, you’ll get pretty good at waiting!

How long does it take to complete?

Completion is what we call it when all the money goes through and the house is officially yours. In other words, it’s the day you get to pick up the keys and start life in your very own home!

The date of completion is normally decided by you and the seller before you exchange contracts. It’s usually around 1 to 2 weeks after the date of exchange, but it can legally happen the next day, so if you’re in a rush, it could be a lot quicker. 

That said, some lenders require you to leave at least 5 working days between the two. And to be honest, a little gap’s no bad thing. After all, it gives you the chance to start packing your things, ready for the big move!

How long does a mortgage application take to be approved by lender?

Every mortgage lender’s different. So it makes sense that some will process a mortgage application quicker than others. To help you get your head around it all, we’ve listed the average time it takes to get your mortgage application approved with some of the big lenders.

Just bear in mind that, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, more people are applying for mortgages than ever. In fact, mortgage applications are higher now than they have been for 12 years!

Home purchase mortgage approvals

This is partly because people are looking for more space, and partly because the government has temporarily reduced the amount of tax you have to pay (known as Stamp Duty). So, lenders may be taking longer to process applications than usual.

  • Halifax: Halifax is currently taking 4 to 6 weeks to approve a mortgage application. Before the pandemic, they took around 2 weeks.
  • Santander: If you apply for a mortgage with Santander, you’ll be waiting on average 21.3 working days to get an offer. That’s just over 4 weeks.
  • Natwest: You’ll currently be waiting around 22 working days to get your mortgage application approved by Natwest. That’s around 4 and a half weeks.
  • HSBC: HSBC says that applicants usually have to wait around 4 weeks to get a mortgage approved from the date of application.
  • Barclays: Barclays claims to take an average of 4 to 6 weeks to give applicants a decision about their mortgage application.
  • Nationwide: If you apply for a mortgage with Nationwide, you can currently expect to wait around 23 days for a decision.

How to make a mortgage application faster

We get it: you want to get your mortgage approved as quickly as possible. Who wouldn’t when they’ve got a gorgeous new home they’re desperate to move into?!

If you’re looking to speed the process up, the best thing you can do is get an independent mortgage broker involved (there’s a reason we frequently refer to them as ‘lifesavers!’). A mortgage broker will know exactly which lenders are most likely to approve your application and will be able to get you the best deals. So, you won’t have to waste time shopping around.

Plus, they’ll know exactly what each lender will need as part of the application process and will be able to get the whole application sorted for you much quicker. After all, this is what they do for a living!

Here's what to lookout for in a mortgage broker.

Over to you

Okay, so it can take a while to get a mortgage application approved. But once you’re popping open the prosecco and unpacking those boxes, it’ll be so worth the wait!

If you’re ready to kick off the process, why not get in touch with a mortgage broker straight away? They’ll be able to guide you through the whole house buying process, so that you’re picking up those brand new keys before you know it. Enjoy!

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Fact checked
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Ash Jensen (CeMAP)
Ash Jensen (CeMAP)

Director & Head Broker of Make My Mortgage

Ash has more than 20 years’ experience in the mortgage industry, making him a true expert when it comes to anything to do with mortgages (trust us, anything that Ash doesn’t know about mortgages isn’t worth knowing!).

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